Human Resources: Take Note

From, 9/5/09: By Ellen Bravo for The Women’s Media Center ( The WMC is a non-profit organization founded by Jane Fonda, Gloria Steinem, and Robin Morgan, dedicated to making women visible and powerful in the media.” 

Daylight Lessons from Letterman’s Late Night Escapades

By Ellen Bravo

The author, an expert on the prevention of sexual harassment and other issues of women in the workforce, suggests that human resources professionals and corporate executives take the occasion of David Letterman’s revelations to revisit their companies’ policies with the understanding that “sexual favoritism is sexual harassment.”

October 5, 2009

I don’t know David Letterman or any of the staffers he had sex with.

I believe fidelity is the business of only one person, the philanderer’s partner.

Extortionists aren’t whistle-blowers—they’re criminals, and should be put away.

But whenever I hear the justification, “I didn’t violate company policy and no one complained,” my hackles jump up.

Let’s talk about why it’s bad business for the boss to sleep with subordinates.

The key part of consent is that the right to say “yes” is balanced by the right to say “no.” When the person doing the asking is the boss, declining becomes dicey.

Even if there’s no threat or demand involved, how do you know there won’t be repercussions for refusing to go along?

If there’s a problem, whom do you tell? Especially when company policy is silent on the matter, how do you know anyone will listen? Who isn’t beholden to the boss for their job?

Suppose later you need a reference from that person. What assurance do you have that your refusal to play around won’t lead to a negative comment, or a deadly neutral one: “Yes, she worked here.”

The problem is exacerbated when the boss is well-known. Maybe an assistant really digs the head honcho. She might take the initiative to get something going or be flattered that he has shown interest in her.

But the bloom can fall off that rose. What happens tomorrow or next week when she decides she’s changