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Women Change Worlds

Moving Forward from a Year of Sacrifice

Happy New Year from all of us at the Wellesley Centers for Women! This is a moment of profound reflection about all we’ve been through and where we are headed.



2020 was a year like no other. From out of nowhere came a global pandemic that left no one untouched. Many of us, myself included, were visited by the strange new sickness known as COVID-19. Many of us endured the loss of loved ones whose lives were cut short by a virus we barely understood, but thanks to scientists working around the clock and around the world, the genome was quickly mapped, its elusive symptoms were painstakingly documented, and life-saving therapies and vaccines were developed and tested in record time. In many respects, this was a year when we learned what we were capable of as one human race writ large.

Yet, it was also a year when we had to face some of our ugliest demons. The specters of racial inequality and racial violence jointly rose up amid the pandemic, sparking a racial justice movement larger and more inclusive than any we have seen in decades, perhaps ever. We were moved to tears and rage by the CDC’s data showing that people of color were roughly 3 times more likely to die from COVID-19 as white people, as well as by the ongoing killings of Black people — such as George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and Rayshard Brooks — even with the pandemic raging on. The movement for racial justice generated important dialogues, as well as many changes in policy and practice around the country. Yet, it also highlighted all the work we have yet to do to ensure a world of equality, justice, and wellbeing for all.

The devastating pandemic deepened financial fissures, ripping away what little economic security many people had managed to accumulate. We saw unemployment spike, surpassing all past records, we saw food pantry lines triple and quadruple, we saw more people become unhoused or buckle under the looming threat of eviction. Yet, against this backdrop, we witnessed in 2020 the emergence of the world’s first centibillionaires — that is, individuals whose wealth exceeds $100 billion.

On the bright side, our society came to recognize the tremendous worth of many low-wage essential workers — from nursing assistants and emergency medical technicians, to grocery and restaurant workers, to truck drivers, delivery people, and everyone in logistics, to gig workers of all kinds — expressing long-overdue gratitude for all they do to keep society functioning. Yet, most are still economically vulnerable and will remain so without a major rethinking of what makes a society thrive economically.

As we begin a new year, we must concern ourselves with the fact that economists have predicted a K-shaped pattern of economic recovery — one in which those who are financially well-off are expected to do better and better and those who are financially vulnerable are expected to do worse and worse.

The mental health consequences of 2020 were not insignificant. The stresses of the pandemic, the stresses of racial inequality and violence, the stresses of economic precarity, the stresses of new patterns of life, and the stresses of looming unknowns affected virtually everyone in some way. For those of us who had to suddenly pivot last March from “life as usual” to “work from home” and, often, “remote schooling” for our children, there were many new stressors, from having no clear boundaries between work, family, and self, to the pressure of having to take on new roles such as homeschool teacher or family nurse and public health officer.

These pressures were especially acute for women, a not insignificant number of whom made the difficult decision to retreat from the workforce, whether to care for family or pursue other life goals. We must also remember what the year was like for those women and girls — in fact, for anyone — for whom home was not a safe place to be, whether for reasons of intimate partner violence, sexual abuse or exploitation, or child abuse — all at a time when protective services and resources were sharply curtailed due to the pandemic.

For people who had to isolate at home alone, loneliness and disconnection became real risks, as did fears of what would happen if they got sick with no one around. The year was perhaps most stressful of all for those who could not be together with loved ones who were in the hospital or, even more tragically, those who could not be together with loved ones who were dying.

And we cannot forget the doctors, nurses, and other medical personnel who were the heroic heart of the year, who were caring for us and our loved ones, despite the uncertainties related to their own health and survival, and despite the risk to their own families.

2020 was a year of great sacrifice for every single person on this planet, in fact, a year of profound trauma for some, and we owe each other the grace of that. Against this backdrop, we must look ahead in 2021.

The fact that 2020 was an election year almost fades into the background, yet, it becomes a source of hope when we imagine the possibilities of a new administration and all that we can do together, inside and outside politics, to restore faith in ourselves and the world.

We must, in particular, acknowledge the historic first of Kamala Harris, a Black woman, a South Asian woman, and first-generation woman born of immigrant parents, being elected Vice President of the United States, and the courage of Joe Biden, a white male presidential candidate, to buck the trend of history by choosing her as a running mate.

These things bode well as we continue our work of building a more inclusive and equitable society in which all can prosper and thrive. We at the Wellesley Centers for Women are energized by a tempered optimism, geared up for another year of doing what we do best — shaping a better world through research and action — and we look forward to partnering with all who share our vision in 2021!

Layli MaparyanLayli Maparyan, Ph.D., is the Katherine Stone Kaufmann ’67 Executive Director of the Wellesley Centers for Women at Wellesley College.

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Internship Reflection: Studying Women’s Entrepreneurship During a Pandemic

Jessica Wu, Wellesley College StudentI spent the past semester working with Professor Sari Kerr as a research intern, and greatly enjoyed the experience. Our weekly Zoom meetings were welcomed as constant reminders of my connection to Wellesley, despite studying off campus. My work with her focused on the role of entrepreneurship and how it affects social mobility of low-income women and their children.

I began with a literature review which showed that those with self-employed parents are more likely to be entrepreneurs themselves. However, this entrepreneurial spirit that is passed down often appears in surprising ways. While many people envision entrepreneurship being passed down through family-owned businesses, I found that it was typically through “knowledge spillovers” such as social capital like personal connections and/or the knowledge of running a business. In other words, many parents are passing on to their children information about how to be an entrepreneur, not necessarily a specific business or the ability to be a successful entrepreneur.

After finding that there were these differences, I began working with another research assistant, Shirley Wu, to analyze a data set from Michigan’s Institute for Social Research, Panel Study of Income Dynamics. I’m very thankful to have been able to work with Shirley as well, not only because she helped put together and organize the data set, but because having another person to work with helped build a truly collaborative atmosphere. Using a statistical software program called Stata, we were able to run initial analytics to understand the general distribution of individuals within the data set and create mobility matrices that displayed movement between parental and child incomes. This allowed us to see preliminary differences in generational mobility between entrepreneurs and non-entrepreneurs.

It has been very interesting to do this research while watching the economic impact of COVID-19 on small businesses unfold. A paper that I read during the literature review noted that women have lower rates of entry into and higher rates of exit from entrepreneurship. During a time when so many small businesses are hurting, I am reminded that women entrepreneurs are disproportionately negatively impacted and that we will likely see a lower number return to entrepreneurship in the future. As this research continues, we hope to contribute to the literature focusing on the unique experience that low-income women entrepreneurs face in running successful businesses.

I’m very grateful to have this opportunity to do research as a student. I still remember talking to Professor Kerr about research opportunities during one of her office hours, and I’m so glad we got to work together. This experience has given me confidence in my own ability to conduct research and confirmed my interest in pursuing similar work after graduation.

 

Jessica Wu is a member of the Wellesley College class of 2021 who is majoring in Economics and Psychology. She was awarded the Linda Coyne Lloyd Student Research Internship at the Wellesley Centers for Women.

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The Urgency of Ending Violence Against Women and Girls in the Midst of COVID-19

UN women End Violence Against WomenToday, the International Day to End Violence Against Women and Girls, we call for a renewed commitment to this work in the U.S. The UN Women’s executive director has called for governments to make visible at the highest level a “commitment to addressing violence against women and girls in the context of COVID-19.” As we approach 2021 and look forward to a new federal administration in the U.S., we not only encourage our government to act immediately to work to end violence against women and girls (VAWG), but we also remind individuals and communities of the important roles they play in this work.

A commitment to ending VAWG is critical during the COVID-19 global pandemic. We know the facts: Violence against women is a human rights violation of pandemic proportions — and it is exacerbated during times of job loss, economic insecurity, and extended periods of time at home. COVID-19 has brought many stressors into homes across the U.S., and reports of domestic violence and child abuse, including sexual assault, have increased.

Even prior to the pandemic, one in three women worldwide (including in the U.S.) experienced physical or sexual violence, most often at the hands of an intimate partner. VAWG increases when families face economic challenges, including unemployment. Coping with health needs and concerns, grieving the deaths of loved ones, and caring for children have also contributed to higher stress levels, leading to an increase in VAWG. Furthermore, limited interactions with caring communities and a change in the nature and availability of services compound the problem and contribute to the violence that occurs behind closed doors.

We need to be vigilant in addressing violence and abuse and raise awareness on international, national, and local levels. First, we encourage our government to disseminate a strong message calling for an end to violence against women. We recognize that President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris have a lot on their respective plates right now, most notably the tremendous pressure to respond to the health crisis brought about by COVID-19 and its threat to all Americans. By prioritizing COVID-19 relief, the incoming administration also has an opportunity to begin reversing some of the negative effects the coronavirus pandemic has had in terms of VAWG.

Biden has prioritized ending violence against women legislatively in the past, but this issue needs to be brought to the forefront once more. An important immediate response is to reinstate the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) — originally co-authored by Biden during his days in the Senate, and renewed many times. VAWA supported a National Panel on Violence Against Women (on which Linda Williams served) designed to develop a research agenda to increase the understanding and control of violence against women and has supported quality care for victims while also mandating research efforts to support important violence against women research.

This act last expired in 2019. The most recent version, passed by the House of Representatives, addressed issues of violence against BIPOC women and the LGBTQ community, all of which are critical to combating VAWG today. Passage and reauthorization of a new VAWA will have to overcome the roadblocks previously encountered in the Senate, and its fate may depend on the results of the Georgia runoff races. We urge all government leaders to recognize the importance of a VAWA that is good for all women, children, and families — especially those who identify as BIPOC.

A decisive position is needed to lead us out of this dark time in the history of violence against women. Once we’ve reached the other side of the pandemic, there needs to be a focused effort — supported by ongoing research and community collaboration — leading to a consortium of federal agencies, researchers, practitioners, and survivors that will examine the next steps needed to end VAWG and to address social norms that promote it.

It is also critically important for the new administration to amend the regulations on how colleges and universities respond to sexual assault, not only to assure women’s equal access to education as provided by Title IX, but also to contribute to a change in the culture that currently, at best, minimizes and, at worst, encourages sexual violence, physical abuse, and sexual harassment of women and girls. On this day dedicated to ending violence against women and girls, it is time to stop minimizing the experiences of victims and to take decisive action to hold men accountable, starting at the highest levels of government.

 

Linda M. Williams, Ph.D., is director of the Justice and Gender-Based Violence Research Initiative at the Wellesley Centers for Women at Wellesley College. Her research focuses on the justice system response to sexual violence, commercial sexual exploitation of women and children, human trafficking, intimate partner violence, and child maltreatment.

Hayley Moniz is a member of the Wellesley College class of 2022 who is majoring in Sociology. At the Wellesley Centers for Women, she was awarded the Class of 1967 Internship for the 2020-2021 academic year, which supports her work with Dr. Williams on the justice system response to sexual violence.

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A New Era of Compassion and Unity

Light spills into dark room through open doorwayWe at the Wellesley Centers for Women are starting our week with a sense of hope and possibility. We are proud to have a new President-Elect who has the courage to put gender equality, social justice, and human wellbeing first. We share these values, and we’re excited to move forward together to make them a reality in the United States.

One hundred years after women won the right to vote, and 55 years after the Voting Rights Act abolished laws that disenfranchised Black Americans, President-Elect Biden chose a woman of color, of Indian and Jamaican descent, as his running mate. Little girls across the country who see themselves in Vice President-Elect Harris now know that they, too, can reach the White House. Representation matters, and it moves the needle on gender equality and racial justice.

In his acceptance speech on Saturday night, President-Elect Biden spoke about compassion and unity. We know these values help individuals thrive and communities achieve justice. It is our hope that we can begin a new era, with compassion and unity as guiding forces to improve the lives of women and girls, children and youth, families and communities, in all their diversity.

Vice President-Elect Harris noted on Saturday night that protecting our democracy takes struggle and sacrifice. “There is joy in it and there is progress,” she said. Furthering gender equality, social justice, and human wellbeing also takes struggle and sacrifice, and there is much left to be done. At WCW, we’ve been doing this work for the past 46 years, and we’ll be doing it for the next 46. The joy comes when we reflect on all that we have accomplished towards our cherished goals, and when we anticipate the many gains ahead, knowing we are leading with those who share our vision.

And now, we get back to work.

Layli Maparyan, Ph.D., is the Katherine Stone Kaufmann ’67 Executive Director of the Wellesley Centers for Women at Wellesley College.

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Nice its goooooood??
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Nice it is goooooood???
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Parents' Communication with Teens About Dating is Changing During the Pandemic

Father talking to daughter on couchThe pandemic has altered family life in unexpected ways. Some kids are happier now that they’ve gotten a chance to slow down; more people are cooking; and men have discovered housework. Parents’ conversations with their teens about dating and relationships, and their monitoring of their teens’ behavior, have also changed.

My research team — which included WCW Associate Research Scientist Lisette M. DeSouza, Ph.D., WCW Research Associate Amanda M. Richer, and Alicia Doyle Lynch, Ph.D., of Lynch Research Associates — surveyed 328 parents of high school students throughout the U.S. between March and June of this year. We asked questions about how they communicated with their teens about dating and relationships before schools closed due to COVID-19 as compared to afterwards. We also asked questions about their stress levels and whether and how they monitored their teens’ behavior.

What we found was a significant drop in parent-teen communication about dating and relationships once COVID hit. This makes sense: parents reported higher stress levels as many deal with sick family members, essential work requirements, financial difficulties, and the general anxiety of the pandemic, which likely leads them to focus on the immediate day-to-day needs of their families and put off these types of conversations. And with many teens stuck at home, parents may assume that relationships and physical intimacy in particular are on hold, so the need to talk about them is not as critical.

For example, one parent explained, “Having the added stress of constantly being together, and now having to not only be his parent, but his makeshift teacher, and then trying to talk about serious things too, has all been just too much.” Another parent shared, “The fact that kids are not interacting, thus there is no "dating" taking place, which is a little bit more difficult to talk about and put in context when it isn't happening.”

We also found an interesting change in gender roles among heterosexual parents. Mothers reported having fewer conversations with their teens about dating and relationships, and fathers reported monitoring their teens’ behavior more closely than before the pandemic. This increase in fathers’ monitoring may in part reflect fathers’ shift from working outside the home to being at home during the pandemic (61% of fathers made this transition compared to 39% of mothers). While mothers are still monitoring and communicating more than fathers, it may be that since many fathers are spending more time at home, parents’ roles have shifted, and fathers are taking a more active part in their teens’ lives.

More research is needed to delve into what this data means, but it’s an important reminder that parenting roles aren’t set in stone. Sometimes a crisis can prompt unpredictable and even positive changes. The way parents have communicated with and monitored their teens in the past doesn’t necessarily dictate their future actions. Thinking outside the box can help; though mothers are often assumed to be the ones in charge of having these conversations, my research has shown that fathers play an important role, as do extended families.

October is National Family Sexuality Education Month, which is as good a time as any to reassess family communication about dating and relationships. Even if teens are at home, they’re likely chatting with peers online, and may be forming new relationships or continuing existing ones. They may have different questions now about what’s appropriate or comfortable in a relationship. Maybe it’s time to start a conversation with them, and consider with fresh eyes who might have that conversation.

Jennifer Grossman, Ph.D., is a senior research scientist who leads the Family, Sexuality, and Communication Research Initiative at the Wellesley Centers for Women.

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Are Men Really More Confident Than Women?

Leading a Life in Balance by Joan Wallace-BenjaminIn my recently released book, Leading a Life in Balance: Principles of Leadership from the Executive Suite to the Family Table, I talk about the impact of confidence on one’s career, professional, and personal development, and the importance of building and strengthening one’s confidence over a lifetime. The conversation about confidence often centers around comparing women’s confidence to that of men.

A recent Boston Globe article entitled “The problem isn’t that women lack confidence – it’s that men have too much of it” suggests that women hold back and do not step forward for promotional opportunities on the job, often feeling like they are not ready. On the other hand, whether truly ready or not, men step forward and seek that same opportunity even when their experience and skills do not verify that they are able to do the job. Columnist Shirley Leung chalks that up to men having too much confidence, even when it’s not warranted.

Where does that confidence come from? I contend that it starts when men and women are children. The boys are told that they can do it academically, even when they struggle with math; athletically, even when they never leave the bench and definitely when they do; and socially, even when they’re not so popular, or when they’re shy or introverted – which are characterized as more their choice than a failing of any kind.

In some, though not all, families, the girls are not told the same thing – that they can do it no matter what – even if they are better than their brothers in one or more of these aspects of life. Sadly, girls subliminally believe what they are not told, and believe what they hear being said to their brothers.

When girls grow into women, they come into the workplace without the internal cheerleader that men carry with them. Women must create their own cheering squad: the occasional special mentor that may be a man; other women; the encouraging father; the enlightened female CEO who understands the importance of her words and deeds to her women employees.

But most importantly, I would suggest that they create their own internal cheering squad. Women who are high-performing athletes that receive public acknowledgment for their athletic achievements are often the exception. Most women, though, must build their confidence themselves, and it is a process.

I do not want to focus here on the men or suggest that all men are overly confident and not qualified. That would be far from the truth. What I do want to focus on is, irrespective of the men, what women (and their parents, starting from when they are girls) do to develop and build their own confidence.

In my experience, confidence is the fuel of development. One develops when confidence is strong. One’s confidence grows over time from working hard, viewing failure or mistakes as valuable feedback, persisting, and experiencing continuous success.

The harder a woman works, the stronger (better) she becomes, the greater the likelihood of success, the more confident (that she can do it) she becomes – the better, smarter, stronger, more successful she is. And over time, the willingness and ability to take on more challenging assignments grows because the woman knows she can do it; she is smart, educated, knows how to tackle a problem, and has learned how to learn.

This process, in some ways, can substitute for the lack of external cheerleading that men have gotten from childhood through adulthood, but that women should avail themselves of when possible. Many women, however, are building confidence in themselves and using it as the fuel they need to go far.

When women professionals enter that upwardly mobile spiral of confidence-building, they can be unstoppable. Preparation, knowing the material, studying it and then studying it again, practice, and focus are key. They appear confident and are confident because they are prepared and sure of their ability to get it done.

The fact that confidence can be developed over a lifetime is truly encouraging, because it means that confidence is not just something one has (or that others bestow), but something that one can attain through hard work and effort. It also suggests that in families, in schools, and on the job, an environment that allows confidence to flourish should be created and offered to both men and women in equal measure.

Joan Wallace-Benjamin, Ph.D., retired as president and chief executive officer of The Home for Little Wanderers in 2018 after 15 years of service. She currently runs an executive coaching practice and serves as chair of WCW’s Council of Advisors.

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Despite Challenges of Pandemic, Depression Study Finds Silver Linings

Illustration of teen doing teletherapy by Olga Strelnikova / iStockIn 2018, I began a multi-year clinical trial to compare the effectiveness of two approaches to preventing depression in teens. One of the approaches is an online intervention -- an app -- called CATCH-IT and the other is an in-person group therapy intervention.

When we started recruiting teens to participate in the trial just this past winter, we encountered a number of challenges. It was difficult to get teens and their parents to commit to attending the weekly group therapy sessions, and to fill out the assessments we needed for our evaluation. Because we planned to hold these sessions at the clinics where our participants received their primary care, geography determined who could participate. We were busy working through these challenges throughout the early spring.

Then the pandemic hit, and with it we noticed a spike in the number of teens we were encountering who were reporting significant struggles with depression and suicidal thinking. At this point it’s too early to determine whether or not the stress of COVID accounts for the symptoms we are identifying, but regardless, we have been busy referring teens to therapists in their communities, rather than enrolling them in our study. Clearly these teens need more than we can offer in a prevention trial. We are grateful that we have been able to identify so many teens who are in need of immediate support, and to facilitate their connection to those who can offer them the help they need.

For teens with milder symptoms who are at risk of depression, and who are therefore good candidates for our study, we’ve had to reassess the way we had originally planned to conduct our research. The challenges of COVID have tied many researchers’ hands -- not being able to see people in person can prevent a lot of research from happening at all. But for us, despite the challenges presented by COVID, we have also recognized that the pandemic has allowed us to make our interventions more accessible, and has enabled us to more easily reach participants for enrollments and assessments.

The main change we had to make in our research strategy was to switch our in-person group therapy model to live online sessions. Fortunately, research shows that telehealth is just as effective as in-person therapy, even for groups, and the pandemic has made telehealth much more widely accepted and available. For our purposes, moving our in-person groups to an online format improves our study design by making the two programs we are comparing much more similar: instead of comparing the CATCH-IT app to in-person sessions, we’re now comparing two online interventions to see which is more effective and for whom.

Moving everything online has also made the group therapy much more accessible. Teens and their parents no longer need to drive to a clinic on a Sunday evening, squeezing the session in between soccer practice and homework. Since life has slowed down and schedules have eased up, teens and their families have more time, and in many cases more motivation to participate. Some teens are more comfortable interacting through a screen than sitting in a room with strangers. So far in our trial, every participant has come to every online group session, and has completed every piece of paperwork we need -- an unheard-of scenario in pre-COVID times.

In addition, we’ve been able to open up the study to more teens in more locations, and to run groups across communities. Urban, suburban, and rural teens, previously separated by geography into separate group sessions, now meet together online (very successfully, I might add). Those who live too far away to have the option of a group therapy model can now participate in it. Since we can’t be in doctors’ offices to recruit participants, we’ve changed our strategy there, too, introducing a public health campaign that reaches anyone who is interested across three states.

Although COVID has been challenging for many teens and has challenged us from a study design perspective, the current circumstances have enabled us to identify and refer many more teens with serious mental health concerns, and also have enabled more teens from different places to access our interventions. We’ll continue to follow the participants in our programs over the next 18 months and will assess how they’re doing. Even after the pandemic ends, we are planning to use what we’ve learned during this difficult time so that we’re able to make prevention interventions accessible to more people in the future. Having to adjust our methods has given us better data, and eliminated many of the barriers to mental health care for teens and their families.

Tracy Gladstone, Ph.D., is an associate director and senior research scientist at the Wellesley Centers for Women, as well as the inaugural director of the Robert S. and Grace W. Stone Primary Prevention Initiatives, which aim to research, develop, and evaluate programs to prevent the onset of depression and other mental health concerns in children and adolescents.

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nice
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nice
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So glad that even if we were facing the pandemic right now.
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Voting as an Act of Community: Celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the 19th Amendment

Women in academic dress marching in a suffrage parade in New York City, 1910.Women in academic dress marching in a suffrage parade in New York City, 1910. Source: Schlesinger Library; Photographer: Jessie Tarbox BealsOne hundred years ago today, the 19th Amendment was ratified in the U.S., granting women the right to vote. This anniversary is something to celebrate, and a time to look back with pride on how much women have accomplished. The fact that it falls this year – in the midst of a global pandemic, a reckoning with systemic racism, and arguably the most consequential election season of our lifetimes – also feels significant. Perhaps it’s an opportunity to reflect on what these times have taught us about the meaning of voting, and what we should keep in mind as November approaches.

This year in particular, we are reminded that voting is not just a personal act. It is an act of community, of stepping into the public sphere, of showing that you care about what happens to those around you. If the pandemic has had any positive impact, it is that we have seen how connected we are to each other. Many of us have adopted new habits that acknowledge this connection: picking up groceries for neighbors, putting signs in our windows to thank essential workers, wearing masks. Voting is another way of showing that we are all in this together.

We are also more aware this year of the ways in which, despite our deep interconnectedness, our society is not yet one in which every person has the same rights and opportunities. The protests spurred by the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and others have brought this inequality to the forefront. And the inequality extends to voting. Though white women gained the right to vote in 1920, African American women, Latina women, Native women, and Asian American women have been forced to continue to fight for that right long afterwards.

Even today, voter suppression efforts in many parts of the U.S. mean that if you are a person of color, a student, elderly, or a person with a disability, you are more likely to encounter obstacles to vote: limited polling stations that result in long lines, names left off voter rolls, onerous voter ID requirements. These voter suppression tactics are not new, but we’re likely to face a barrage of them this fall.

It’s clear, then, that the struggle to ensure every person’s right to vote is far from over, 100 years after the 19th Amendment was passed. This struggle will require not only our votes, but our activism: educating ourselves about our rights, keeping election protection hotlines on speed dial, and supporting advocacy organizations that battle voter suppression. It’s critical that we reach beyond ourselves to focus on our communities. Can we share information about how to obtain mail-in ballots and ensure they are counted? Can we ask our elected officials to support legislation that expands the right to vote? We can all find a way to help, no matter how small.

So this November, we must vote like our lives depend on it – because they do. The women who spent 75 years fighting for the 19th Amendment knew that their lives depended on it, too. It’s true every election season, but it feels especially true this year.

Layli Maparyan, Ph.D., is the Katherine Stone Kaufmann ’67 Executive Director of the Wellesley Centers for Women at Wellesley College.

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The New Sexual Assault Response Rules for Colleges Require Them to Behave Like the Criminal Justice System. Here's Why That's a Problem.

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVosU.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. Photo by Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, under CC BY-SA license. This week, new rules go into effect dictating how colleges and universities must respond to allegations of sexual assault on campus. The U.S. Department of Education released the final version of these rules in May, and since then, a number of lawsuits have been filed, some asking for more time to implement them. But as of now, the August 14 deadline still holds, and colleges are juggling the implementation of the new rules with planning for what is likely to be one of the most challenging semesters they have ever faced.

Among other things, colleges will be required to hold live disciplinary hearings during which those who have been sexually assaulted and those accused of assaulting them present live testimony and can be cross-examined. Though there are limits on this process – advisors to the students do the questioning, not the students themselves, and a hearing officer will decide if the questions are relevant – it creates an opportunity for more personal attacks than are seen in the criminal justice system, while pushing colleges to behave like that system. That’s not good for students.

One problem rarely mentioned in discussions of the new rules – which create a more litigious and adversarial process – is that the criminal justice system is rarely effective in achieving justice for victims of sexual assault. As a research scientist who has studied this issue extensively, I’m familiar with the many obstacles that victims face: Most don’t report sexual assault to authorities to begin with, and those who do face a secondary victimization as they must recount their experience over and over again to police, prosecutors, and other court officials. Challenges to victim credibility come on many fronts; those who have a history of emotional or mental health problems, who were assaulted by people they know, in situations that involved consumption of alcohol or drugs, or did not report it immediately tend to see their complaints discounted or the cases dropped before adjudication. (The exceptions are cases that involve serious physical injury or the use of a weapon.) This case attrition happens either because victims have been discouraged from cooperating further or because prosecutors do not see the case as credible, or think a jury will be unlikely to convict.

If colleges are required to adopt criminal justice-like procedures, many of these same factors that contribute to case attrition will have a chilling effect on reporting and help-seeking. Few complaints will move forward, and the safety of students and their access to an education will be further jeopardized. Many victims won’t want to pursue a process that involves repeating their account and personal details in a public hearing at the school where the assault occurred – especially if the person who assaulted them has more power or clout, like a star athlete – and answering questions proffered under the direction of that person. Many will decide, at some point along the way, it’s simply not worth it.

A criminal justice model also doesn’t make sense for colleges, whose mission is to educate, not adjudicate. Their goal is to foster norms against sexual violence and harassment, but they will end up being complicit in the re-victimization of those who report.

Along with colleagues and funded by the National Institute of Justice of the U.S. Department of Justice, I recently completed a project on Responding to Sexual Assault on Campus. In the course of our research on 969 colleges across the US, we spoke to 47 Title IX coordinators, many of whom felt strongly that the way they handle sexual assault cases – including sanctioning – should be in part an educational process, in keeping with the mission of their institution to educate. Addressing complaints by holding hearings and cross-examinations doesn’t fit with that mission, and it’s also inconsistent with how colleges handle other violations of student conduct codes.

The Title IX coordinators we spoke to faced lots of challenges. The greatest challenge for many was building capacity to respond to reports of sexual assault. They voiced a critical need for more well-trained investigators, whether from within their college community, public safety, or external sources. The new rules (in some cases rules which conflict with their state laws and current policies) will require even more resources. Unless Title IX coordinators are provided with strong institutional support and visibility including adequate funding, staffing, and training – all of which will be a challenge at institutions wrestling with responses to COVID-19 – they will have to try to do more with their already meager resources. This isn’t a recipe for thoughtfully carried out processes that result in justice for students.

We’ll learn more over the coming months about the issues that will arise from these new rules. For example, how will the complex interplay of state laws, Federal Circuit court rulings, guidance from lawsuits, and institutional mandates affect the implementation? What effect will the pandemic have? There will be details to iron out, but the movement of Title IX processes toward a criminal justice model is a step in the wrong direction. It is also the biggest threat to ensuring that women are given equal access to education.

Linda M. Williams, Ph.D., is director of the Justice and Gender-Based Violence Research Initiative at the Wellesley Centers for Women at Wellesley College. Her research focuses on the justice system response to sexual violence. In 2020, she concluded a federally-funded study of college responses to sexual assaults on campus.

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Immigrants Play a Critical Role in Economic Recovery

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services officeU.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office. Photo courtesy of iStock.com/Andrei StanescuLast week, President Trump suspended new work visas for foreigners seeking employment in the United States. This ban — which affects those from computer programmers to seasonal workers in the hospitality industry — will last at least until the end of 2020 and, when combined with extended restrictions on the issuance of new green cards, will keep as many as half a million people out of the U.S.

My research has shown that immigrants make significant contributions to the U.S. economy, particularly as business founders and job creators. As I recently wrote for the Center for Growth and Opportunity’s Immigration and Economic Recovery Symposium, they will play a critical role in pandemic economic recovery, and keeping foreign workers out of the U.S. right now will be detrimental to those efforts.

In the last two decades, the share of immigrant entrepreneurs in the U.S. has increased, along with the shares of Latino and Black business owners, and those of Mexican, Chinese, and Indian descent. (As I testified before Congress a year ago, while immigrants make up about 13 percent of the U.S. population, they are founders of 26 percent of new businesses, and they are more likely than those born in the U.S. to be entrepreneurs.) The creation of new companies and new jobs is much more dependent on these diverse entrepreneurs than it was in the 1990s and early 2000s.

Immigrant entrepreneurs alone create roughly one in four of all jobs among young companies, and 40 percent or more in places such as Silicon Valley, New York City, and other tech hubs. Young companies are responsible for a disproportionate number of newly created jobs, so ensuring the viability of already existing young companies is critical if we want them to continue their role as job creation engines.

Many immigrant-founded firms rely heavily on being able to hire immigrant workers — either skilled workers through the H-1B visa program, or seasonal workers through various other programs. Some of these workers return home after a period of time; some end up staying and getting their green cards, and some of those eventually start their own businesses. No matter how long they stay in the U.S., they are an important source of labor in our economy.

So not letting these workers enter the U.S. at a time when small businesses have been particularly hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic will make recovery that much more difficult. Companies founded by immigrants make up a huge part of our economy and create jobs for Americans and immigrants alike. Preventing them from being able to get their businesses back up and running will hurt us all in the long run.

Sari Pekkala Kerr, Ph.D., is a senior research scientist and economist at the Wellesley Centers for Women. Her studies and teaching focus on the economics of labor markets, education, and families.

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Self-Care as Resistance

Black woman meditatingThe events of the past few months have left me overwhelmed and exhausted. From the COVID-19 pandemic, whose victims are disproportionately Black, to the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, the Black community has faced countless heartaches. As a Black woman, my emotions have ranged from sadness to rage to hopelessness.

In order to take care of myself, I’ve hunkered down and grounded myself in daily practices that center my mental health and wellness. I’ve limited my intake of social media and news, and increased my daily practices of meditation, exercise, and most importantly, rest. There are days when I lie down between work Zoom calls — just to have moments during the day that feel like respite.

I’ve also needed to be intentional about my energy reserves, and what I can afford to put my limited energy towards. For several weeks, I wasn’t able to sit down and write about how I felt, or even to explain it to folks who are not Black — it seemed like a misuse of the small amount of stamina I had. I just needed things to feel easy.

I’ve encouraged my kids to do what they need to take care of themselves, as well. They have listened, and limited their own social media and news intake. They’ve also made the conscious decision to prioritize things that bring them joy: listening to music, dancing, chatting with friends. Of course, they haven’t been through and seen as much as I have (and I pray they never do) so their level of exhaustion isn’t the same as mine. Still, it has made me proud to see them center joy for themselves and understand they are worth that effort.

I’ve always been a social justice activist — it has been the foundation of all of my work, including my role as director of Open Circle, a social and emotional learning program for grades K-5. But I haven’t spent the past few weeks going out and protesting in the streets, much as I want to. I haven’t been calling my government representatives and lobbying for change. Right now, for me, my activism looks like self-preservation and self-care.

When you’ve lived under the specter of racism your entire life, rest can be a form of resistance. Activist Tricia Hersey recently spoke to NPR about how “rest disrupts and pushes back and allows space for healing, for invention, for us to be more human. It'll allow us to imagine this new world that we want, this new world that's liberated, that's full of justice, that's a foundation for us to really, truly live our lives.” Amidst so much heartache, that imagining is critical for the Black community right now.

For many, this might be a time to march in the streets, or to start conversations, or to read and learn. For others, it might be a time to just lie down and rest. Wherever you fit, we all have a role to play in building a better world.

Kamilah Drummond-Forrester, M.A., CAGS, is the director of Open Circle, an action program of the Wellesley Centers for Women that equips elementary schools with evidence-based curriculum and training to improve school climate and teach children essential social and emotional skills.

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Guest — Sammy
Hmmm we're all looking forward to seeing that time when the blacks will get justice for this racism. Thanks so much kamilah
Sunday, 20 September 2020 13:12
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Placards of Hope, Placards of Change: A Reflection in Response to the Killing of George Floyd

Heart icon in speech bubbleThe callous killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25 by a uniformed police officer while on duty and while being filmed by bystanders was arguably the most brazen act of police brutality involving an unarmed Black civilian since the Black Lives Matter movement began. What this act demonstrated was that those who are hell-bent on asserting white supremacy and upholding its racist regime are now afraid of nothing and outside the moral community.

The mass demonstrations calling for justice and the widespread expressions of solidarity with Black people and racial equality that have erupted in recent days show clearly that the balance of public opinion and power is shifting towards a multiracial coalition of people who embrace the oneness of humanity as well as the end of racial prejudice and racial inequality. In the long run, racial equality will prevail because it is the truth about human beings, but, at this moment, we are collectively in agony about a shameless, heartless, evil act of race-based assassination.

The protests that are growing day by day are the collective expression of the frustration, pain, fury, and indignation of those who have waited so long and so patiently for the truth of Black people’s equality to be enshrined not only in the law and the practices and policies of those who enforce it, but also in the hearts and minds of their fellow human beings. The enforced, racialized power asymmetries in virtually every sphere of life — political, economic, educational, medical, environmental, and so on — recreate an uphill battle each and every day for every Black person, every other person of color, and every ally of Black people and other people of color, ensuring that the rhythm of social justice efforts is always two steps forward and one step back, if not one step forward and two steps back.

Only when those whose hearts and minds are thoroughly suffused with the reality of racial equality are both in the numerical majority and in positions of influence and power will things begin to shift towards closure on this spiritual disease of racism. Fortunately, what the recent uprisings have shown us is that we are getting there. That people like George Floyd (and Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, not to mention the string of their predecessors, not to mention the disproportionate number of Black lives lost to COVID-19, not to mention everybody since 1619) should die to get us there, however, is unconscionable.

As a womanist social movement theorist and also a trained psychologist, my mind turns to the methodologies we are employing to move the needle on racism and an analysis of the kinds of actions we are taking to eradicate the white supremacy, structural racism, racial prejudice, and racist violence we all deplore. I am concerned that we need to be more creative, innovative, and — yes — evidence-based in our social change approaches. We now have the benefit of a century of social scientific research about intergroup relations, as well as decades of neuroscience research, for example, on implicit bias, that helps us understand what works and what doesn’t work, but I’m not sure we are carefully deploying it in our creation of strategies to end racism and its correlates.

Additionally, we have the benefit of dynamic systems theories of varying kinds (a favorite of mine is Bronfenbrenner’s ecological systems theory) that allow us to map how everything from individuals to families, communities, and entire cultures generate, shape, embed, and sustain things like racism — and which enable us to locate effective points of intervention. We also now have such enormous troves of big data that we could answer questions about human behavior and attitudes in real time and at a scale previously impossible. We could and should take a much more research-informed approach to ending racism, and I am glad that this is something we stand for and work towards at the Wellesley Centers for Women.

I am also concerned that we have a social change means-ends problem that we need to scrutinize more closely. Understandably, many social movements begin with emotion-driven, fist-in-the-air protests that are good for mobilizing people and publicizing issues, yet we must remember that the fist is a bellicose symbol inconsistent with peace and harmony — aims that most protesters cherish. The pursuit of justice requires that protests be followed up by the long-form, in-the-trenches work that actually effects structural change, making sustainable peace and justice possible.

Furthermore, new emotional foundations are required to create and sustain a more peaceful and just society. There is already too much pain and trauma in this world because we keep justifying all of the ways that we hurt each other, and all this pain just becomes a factory for hate and violence, both interpersonal and structural.

As a womanist, I would argue that, when we meet epithets with epithets or rage with rage, we are energetically reproducing the conditions we wish to eliminate. We must instead devise new transformational methods that enable us to dig into the spiritual well of goodness that resides within all of us to generate higher-vibrating, more positive and elevating emotional states and belief patterns, and that bring people together socially and relationally in a common space of love, respect, encouragement, enthusiasm, and esprit de corps. This is a tall order, but it is, I believe, what is really needed now.

As I watch the demonstrations on TV, I often find myself thinking, “If I were to make a placard for all the world to see — a placard to catalyze change — what would mine say?” I realized that mine would say “Everyone is sacred.” In times like these, I believe we need a reminder that our fundamental essence is that of Light — our innate divinity and the star-stuff we are all made of — and that everything else, good or bad, is overlay (and changeable).

We cannot continue this regime of oppositionality, in which we perpetually create divides, pit the divided against each other, and struggle to vanquish those who are not us. This regime will never lead to unity, peace, or justice. In the deepest recesses of our souls, we know this, but our politics, practices, and habits of thought have not caught up. The small reminder that everyone is sacred potentially places us on a course towards transformation, and that transformation is my reason for being and the impetus behind all of my work.

What fuels you? And what would your placard say? We would love to hear from you, because now is not the time to be silent. Rather, it is the time to recreate the world.

Layli Maparyan, Ph.D., is the Katherine Stone Kaufmann ’67 Executive Director of the Wellesley Centers for Women at Wellesley College.

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Now More Than Ever, Title IX Coordinators Need Greater Institutional Support

Dhanya NageswaranSage Carson was raped by a graduate student in her sophomore year of college. In an article for VICE in 2018, she recounts the grave trauma she endured as a result. Unable to transfer schools and experiencing a steady decline in her GPA, Carson was on the verge of dropping out. Who played the biggest role in helping her graduate? Her Title IX coordinator, who connected her with free counseling, helped her get extensions on her school work and issued a no-contact order between her and her rapist.

The rights of students laid out by the Title IX Education Amendments Act of 1972 remain a contentious topic in American higher education, as one in four women and one in 16 men experience sexual assault during their college career. In 2017, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos first announced her intention to overhaul the guidance on Title IX policies issued by President Barack Obama, which she described as "skewed against the accused." After reviewing the whopping 124,000 comments on the proposed Title IX guidelines posted in late 2018, the Department of Education released its new guidelines and policies on May 6, 2020.

The content of the regulations themselves is controversial, but no matter how the rules have changed, the individuals responsible for ensuring compliance with Title IX — Title IX coordinators — still strive to do their challenging jobs. Title IX coordinators are responsible for implementing rules that prohibit gender-based discrimination and harassment, and they coordinate the investigation of all Title IX matters, including sexual assaults. Depending on the college or university, they may conduct the investigation themselves or rely on others within their institution or outside it.

Following a wave of student-led activism in the early 2010s and Title IX guidelines newly issued by the Office of Civil Rights in 2011 and 2014, many campuses reviewed and modified their procedures for responding to complaints of sexual assault of college students. But to this day, Title IX coordinators work to end sexual assault on campus while grappling with the sometimes conflicting goals of institutional efficiency and legal compliance. It is argued by some that unnecessary bureaucratic procedures may interfere with the ability of Title IX coordinators to achieve justice that is both fair and prompt. Moreover, some Title IX coordinators are hampered by efforts to protect their college or university from negative publicity.

Recent reports indicate that two-thirds of Title IX coordinators have held their positions for less than three years — many for less than one year. The research I have worked on with Senior Research Scientist Linda Williams, Ph.D., at the Wellesley Centers for Women supports this assessment of the high turnover of Title IX coordinators and, more importantly, that many of them are not getting the support they need. Programs designed to prevent sexual assault have been significantly underfunded across the country, and we found in the course of our research that Title IX coordinators view support from institutional leadership as critical to their success. Such support includes resources, the visibility of the office, and an approach that legitimizes the importance of Title IX activities (reporting, investigation, and adjudication, as well as prevention) as part of an institutional commitment to respond to campus sexual assault.

For many, serving as a Title IX coordinator provides a great deal of satisfaction. They see the work of educating students about sexual assault as meaningful and essential. But implementation of Title IX requirements is a heavy burden, particularly if Title IX coordinators are not sufficiently supported by their institutions. Without that support, ending sexual assault on college campuses — in the midst of a pandemic, and with new regulations to follow — is an extremely difficult goal to achieve.

As institutions work to implement these new guidelines, equipping their Title IX coordinators with more resources is in the best interest of the safety of all campus communities. Now is the time when strong support by institutional leaders is critical to guarantee that no one is excluded from education because of sexual harassment or sexual assault, and that the ultimate goal of ending sexual assault on campus is achieved.

Dhanya Nageswaran is a member of the Wellesley College class of 2021 who is double majoring in Economics and Political Science. At the Wellesley Centers for Women, she was awarded the Linda Coyne Lloyd Student Research Internship for the 2019-2020 academic year, which supported her work with Dr. Linda Williams on the investigation and adjudication of sexual assault on college campuses.

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A Research Internship that Expands Horizons

Neha LundI never knew that I would have the opportunity to do social science research as an undergraduate until I got to Wellesley College. Towards the end of my first year, with my academic interests starting to gravitate toward Sociology and South Asia Studies, I knew I wanted to connect the concepts I was learning in the classroom to action-oriented research that produced tangible results for communities that I cared about. Through the helpful guidance of my peers, professors, and mentors, I discovered that I could get that opportunity by working at the Wellesley Centers for Women.

WCW’s social justice-oriented mission and reputation for providing meaningful collaboration opportunities for Wellesley students drew me to attend a networking event with students and WCW research scientists. This is where I first met my soon-to-be research mentor, Dr. Linda Charmaraman — little did I know that our conversation would be the beginning of a year full of support, learning, growth, and mentorship. Through the Sophomore Early Research Program (SERP), which provides funded research opportunities to underrepresented students in scientific and social science research, I have been a full-time research assistant to Linda in her Youth, Media & Wellbeing Lab this school year.

As a first-generation student, the idea of entering the world of academic research with no experience was definitely nerve-wracking. However, having such a passionate, dedicated, and encouraging mentor as Linda (who is also a first-generation woman of color in academia) has made all the difference. Linda has not only taught me mixed-methods research skills such as data analysis, transcription, coding, and conducting literature reviews. She has also shown me that there is space in the academy for scholars who look like me and who value the same social justice principles that I do. My SERP experience has opened up the door of academic research as a possible future career path, something I am so grateful for at this point in my academic career.

The main project I have been working on with Linda this year is co-authoring a journal article that explores the blurred boundaries between middle school students’ social media use in the context of school and home. Especially in the era of COVID-19, when learning is increasingly dependent on social technologies, we believe it is crucial to facilitate collaborative, complementary partnerships between educators and parents to best support students’ social media use. One of my favorite parts of the research process has been utilizing concepts and frameworks I have been learning in the classroom, such as in my sociology class on schools and society, in order to add to our article from my unique perspective.

Having the opportunity to contribute to this project as an undergraduate student has allowed me to develop a sense of pride in my work, connecting my liberal arts education with my passion for meaningful practical applications. Our lab at WCW values working together with schools, community organizations, and families, which shows how academic research has the potential to be accessible and change-provoking when created with the intent of contributing to social wellbeing. My experience as a research assistant this year has complemented my Wellesley education through providing me with avenues to exercise my intellectual agency and collaborate with other students and faculty in our lab. I am so grateful to have the opportunity to conduct mixed-methods research so early in my Wellesley career, and it has truly shaped my trajectory going forward. More than ever, I understand how many different ways my education has the potential to contribute to positive change, and I am excited to continue my work in the lab going forward.

Neha Lund is a member of the Wellesley College class of 2022 who is majoring in Sociology and minoring in South Asia Studies. Through the Sophomore Early Research Program, she is also a full-time research intern at the Youth, Media & Wellbeing Research Lab at the Wellesley Centers for Women.

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Tips for Preventing Depression While Social Distancing

Daughter visits mother during quarantine on other side of glassThe challenges of isolation and loneliness have become apparent over the past several months of social distancing. Not only are we physically separated from our friends and extended families, but we’re concerned about their health and wellbeing as well as our own. We may be juggling childcare, homeschooling, and our own work. Or we may be wondering how we’ll support ourselves through this. We may know those who are sick, or who are high-risk, or who are essential workers putting themselves at risk for our sake. We may have lost people close to us. And we may feel powerless to do anything.

The situations that we find ourselves in can be overwhelming, and can contribute to low mood, irritability, and other potential depressive symptoms. If these symptoms persist and severely impact your day-to-day functioning, it can be a good time to check in with your doctor or a therapist. Many providers have moved to telehealth during this time, so it’s possible to connect to extra support. But if you just notice your mood dropping a bit or you feel a bit unmotivated, you may want to try out new strategies to prevent further depressive symptoms or bounce back from these moments of low mood.

First of all, it’s important to acknowledge that this is a time of adjustment and loss. Many of us will experience normal mood fluctuations such as low mood and sadness related to the loss of life the way it used to be. As with any loss, reactions will come and go, and feel different from day to day. Being gentle with yourself and others is important for maintaining mental health. For example, focus on “good enough” instead of “perfect” or “how I would usually do this.” Think of tasks that help you to feel productive, need to be done, and give you joy, and engage in a mix of those things. Let go of getting everything done. When you do achieve something, celebrate it.

It’s also important to remember that every person is different and will have certain strategies that work better for them in maintaining mental health. Different circumstances and situations will call for different approaches. Consider this a time of experimentation: try new strategies, but don’t be afraid to give them up and use others if they don’t work for you.

Social support from family and friends can help to prevent symptoms of depression. The lack of close personal contact during this time of social distancing is a challenge and can lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness. While we may not be able to interact with one another in the ways we’re used to, there are plenty of ways to stay connected.

If you’re lucky enough to be social distancing with your family, take some time out to connect with your kids or spouse. Even small moments of connection can improve your mood. When it comes to technology, find what works best for you, whether it’s virtual parties or one-on-one chats with a friend. While social media is one way to connect, it may be less helpful than picking up the phone and calling or FaceTiming. And just as in life before, know your limits. Having time to yourself to recharge is still important, and if you’re feeling Zoom overload, it’s perfectly okay to say no to a virtual happy hour.

When you’re interacting with others or when you’re alone, don’t forget to notice the good or joyful moments — that can do a lot to improve your mood. Did you have a good laugh about something silly with your family? Did you get a sense of satisfaction from completing that puzzle that’s been sitting in your living room for years? Notice when those moments come up and what you’re doing, and look for opportunities to engage in more of them. Along those lines, you can start tracking three good things or three things that went well each day. In addition to writing these three things down, write what made them go well or what caused them. Research has demonstrated that doing this daily for a month can help to improve your mood and increase happiness.

Repetitive negative thinking can contribute to depressive symptoms, so it can be helpful to take time to notice thoughts that are connected to feelings of sadness, anger, fear, and other emotions that bring your mood down. Once you notice these thoughts you can make efforts to reframe them or focus your attention on more helpful ones. If you notice that a bothersome thought keeps coming up, see if you can switch it up. For example, “I’ll be stuck at home forever” could be turned into, “I feel stuck right now, and this is a temporary situation. I’m looking forward to seeing my dad after this is over.”

Taking care of your physical health can have a strong effect as well. You may see a lot of runners and bikers out in your neighborhood these days, and they’ve got the right idea. Exercise has been found to be effective in preventing depression. Just engaging in something active can help — check out streaming yoga or old-school Richard Simmons videos. Take a walk around your house or challenge yourself to a stair climb. It doesn’t matter what you do as long as you get moving, and your mood will likely improve as a result.

Though it can be hard to put down your phone or turn off the news, getting enough sleep (but not too much) can help keep your mood stable and make it easier to roll with the punches. If you’re having difficulty sleeping, work on improving your sleep hygiene. Start preparing an hour before bedtime by turning off screens, doing some relaxation, and clearing your head.

Finally, remember that it’s not about never feeling low — it’s about bouncing back from the low mood. Honor the fact that this is a difficult, sad, and anxiety-provoking time. Remind yourself that social distancing and staying at home are temporary. Think of other difficult times in your life and what strategies you used to get through those times. If we are mindful of our thoughts and intentional about the strategies we use throughout the day, we may be able to maintain good mental health — despite all of the challenges we’re facing.

Further resources:

Katherine R. Buchholz, Ph.D., is a postdoctoral research scientist working on depression prevention research at the Wellesley Centers for Women.

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I recently felt on myself what depression is. True, this was accompanied by my menopause, which began just before quarantine. And ... Read More
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Very good Tips for Preventing Depression While Social Distancing... Read More
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Honoring Three Generations of Student Parents on Mother's Day

Autumn Green and her daughterLast year on Mother's Day, I was driving through the Rocky Mountains, on my way from Oregon to Maine where my life was about to change forever. It was the first Mother's Day I had spent without my kids since they were born, and the first Mother's Day since my own mother had passed away. I yearned to call her to share the news of my latest adventure, as I always had during our frequent long-distance phone chats, but I knew I couldn’t. The following week, my daughter would bring my granddaughter into the world on the southern coast of Maine. The transcontinental journey I was on would end with the newest love of my life joining our family.

My mother was my champion, my role model, my friend, and my fiercest advocate. She had floated between California state colleges for about a decade before I came along, finally earning her bachelor's degree in liberal arts when I was a baby. When I was about nine, she returned to community college to earn her landscape contractor’s degree and licensure. She started a small landscaping business, whose biggest success was its own show garden, proudly featured in Better Homes and Gardens magazine in 1998. A framed copy still hangs on the wall by the front door at my parents’ house.

I didn’t realize at the time that my mom’s journey — at least five schools and over 10 years to finish her bachelor’s degree — was typical for student parents. And like many other student parents whose accomplishments go unacknowledged and undervalued, her degree wasn't counted in retention and graduation rate data because of her long and meandering path. From the outside, her life might look like one of repeated failure and modest accomplishment. But that’s not what I saw.

I watched my mom role model learning as a lifelong process. She showed me that I could do or be anything I wanted, and she showed me how to get there. So even when I became a high school dropout, young bride, and teenage mother, I could not be swayed from pursuing my dreams. Because my mom had been a student parent too, she was a resourceful advocate, finding programs and benefits to support me and guiding me through the earliest steps of what has become my own lifelong educational journey.

With her love and unwavering support, I made it all the way from GED to Ph.D., and through a postdoctoral second master's degree. Fewer than 2 percent of young parents will earn a postsecondary degree before their 30th birthday. Yet I earned my associate's, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees by the time I was 31. Now, I’m a research scientist studying higher education access for student parents. It wasn't until years into my career that it hit me: I am not only a success story as a parent whose education improved her life and her children’s lives. I am also the story of what happens to kids who have a front-row seat to watch their parents pursue an education.

The intergenerational legacy of valuing education is visible every day in my work with student parents and their families across the country. There are nearly 4 million undergraduate student parents in the U.S., about 22 percent of all undergrads. These students are largely invisible, because they’re not who most of us picture when we imagine college students. As a result, they often don’t get the resources they need — and struggle to graduate. Only 17 percent of student parents starting their bachelor's degrees in a full-time, four-year program get their degrees within six years, as compared to nearly 60 percent of college students overall. But when they do graduate, it’s transformative for their lives and their families’ lives. I know this firsthand, because I watched education change my life and my mother’s life, and I hope it will be a positive force for my daughter.

After my granddaughter was born that beautiful, sunny May day, a hospital social worker came to speak with my daughter. I had stepped out to grab lunch and she was alone. Because she was 19 and technically a teen parent, this was standard procedure for the hospital discharge process.

"What are you going to do about your education?" the social worker demanded of my daughter.

To this, my daughter said she just smiled and replied, "I don't think you know who my mom is, but I guarantee you, we got this."

When my mom was alive, she and I talked frequently about how politicians and others fail to see the less tangible and two-generational impacts of education: fostering an informed and critically thinking electorate. But the biggest impact of my mother’s education, I think she would tell you if she could, was us: her three brilliant, creative, loving, nurturing, and well-rounded daughters, our daughters — her granddaughters — and now her great-granddaughter too. We are her legacy. A legacy that is unquestionably intergenerational.

This Mother's Day, as we approach my granddaughter's first birthday, I am proud that I can be the person in my daughter’s life that my mother was for me. And as student mothers across the country struggle to educate themselves and raise their children in a pandemic, I want them to keep in mind what I remember most about my mom: not that she did everything perfectly, but that her passion for lifelong learning nurtured and shaped me. The desire to role-model the transformative power of education, along with the hope to provide a better life for their families, is what drives student parents to fight to finish their education despite the odds. That’s the legacy they’re instilling in their children, too.

Autumn Green, Ph.D., is a research scientist at the Wellesley Centers for Women studying higher education access for student parents. Dr. Green is nationally recognized for her scholarship on the lives of student parents and has worked to create two-generation programs on college and university campuses.

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Research Connections: A Student Teacher’s View on Social Media in the Classroom

Emily VargasIt is the spring of 2020, and my senior year at Wellesley College is not at all what I imagined it would be like. Before concerns about COVID-19 led schools around the country to close their doors, I was student teaching at a nearby middle school and working as a research assistant in the Youth, Media & Wellbeing Research Lab at the Wellesley Centers for Women. Since mid-March, I have been taking my classes online and working from home in California. Now more than ever, as schools are using social networking sites to reach their students at home, I can see a strong connection between what I learned in my teaching role and in my research role.

My work in the Youth, Media & Wellbeing Research Lab involves reading articles and learning about how schools integrate social technology in the classroom, and whether teachers are trained to do so. As I began this work last semester, I was starting my own journey of teaching in a classroom.

From the very beginning of my student teaching experience, I saw how my research played out at school. I saw students dancing to TikTok dances (sometimes subconsciously) as they were talking to their teacher — such a common occurrence that the teacher seemed unfazed by it. As I was learning in the lab, teachers were divided on their feelings towards the popular app. One day as I passed by the library, I noticed some teachers trying to make a TikTok video. They wanted to know more about the app and how to use it to engage students. Not all teachers felt that way — some seemed uninterested, and some were cautious of it. One teacher mentioned to me that she was worried about students putting their personal information online and uploading videos of themselves for anyone to see.

In a social studies class, students were beginning a unit on Brazil. If the semester had continued as normal, I planned to have this class video chat with a friend of mine who was studying abroad in Brazil at the time. I thought it would be a good way to get students excited about their studies and bring more social technologies into the classroom.

Since students are now at home, I am sure they are using a lot of social networking sites. The teachers I was working with are using Google Classroom, and just recently, I joined my mentor teacher’s office hours on Google Hangouts. Through this platform, students are able to socialize and talk about their homework online.

I have been thinking a lot about my own future teaching and how I would like to bring social technologies into my classroom. I hope to use what I have learned in the classroom and in the lab to find ways to engage my students with the things they are most excited about. It is very clear now that social technologies can connect students online and that we still have a lot to learn about the best ways to use them. I hope that as classes move to online formats, social technologies begin to be integrated into more classrooms, and more training is provided to teachers on how to use them effectively.

Emily Vargas is a member of the Wellesley College class of 2020 who is double majoring in English and Education. She is also a research assistant in the Youth, Media & Wellbeing Research Lab at the Wellesley Centers for Women.

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Social and Emotional Learning During COVID-19 Crisis: Equity Lens Reflection

Social and emotional learning during COVID-19This article was originally posted by Karen Craddock, Ph.D., on April 17, 2020, on The Wellness Collaborative.

While we manage the day-to-day, sometimes moment-to-moment, shifts during this global pandemic, it is sure to have implications on how we navigate the array of feelings and interactions we encounter in every aspect of our inner and outer lives. This process involving managing emotions, setting goals, showing empathy, building relationship, and making constructive decisions, otherwise known as social and emotional learning (SEL), is especially poignant now. Raising awareness of how these skill sets and competencies intersect with interpersonal, situational and structural inequities is even more so…

Pain of exclusion

In my blog article on the social-emotional, neurophysiological pain of racialized exclusion and strategies to remain resilient, there is discussion on how pain is perceived and received across racial lines. Particularly relevant is mention of the well documented racial empathy gap that occurs for people of color, especially in healthcare settings as well as in education. This is important to keep top of mind during this COVID-19 crisis in light of emerging national data revealing the glaring disparities occurring along race for both contracting and dying of the disease, as well as getting access to testing and treatment.

What is clear is that the pain of racism occurs both directly and indirectly. So as communities of color hear and experience more of these disparities, even while not surprising, the impact is felt whether target or watching from the sidelines. Already strategies of resistance have been activated among people of color to buffer and recreate in the midst of this, which includes a call for increased awareness and action by all. Furthering these strategies to remain resilient will be crucial for the long haul calling for intentional awareness to stratified privilege, disrupting inequities, supporting affinity networking, and deploying collaborations with resources of all kinds.

Staying physically distant and socially connected

While we adhere to vital mandates to stop the spread of the virus which can require quarantine and separation, it is important to be aware of language that indicates social or relational disconnection. We are wired for connection and thrive mentally, physically, and emotionally from being in healthy relationship. The limits of the terminology have recently come forward and will likely continue.

Inclusive language that encourages staying socially connected in safe ways is vital. This means honoring the diverse personalities and profiles of individuals falling along the spectrum of introvert to extrovert by making room and opportunities for everyone to find comfortable and necessary methods to stay connected without assumptions of “one size fits all”. By using the term physical distancing it also forces us to look at the range of physical settings people are in while braving this storm. Thus, it is even more important to address the implications and remain aware of the physical constraints and necessities that are realities across the country and for so many.

A current context in the climate of COVID-19

It is not unusual that during times of extraordinary crisis that prevailing stressors become worse. For communities already chronically marginalized by race, ethnicity, gender, class…an increase in volume, intensity, and impact occurs. In addition, a climate of crisis also heightens awareness of social, structural, and systemic inequities. Over the past few weeks we have experienced COVID-19 hit our communities and we are beginning to hear stories and see data that brings this point to a head.

From physical appearance to physical location, the ugly truths of marginalized existences are coming to bear. An African-American man living in Boston expressed this tension in a news article describing the risk and worry he has of being a man of color wearing a facemask to prevent illness while fearing for his safety due to bias. We see the economic intersectional realities during this public health pandemic across many communities and how it is specifically playing out given the disproportionate rate of pre-existing and socially influenced health conditions among communities of color. And sadly rates of domestic violence and abuse are likely spiking especially with quarantine and stay at home recommendations and mandates in place. The backdrop of the growing rise of suicide among Black youth sharpens the need for paying attention to the mental health needs of us all right now and especially within communities of color.

As educators and practitioners of SEL it is vital now more than ever that we remain vigilant in our efforts to defeat COVID-19 while staying aware of how its impact is inextricably tied to issues of bias, equity, and wellness. It will require and invite opportunities for self-reflection personally and professionally that center cultural fluency, emotional intelligence and agility. Before us is a call that compels intentional, active, and inclusive engagement within affinity networks and with racially culturally diverse thought-partners and leaders to seek and create solutions for much-needed healing.

Karen Craddock, Ph.D., is a visiting scholar at the Wellesley Centers for Women. As an applied psychologist, her work centers on issues of equity, wellness, leadership, and partnership. Her studies on psycho-social functioning have included explorations of race and gender intersectionality, models of optimal resistance and resilience, social and emotional learning, emotional intelligence, and the neuroscience of inclusion.

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Social vs. Physical Distancing: Why It Matters

Social connection and social distancing during COVID-19 coronavirus pandemicThis article was originally posted by Amy Banks, M.D., on April 12, 2020, on her Wired for Love blog on Psychology Today.

To protect ourselves, our families, and our communities from the devastation of the coronavirus health experts are strongly encouraging everyone to “socially distance” — to stay 6-10 feet away from other people.

I am concerned — not by the strategy but by the way people are enacting it. The few times I have ventured out to a grocery store or for a walk around my neighborhood, I've seen people not only keeping distant from one another but also seeming afraid. They pass each other on the street or in a store without looking at each other or exchanging greetings.

It’s as if we were each locked in a personal bubble that no one can enter. The threat of COVID-19 and the stress it induces can understandably cause individuals to become terrified and myopic — to turn inward in an attempt to stay safe. While a week of that may be more stressful to some than others, months of this type of social isolation is dangerous. Research clearly shows us that our physical and emotional health and well-being are dependent on loving relationships and physical touch. To weather this pandemic, we need one another.

Weeks ago, my colleague and friend, Roseann Adams, LCSW, recognized that the national strategy of social distancing was a double-edged sword. She identified that social distancing can be a threat to all of us as it leads some people to socially isolate potentially causing further stress and, over the long haul, impairing our bodies’ immune system. In fact, strict social distancing may set us up for other illnesses.

Within the first few days, she was encouraging people to physically distance with social connection. Differentiating physical distance from social distance acknowledges the virus’s malignant ability to be transmitted from person to person but also acknowledges that the virus has no power over our ability to support and nurture one another in this time of extraordinary threat.

Think about the power of social isolation in society. Solitary confinement is considered the worst punishment a human can receive. In fact, most civilized communities consider it a form of torture. The physical and emotional toll it takes over time includes a worsening of mental health issues, an increase in self-injurious behavior and even suicide.

Isolating individuals is perhaps the most common first step domestic abusers use to gain power and control over their victims. He or she begins to control who you can see, where you can go, what you can wear. When a person violates the rules set by the perpetrator the punishment is harsh and swift.

Social distancing, as it has been presented, can feel like that. In fact, in my work with trauma survivors during this time, I have heard people describe feeling trapped and threatened again. That is not sustainable. Becoming socially isolated may keep the majority of us alive, but not well.

By naming the national strategy as physical distancing rather than social distancing and emphasizing the need for human connection we can stay safe from the virus but also hold onto the heightened need we all have for one another right now. Each of us needs an extra dose of being seen and held within our connections during this extraordinary time. Perhaps now more than ever we must be intentional about giving our neural pathways for connection a workout.

In fact, we need to go out of our way to make eye contact, wave, move, or loudly say "hello" from behind the mask. This gives our smart vagus nerve and our mirror neurons a workout. Literally, the sound of a friendly voice and seeing the eyebrows of another person raise in greeting stimulates your social engagement system, which in turn sends a signal to your stress response system to stand down. Those moments of interaction may make the difference in the long run as to how we, as a society, survive the pandemic.

The human nervous system is amazingly adaptive. Our brains will adapt to social isolation over time, but the burden of stress the isolation causes will lead to long-term health problems. As a society we will not be well at the end of all of this — not because of COVID-19 but because of the message we take in that being with others can be dangerous.

That is why each of us must do our part to not only stay physically six feet apart and to wear masks but also to go out of our way on the street, in the grocery store, through FaceTime, Zoom, or whatever platform you can use to reach out to one another. We all must know that nurturing the relationships we have and reaching out to others who may be isolated is as essential to surviving the pandemic as physical distancing.

Let’s add another important directive to our national policy of containing the coronavirus — to reach out each day to three other people — to check in on them, simply hear their voice, or share the pain or joy of the day. This is a wider strategy to not only survive the pandemic but to keep our humanity alive.

Amy Banks, M.D., is a senior scholar at WCW and founding scholar of the International Center for Growth in Connection, which began as the Jean Baker Miller Training Institute at WCW. Dr. Banks has spoken throughout the U.S. on the neurobiology of relationships and is the co-author, with Leigh Ann Hirschman, of Four Ways to Click: Rewire Your Brain for Stronger, More Rewarding Relationships.

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To stand by in such moment of crisis.....is something all we need....great choice of words...liked it
Saturday, 02 May 2020 18:08
Guest — Arshad
Right now the whole world is struggling with Corona. The whole world is looking for a cure for this virus, but until it can be sol... Read More
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Boardroom Diversity Can Help Nonprofits Respond to COVID-19

Increasing Gender Diversity on the Boards of Nonprofit Eds and Meds: Why and How to Do ItHospitals and universities are facing challenges that many have never seen before as they respond to COVID-19. Universities are closing their campuses and transitioning to remote learning in order to protect the health of their faculty and students. Hospitals are working around the clock to add more beds, secure lifesaving equipment, and acquire the gear needed to protect their staff. These educational and healthcare organizations ("eds" and "meds") need to identify creative solutions to solve these problems in ways that take into account the needs of their diverse stakeholders. Boardroom diversity is particularly important to achieving this.

Almost 14 years ago, the Wellesley Centers for Women published Critical Mass on Corporate Boards: Why Three or More Women Enhance Governance. I wrote this report along with my coauthors Alison M. Konrad, Ph.D., and Sumru Erkut, Ph.D. At the time, we didn’t know how much of an influence it would have on corporate boards. Since then, the biggest for-profit corporations have faced increasing pressure to diversify their boards from major shareholders, advocacy groups, some government entities, and the media.

The largest nonprofits—eds and meds—have not faced comparable scrutiny or pressure. But recent studies in Philadelphia and Boston, two major centers for eds and meds, have begun to shine a light on the low percentages of women on the boards of many of these institutions.

As a member of the Women’s Nonprofit Leadership Initiative (WNLI)—which was founded by my Wellesley College classmate, Happy Fernandez ’61, and is a co-publisher of the Philadelphia report—I learned of the need for research to understand the reasons behind the numbers and what remedies work. So WNLI colleague Carolyn Adams and I conducted in-depth, confidential interviews with 59 female ed and med board members and male and female board chairs and chief executives in 14 states and the District of Columbia, representing every region of the United States. We wanted to know what it’s like to be in “the room where it happens.”

In our new report, Increasing Gender Diversity on the Boards of Nonprofit Eds and Meds: Why and How to Do It, we document that women face substantial barriers to gaining board seats and to serving effectively once elected. Though our study focused on gender diversity, we found parallel barriers to racial diversity and note the impact of the combined barriers of gender and race for women of color.

Removing obstacles for all women matters, not only because equity in organizations must start at the top, but also because our interviewees reported that female directors have positive impacts on the boards and their significant decisions. Women make contributions related to their expertise, as do men, but they also bring different experiences and perspectives to the table, particularly on issues involving consumers (students and patients), culture change, improved governance, and the way decisions are made. An overwhelming number of interviewees believe board diversity can increase effectiveness in serving consumers.

Though these nonprofit boards present some of the same barriers to gender diversity as for-profits, women face additional barriers in nonprofits related to differences between the sectors:

  • FINANCIAL REQUIREMENTS: Unlike for-profit boards, where members are paid a stipend, nonprofits generally expect board members to make financial contributions, sometimes sizeable. That can work to exclude or reduce the numbers of women who are considered.
  • WHO-YOU-KNOW RECRUITMENT: Unlike for-profits, which regularly use search firms, nonprofits rely primarily on board members to recruit new members and are therefore limited by the largely white male social and business circles of the current white male trustees.
  • BOARD SIZE: Nonprofit boards are usually larger than corporate boards, which average 9 to 11 members. In our study, excluding one board with over 85 members, the average board size was 29, and some had over 60 members. Though our 2006 WCW study led the way in pointing to a critical mass of three or more women in order to have an impact on for-profit boards, our nonprofit respondents cited 30% as the relevant minimum on their boards, because of their greater size. Even a critical mass does not necessarily lead to inclusion on large boards, where committees do the real work and executive committees often make most decisions. Exclusion from such power positions, or appointments only in small numbers, can mute women’s voices and limit their opportunity to be of influence and value.

The differences we identified call for change strategies tailored to the nonprofit sector. The strategies we recommend include:

  • Placing less emphasis on a candidate’s financial capacity to contribute.
  • Changing recruiting practices.
  • Shrinking board size.
  • Creating separate fundraising boards.

Embracing change, we found, requires leadership, intentionality, and a full board discussion of diversity.

In the United States, pressure on for-profits has largely come from shareholders. Nonprofit eds and meds do not have shareholders but they do have stakeholders: students and patients and their families, alumni/ae, employees (particularly faculty in the eds), members of communities affected by major board decisions, and donors. Since we are all members of some of these groups, if we, as stakeholders, paid greater attention to the lack of diversity on these boards and organized to exert our influence, we could propel change—putting eds and meds in a better position to face future challenges.

Vicki W. Kramer, Ph.D., is a consultant to nonprofits and former academic. She has co-authored articles in the Harvard Business Review and numerous other journals, as well as chapters in Women on Corporate Boards of Directors: International Research and Practice and More Women on Boards: An International Perspective. She was the founding president of the Thirty Percent Coalition, a national collaboration of for-profit companies, institutional investors, and nonprofits promoting gender diversity on corporate boards.

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Equal Pay Day: How the Gender Wage Gap Changes Over a Woman's Career

Diverse women in the officeA woman graduates from college and starts her first job, earning about the same as the male colleague who sits next to her. She gets promoted a few times, her salary increases, and in her late 20s, she gets married. Her husband gets a job offer in a new city, they move, and she takes a slightly lower-paying job. In her early 30s, she has a baby, and then another baby in her mid-30s. She decides to cut back her hours (and thus her pay) in order to spend more time with her children. My research shows that this is the point in women’s lives at which the gender pay gap widens.

Fast-forward 15 years: the woman’s children are growing up and will soon be headed off to college, and she is eager to ramp her career back up. What happens to the gender pay gap now?

Today is Equal Pay Day, a day that symbolizes how far into the year the average woman in the U.S. must work in order to earn what the average man in the U.S. earned the previous year. Equal Pay Day for black women is August 13, for Native American women it’s October 1, and for Latina women it’s October 29. Women on average earn $0.82 for each dollar earned by a man; black women earn $0.62, Native American women earn $0.57, and Latina women earn $0.54. The gender pay gap has slowly narrowed over time, but hasn’t budged much over the past 15 years. Globally, the gap isn’t expected to close for another 257 years.

But we are learning that the story of the gender pay gap is a complex one. We now know that male and female college grads start their careers earning nearly the same salaries, but end up with a substantial gap by age 45. By the time college grads reach their peak earnings, men earn on average 55 percent more than women. Less than a third of this gap is caused by differences between the jobs in which men and women work, though women are certainly overrepresented in lower-paying sectors and occupations such as teaching, nursing, and social work — the usual “pink-collar” jobs. Much of the widening of the gap comes from married women: their earnings grow much more slowly with age and they see little benefit from job-hopping compared with men and unmarried women. And when women become mothers, they are more likely to move into part-time positions, take time off, and work fewer hours than men, even in full-time work.

This paints a bit of a dire picture. Things begin to turn around for women, though, once they reach their late 40s and 50s: the pay gap begins to narrow again. For example, among more recent generations of college-educated women, the gap starts shrinking when they reach their late 50s. This happens as women increase their work effort relative to men once their children leave home.

There are still more questions to be answered before we can fully understand the causes of the gender pay gap, and how policies might help close it. For example, how much of the gap is contributed by dual-career considerations, where a family has to optimize around the primary breadwinner? Can public policies help to better share the burden among working spouses? An improved understanding might help us determine whether policies such as father quotas in parental leave might be part of a solution.

We are slowly gaining a clearer picture of how the gender pay gap evolves over the course of our lives. As our research continues, this picture continues to come into focus.

Sari Pekkala Kerr, Ph.D., is a senior research scientist and economist at the Wellesley Centers for Women. Her studies and teaching focus on the economics of labor markets, education, and families.

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WCW's Response to COVID-19 Outbreak

Layli MaparyanDuring this unprecedented time, our work at the Wellesley Centers for Women towards gender equality, social justice, and human wellbeing has taken on new meaning. As a society, we have become newly aware of just how fragile and precious human wellbeing is. And as an organization, we have been reminded of how deeply we care about the physical and mental wellbeing of our community — our research scientists, project directors, administrative staff, and supporters like you — as well as the larger global community to which we all belong.

The Wellesley Centers for Women transitioned to working remotely along with the rest of Wellesley College in mid-March, per the guidance of the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education and Department of Public Health. We will continue to pursue our high-quality research, theory, and action programs remotely for as long as is necessary to protect the health and wellbeing of our staff. We have also made the decision to postpone all of our spring on-campus events and hope to reschedule them in the fall.

As many of you are also experiencing, working from home takes some flexibility and trial and error. We’re changing our schedules to accommodate child care and finding new ways to do our research — for example, by moving a group depression intervention program online. Check out our Instagram and Facebook accounts for snapshots of how our researchers and staff are adapting, often with children and/or pets underfoot.

We are still figuring out how the COVID-19 outbreak will impact our operations, our ongoing research projects, and our financial situation. This isn’t the first time we have faced a major challenge, and it won’t be the last. We are grateful for your support over the years, which helps us weather unpredictable situations like this one. Once we have a better sense of how we expect our research and action projects to be impacted over the coming months, we will share that information with you, along with ways you can support our work going forward.

There is a lot we don’t know right now. But what we do know for sure is that making the world a healthier, safer, and more secure place for women and girls, families and communities, is more important than ever. This moment has taught us that we are more interconnected than we ever thought before — locally, nationally, and globally.

This is a time of tremendous experimentation and learning, both in our work and personal lives. The Wellesley Centers for Women is an organization focused on advancing knowledge, which has become important in a new and broader way. Despite the challenges ahead, we are determined to use that knowledge to continue building a world of justice, peace, and wellbeing!

Layli Maparyan, Ph.D., is the Katherine Stone Kaufmann ’67 Executive Director of the Wellesley Centers for Women at Wellesley College.

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fair enough speech
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Great way to keep subscribers in the know. #thistooshallpass.
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Nice thx
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Less than one-fifth of reported rapes and sexual assaults lead to arrests

metoo movement protestorsIn 2019, Melissa Morabito, Ph.D., Linda M. Williams, Ph.D., and April Pattavina, Ph.D., of our Justice and Gender-Based Violence Research Initiative, published findings from a study funded by the National Institutes of Justice that investigated why sexual assault cases fall out of the criminal justice system. In this commentary, originally published in The Conversation, Dr. Morabito and Dr. Pattavina discuss some of the findings from that study.

As experts in criminology and the justice system, we were surprised to learn that a jury voted to convict Harvey Weinstein on two counts of rape and sexual assault.

This surprise was based on our more than a decade of research on the attrition of sexual assault cases from the criminal justice system.

We know that most victims of sexual assault never report their attack to the police. For those that do report, the probability of arrest and prosecution of their assailant is small.

In fact, the overwhelming majority of cases reported to the police do not end in conviction, as evidenced by our recent research on sexual assaults reported to the police in six jurisdictions across the United States.

We found that many cases drop out at the investigation stage, with only 18.8% of rapes reported to the police resulting in an arrest. Slightly more than a third of the arrests of adults ended in a conviction. That’s just 6.5% of investigations.

What we can learn from the Weinstein verdict, and from the #MeToo movement more generally, is that perhaps the time has come to bolster the criminal justice response to sexual assault in ways that give sexual assault victims the procedural justice they deserve.

Melissa Morabito, Associate Professor of Criminology and Justice Studies, University of Massachusetts Lowell and April Pattavina, Professor of Criminology and Justice Studies, University of Massachusetts Lowell

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The Conversation
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When the News Is Scary: 4 Ways to Support Children During the Coronavirus Outbreak

child washing hands with soap and waterAs the mother of four children ranging in age from 5 to 17, I think I’ve heard it all when it comes to the coronavirus COVID-19: every rumor and misunderstanding that gets shared at school and on social media about where it came from and how it spreads. In gently redirecting my children toward the truth--and helping them manage their well-founded anxiety--I’ve leaned on my knowledge of social and emotional learning (SEL).

As the director of Open Circle, an evidence-based SEL program for school-age children, I know that it’s important to help kids develop skills to recognize and manage their emotions. It’s also important for them to feel safe and cared for, especially in the midst of a crisis. Effective SEL strengthens our ability to understand, name, and manage our emotions all while building healthy relationships with others that foster increased empathy and community.

Here are a few things I’ve kept in mind while having conversations with my children about COVID-19, which might be helpful to anyone who has similar conversations with kids in their lives--whether their families or those they interact with in a professional capacity.

Children take their emotional cues from adults.

Kids look to us for how to react to a crisis, so it’s critical that we mind our words and actions when in their presence. We should convey calm and compassion, and focus on the facts available. Familiarizing ourselves with what’s known about COVID-19 and how it spreads allows us to ensure we’re conveying factual information to the children around us. Displaying an overly anxious or fearful affect is “contagious,” and causes children, in turn, to become overly anxious and fearful. We need to remain calm and reassuring as much as possible--and to lean on the other adults within our communities when we need to share our own fears and concerns.

“Othering” behavior and speech must be interrupted.

An unfortunate by-product of this scare has been the othering of Asian American communities, which has led many Chinese restaurants and businesses to lose customers. I’ve heard children say things like “Chinese people caused this” or other disparaging remarks. It’s important for adults to immediately and firmly interrupt these types of comments and othering behavior.

Calm breathing and mindful pauses can help.

At Open Circle, one of the threads woven throughout our curriculum is calm breathing and mindfulness. Teaching children to take three slow, deep breaths or a one-minute mindful pause throughout the day helps them develop the tools to cope when they’re feeling anxious.

It’s OK to say you don’t know.

None of us have all the answers to questions children may ask about COVID-19, and that’s OK. Sometimes these questions do have an answer, and we can find it for them by utilizing the resources available to us: our doctors, school nurses, reputable online sources. Some questions simply can’t be answered with any definitiveness. In those cases, all we can do is help children understand that life comes with gray areas, and not all questions have a straightforward answer. What’s most important is for them to understand that the adults in their lives--whether at school or at home--will be there to protect and assist them, no matter what. As Mr. Rogers’ mother used to say, when there’s a crisis, “look for the helpers.” Knowing that there will always be helpers may go a long way toward relieving children’s worry.

Kamilah Drummond-Forrester, M.A., CAGS, is the director of Open Circle, an action program of the Wellesley Centers for Women that equips elementary schools with evidence-based curriculum and training to improve school climate and teach children essential social and emotional skills.

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Guest — Yashi srivastava
It is very important to follow these mindful steps and each and every person should help each other to be safe by the correct ways... Read More
Monday, 16 March 2020 01:20
Guest — Mark Philip
WHAT TO DO IF THERE IS A RISK OF EXPOSURE TO THE VIRUS? • Respect the incubation period and stay in quarantine, symptoms can take ... Read More
Monday, 23 March 2020 04:17
Guest — Pavithra Suresh
Good. Nice analysis with the different angle of thinking, of course the children and mild and young are people are confuse with th... Read More
Monday, 27 April 2020 11:50
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When Getting Along Is Not Enough

Maureen Walker When Getting Along is Not Enough bookIf conventional wisdom is to be believed, women are notoriously good at getting along. Cultural pundits, from scholarly theorists to political wags, suggest that women are better suited and somehow more prone to connect with others for good. This notion may have a certain surface appeal, particularly to those of us who want to promote healing in a world marred by mortal violence and near-normative violations of human dignity.

However, women who dare to change worlds know that getting along is not enough. Just getting along allows us to be friendly neighbors, cooperative colleagues, best friends, and maybe even intimate partners. But it is not enough to allow us to build authentic, in-depth connections that bring out the best in ourselves and others, and in our society as a whole. In order to do that, we must delve deeper and ask ourselves hard questions—particularly, as we honor the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., around the issue of race.

After the 2016 election, analyses and demographic parsing revealed entrenched racialized divides among women. Race emerged as an undeniable constant: as a signifier that gives meaning to our lives, shaping our beliefs about who we are, who we can be, and how we should be regarded by others. Furthermore, race delineates the parameters of belonging and determines the measure of worth we accord others—how we perceive their credibility and deservingness, and how we enact power in our relationships with them.

Although the notion of race itself may be a biological fiction, it is a political reality, one that has functioned as a pernicious strategy of disconnection, violence, and violation. Whether through collusion, co-option, or coercion, women are deeply implicated in sustaining the norms and systems of racial disconnection.

Women of good will (and that, I believe, includes most of us) regularly enact racialized ideologies in real life. Indeed, these ideologies may be in large part cultural legacy, implicit yet potent, unknown even to ourselves. We can begin to know how race shapes our relationships by observing our habits of disconnection. For example, what are the feelings and thoughts we dare not express to someone of a different race—even when that person is dear to our hearts? Certainly not all feelings and thoughts are meant to be shared; some are private and rightfully so. There is, however, a distinction to be made between privacy and secrecy.

Privacy may represent thoughtful restraint, in service of further growth in the relationship. Secrecy, on the other hand, is a habit of disconnection that functions to protect and preserve a preferred image or narrative. Such withholding creates “dead zones” in a relationship. We might observe how and under what circumstances we create these “dead zones.” How big and unnavigable do we believe them to be? How readily do we criticize “them” and what “they” are like when we are in same-race company? What parts of ourselves and of our experience do we withhold in order to preserve and protect the appearance of connection, rather than allowing ourselves to be more fully known and present in a relationship? This is a habit of disconnection that stifles our desire for connection and belies our intentions to engage the richly textured realities that define our shared humanity.

I wrote When Getting Along Is Not Enough as an invitation and a guide for remaking the meaning and function of race in our lives. One of the practices that enables this transformation is what I call “disruptive empathy.” The two words don’t flow easily together, intentionally so, because empathy is not an easy skill. We tend to think of empathy as demonstrations of niceness, kindness, and caring—laudable actions all, but not stand-ins for growth-fostering empathy.

A popular metaphor that more accurately captures the disruptive dynamics of empathy is “walking a mile in another’s shoes.” To walk in another’s shoes implies at minimum the willingness to shed our own. This process is disruptive because it requires a certain level of willful de-stabilization. Specifically, we have to loosen our attachment to the narratives about self and other. We must be willing to be surprised and accepting of parts of ourselves we previously found embarrassing or shameful. In other words, the anchoring value of disruptive empathy is courage, not comfort.

I like to describe disruptive empathy as a dynamic process facilitated by three intentions: awareness, respect, and compassion. Here are just a few of the questions that facilitate the movement through this experience.

Awareness: What am I feeling and thinking? Desiring? Remembering? Is there a cherished narrative or image that I want to shield from scrutiny?

Respect: What is the purpose of this encounter? Am I trying to win? Placate? What might happen if I risk genuine curiosity about this other person?

Compassion: How did this person come to be where she is in this encounter right now? What aspects of our shared humanity is this encounter revealing? Under what conditions do I speak, interpret, and behave similarly?

When Getting Along Is Not Enough is not a mandate for forced harmony. It is an invitation to shed the illusions that allow us to settle for the appearance of harmony, rather than richly textured and authentic connection. It is an invitation to transform the life-limiting imagination of who we can be and how we must engage each other as racialized beings. This book is intended to help us on a shared journey of healing and ask: How might we dare to change worlds? Who, together, might we become? And most important, are we willing?

Maureen Walker, Ph.D., is a senior scholar at the Wellesley Centers for Women and a founding scholar of the International Center for Growth in Connection, formerly the Jean Baker Miller Training Institute. She is the author of When Getting Along is Not Enough: Reconstructing Race in Our Lives and Relationships, a book that offers a roadmap to personal transformation and cultural healing to repair the damage wrought by racism.

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Highlights from a Decade of Research and Action

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Dear team, It's such a initiation made for the society against violence, sexual harassment and immigration issues. By checking th... Read More
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The Social Media Sweet Spot: 5 Ways Parents Can Help Teens Use Social Media Thoughtfully

two bored teenage girls look at their phonesA recent study out of University College London confirmed a very strong connection between social media use and depressive symptoms in teenagers. And this connection was much stronger in girls than in boys. (This does not mean that social media causes depression -- it just means that we know that children who use more social media have more depressive symptoms. More research needs to be done to figure out the reason behind this.)

The researchers looked at four explanations for why this might be. Poor sleep, online harassment, poor self-esteem, and poor body image all played a role.

My mind’s eye went immediately to my three wonderful, intelligent, strong and independent daughters, and to the social media apps that are such an integral part of their lives. My 15-year-old texts and video-chats with her friends through Snapchat, FaceTime and Whatsapp. My 13-year-old creates lip-syncing videos to share with her buddies via TikTok. And my 9-year-old immerses herself in a virtual zoological Animal Jam world of colorful biomes and customizable animals.

These apps provide positive experiences, such as socializing with friends, expressing emotions through creative cinematography, and learning facts about wildlife and its habitats. My little one often claims, “I’m so much better at typing now that I am using Animal Jam all the time!” Indeed, there is something to be said for the technical savvy that children are picking up as they navigate their way through social media landscapes that often baffle the older generation. If electronic communication is the way of the future, then it can be helpful to hone their digital skills at early ages.

In fact, there are a myriad of benefits to social media. The American Academy of Pediatrics lists a few: offering of opportunities for community engagement, such as political or charitable events; fostering of ideas through blogs, videos, podcasts and games; opening of doors to connect with people of diverse backgrounds in a much smaller and more interconnected global world; enhancing of learning opportunities as students gather together in group chats to work on homework or projects; and greater access to health information about topics that teens might otherwise not feel comfortable discussing with adults (such as mental or sexual health issues).

So there are pros and cons. This leaves us with so many questions. How do we parents find the balance? That sweet spot where they reap the benefits but are protected from the pitfalls? How much do we need to worry about impending depression or anxiety creeping up on them? How much time is too much time on social media? What can I do to mitigate these scary-sounding effects the devices might be having on my children?

I don’t have all the answers, but I do have some thoughts on how parents can help teens use social media thoughtfully and appropriately:

  • Create screen-free zones, such as bedrooms and kitchen tables. And screen-free times such as mealtime and before bedtime. This will help reduce the amount of time kids are on their devices and allow for better quality and quantity sleep. (The devices might need to be given a “curfew” to enforce this tactic. A charging station in the kitchen or other central room can also be a good spot to park the devices for the night.)
  • Open the lines of communication with your kids. Talk to them about their social media experiences. Educate them about the advantages and disadvantages. Have ongoing conversations about anything they want to talk about, and reassure them that you are the trusted adult they can turn to if/when they become mired in teenage angst.
  • Keep in mind that it is not only quantity, but quality, that is important. Keep abreast of the apps your children are using, and encourage them to use social media in positive ways.
  • Avoid banning, blocking or restricting your kids’ access to social media sites. This generally doesn’t work and may backfire if the forbidden fruit becomes so tempting that they simply use it behind your back.
  • Be a good example to your kids. Use your own devices less! Engage with your children, and on your own, in non-screen activities. Enjoy the outdoors, read a book, play a game, do some fun activities as a family. Wax nostalgic for the days of yore when smartphones didn’t exist but people still knew how to enjoy!

My three girls are living in the wild west of cyberspace, with a frontier that is open to exploration. I hope that I can help guide them to that sweet spot of not-too-much and not-too-little, so that they enjoy the positive without enduring the negative along the way.

Elana Pearl Ben-Joseph, MD, is a visiting scholar with the Youth, Media & Wellbeing Research Lab at the Wellesley Centers for Women. She is also a pediatrician and medical editor at Nemours Children’s Health System's KidsHealth.org.

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It's nice... N of course social media now a days is matter of concern. Some parents keep their children away from it forcefully, b... Read More
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Social media good for everyone one.
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Connected Teaching – An Approach for Classrooms, Communities, and the Workplace

connected sequence of paper dollsA recent family conversation reminded me of my (long-ago!) elementary school experience of learning who my teacher would be in the coming school year. I remember the sense of anticipation – who will be my teacher?.

Now, decades later, I am a college professor, and with each new semester, I begin working with new groups of students. I have related anticipation (not as intense, for sure, but related) as I wonder about each new group of students. Will they be excited to learn? As we meet each week for class, will they arrive prepared and ready to discuss the topics of the day?

Who we learn from or teach with is important because we all learn through and in relationship. And I propose this is true not only in school (at any level), but also in the workplace, communities, and other settings. Relational Cultural Theory (RCT) helps us understand this more deeply.

Relational Cultural Theory

Many readers of this blog are familiar with Relational Cultural Theory (RCT), developed by Jean Baker Miller and her colleagues in the Wellesley area and later the Stone Center at Wellesley College, now part of the Wellesley Centers for Women. For those new to the theory, RCT is a human development theory based on the idea that we grow in and through relationships. This challenges many predominant developmental theories which suggest that adults are at higher developmental stages when they are independent or don’t feel they need others. RCT is clear, we are at our best when we engage in growth-fostering relationships.

RCT and Education

While RCT was initially developed and used primarily in clinical settings (e.g. psychotherapy and social work), scholar-practitioners have also applied RCT in other domains including organizations, social justice, and education. For example, RCT is foundational in the WCW program Open Circle, which provides social and emotional learning curriculum and professional development for elementary schools.

RCT and a broader relational approach can also help us become better and more resilient teachers (whether we are in formal educational roles or teach as leaders and supervisors). RCT helps us understand how relationships and even single interactions can be powerful conduits for teaching and learning. Additionally, an RCT lens helps us explore power, cultural context, boundaries, and mutuality in teaching.

Connection and Critical Feedback

For example, the concept of mattering helps us understand the teaching and learning relationship and gives us an important tool for assessment. An essential element of assessment (whether one is a teacher assessing student work or a supervisor conducting staff evaluations) – is being able to deliver critical feedback.

The concept of mattering helps us remain positive and focused on the other person’s growth and development as we prepare and provide critical feedback. Offering critical feedback can be frustrating (for example, when we believe we explained an assignment clearly and imagine the student wasn’t listening) and stressful (e.g. when the receiver is resistant or defensive). By reminding myself that students and their learning matter deeply to me before I engage, I’ve been able to get myself in a good space for providing sometimes-difficult feedback on papers or in person. I believe that at least some of the time, someone receiving critical feedback will be more open if they sense that the teacher or supervisor is coming from a place of respect, care, and hope for improvement. In part, this is about the energy and affect we bring to the interaction. Additionally, a sense of mattering helps us frame the feedback with a sense of hope and belief in the recipient’s ability to learn and grow. So mattering helps us position ourselves for the interaction and frame the message.

Mattering is just one example of how a relational approach to teaching, supervision, and leadership can fuel teaching and learning in a variety of settings. The following questions help us continue to explore:

How have important relationships shaped your learning? How can a relational approach help us:

  • navigate generational differences in the classroom and workplace?
  • balance availability, authenticity, and boundaries in the age of social media and 24/7 access?
  • be more resilient through the lows and highs of teaching and leading?

Harriet L. Schwartz, Ph.D., is the author of Connected Teaching: Relationship, Power, and Mattering in Higher Education and Lead Scholar for Education as Relational Practice with the Jean Baker Miller Training Institute, a legacy project of the Wellesley Centers for Women. She is also a professor of psychology and counseling at Carlow University.

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Paying for College as a Student Parent Is...Complicated

Mother and daughter do homeworkYesterday on route to work my phone exploded with messages from friends and colleagues urging me to, "Turn on NPR right now,” to hear their story about student parents. I was a student parent myself, striving and struggling from GED to Ph.D. as a young low-income mother raising two daughters. In the years between then and now, I have continued to support the strides, struggles, and successes of student parents as a researcher, program developer, professor, and mentor working on the national stage to raise awareness of student parents, their prevalence, and the challenges they face in pursuing and completing higher education.

This week’s NPR news story discusses student childcare as a challenge and concern that is faced nearly universally by student parents. The story explains that federal financial aid dollars can (theoretically at least) account for student childcare costs, increasing student aid awards to cover the costs of childcare. This is entirely true. In fact, I used this method to pay for my own childcare expenses throughout my undergraduate and graduate education. To do this, a student must file a Cost of Attendance appeal with their school’s financial aid office, often providing receipts or other verification of childcare and other eligible expenses.

By increasing the student’s Cost of Attendance calculation, the student is eligible for more financial aid, including federal aid, institutional and external scholarships, and private student loans. As the NPR story explains, this is a policy that is rarely advertised, even by institutions hosting some of the top student parent programs in the United States.

Yet, the NPR story misleads the listener with the representation that the lack of awareness of this policy, “leaves federal dollars sitting on the table.” This assumes that the lack of adequate funding for student parents is caused simply by the fact that they need access to more money. However, this oversimplifies a very complex issue.

Think of the Cost of Attendance calculation as the capacity of one’s purse or wallet. The bigger the wallet you have, the more money you can put in it; but getting a larger wallet does not mean that it comes filled with more money than you already had to begin with. Today, there is rarely money available to fill the student’s existing wallet, let alone a larger one.

Most student parents (who are disproportionately low-income and who generally have a ZERO dollar expected family contribution), have already maxed out their federal grant and loan dollars long before dependent care costs are taken into account. Often, the maximum federal student aid dollars available to a student aren’t enough to cover the basics like tuition, fees, and housing, let alone childcare.

Each federal student aid program is capped at a certain maximum dollar value per student and funding for these programs is limited, which is why unmet need is so prevalent. For the 2019-2020 school year, the only guarantee of federal financial aid funding available to student parents is through Pell grants and Stafford loans capped at $15,695 for freshmen, $16,695 for sophomores, and $18,695 for upper-classman. With these funds student parents must pay for: tuition, fees, textbooks and supplies, technology, housing, utilities, food, transportation, and everything else. Regardless of how much their Cost of Attendance is increased to allow them to receive more funding, there are rarely any federal dollars remaining to be allocated to them.

To fill their larger wallets, students must then turn to scholarships or private student loans. Competition for external scholarships is fierce, and time-consuming applications may not seem worthwhile to student parents carefully allocating their time to work, family, and school commitments.

Private student loans are also difficult for student parents to pursue, as they generally hold income and credit requirements that the student cannot meet on their own. Without a credit-worthy cosigner willing to take on such a long-term debt (which most student parents do not have), many private loans are out of reach for these students.

Even if private loans were more attainable for student parents, it is not a viable systemic or policy solution. I know this as a scholar and expert in this area, and I know this first-hand as a student parent who borrowed private student loans to pay for her own childcare tuition. Those loans came at significant costs, both financial and in terms of post-college opportunities.

Private student loans have the highest interest rates and do not offer the income-based repayment and loan forgiveness options afforded by federal student loan programs. If we are concerned about the student loan crisis, the answer to addressing student childcare needs cannot involve finding new ways for student parents to take on more debt -- especially debt incurred through private student loans.

At the end of the day, student parents and their children cannot survive, strive, and thrive given the minimal amount of federal student aid dollars available in today’s context of skyrocketing costs of attendance.

Student parent programs at colleges and universities across the U.S. are taking the lead in addressing student parents’ needs using comprehensive and individualized approaches. Yet we still don’t know a lot about these programs, what they do, or how they work. In fact, we still don’t even know where they all are or how many colleges and universities have them. This is a clear sign that research on best practices for providing childcare and other supports to student families is sorely needed.

From 2014-2019 I led a research team that collected data on colleges that offer housing for students with children, finding that only 254 U.S. higher education institutions (9%) offer such an option. About 30 additional programs closed their family housing since we began the research project. Our data was turned into the Campus Family Housing Database available to prospective student parents and their advocates as well as researchers and policymakers.

My team is also working to expand this research in 2020 to better understand other types of programs and services, such as campus childcare and comprehensive student parent programs that support student parent success. We will collect this information and develop a comprehensive national database of student parent support services and programs while studying how these programs work and promoting best practices for student parent success.

I work with student parents every day, and I am certainly all about finding them every dollar and dime that can help them get through school. Even though Cost of Attendance appeals can theoretically be useful to cover student needs, I am sad to say there are no "federal dollars left on the table" to fill in the gaps.

Autumn Green, Ph.D., is a research scientist at the Wellesley Centers for Women. In addition to studying the lives of student parents, she has worked to help create two-generation programs on college and university campuses to support student parents and their children.

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Tips for Parents to Manage Kids’ Fortnite Obsession

Mother and son play video gamesVideo games are on my mind these days. Especially violent ones, like Call of Duty or Grand Theft Auto. But special recognition goes to Fortnite, since as a mother and pediatrician, my interests lie in what is most popular among the children.

What is Fortnite? It’s an online multiplayer shooter game, in which 100 players are dropped onto an island where they are expected to attack other players while defending themselves. Eventually one player remains and is declared the winner.

What has brought Fortnite to my attention? First, I learned about the recent inaugural Fortnite World Cup in which over 40 million players participated, from more than 200 countries. It took place at a real stadium with an audience of almost 24,000 live viewers, and more than 2 million people watching from their electronic devices. If those numbers alone weren’t mind-boggling enough, the tournament offered a $30 million prize pool. Teenagers became millionaires overnight.

Next, I was recently privy to several online discussions among large groups of parents discussing the Fortnite phenomenon and how to rein it in. The minority of parents knew nothing of the game. There were a few parents who focused on the positive aspects of online games, such as opportunity for learning skills like conflict negotiation or hand-eye coordination, and the provision of a space to forge online communities and peer relationships. In fact, the concept of “social acceptance” was a recurring theme amongst the game’s advocates. A very small group of enthusiastic gamer parents even played together with their children and praised the game for teaching building know-how and springboarding discussions about budgeting and finances.

But the overwhelming majority of parents responded with a resounding “DON’T GO THERE!” Their concerns were varied. Some worried about the addictive component and excessive screen time exposure. Others feared online predators. But mostly it was the violent nature that gave them angst. While observing their children play, they noted emotional agitation, aggressive language, and trash talk. And this made them cringe. They collectively questioned the effect of exposure to virtual violence on their children’s overall mental health and wellbeing.

This was not only a topic for parenting forums, but for the media in general, following the devastating mass shootings that took place last month in Texas and Ohio. An alleged connection between video game and real world violence was cited yet again by lawmakers wanting to point a finger at factors that might be contributing to the preponderance of mass shootings in the U.S.

The blaming of video game culture led to a widespread media response noting that researchers thus far have not proven an absolute cause and effect link between video game violence and mass atrocities. Experts have pointed out that billions of people play video games in countries all over the world, yet do not suffer from the same gun violence as Americans have to contend with on a daily basis. In fact, countries such as Japan and South Korea have a much more intense gaming industry, but extremely low rates of violent crime and mass casualty events. One thing does seem clear, though- easy access to firearms, weak gun laws, and the sheer number of civilian-owned guns is unique to the U.S. and most likely a major contributing factor in the gun violence we see today.

Finally, in my capacity as visiting scholar in the Youth, Media & Wellbeing Research Lab at the Wellesley Center for Women, I am working with researchers to study the impact of social media on children and adolescents. This includes interactive games such as Fortnite. A recent study from this lab conducted by Dr. Linda Charmarmaran found that Fortnite gamers reported getting less sleep than non-players, a deprivation that can potentially compromise school performance.

So what are parents to do about their child’s Fortnite obsession? Here are some tips gleaned from experts in the fields of psychology and pediatrics:

  • Watch and play with your child to determine whether the game is appropriate for your child at this stage in their life.
  • Set limits about when and how much your child can play, so as not to interfere with more important activities, such as homework, sleep, physical activity, and real-life interactions with friends and family.
  • Talk about the feelings the game triggers in your child, and explain your values regarding violent behavior and conflict resolution.

My daughters don’t play Fortnite. But they have a very active online presence, and these tips will be on my mind as new apps and games dominate their world.

Elana Pearl Ben-Joseph, MD, is a visiting scholar with the Youth, Media & Wellbeing Research Lab at the Wellesley Centers for Women. She is also a pediatrician and medical editor at Nemours Children’s Health System's KidsHealth.org.

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Nowadays. It's a modern world with modern technologies i.e. Mobile, pc, laptop and so on. Fornite is popular video game which pla... Read More
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Reflections from an Undergrad at APA Convention

Dr. Jennifer Grossman and Wellesley College student Anmol Nagar at 2019 APA convention.My name is Anmol Nagar and I’m a junior at Wellesley College, originally from the California Bay Area. Over the past year I’ve done research at the Wellesley Centers for Women with Jennifer Grossman, Ph.D., through The Class of 1967 Internship Program. Our research was a qualitative analysis of how teens talk with their extended family members about sex and relationships. As a psychology minor and an older sister to a young teen, this topic is incredibly relevant and personal to me and our research has been highly rewarding.

In early August, I had the opportunity to go to the American Psychological Association convention in Chicago, IL, because Dr. Grossman’s and my research was chosen to be presented in a symposium called Enhancing At-Risk Teens' Resilience -- Extended Family's Role in Promoting Teens' Sexual Health. Dr. Grossman, Dr. Judith B. Cornelius of UNC Charlotte, and Dr. Emma Sterrett-Hong of the University of Louisville shared their research at the symposium.

2019 American Psychological Association panel speakersAt the end of the presentation, Dr. Gary W. Harper, another prominent researcher in the field at the University of Michigan, gave a summary statement. Then, a Question and Answer section allowed the audience to give their thoughts and ask questions. One question about the applicability and implementation of the work was particularly interesting and sparked questions about policy making and action programs -- potentially a space for future collaboration!

After the symposium, the presenters discussed potential connections and room for future collaboration. Besides our symposium section, Dr. Grossman and I attended a couple of other presentations about aging and dementia and explored the different booths. I had the opportunity to talk to interesting people about everything ranging from graduate school options to healthcare technology working to improve mental health diagnoses.

Apart from the conference, I was able to explore Chicago on my own for a couple of hours! I walked along the waterfront, saw the very famous Bean, and sat in Grant Park for a while. It was my first time in the city, and I can definitively say that Chicago pizza is the best.

Overall, my experience was an exciting chance for me to see the research that I’ve worked so hard on make it to the “big stage” and talk to people who were interested in similar things. I also learned so much about the plethora of post grad options to continue in this field and similar ones. I’m so grateful to the Lloyd family and the Class of 1967 for funding my internship at the Wellesley Centers for Women and for making it possible for me to attend this conference!

Anmol Nagar ’21 was the Linda Coyne Lloyd Intern at the Wellesley Centers for Women during the 2018-19 academic year. She studies economics and psychology at Wellesley College and will be studying at the London School of Economics for her junior year.

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Women’s Equality Day: Still Seeking a Century’s Worth of Progress

Women suffrage picket line, courtesy of Library of CongressThe long march towards progress is often one that extends across generations. The U.S. woman suffrage movement, which resulted in women’s right to vote with the 19th Amendment in 1920 – took 75 years to produce the desired result. That’s three generations of women, each playing a specific role in getting that policy objective to the finish line. Along the way, there were movements and side movements and countermovements, all of which shaped the ultimate contours of that social justice victory. We’ve now gone 99 years past the ratification of the 19th Amendment – that’s almost four generations – and women’s equality is still far from realized. Thus, on this Women’s Equality Day, it seems most fitting to me, as we stare into the century mark of this milestone, that we make a full-court press to fast-track some gender equality moves that would signal a bona fide century’s worth of progress.

Here are my suggestions:

First, we should revisit the Equal Rights Amendment. Its simple yet powerful text, originally crafted in 1923 right after women got the right to vote and revised in 1943, reads:

  • Section 1. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.
  • Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.
  • Section 3. This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.

In the late 1970s, the Equal Rights Amendment passed both houses of Congress and was signed by President Carter, but failed narrowly during the state-by-state ratification process. That was 40 years ago. In 2019, the Equal Rights Amendment has regained attention, as theoretically only one more state needs to ratify the amendment to reach the majority needed. Do we have the political will to pass the Equal Rights Amendment now? Women’s equality was not a partisan issue then, nor is it one now; women in both parties desire equality and benefit from equality. Passing this constitutional amendment at long last would signal to America’s women and the world that women – and, in fact, people of all genders – are now truly included in “liberty and justice for all.”

Second, we should join the community of nations that has ratified the Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (known as CEDAW). This international instrument, which has already been ratified by every country in the world except for Iran, Sudan, Somalia, Pulau, Tonga, and the United States, is basically like a global Equal Rights Amendment. It addresses women’s human rights and commits nations to legally enshrining them. While the U.S. has made various arguments about why it has not ratified CEDAW, a more powerful statement for gender equality would be to just ratify it!

Other actions that would signal that we are truly in the 21st century when it comes to women’s equality would be stronger laws, policies, and legal procedures that address sexual violence in all its forms for all women (with a nod to the recent groundswell known as the #MeToo Movement), and laws, policies, and legal procedures that enshrine gender spectrum equality (because gender in the 21st century doesn’t mean what it meant 99 years ago).

Lest we think these legal moves towards equality are ends in themselves, we can also consider the fact that social scientists have found links between legal equality at the national level and human wellbeing. For example, a recent multi-national study published in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence showed that greater gender equality at the national level correlates with greater life satisfaction among both female and male adolescents, even with other potentially-influential factors controlled. Thus, there is something to the notion that gender equality, social justice, and human wellbeing are all interrelated and interdependent.

As we look back at and celebrate the generations of women who fought for the right to vote, let us remember that progress doesn’t end there. Each generation must pick up the baton and push forward for increased recognition of gender equality in the law and in our everyday lives. Let’s hope that this time next year when we are celebrating the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, we will also be celebrating the ERA, CEDAW, and, all in all, a bona fide century’s worth of progress on gender equality!

Layli Maparyan, Ph.D., is the Katherine Stone Kaufmann ’67 Executive Director of the Wellesley Centers for Women.

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Yes, YES, YES!! We DO NEED the ERA and CEDAW. The ERA was derailed for all the wrong reasons -- as unnecessary (history has made t... Read More
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Canada Steps Out Front on Funding Feminist Futures Worldwide

equality fundThis week, Canada launched the Equality Fund, the world’s largest global fund for women’s and trans* equality movements. Its tagline, “Funding Feminist Futures,” clearly conveys the fund’s purpose. Having already mobilized $100 million worth of initial investments to accompany a $300 million multi-year funding award from the Government of Canada, the consortium-led fund is slated to mobilize at least $1 billion over 15 years. Members of this consortium include the MATCH International Women’s Fund, the African Women’s Development Fund (AWDF), Calvert Impact Capital, the Canadian Women’s Foundation, Community Foundations of Canada (CFC), Philanthropy Advancing Women’s Human Rights (PAWHR), Toronto Foundation, Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), Yaletown Partners, World University Service of Canada (WUSC), and Oxfam Canada. This diverse collaboration reflects a holistic and strategic multi-sectoral approach to ending gender inequality sustainably around the globe.

Leading feminist funders are expressing enthusiasm and characterizing the Equality Fund and as a monumental move forward. As Musimbi Kanyoro, outgoing CEO of the Global Fund for Women, stated, “We all celebrate the Equality Fund and the leadership of MATCH International, with solidarity support from all women’s funds. This is a game-changer.” The Global Fund for Women has seen firsthand the critical role that feminist funds play in ensuring the survival and growth of grassroots women’s funds and movements. Noting this history, Kanyoro reflected, “It should have come sooner, but we are on a new trajectory of recognition for women’s funds.” Incoming CEO Latanya Mapp Frett opined, “The Equality Fund recognizes that women know best how to solve problems for themselves and for their communities, and putting resources in the hands of women funding women will ensure that violations of women’s human rights will soon be part of our past.”

Abigail Burgesson, Special Programmes Officer at the African Women’s Development Fund, who just completed her term of service as a member of the Wellesley Centers for Women’s Council of Advisors, played a key role in the evolution of the Equality Fund by helping to bring the African Women’s Development Fund (AWDF) aboard, and echoed Kanyoro’s and Frett’s assessments: “The Equality Fund is a real game-changer because it is designed and managed by feminists who have advocated for this for a long time.” Recounting her time spent working on the initiative, Abigail related, “I saw the resilience and strength of the feminist spirit at work, which crafted the entire architecture of this novel and unprecedented fund.” She further went on to say, “It was women who created this historic moment in our lives.”

We at the Wellesley Centers for Women applaud this innovative initiative and look forward to advancing gender equality, social justice, and human wellbeing in concert with like-minded organizations and individuals all over the world. We each have a role to play, and it takes all of us!

Layli Maparyan, Ph.D., is the Katherine Stone Kaufmann ’67 Executive Director of the Wellesley Centers for Women and a member of the Board of Directors of the Global Fund for Women.

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Promoting Resilience in Children at Risk for Depression

The teen sitting across from me avoided making eye contact as he responded to my questions. He provided thoughtful answers in a soft voice as he looked down at the rubber band in his hands, stretching and turning it repeatedly. Clearly this young man was struggling with symptoms of depression such that he was disengaged from his friends, skipping track practices, missing homework assignments, sleeping too much. Yet when I asked him if I could share his symptoms with his guidance counselor so that he could get some support in school, he quickly replied, “No,” saying that he didn’t want anyone at school to know. “I’m only telling you about this, “ he insisted, “because I’ll never see you again.”


My colleagues and I routinely hear such statements from the adolescents we screen for depression and suicidal thoughts. Although these teens readily reveal their symptoms and struggles to us, adults who enter their middle and high schools for a few weeks each year and then leave as quickly as we arrive, they are reluctant to reveal their inner thoughts and feelings to the people they see every day: parents, teachers, school counselors. And the parents of these teens repeatedly tell us that they do not want us to share the results of our screening efforts with school personnel who could provide support during the school day. Consistent with our experiences in schools, research suggests that, even when adults in school are educated about the signs and symptoms of youth depression and are prepared to support teens who are struggling, such gatekeeper education programs often do not increase the likelihood that teens, who, for example, are experiencing suicidal thoughts, will seek out adults for support. Moreover, one study revealed that most teens who have made a suicide attempt said they would not share this fact with a counselor or other adult at school, and that they believed their parents would not want them to do so.

How significant of a problem is depression and suicidal behavior among adolescents? A recent Pew Research Center poll indicates that adolescents view depression and anxiety as key concerns for themselves and their peers, and as even more significant concerns than drug/alcohol abuse and bullying. We know that rates of depression in youth are quite high, with as many as 11% experiencing a Major Depressive Disorder by the end of adolescence. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among those ages 10-19, and depression is common among adolescents who exhibit suicidal thoughts and behaviors. In fact, suicidal thinking has been found to be elevated even among adolescents who experience symptoms of depression without meeting full diagnostic criteria for Major Depressive Disorder.

If the many adolescents who are struggling with mental health concerns are not willing to seek support from school personnel, where are they getting the information and support they need? How can we provide teens with tools to promote health and wellbeing?

We know that teens are turning to sources outside of their homes and school communities for information about youth depression, and for indications of how best to manage strong feelings they may be experiencing. For example, a new study indicates that teens may be gathering information about managing suicidal thoughts from television programming, and we have long been warned about the effects of modeling on suicidal behavior among youth, leading to clusters of suicide in a community. In the context of so many unhealthy personal and media examples of teens managing depression, there is much we can do to support the teens in our lives, both those we know well and those we know less well.

In fact, warm interpersonal relationships, and the presence of a close relationship with an adult outside of the home, have been found to be significant sources of strength and to promote resilience in children at risk for depression. For example, in a study of children of depressed parents who maintain good mental health over time, high-quality social relationships were identified as a protective factor. More specifically, researchers in Ireland found that, in a study of risk and protective factors for depression and anxiety in a community sample of adolescents, the presence of “one good adult” in a teen’s life was identified as a protective factor.

You can serve as that “one good adult” and influence adolescents you know toward health and wellbeing: your own children, your children’s friends, and the children of your friends. You can provide a safe source of support to teens in your community, and you can contribute toward reducing the stigma associated with depression, anxiety, and other forms of mental illness. How can you do this? Talk directly to the teens you encounter, and express interest in them, their relationships, and their activities. Talk to the teens you are shuttling to practice in the back of your car, and listen carefully to their conversations. Ask teens how they are feeling, and what they think about, and what they worry about. Listen to their responses, and express caring and concern. Reinforce the value of mental health treatment, and reinforce the value of parents, school counselors, and others in the community who can provide mental health supports. Don’t be afraid to ask teens who report feelings of hopelessness or depression if they ever experience suicidal thoughts—asking this question will not encourage suicidal behavior. Share concerns with parents and others who are directly involved in an at-risk teen’s daily care. Support your children in establishing meaningful relationships with neighbors, an aunt or uncle, and encourage your children to share their feelings openly.

In this month of May, Mental Health Awareness Month, we have the opportunity to be intentional in our support of the adolescents we encounter in our communities, and to recognize the power we have to support their healthy growth and development.

Tracy Gladstone, Ph.D., is an associate director and senior research scientist at the Wellesley Centers for Women as well as the inaugural director of the Robert S. and Grace W. Stone Primary Prevention Initiatives, which aims to research, develop, and evaluate programs to prevent the onset of depression and other mental health concerns in children and adolescents. She is also an assistant in psychology at Boston Children’s Hospital, an instructor at Harvard Medical School, and a research scientist at Judge Baker Children’s Center. Gladstone leads depression prevention programs in two greater Boston school districts, to identify and connect adolescents to appropriate services who report depressive symptoms, self-injury, and suicidal thinking.

Abrutyn, S. & Mueller, A.S. (2014). Are suicidal behaviors contagious in adolescence? Using longitudinal data to examine suicide suggestion. American Sociological Review, 79, 211-227.

Avenevoli, S., Swendsen, J., He, J.P., Burstein, M., & Merikangas, K.R. (2015). Major depression in the national comorbidity survey-adolescent supplement: Prevalence, correlates, and treatment. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 54, 37-44.

Balazs, J., Miklosi, M., Kereszteny, A., Hoven, C.W., Carli, V., Wasserman, C., Apter, A.,…Wasserman, D. (2013). Adolescent subthreshold-depression and anxiety: psychopathology, functional impairment and increased suicide risk. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 54, 670-677.

Beardslee, W.R. & Podorefsky, D. (1988). Resilient adolescents whose parents have serious affective and other psychiatric disorders: Importance of self-understanding and relationships. American Journal of Psychiatry, 145, 63-69.

Bridge, J.A., Greenhouse, J.B., Ruch, D., Stevens, J., Ackerman, J., Shefftall, A.H., Horowitz, L.M.,…Campo, J.V. (in press). Association between the release of Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why and suicide rates in the United States: An interrupted time series analysis. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Collishaw, S., Hammerton, G., Mahedy, L., Sellers, R., Owen, M.J., Craddock, N., Thapar, A.K.,…Thapar, A. (2016). Mental health resilience in the adolescent offspring of parents with depression: A prospective longitudinal study. The Lancet Psychiatry, 3, 49-57.

Dazzi, T., Gribble, R., Wessely, S., & Fear, N.T. (2014). Does asking about suicide and related behaviours induce suicidal ideation? What is the evidence? Psychological Medicine, 44, 3361-3363.

Dooley, B., Fitzgerald, A., & Mac Giollabhui, N. (2015). The risk and protective factors associated with depression and anxiety in a national sample of Irish adolescents. Irish Journal of Psychological Medicine, 32, 93-105.

Insel, B.J. & Gould, M.S. (2008). Impact of modeling on adolescent suicidal behavior. Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 31, 293-316.

Nock, M.K., Green, J.G., Hwang, I., McLaughlin, K.A., Sampson, N.A., Zaslavsky, A.M., & Kessler, R.C. (2013). Prevalence, correlates, and treatment of lifetime suicidal behavior among adolescents. JAMA Psychiatry, 70, 300-310.

Silk, J.S., Vanderbilt-Adriance, E., Shaw, D.S., Forbes, E.E, Whalen, D.J., Ryan, N.D. & Dahl, R.E. (2007). Resilience among children and adolescents at risk for depression: Mediation and moderation across social and neurobiological contexts. Development and Psychopathology, 19, 841-865.

Whitney, S.D. Renner, L.M., Pate, C.M., & Jacobs, K.A. (2011). Principals’ perceptions of benefits and barriers to school-based suicide prevention programs. Children and Youth Services Review, 33, 869-877.

Wyman, P.A., Brown, C.H., Inman, J., Cross, W., Schmeelk-Cone, K., Guo, J., & Pena, J.B. (2008). Randomized trial of a gatekeeper program for suicide prevention: 1-year impact on secondary school staff. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 76, 104-115.

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Progress for Girls in Colombia

Susan McGee Bailey In ColombiaClose to half a century has passed since I lived in Bogota, Colombia. In the early 1970s my husband, Jerry, and I had conducted research for our dissertations in there. Jerry’s work explored training pharmacists to provide birth control pills to women in countries where medical prescriptions were not required. My data collection focused on eight-, ten-, and 12-year-old students from different social strata. I was particularly interested in gender differences in their views of citizenship.

After completing our doctoral requirements back in Ann Arbor at the University of Michigan, our plan had been to live wherever I found a job. I wanted to work on issues related to women’s equality. But it was 1972. It was frowned upon for mothers with young children to work outside the home. I found nothing. My faculty advisors were of no help and uniform in their responses: “Susan, you have a child. Once you and Jerry are settled somewhere you can find a part-time position.”

Jerry was offered his dream job working on family planning with the Population Council in their Bogota office. We returned to Colombia with two-year-old Amy.

Again I searched for work without success. Inspired by Robin Morgan’s 1970 classic, Sisterhood is Powerful, I started a consciousness-raising group. Eventually I accepted a two-year postdoctoral fellowship from John’s Hopkins School of Public Health for work in Cali, Colombia. The project focused on developing sex education materials for junior high-aged students. Discussions in the consciousness-raising group on sexuality and women’s roles had reinforced my sense that women needed to be in charge of our own bodies if we were ever to achieve equality. And sex education was key. All students deserved clear information about the physical and emotional aspects of puberty, sexual relationships, and family life.

Cada Familia WelcomeBut as much as I believed in my work and as much as I loved Colombia—the food, the people, the mountains, majestic and ever changing as clouds and sun played hide and seek—I realized Amy’s physical and developmental challenges required medical care and educational programs unavailable in Colombia. Amy and I left. I was unsure if I would ever return.

This past January I returned for the first time since leaving for the U.S. in 1974 with my daughter, Amy, but without her father. That 1974 journey eventually led me to Wellesley and the Center for Research on Women* a decade later.

Boarding the flight for Colombia in Boston last month, armed with the positive data that 94 percent of girls now complete lower secondary school, and 43 percent of women are in the paid labor force, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Perhaps I’d feel like a modern day Rip Van Winkle—and in many ways I did. Some changes disappointed me—the pollution and urban sprawl in Bogota, the modernization of smaller cities that robbed them of some of their original charm—but others, particularly those related to girls and women, were encouraging.

The small group I traveled with met the first morning for a tour of Bogota. The day started on a happy nMedellinColombia2ote for me. One of the bits of information our guide mentioned as we passed a large public school was that schools were now required to teach sex education to students starting in the early grades. Recalling the opposition our sex education project had encountered years before, I asked if the requirement was enforced or merely a regulation on the books. He smiled. “Well, Senora, I can’t speak for the entire country, but certainly in the big cities and towns it is a regular part of the educational program. The law was passed in 1994.”

Everywhere I turned there were new highways, parks, and museums. Among all the positive changes, the most impressive for me was Medellin, Colombia’s second largest city and the hub of the drug trade in the 1980s and early 1990s. Time magazine had labeled Medellin the most dangerous city in the world in 1988. Fifteen years later, in 2013, The Wall Street Journal dubbed it the world’s most innovative city.

CableTramsColombiaA spectacular cable car/tram system completed in 2010 transports people from the very top of the mountains to the city center. Purposely built to travel through some of the poorer barrios, the system has transformed them from unsavory and dangerous to typical lower middle class neighborhoods. Riders who cannot afford a ticket are asked to bring plastic bags and bottles to recycle in lieu of the fare.

Our group hopped off the tram in the Santo Domingo barrio on our way down the mountain. As we stood at a small plaza taking photos of the city, five girls in their school uniforms walked up, giggling and staring. Our guide talked with them briefly. They wanted to know where we were from. When I replied in Spanish they giggled even harder. The guide asked about their school, their ages, and what they thought they might do when they finished their studies. Their answers were immediate and self-assured: “I’m going to be a doctor!” “Yes, she is, but I’m going to be a surgeon.”

“Are youSantoDomingoBarrio all interested in medicine,” we asked. “No, I’m going to study psychology,” another replied.

The next girl laughed. “Well, I’m going to be a model!” And pointing to the last girl, she added, “She is still thinking, there are lots of things to do, you know!”

After more small talk and much laughter, they left to walk home, but not before pointing out their public school—a large, new-looking building with a playground crowded with soccer games and cheering onlookers. I was near tears as I thought back to the conditions of many of the schools where I had interviewed students decades ago. Then, most girls, unlike the boys, had been shy and uncertain. These eleven- and 12-year-old girls sparkled with self-assurance. Their exuberance was contagious and inspiring.

I returned home more hopeful about the world than I‘ve felt in many months: Sex education in the schools, young women participating in far greater numbers in education and confident in their opportunities, a greater focus on women in the workforce. Struggles remain—e.g., gender violence continues, the situation of Venezuelans seeking refuge in Colombia poses new challenges—but persistence matters. Progress is often slow, but it does happen.

Susan McGee Bailey, Ph.D., directed the Wellesley Centers for Women from 1985 to 2011. She is currently completing a memoir, Are We There Yet: The Education of a Feminist. The book weaves 50 years of social change and feminist history with the collision of theory and practice she encountered as a single mother determined to shape a career fighting for equal rights while caring for her physically and developmentally challenged daughter.

* Wellesley College founded the Center for Research on Women in 1974 and the Stone Center for Developmental Services and Studies in 1981. The two centers came together in 1995 to form a single organization—the Wellesley Centers for Women.

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Seeing the Wealth in People: The Power of Youth in Liberia

Tina Wollie, Hon. Cynthia Blandford, Dr. Layli Maparyan, Mama Tormah of Traditional Women United for Peace. Photo credit: Tina WollieRecently I returned from Liberia, which USA Today just rated as the poorest nation in the world. It was a bittersweet trip, because Liberia is a land I love, and it wasn’t always at the bottom of this list. And yet, over the ten years I have been connected to Liberia—through work to advance women and higher education, as well as through marriage and family—and particularly over the last year, I have witnessed changes in people’s fortunes, for better and for worse.

Liberia is a small country of about 5 million people—not much bigger population-wise than Greater Boston, where I live now, and not much bigger land-wise than where I came from, namely, the state of Georgia. It is the kind of country where “almost everybody knows each other” and a person—from villager to government minister—is never more than a few degrees of separation from anyone else. It is the kind of country, then, that could easily serve as a laboratory for effective social change and a test model for various human wellbeing schemes.

Many such schemes were launched, with mixed success, during the historic two-term administration of Liberia’s first woman and first post-war head of state, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. President Sirleaf brought women to center stage, and brought the world’s spotlight to the possibilities for gender development in Liberia. It was a thrilling ride to watch people, nations, and organizations from around the globe invest in Liberia and President Sirleaf’s great experiment. There are still some residuals from that effort today, although some of the initial gains have also been eroded.

Last year, after closely watched yet ultimately peaceful elections towards the end of 2017, Liberia welcomed a new government. H.E. George Manneh Weah, a former soccer star who was the 1995 FIFA World Player of the Year and who previously held a senatorial position in the Liberian legislature, is now President of Liberia, representing a different party than his predecessor. Notably, he has made youth a priority of his administration—a shrewd choice given that youth were among his most enthusiastic supporters and youth now comprise about 65 percent of Liberia’s overall population. For context, the African continent as a whole is expected to have around 1 billion youth by 2050.

Youth are a source of creativity and innovation in every society, but also a population in need of investment and guidance all over the world. Could Liberia become a laboratory for forward-thinking youth programs under President Weah, just as it was a laboratory for innovative approaches to gender issues under President Sirleaf? This question was on my mind as I toured the country, meeting with government officials, new university leadership, representatives of various NGOs and community-based organizations, as well as many youth themselves.

Some prognosticators see danger in Africa’s youth bulge, focusing on a supposed causal chain that links youth unemployment to youth unrest, and, ultimately, youth radicalization. In the gender arena, these same prognosticators tend to raise the alarm about adolescent sexuality and parenthood, particularly as they pose risks to girls’ educational outcomes and correlate with sexual violence and exploitation of girls and young women. These are all very real issues, but they are only one lens through which to view the realities and futures of African youth.

Liberia's Minister of Youth & Sports, Hon. Zeogar Wilson, affixes a WCW bumper sticker to his official vehicleAnother view—one that I would like to align with the research and action of the Wellesley Centers for Women—is one that sees (and contributes to) hope, promise, and enthusiasm in and with regard to African youth and their prospects. An approach that asks African youth for their own perspectives and aspirations, one that embraces African youth and their insights and talents, and one that takes the historical, political, economic, structural, and systemic context of African youths’ lives into consideration—and, at times, challenges those—is the one I would like not only to endorse, but to operationalize. It is an approach that sees the wealth in people, not just one that sees the poverty created by their circumstances. It is also an approach that cultivates African youth leadership.

One of the most touching moments of my entire trip was when I met with the Minister of Youth and Sports, the Hon. Zeogar Wilson, along with a number of his deputies and the Honorary Consul General for Liberia, Hon. Cynthia Blandford, with whom I was traveling. During the meeting, I handed Minister Wilson a folder of information about the Wellesley Centers for Women. Inside the folder was a large bumper sticker emblazoned with WCW’s famous motto, “A World That Is Good for Women Is Good for Everyone.”™ As soon as our meeting was over, Minister Wilson said, “I’m putting this on my car immediately,” and we all walked together to his official vehicle, where he affixed the sticker for all to see.

Even though our meeting had focused on youth issues, the conversation had resonated with themes of equality and empowerment—for boys, for girls, for women, for all. Minister Wilson “recognized the connections,” as intersectionality theorists are perpetually encouraging us to do. His whole team was clear that youth issues encompass gender issues, and approaches to youth empowerment are enhanced by maintaining a gender lens. I left feeling good that the past had informed the future for Liberia’s youth.

People often ask me, as I scout the world for international partnership opportunities for WCW, why I pick particular countries over others. Isn’t China more important, they ask? Isn’t Europe easier? Why not just stick close to home, when there’s so much going on in the States? But my answer is always this: We go where the need is greatest and where the opportunities for practical, felt impact are most immediate. We look for the places that have been overlooked, and the places where the opportunity to widen the circle is greatest. We also go to the places where we have the greatest potential to be transformed by what we learn.

As an established, highly-successful, economically secure women- and gender-focused research institute in the global North, WCW must use the tools at our disposal to tip the scales in the direction of global equality—not only gender equality, but also equality with regard to the power of data to shape the fortunes of populations and nations. This is the kind of partnership we are wedded to, and the kind of partnership that comes from seeing the wealth in people where others only see poverty.

Layli Maparyan is the Katherine Stone Kaufmann ’67 Executive Director of the Wellesley Centers for Women and professor of Africana Studies at Wellesley College. An expert on Womanism, her scholar-activist work interweaves threads from the social sciences and the critical disciplines, incorporating basic and applied platforms around a common theme of integrating identities and communities in peaceable, ecologically sound, and self-actualizing ways.

Photo 1: Liberia's young women are in the forefront of change. L to R: Tina Wollie, Hon. Cynthia Blandford, Dr. Layli Maparyan, Mama Tormah of Traditional Women United for Peace. Photo credit: Tina Wollie.

Photo 2: Liberia's Minister of Youth & Sports, Hon. Zeogar Wilson, affixes a WCW bumper sticker to his official vehicle. Photo credit: Author.

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‘It’s Not in Our Head’… and yet Pain is in Our Brain:

Pensive looking woman of colorWhy Racialized Exclusion Hurts and How We Can Remain Resilient

Going into your home while Black, waiting in a coffee shop, playing with your child, styling your hair, swimming, cooking, flying as a doctor while Black…living while Black. And as such, being subjected to undo questioning, demeaning and sometimes life-threatening reactions  - you name it, we have seen it. And we feel it…which means our children do as well.  A starkly sobering example in recent weeks with the news of a 9 year old Black girl who committed suicide, no longer able to cope with the racist taunts she faced from peers at school.
 
Each of these widely known and growing incidences of exclusion, harassment and race-based violence impose criminalization of everyday behaviors onto people of color and others in marginalized groups.  These attacks have and continue to have a cumulative impact that injures psychological and physiological well-being. Evidence regularly grows about the impact of racial trauma and race-related stress on our emotional and physical health. What may not be as widely known is how racialized exclusion and violence show up in the brain.

Our neurobiological network is wired to connect. Which is why... Read full article on EmbraceRace.org

This article was originally published on EmbraceRace.org and is shared with permission. Karen Craddock, Ph.D., visiting scholar at the Wellesley Centers for Women, is an applied psychologist, action researcher, and strengths-based practitioner. She is director of Strategic Initiatives & Network Engagement at Embrace Race.

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Women Are Playing Sports, But Not Coaching Them

Male coach speaks to girls softball teamNo one looks for a job in a newspaper’s “Help Wanted” section anymore. But some 50 years after the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commissions in 1968 said that listing jobs under “male” and “female” headings was illegal, the psychological divide lingers – in sports.

Women remain underrepresented in Fortune 500 C-suites, and despite the wave of women elected to public office last November (including seven Wellesley alumnae), in Congress. Still, no one doubts that females can lead companies – or government.

In these areas – and others, including the military – we are past believing women’s biological differences disqualify them. It turns out that periods and hormones are not what cause dangerous and impulsive leadership. (Note: figured out pre-Trump.)

But scan the athletic landscape – following decades of girls and women playing sports at all levels in growing numbers – and you see a dearth of female coaches.

It’s long been a well-documented problem in women’s college sports in the post-Title IX era, dropping from over 90 percent to under 50 percent now. Some of this is obvious: Pre-Title IX women physical education teachers and coaches were the only ones organizing sports for women. When money and the NCAA arrived on the scene, so did more men.

What’s concerning is the recent history. Since the low point in 2006 when just 42.2 percent of women’s teams were coached by women, it has ticked up just slightly. Nearly every NCAA men’s team has a male head coach.

Research has tried to identify barriers faced by female coaches. Commonly cited: juggling a demanding schedule with raising a family.

But how can this be such a pervasive dampener when in fields from surgery to military leadership (with deployment!) women and their partners are figuring it out? More likely, one study observed, “these negative experiences could be indicators that something is lacking in the system.” You think?

Long after women started leading in other fields, sports is struggling to slip the straightjacket of masculinity. Coaching is still perceived as a “man’s job.”

Yet, coaching is not about brawn so much as brainy leadership abilities (think Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots who never played a day of pro football), knowledge of the game, strategic insights, team dynamics and management, player and group motivation.

If men who never played a sport can coach it, why can’t women who did? If women can run companies and countries, why not teams? The idea is finally gaining traction – of all places, in the NBA.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has predicted that the NBA will be the first male pro sports league to hire a female head coach – and has said there was no reason that a woman could not coach male pro athletes. In 2017, he told an ESPN reporter that, “When it comes to coaching… there is absolutely no physical requirement” and that “there is absolutely no reason why a woman will not ascend to be a head coach in this league."

LeBron James agrees: "I mean, listen, at the end of the day, basketball ... it's not about male or female. You know the game, you know the game," he told ESPN last spring.

But in a November story for SB Nation, “The Glass Sideline,” Tim Struby, quoted a veteran NBA coach who said that, “In our society there are men uncomfortable working under women and a handful of our players would have a problem with it.”

Which is, when you get right down to it, not so different from the 1960s when “Help Wanted” was sorted by gender, not by your qualifications.

If the NBA can make strides – last spring the Milwaukee Bucks interviewed Becky Hammon, a former WNBA star and assistant coach of the San Antonio Spurs, for the head coaching job – the first time a woman was considered for the top post of a men’s pro sport.

She didn’t get it, but it got people talking. Other NBA teams – Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Clippers, Washington Wizards and Greensboro Swarm (affiliate of the Charlotte Hornets) – all have women working in assistant coaching jobs.

It’s not very many, of course. But it begs the question: Shouldn’t NCAA teams – women’s and men’s – work harder to level the coaching field given that they are educational institutions whose core mission is to prepare students – of both sexes – for future careers?

Laura Pappano is writer-in-residence at the Wellesley Centers for Women and was a leader of the Women’s Sports Leadership Project. She is an award-winning journalist, co-author of Playing with the Boys (2008), and for seven years, she edited the FairGameNews blog, now an archive.

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Recent Comments
Guest — Eniola
So true.
Tuesday, 19 February 2019 04:30
Guest — Anandita Mehra
[i]Totally agreed... In India, this kind of partiality and mentality can be easily seen.. as you can predict the Scene by just lo... Read More
Wednesday, 20 February 2019 12:45
Guest — Marina de Jongh
I think it is selfish of people to support a men's team and not a women's team,eventhough they play for the same country.Both team... Read More
Monday, 25 February 2019 01:57
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Beyond #BlackGirlMagic: Representation in Mentoring Matters

Black Girls Create Activity Being Black and a girl--in a society that assigns negative stereotypes to individuals based on one’s race and gender--is often wrought with challenges. Negative stereotypes that have been assigned to Black girls and young women are based on historical controlling images such as the Mammy, Jezebel, and Sapphire that were created to justify white supremacist, capitalist, patriarchal cultural norms of racism, sexism, dehumanization, domination, exploitation, and oppression (Hooks, 1981; Stephens, Phillips, & Few, 2009).  Over the last few years, social media hashtags have helped to bring the marginalized experiences of Black girls and young women to the center of society’s consciousness. Hashtags such as #sayhername, #blacklivesmatter, #ifidieinpolicecustody, #thisiswhatadoctorlookslike, #blackgirlsmatter, #bringbackourgirls, #growingupblack,  #staymadabby, and #blackexcellence have provided global spaces to discuss and bring awareness to the complexity of growing up Black and female in America. The #blackgirlmagic hashtag phrase is used to recognize, congratulate, and commend Black girls and women who have demonstrated extraordinary strength by debunking negative stereotypes and achieving success.  In 2013, CaShawn Thompson began using #blackgirlsaremagic to celebrate the beauty, power, and resilience of Black women and girls (Wilson, 2016).

While social media platforms provide viable opportunities for Black girls to disseminate diverse images of Black women and girls, it is equally important for them to have access to and connect with mentors who represent their race, gender, class, and lived experiences. Evidence suggests that Black girls who have access to relatable, adult Black women who are able to connect with them in unique ways have lower academic, social, and cultural risks than Black girls who do not have access to gender and race-matched mentors (Lindsay, Cummings, & McClendon, 2011; Watson, 2016).  Gender and race-matched mentors, particularly those are viewed as successful in their communities, provide unique opportunities for Black girls to connect with role models who have “lived through” similar experiences and achieved success despite their circumstances.

Mentor Advises ParticipantsIt's important for Black girls to have mentors who represent their race, gender, class, and lived experiences.Positive mentoring relationships are not only beneficial to mentees, Black women mentors show psychosocial gains from their interactions with Black girl mentees (Brown, 2009; Green & King, 2001;Gamble 2014; Lindsay, Cummings & McClendon 2011).  The positive outcomes that could be gained for the Black girl mentees and Black women mentor can be best described using two of the four principles of of Black Feminist Epistemology (Collins, 2000). Principle #1: criteria for meaning argues that those individuals who have lived through the experiences in which they claim to be experts are more credible than those who have not. Essentially, this translates into credibility and trust in mentoring relationship between Black girls and Black women. Principle #2: use of dialogue in accessing knowledge encourages connectedness and provides contexts for Black girls and women to connect on a deeper level.

Noted Black Girlhood Scholar, Ruth Nicole Brown (2009) inquires, “What kind of a space could be created where Black women and girls could come together and be recognized and valued for our diverse ways of being--where we could see ourselves and/or high, but above all, be recognizable and accountable to each other (if we so chose)?” My response to this question is that safe spaces within and outside of social media are needed for Black girls and women to debunk negative stereotypes, empower each other, and cultivate relationships that lead to positive outcomes.

LaShawnda LindsayLaShawnda Lindsay, Ph.D., (pictured in the top photo above) is a research scientist at the Wellesley Centers for Women at Wellesley College where she leads The Black Girls Create Project, a culturally responsive STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) program seeks to increase underserved girls' interest and confidence in science and math through mentorship and practical experience.

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Boldly Moving Forward Together in 2019

Happy New Year! This year we are celebrating something very special, WCW’s 45th anniversary!

It was 1974 when we first began as the Wellesley Center for Research on Women in Higher Education and the Professions—a feminist think tank on a Seven Sisters campus, begun by a forward-thinking women’s college president, Dr. Barbara Newell.

We had the opportunity to hear from former President Newell last September, at the launch of the WCW oral history project, and she told the story of why she pushed for a feminist research center at Wellesley College during the early 1970s.

An economist by training, Dr. Newell was keenly aware of the power of data to move the needle on social issues by influencing policymakers and practitioners, giving advocates and activists the evidence they need to make the case for social change, and contributing new knowledge to academics and the general public alike. Dr. Newell knew that cross-disciplinary conversation and interdisciplinary collaboration spark the synergies that advance social innovation, and she brought women social scientists from diverse fields under one roof.

Today, 45 years later, we are still going strong on the platform she created. In 1995, joining forces with the Stone Center for Developmental Services and Studies, which was launched in 1981 to advance women’s mental health and developmental psychology through a feminist lens, we became the Wellesley Centers for Women, with an “s,” plural. Over the decades, our researchers have changed the world for women and girls, families and communities, with research that has moved women forward economically, politically, on the home front and in their careers, psychologically and socially, in all their diversity, around the world.

Through high-quality research, groundbreaking theory, and real-world action, the Wellesley Centers for Women has contributed significantly to gender equality, social justice, and human wellbeing — living up to our motto, “A World That Is Good for Women Is Good for Everyone!”

We wish you the very best 2019, and may we boldly move forward together!

Layli MaparyanLayli Maparyan, Ph.D., is the Katherine Stone Kaufmann ’67 Executive Director of the Wellesley Centers for Women at Wellesley College.

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A Personal Story on International Migrants Day

Ninotska Love At Wellesley CollegeToday, it is almost impossible not to talk about immigration and what that represents to every single individual in our nation. As an immigrant transgender woman who was granted asylum during the Obama administration, it breaks my heart to see many people seeking help at the borders, but not getting it. My experience, perhaps, is very different from other immigrants, but we all share the same commonality—the hope to build a better future for ourselves and the future of our loved ones.

I left Ecuador based on the persecution of my gender identity. In Ecuador, I was kidnapped and told: “I deserved to die for being who I was.”  I still remember leaving my hometown, Guayaquil, in the middle of the night, saying goodbye to my brothers and my mom with tears in my eyes. I knew that I would not have the opportunity to see them anytime soon, perhaps never again! I took an airplane from Guayaquil to Mexico City.

Once in Mexico City, I was greeted and hosted by a beautiful family. Everyone there was so welcoming and supportive of my journey. We went to a small fair in the town so I could get familiarized with and introduced to their community and business. I walked around on my own and tried to order something from a store but realized that my Spanish was different from theirs. I remember crying non-stop. For a second, I regretted my decision, but I knew I could not go back. My life was at risk back home, so I continued with my journey. 

After a few weeks in Mexico City, I traveled to Aguas Calientes, then to Nuevo Laredo, located on the border between Mexico and the U.S.In Nuevo Laredo, I joined a group of people also seeking asylum and together we successfully crossed the border. Once in Laredo, Texas, we stayed in a hotel room—more than a dozen people in a space that was meant for two guests. We celebrated as if it was our own crossing every time we learned someone else was able to pass the checkpoint, because we knew that those people would eventually have a better future for themselves and their families.

Now, when I passed the immigration checkpoint, I thought I made it, but new challenges were about to start. I faced two barriers common among immigrants: I did not speak English nor did I have U.S. residency. Every story, however, differs from individual to individual. After a few weeks in the country, I started attending a local church that provided free classes in English. That improved my English, so I continued with the classes and started reading and watching English-language television shows.

Three years later, with the help of a pro-bono lawyer, Jhon Sanchez, I was able to apply and obtain asylum to stay in the U.S. When I gained legal status, I started my transition from male to female. Finally, I would become the woman that I always felt myself to be. After my transition, I decided to go back to school to start my life all over again. In 2015, I attended LaGuardia Community College in New York. There, I was treated and recognized as a woman, and no longer had to fear being sent back home. These have been the most rewarding experiences in my life.

For a while now, I have been able to work, study, and continue helping my family from afar. Currently, I am attending Wellesley College, as one of the first openly transgender woman ever accepted to the school. But none of this would have been possible without the vast amount of support I have received over the past few years, from my mom, brothers, family, friends, mentors, professors, and people who have provided their solidarity to me. I am just one example of what, with the support of others and one’s own will, someone can accomplish. I am hopeful that our government can move more positively for the future of many immigrants and their families seeking asylum, for a more inclusive and accepting society. We, as immigrants, matter and all we need are opportunities to demonstrate that we are capable of contributing and thriving, free of oppression and violence. We all should have equal opportunities to succeed!

Ninotska Love is a Women’s and Gender Studies major at Wellesley College. December 17th marks International Migrants Day.

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Should We Worry about the Composition of the U.S. Immigrant Population?

In January 2018, President Trump famously raised his concerns regarding the “lack of Norwegians” and the excess of immigrants from low-income countries entering the United States – and international media took swift notice. The concern over the composition of U.S. immigration flow is not at all new, however. Leading immigration economist George Borjas, Ph.D., has pointed out in several academic articles that the relative share of immigrants from Europe steadily declined over the 20th century, as more immigrants started to arrive from Central and South America, and Asia (Borjas, 1995 and 1999).[1] Borjas argued that in the 1980’s and 1990’s the weakening labor market performance of immigrants (as compared to U.S. natives) was directly related to the changing source country composition. More recently, low skilled immigration into the U.S. has drastically declined, as explained by Hanson, Liu, and McIntosh (2017).[2] Should the U.S. be very concerned about the composition of its immigrant pool as Trump rather bluntly argued? And would that give rise to a drastic change in the U.S. immigration policy? Let’s examine the data.

We took a look at the American Community Survey to evaluate those questions. To avoid arbitrarily categorizing source countries into “as good as Norway” versus “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad countries” we use the World Bank country classification based on the Gross National Income (GNI) per capita and OECD membership. Countries are grouped into low income (e.g. Afghanistan, Haiti, and Somalia), lower middle-income (e.g. Armenia, El Salvador, and India), upper middle-income (e.g. Cuba, Mexico, and China), high-income OECD (e.g. Chile, Norway, and Canada), and high-income non-OECD (e.g. The Bahamas, Saudi Arabia, and Russia). Since Mexico, China, and India currently constitute the vast majority of U.S.-bound immigrants in their respective groups, we look at those countries separately. Also, as we are interested in studying the labor market performance of immigrants relative to U.S. natives, we include individuals aged 18-65 in the descriptive analyses below.

First, worries regarding the huge influx of migrants from low-income countries do not seem warranted: the share of immigrant from low-income countries (as percentage of the total immigrant stock residing in the U.S.) is rather small (around three percent) and has remained steady over the period 2001-2017, both among the recent arrivals and the broader immigrant population. On the other hand, there is a definite downward trend in the share of immigrants who originate from high-income OECD countries, as well as a similar downward trend for Mexicans, with the latter being particularly prominent among recent arrivals. There is a corresponding increase in the number of migrants from lower- and upper middle-income countries, especially from India and China.

So then, are immigrants from low-income countries poorly educated and not succeeding in the U.S. labor market? Perhaps surprisingly, origin country income and the average education level of the immigrant group are not as highly correlated as one might think. Immigrants from Mexico, high-income non-OECD countries, and low-income countries are less likely to have a college degree than similarly aged U.S. natives, whereas those from China, India, and high-income OECD-countries are the most educated. The latter is largely explained by the H1-B visa program where a college degree is a minimum requirement for entry into the U.S. Educational attainment is gradually increasing among all groups, including U.S. natives. A recent study looks at immigrant niching into specific low-skill and high-skill labor markets (Eckstein and Peri, 2018).[3] The niching is very much related to the type of skills and human capital of the immigrant group. For example, almost one-in-four Indian immigrants works in a computing related job, whereas Mexican immigrants are heavily clustered in low-skilled manual jobs (e.g. laborers in construction, farm workers, cooks, and janitors).

Most analysts of immigrants in host country labor markets are concerned with their “assimilation” – how easily they are able to find employment and what their relative wage levels look like as compared to natives. We know that since the Great Recession, most immigrants are at least as likely to be employed as the average American native. The only exceptions are those from high-income non-OECD countries, whose employment rates are much lower. Conditional on being employed, immigrants are also more likely to work full time (30 hours or more per week) than employed natives, with the exception of  high-income non-OECD country immigrants in the post-recession years, as well as Chinese immigrants in the last few years of the data.[4].

While immigrants seem to find employment, most of them are not earning wages as high as the average American. There are many likely reasons for the immigrant-native pay gap, including language skills, under-employment relative to education, occupation and sector differences, and so on. Whether looking at the annual earnings, weekly wages, or hourly wage, the relative pay is low especially for those from Mexico and low-income countries. Even if we account for the immigrant – native differences in education, occupations, geographic locations, and other reasons that explain the pay gap, we still see all immigrant groups except for those from high-income OECD countries earning less than comparable natives.  

Additionally, many studies have looked at the immigrant – native wage gap in detail and find that the gap shrinks over duration of stay.[5] Immigrants in the U.S. also seem to perform better in the labor market than in most other countries.[6] Many more studies have tried to find impacts that immigrants may have on native employment and wages. Generally those impacts are very small or localized to specific groups.[7] Instead, immigrants are found to be an important economic force as firm founders, job creators, and innovators.[8] Taking the various facts into account, it would be hard to claim that immigrants in the U.S. are a “net negative” for the economy.

So are President Trump’s concerns regarding our immigrant pool valid, at least as far some real data and evidence can attest? We would argue that immigrants seem to fare relatively well in the U.S. labor market, and the changing source country composition is perhaps not much of a cause for concern. It remains, of course, important to ensure that immigrants can assimilate into the U.S. labor market, without any unnecessary legal or other impediments, as that guarantees the greatest positive net impact on the host country.

Sari Pekkala Kerr, Ph.D., is a senior research scientist/economist at the Wellesley Centers for Women at Wellesley College who studies labor markets, education, and families. Margaret Dalton is a research associate at the Harvard Business School and a former research assistant at the Wellesley Centers for Women.

 

[1] Borjas, George. “Heaven’s Door.” Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1999. Borjas, George. “Assimilation and Changes in Cohort Quality Revisited: What Happened to Immigrant Earnings in the 1980s? Journal of Labor Economics 13 (1995): 201-245.

[2] Hanson, Gordon, Chen Liu, and Craig McIntosh. “Along the watchtower: The rise and fall of U.S. low-skilled immigration.” Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, BPEA Conference Drafts, March 2017.

[3] Susan Eckstein and Giovanni Peri. “Immigrant Niches and Immigrant Networks in the U.S. Labor Market.” RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences 4 (2018): 1–17.

[4] Due to the very large sample sizes in the ACS, most differences that appear small in the graphs are nevertheless statistically significant under standard t-tests for sample means.

[5] E.g. LaLonde and Topel. “Assimilation of Immigrants in the U.S. Labor Market.” In Borjas and Freeman (Eds.) Immigration and the Work Force. The University of Chicago Press (1992); Lubotsky. “Chutes or Ladders? A Longitudinal Analysis of Immigrant Earnings.” Journal of Political Economy 115 (2007): 820–867.

[6] E.g. OECD (2015) “Indicators of Immigrant Integration.” OECD, Paris.

[7] E.g. Kerr and Kerr. “Economic Impacts of Immigration: A Survey.” Finnish Economic Papers 24 (2011): 1-32; Ottaviano and Peri. “Rethinking the Effect of Immigration on Wages.” Journal of the European Economic Association 10 (2012): 152–197; Borjas and Doran. "The Collapse of the Soviet Union and the Productivity of American Mathematicians." Quarterly Journal of Economics 127 (2012): 1143-1203.

[8] E.g. Kerr and Kerr. “Immigrant Entrepreneurship in America: Evidence from the Survey of Business Owners 2007 & 2012.” NBER Working Paper 24494, 2018; Kerr. “Gift of Global Talent: How Migration Shapes Business, Economy, and Society.” Stanford University Press, 2018.

 

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Let’s Put the Humanity Back into Human Rights

Quote: Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the worldThich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese Buddhist monk nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Martin Luther King, Jr., in 1967, famously characterized the human mind as a storehouse filled with two kinds of seeds: good and bad. Humans have the capacity to be both good and evil, he pointed out, and it’s the seeds we water that ultimately grow. Think about that.  When we look around the world today, we see a lot of evil sprouting up all around, and we wonder where it came from. We scratch our heads, we point fingers, and sometimes, in frustration, we join in the fray. Based on Thich Nhat Hanh’s insight, we should really take a closer look at how we are watering the seeds of the very evils we decry and detest – incivility, hate-based conflict and violence, and even basic intolerance.

Human Rights Day on December 10 gives us the opportunity to think about the ways in which we are dehumanizing each other, and to find our way back to affirming – and, indeed, watering the seeds of – one another’s full humanity. Isn’t that the point of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, proclaimed 70 years ago? This is a tall challenge right now because we are very much in an “if you’re not with us, you’re against us” moment. This polarized point of view is now an emotional trigger affecting every single policy issue and every single attempt at public discourse. It’s even dividing families and weakening friendships.

The truth is this: Human beings yearn for the water of connection and the sunshine of goodness. Like the seeds of any plant, human being-ness takes root in rich soil and stretches its leaves toward the light. If you doubt this, just look at babies and how they thrive in the presence of love, care, kindness, helpfulness, connection, validation, and education.  When these forms of goodness are absent – or worse when the opposite kinds of conditions prevail – little ones fail to thrive. Often, when watered with the bad things, children are traumatized, and they carry these traumas with them throughout life, where they become far more susceptible to extreme degrees of fear, anger, and hate. We have the power to shape their world, to water their world with goodness. We hold their future in our hands, beneath the water in our watering cans. This understanding – and this responsibility – is enshrined in the U.N. Declaration of the Rights of the Child, which will celebrate its 60th anniversary next year, in addition to the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights, which is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year.

If we wonder why people are engaging in conflict, erupting in violence, exhibiting intolerance, and expressing incivility with such ferocious abandon, we need only to think about how we are re-traumatizing each other, over and over and over – interpersonally and systemically, in ways both small and large. As we fray the threads of the social fabric with vitriol and ire on the one hand and exploitation and indifference on the other, we undermine the progress we have made across the decades towards a world in which human rights are universally recognized and upheld. If we truly want to transform the situation, we need to start watering different seeds ASAP.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights – revered, even if imperfect – provides a roadmap for bringing ourselves back to sanity and full humanity. What are some of its pointers? First, we are urged to recognize the inherent dignity of all people. Second, we should protect human rights with the rule of law. Third, we must stay connected to the truth that everyone wants social progress, better standards of life, and larger freedom. Fourth, we must remember that we need to teach people about these rights so that they will be more widely affirmed and enacted. From these initial suggestions follow 30 specific articles, crafted together by the nations of the world, to create a common footing for justice and human wellbeing. If there’s only one thing you do for Human Rights Day this year, just read it, from beginning to end.

Layli MaparyanLayli Maparyan, Ph.D., is the Katherine Stone Kaufmann ’67 Executive Director of the Wellesley Centers for Women at Wellesley College. An expert on Womanism, her scholar-activist work interweaves threads from the social sciences and the critical disciplines, incorporating basic and applied platforms around a common theme of integrating identities and communities in peaceable, ecologically sound, and self-actualizing ways.

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Guest — Grace Mwenyo
Great insight!
Sunday, 16 December 2018 07:34
Guest — Wendy Rogers
Encouraged.
Friday, 28 December 2018 13:54
Guest — Izzy
This is a really moving text, I love the way it implies how we are all seeds, it gives it a more powerful and more greater underst... Read More
Wednesday, 09 January 2019 04:28
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Poverty, Black Women, and HIV

About twenty years ago, I received some unbearable news about a dear friend.  A highly intelligent, strong, and beautiful woman of African-descent revealed to me that she contracted HIV as a result of having unprotected sex with a man who had the virus. Twenty years ago, I was convinced that the virus was an automatic death sentence for my friend. Thankfully, with advances in medical technology, not only is she still with us but she is healthy and thriving. However, keep in mind that she has the necessary resources that are needed in order to take care of herself, so she can successfully manage her overall health. She is middle class, has a good health insurance plan, has access to the appropriate health care, and has a supportive social network that encourages her to maintain her health.

However, the reality is that many Black women who contract the virus are not as fortunate as my friend. Black women mainly contract the virus through sexual activity with infected men. Many who contract the virus not only must live with HIV but also poverty. As a result, there are higher morbidity and mortality rates among Black women as compared to other racial communities. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Black women are 18 times more likely to be diagnosed with HIV than are White women and due to lack of resources have an increased chance that they will die from AIDS. The theories surrounding this staggering racial disparity are complex. However, much of the discourse among published research discusses poverty as one of the main risk factors for the contraction of HIV among this marginalized group.

Research has demonstrated that poverty and HIV are inextricably linked. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 20 percent of Blacks live in poverty vs. only eight percent of Whites. An impoverished woman is much more likely to have an insufficient education about sexual health practices, less access to proper health care, as well as a reduced amount of access to appropriate contraception (i.e., condoms). In addition, research suggests that life stressors fueled by poverty can be the catalyst for mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and loneliness. Such sequela may affect the sexual behavior/practices of women living in poverty that are detrimental to overall health.

This problem is systemic and multifaceted. Addressing this issue through actions based upon the ideals of social justice is key to preventing its escalation. There are several organizations that are dedicated to addressing HIV among Black women including the Black Women’s Health Imperative and the National Black Leadership on HIV/AIDS.

Katherine E. Morrison,KatherineMorrisonPhD Ph.D., is a former post-doctoral intern at the Wellesley Centers for Women.  She is currently the coordinator of the Health & Wellness major at Curry College, Milton, MA. She specializes in the prevention of disease and injury among marginalized populations including communities of color, women, and the LGBTQ community.

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Recognizing Student Parent Needs during Caregivers Month

Student Parent holding baby at graduation“Someday you will go to college, too,” a young mother tells her eight year old son at her baccalaureate graduation ceremony.

“Mom. You're silly,” he replies with a grin. “I already went to college with you!”

Walking hand in hand in cap and gown with their children at graduation is a culminating moment for nearly all of the student parents who I have known and worked with over the years as a researcher, program director, and mentor. These students are nearly universally motivated to pursue post-secondary education as a means to lift their families into the middle class and secure a better life for their children. Parents and children aim for a light at the end of the tunnel, but in the words of my colleague and collaborator Sheila Katz, Ph.D., we have observed that a family’s journey to and through college, doesn’t just make their lives better someday, but in fact begins to change and impact their lives in significant ways from the first day.

Having had the opportunity to work and visit with student parents and their children in multiple programs and in multiple capacities at colleges and universities across the U.S., what I see is that the most important moments are not at the end of the journey, but the everyday steps along the journey itself. It is through these moments that this little boy believed, unwaveringly and unapologetically, that he and his mom had gone to college together: celebrating grades and accomplishments by displaying their school work side by side on the refrigerator, finishing homework assignments side by side at the dining room table, reading together, and sharing in learning and developing knowledge and skills.

As a parent, there are also a number of other little things involved in this journey with the potential to make big impacts on making or breaking a family’s success: safe and affordable housing, childcare, and food security to start. Although one in four undergraduates in the U.S. are parents, these students often lack these basic foundations of college success. A recent study by Sara Goldrick-Rab, Jed Richardson and Anthony Hernandez found that 63 percent of student parents experience food insecurity during college, while 77 percent experience housing insecurity and/or homelessness. Yet, we know through data we have been collecting on campus-based family housing, childcare, and student parent programs, that the need is much greater than the capacity of currently available programs.

Our free downloadable Campus Family Housing Database finds, for example, that only ten percent of colleges and universities in the U.S. offer student housing options that allow children to live in residence. Yet, this includes institutions where available family housing units may be extremely limited, and/or unaffordable to undergraduate students attending college with student financial aid. Furthermore, as we continue to update these data, we have observed a number of institutions that are reducing or eliminating their family housing programs, despite rising demographic need. This further varies by region, whereby disparities between need and available support programs are even further illuminated.

While the capital expenses involved in building family housing and childcare may initially be seen as cost-prohibitive by many institutions, colleges are also working to impact student parent success in other ways, starting small. Opportunities to engage and bring families to campus together provide low-cost strategies for impacting intergenerational college access and success.

For example, I worked with Endicott College’s Boston Student Parent Initiative to implement a family literacy program through which the program arranged trips to local museums and cultural events, at which each family received an age-appropriate children's book related to the field trip, to take home as an extension of learning together. After taking the families to see a musical rendition of the classic children’s book Caps for Sale, one of the students came to my office to report that not only had her son insisted on reading the book together every night for weeks, he wanted her to, “Sing it Mom! Like they did at the play!” At Mt. Wachusett Community College in Central Massachusetts, I was privileged to visit during a Halloween Arts & Crafts event organized for students and their families by the student parent program coordinator. Portland State University’s Resource Center for Students with Children provides tablets and activity backpacks that students can check out for the day if they need to bring their child to class with them. Partnerships between universities, government agencies, and nonprofits can also allow affordable retention and support strategies to be created for student parents.

Ultimately, student parents need support in both big and small ways: they need housing and childcare. They need support to balance work and family and toward their academic success. They need opportunities to engage with other students on campus and to share the college experience with their children. Ultimately, it is these experiences that not only caused the little boy to genuinely believe that he had gone to college with his mom, but also, to support their family together as learners so that both mom and child share in the mutual investment in education together.

Autumn Green, Ph.D., is a research scientist at the Wellesley Centers for Women. In addition to studying the lives of student parents, she has worked to help create two-generation programs on college and university campuses to support student parents and their children together as families pursuing education and shared goals for a future of happiness, security, and opportunity.

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Eliminating Violence Against Women

I spend a lot of time thinking and talking about our research on sexual violence case attrition and why most rape cases do not go forward to prosecution. The way that cases move through the criminal justice system has been a concern to victims, practitioners, and researchers for the last 40 years. Our recent findings on sexual violence case attrition make it clear that most sexual assault reports made to the police do not result in the arrest of a perpetrator or in any prosecution. This isn’t because no one knows who the perpetrator is—it is not a reflection of random stranger-danger. Women are assaulted, raped, and murdered by someone they know much more often than by a stranger. This is true across the globe and yet the response to violence remains weak.

Societal response to reports of sexual violence reflects deep-rooted cultural ideals about women and a feminine ideal. In our research, we found that cases are less likely to move forward when women have engaged in behaviors that signal “risk taking" like drinking alcohol or are of lower status and reputation. It is the “ideal” woman who is more likely to be believed—the conservatively dressed woman, the woman of means who was shopping or walking home from her professional position, the woman whose career and family life reflects strict adherence to social norms. So, even while we celebrate a changing cultural environment that purports that women now have more agency, independence, and are “permitted” to embrace more of the behaviors that have always been okay only for men, women who were out alone and who had been drinking when they were assaulted are less likely to find that the man who raped her is arrested or prosecuted.

Now, on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women—and after a week of more incidents of violence against women—both sexual violence and gun violence--- and amid concerns about the policy changes taking place on college campuses that will make women’s lives more difficult; and accounts of survivors of sexual assault who have been silenced, denied due process, and pushed back against on many fronts, we know we have not yet eliminated violence against women. Further, gender-based violence—violence that happens to women because they are women—is as blatant and as bigoted as violence perpetrated against one religious group. We are talking gender-based violence and femicide. How far have we really come? And what is needed to keep moving us closer to truly eliminating gender-based violence?

We have evidence of positive changes in rape law and sexual violence prevention, in care and support for survivors, and in bringing this issue of gender-based violence to the forefront both nationally and globally. We know that reductions in gender inequality can happen—this may occur when we elect more women to government leadership and we reverse the reductions in government social spending in areas such as health and education. Internationally, there are many leaders, advocates, and research that help us move the action against gender-based violence forward.

Now we must focus attention on turning research into action and promoting the changes needed in the community. Change requires that we not reify one form of knowledge over another. It’s no surprise to advocates that victim characteristics and victim behavior are associated with whether or not charges of rape go forward to prosecution. Recently in Ireland, an individual was acquitted after senior counsel for the defense remarked on the fact that the young female complainant was wearing thong underwear. This led to protests, the display of women’s underwear, and the hashtag #ThisIsNotConsent. Meanwhile, it is reported that an independent review conducted by a legal expert who is examining how rape and sexual assault cases are handled in Ireland is due at the end of the year. While such data will no doubt be valuable as are similar reports from South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the U.S., these provide evidence of what women have known all along--that what women wear or what they drink is used to sway the court system and jurors and to reinforce common stereotypes about men, women, and rape.

Clearly we need to assure that funds for implementing prevention programs and innovative campaigns directed at ending violence against women are available, and that such programs and the research conducted on their impact must continue to draw on feminist roots. All such work on gender-based violence also must be informed by intersectionality—the product of Black women’s activism and scholarship. For example, Tarana Burke founded the #MeToo movement that later became a global phenomenon to raise awareness about sexual harassment, abuse, and assault in society. #MeToo supports all who experience sexual violence and grounds this work in the real experiences of all women—young and old, Black, white, and brown, rich and poor. Research, undertaken in a setting that allows the linking of activism with the research, and that highlights the importance of data as a social change agent, is a necessary step to ending gender-based violence. A call to link activism and research should not be confused with activist research that seeks to prove a particular hypothesis. Sound principles of scientific research must be followed. However, we must assure that the voices of survivors and the skills and approaches of grass roots organizations underpin this work. These efforts are critical to success in eliminating violence against women and girls in all communities across the globe.

Linda M. Williams, Ph.D., is director of the Justice and Gender-Based Violence Research Initiative at the Wellesley Centers for Women at Wellesley College. Her research focuses on justice system response to sexual violence, commercial sexual exploitation of women and children, human trafficking, intimate partner violence, and child maltreatment.

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Tolerance as a Virtue

In the “New World Order,” nations are becoming multi-racial, multi-cultural, and multi-“colorful.” The act of embracing our common humanity remains a task for all to strive toward. Embracing the right of everyone to be different without judgment, is something we each can nurture and act upon. As we strive to rejoice in this diversity, it will make us stronger, amplifying the very best part of human nature. We are a hemisphere of immigrants. In the U.S., this concentration of different people has lead to new ways of understanding, even with pockets of intolerance and hate fighting against the greater society. As an immigrant from the world’s cradle of civilization—Africa—I was welcomed into the U.S. and I have felt welcomed.

The idea of promoting tolerance is characteristic of many societies, including the U.S. Regardless of the current challenges, this country has stood as a beacon and role model to the rest of the world to strive for the common good of humankind. This year, 2018, is an ideal time to reaffirm the values that we share as we reflect on the International Day for Tolerance. These values first uttered by John Locke (1632-1704) and well articulated by Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence “…We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. History has modeled and reaffirmed these words, inching us closer to peace.

So what is tolerance? It is an act of unconditional kindness, forgoing wrongdoing, burying anger and hatred, being liberated from anxiousness, bondage, prejudice, and hindrances. In essence tolerance is a prime virtue for human dignity, where diverse peoples can live together with a richness of beliefs and experiences, where people are willing to listen with tolerance and compassion. To live and let live.

In my own experience, having been raised by a Muslim father and a Christian mother in Nigeria, and being married to an Italian, I have an appreciation for the compatibility of multiple systems and beliefs, and of the traditions which began early in life. These have made my life richer. And I have found that in truly listening and living tolerance, that I have been the beneficiary of respect and acceptance.

If we plan to promote intolerance, I urge that it be against tyranny in any form. Let us promote social justice by our very own actions and deeds. Let us look to ourselves to ask what we have to work on? Let us not be content with the status quo. Let us ask ourselves what we have in common with our community and what we are doing to welcome and accept those who seek a helping hand both in America and abroad.

In contemplating these questions myself, it is clear that we all need to step outside of our comfort zones, and at the minimum, use the soft power of parenthood, and friendship, to help both children and those in need, to embrace and understand the absolute virtue of tolerance. Let us promote inclusive knowledge, promote justice, and openly address issues of prejudice and discrimination. Let us make multiculturalism a continuum and not a conversation on separate culture, a Mosaic of cultural coexistence and interfere. Let us test our own reactions and assumptions. I will continue to strive to follow the Commandment I was raised with, ”Above all, love one another.”

It is for each of us to decide how we can strive to live and model the gift of tolerance and acceptance in each of our hearts and minds. We are strengthened by the efforts of those who have gone before us to achieve this unique place in history, where peoples from all walks of life in the world, like myself, have enjoyed the beauty of this American experience. It has allowed me to become a global citizen and advocate for peace on a world stage. Understanding that tolerance is unique in many parts of the world, I have worked with others to bring international visitors here solely to absorb the American experience. They become witnesses and spokespersons for the benefits of tolerance and living together with differences. Each returns a spokesperson in some way, of having witnessed these phenomena.

My older sister was flabbergasted, for example, that she saw a Mosque, Jewish Temple, and Christian Church as next-door neighbors while visiting me in the U.S. When she returned to Northern Nigeria, she was telling everyone who would listen. They trusted her account and perceived America and cultural tolerance in new ways.

I am reminded of the words of Rumi (1207-1273), a Sufi scholar, writer and poet who summed up tolerance as unconditional acceptance, patience, love, compassion, and benevolence embodied in what he referred to as ‘Seven Advices’ which epitomize the highest sentiment of humanity, transcends religious boundaries, and encompasses the common values of all religions:

  • In generosity and helping others: be like the river
  • In compassion and grace: be like the sun.
  • In concealing others’ faults: be like the night.
  • In anger and fury: be like the dead.
  • In modesty and humility: be like the soil.
  • In tolerance: be like the ocean.
  • Either you appear as you are, or: be as you appear.

So let us celebrate the 2018 International Day for Tolerance, renewing and retooling our own efforts to strive for these virtues. I hope to model tolerance in my daily life to my children and those who I am fortunate enough to cross paths with. Modesty and humility allow us to put down our preconceptions, personal differentiations, and preferences. In any faith and knowledge, practice will bring forth many good fruits.

Hauwa IbrahimHauwa Ibrahim, Esq., is a visiting scholar at the Wellesley Centers for Women at Wellesley College whose research interests include the root causes of terrorism, including radicalization of youth and building bridges of cooperation between religious and non-religious communities.

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Changing the Landscape of Hate After Pittsburgh

This article was originally posted by Dana Rudolph on the Mombian blog, on October 30, 2018. This weeks marks the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass.

This landscape is familiar, strewn with ash and blood. We’ve been here before, too often, seeking the living, counting our dead. I know the terrain, can pick my way stumbling over the bodies, the stench of fear and hatred lingering in the air; the thoughts and prayers; the headlines and statistics.

I walk here with other Jews after the massacre in Pittsburgh, seeking comfort and strength, as I did with other LGBTQ people after the shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, as I have done with other parents after school shootings, and as I know communities of color do every time they, too, are targeted by hate.

This time, though, the tragedy causes reverberation deep in my soul, touching the first act of hatred I ever knew about, one directed at people like me: the Holocaust. My Jewish parents were minimally observant, but conscious of their cultural heritage as the son and granddaughter, respectively, of Jewish immigrants—a heritage that stood out in our predominantly Christian New England community. I don’t remember exactly when I first learned of genocide, but it feels as if I’ve always known.

Later, on top of this, came the knowledge of homophobia. I am a lesbian born two years before Stonewall, and the milestones of my life have shared space with markers of the LGBTQ rights movement. I’ve seen progress–my son was born the same year the first U.S. state ruled that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry. I’ve also seen how far we still need to go–less than three weeks after my son’s bar mitzvah came the shooting at Pulse.

In both my Jewish and queer identities, then, I’ve seen hatred and inequality directed at people like me and families like mine. At the same time, I recognize that people of color in the U.S., of all religions, face far more danger and far more inequities on a daily basis than I do. Being White and middle class gives me a tremendous amount of privilege, which I hope I can use to be an active ally to those who have less.

Still, the spectre of anti-Semitism gave me pause when it came time to enroll my son in Hebrew school. My spouse is Christian, and we could have placed our son in either a Christian or a Jewish religious school program. As the child of two moms, he already had one aspect of his life that could make him subject to harassment or worse. Why give him two?

I have never been particularly observant, but wanted our son to experience the part of his heritage that he would get little exposure to in our mostly Christian community and society. Additionally, my father had died about two years before, and I was feeling the need to connect our son with the half of his family that felt like it was fading away—mine is a small family. My wonderful spouse was simply happy that we would be part of a faith community.

I asked myself, though: Am I making our son more of a target? I had to answer that in our country, rife with school shootings, simply going to school could be equally dangerous. And as someone who commuted through the World Trade Center every morning to my job next door until two business days before 9/11, I know that hatred sometimes casts a wide net, regardless of the identities of its victims. The best we can do is not let fear of such hatred cause us to hide parts of ourselves. One lesson I have learned from the queer part of my identity is that doing so causes its own damage.

I’d like to think, too, that in giving our son a Jewish education, my spouse and I have also given him strength: the strength of a people that has survived thousands of years of oppression. The strength of a people that values welcoming the stranger and repairing our all-too-broken world. The strength of a people that wrestles with the tough questions of human existence and still finds joy in each other and the world around us.

That joy is dimmed this week, though. How can we regain it and find our way out of this bleak and too familiar landscape, tainted with fear?

In the aftermath of the shooting this past February at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida that killed 17 students, some of the surviving students adopted the slogan “Never again” for their gun control campaign. The phrase has long been tied to the Holocaust, and a few people seemed perturbed at what felt like appropriation for a different cause, even if the students did not do so intentionally.

The students were prescient, however. Anti-Semitism met mass shooting in Pittsburgh and to both we must say “Never again.”

“Never again” means doing whatever we can to stop the violence and hate that only seems to be increasing. That includes reaching out in kindness to our neighbors of all identities, calling our elected officials, voting, supporting advocacy organizations if we are able, putting financial pressure on the supporters of hate groups, and marching in the streets if necessary. It means taking time from our lives when we would rather be doing other things. It means overcoming our small fears (of approaching that neighbor; of speaking in public) in order to hold off the big ones.

It won’t be easy. As the Talmud teaches us, though, “You are not obligated to finish the work, but neither are you free to desist from it.” Let us resist and not desist, so that where once was a desolate landscape, a tree of life will grow again.

Dana Rudolph launched the Mombian blog, a lifestyle site for lesbian moms and other LGBTQ parents, offering a mix of parenting, politics, diversions, and resources, in 2005. A member of the National SEED Project team, she manages the project's website content and social media.

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Justice, Peace, and Wellbeing

 

Stand With Others Blog QuoteAt the Wellesley Centers for Women, we envision a world of justice, peace, and wellbeing for women and girls, children and youth, families and communities, in all their diversity around the world. Like so many, our will and spirits have been tested by recent events, but our resolve has been strengthened. The fatal shooting of two African Americans in a Jeffersontown, Kentucky, grocery store; the more than a dozen pipe bombs sent to CNN and prominent progressive political leaders and supporters across the country; and the mass shooting of eleven worshippers at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, are evidence that we need to stand strong and work together—to provide comfort, hope, knowledge, and power — to help shape a better world. We at WCW stand with those whose lives are forever changed. Only when social equity and equality, psychological wellbeing, peace, and freedom from violence and want evince for all people will our work have reached its true aim.

Layli Maparyan, Ph.D.

Katherine Stone Kaufmann ’67 Executive Director

Wellesley Centers for Women

 

 

 

 

 

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Stop Pretending Sexual Assault Can't Happen in Your School

This commentary by Nan Stein and Bruce Taylor was originally published by Education Week on October 4, 2018.

Christine Blasey FordThe sexual assault allegations leveled by psychology professor Christine Blasey Ford against U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh have consumed the country. The events as described by Ford are not an anomaly for U.S. teens. As researchers, we know that there is a high prevalence of sexual assault among teens today and that schools are not implementing effective strategies to address this kind of violence. But the data haven't always been available—it is only in about the last two decades that we can reliably measure the prevalence of sexual assault among teens.

We are researchers, not psychologists—one of us (Bruce Taylor) is a criminologist, the other (Nan Stein) is a former middle school teacher who focuses on curriculum development and teacher training. With the support of grant funding from the National Institute of Justice at the U.S. Department of Justice, we have spent the last 10 years conducting research on school-based interventions that has taken us into middle schools in the Cleveland suburbs and New York City. Using rigorous scientific data, we have created interventions designed to prevent the kinds of behaviors Christine Blasey Ford described in her testimony—and they have been shown to be effective. Our 2010 study, "Shifting Boundaries: Lessons on Relationships for Students in Middle School," was one of two evidence-based community-level primary prevention strategies that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identified in 2014 as effective at reducing sexual violence.

The general public's opinion of sexual violence is largely shaped by high-profile crimes they encounter in the news. In 1989, three high school football players from Glen Ridge, N.J., sexually assaulted a mentally handicapped girl. For years, these boys had been throwing wild drunken parties. Yet, they never got in trouble until there was a rape—their conviction came four years later. In 2012, there was another incident that garnered a lot of attention. In Steubenville, Ohio, the rape of a drunken female teenager by two drunken high school football players at a party gripped the nation; the boys were later convicted of sexual assault. The incident was recorded by some of the partygoers, and images were posted on social media.

Sexual assault, including the incidents above, can have a devastating impact on its victims. Although it can take years or decades for victims to begin to address the trauma and come forward to report the incidents (as we are currently witnessing), the rumors and whispers may begin the following day at school, in the hallways, and over lunch—even when some of the participants were too drunk to remember anything. The underreporting of sexual violence has been documented by researchers extensively. According to a 2017 report from the Justice Department, only 23 percent of all sexual assaults are reported to the police.

In the early 1980s, when Ford alleges her assault occurred, there weren't many surveys of teenagers focused on either perpetration or victimization of sexual violence by their peers. For example, one of the nation's largest youth surveys conducted by the CDC did not start measuring sexual violence until 1999. Perhaps officials doubted that sexual violence among teens happened, or they assumed it was only perpetrated by strangers carrying a weapon who jumped out of a dark alley. It certainly could not have happened among privileged white kids, perpetrated by good white boys who attended private schools where the dress codes require jackets and ties.

Today, we find ourselves swimming in statistics from an abundance of surveys measuring sexual violence among youths. Based on the CDC's 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, about 10 percent of high school students were sexually assaulted in 2017, with females (15 percent) experiencing higher rates than males (4.3 percent). This was in line with another national survey: An analysis of 2003, 2008, and 2011 National Survey of Children Exposed to Violence survey data of 15- to 17-year-olds found that between 12 and 18 percent of girls and about 3 percent of boys were victims of sexual assault.

When it comes to dating, the rates of sexual assault are even higher. In the National Survey on Teen Relationships and Intimate Violence conducted in 2013-2014 for dating youth 12-18 years old, funded by a grant from the Justice Department, the researchers found a sexual assault rate of 17.8 percent for girls and 17.3 percent for boys. The high rate of sexual assault among teens is of particular concern because our research has found that it is often a precursor to intimate partner violence.

There are at least three steps that schools can take to address sexual violence among teens.

1. Implement evidence-based effective interventions. In addition to the approach we laid out in "Shifting Boundaries"—which combines classroom lessons with schoolwide interventions addressing sexual harassment as a precursor to teen dating violence for middle school youths—other programs have been recognized for their efficacy, including Safe Dates (a school-based teen dating-violence prevention program for 8th and 9th graders); Coaching Boys into Men (a program where high school athletic coaches promote respectful behavior among their players to prevent sexual assault); and Bystander Intervention (an approach where bystanders are trained to interrupt potentially harmful situations).

2. Implement schoolwide interventions—not merely classroom lessons. The key components of our evidence-based Shifting Boundaries intervention include working with students to map safe and unsafe areas of the school so that staff can make necessary modifications to prevent violence, creating quasi "stay away" or restraining orders to protect victims, and saturating the school's hallways with messages and posters on safe teen relationships.

3. Conduct staff training. All faculty members and staff should understand the magnitude of the problem of sexual harassment and assault among teens and how to implement evidence-based strategies.

You might think that school districts would welcome these interventions. However, as researchers, we have experienced resistance, particularly from high-performing, privileged schools when attempting to introduce prevention programs. Despite scientific survey data demonstrating the pervasiveness of sexual violence among teens, some school districts apparently still believe "sexual violence can't happen here." What other evidence do they need to start taking this problem seriously? It is time for K-12 schools—private and public—to begin to implement evidence-based strategies designed to address sexual assault.

NanSteinBruceTaylorPhotosNan Stein, Ed.D., is a senior research scientist at the Wellesley Centers for Women at Wellesley College where she conducts research on sexual harassment and gender violence in schools. Bruce Taylor, Ph.D., is a senior fellow in public health at NORC at the University of Chicago, where he studies the etiology of violence and evaluates violence prevention programs.

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Views expressed on the Women Change Worlds blog are those of the authors and do not represent the views of the Wellesley Centers for Women or Wellesley College nor have they been authorized or endorsed by Wellesley College.

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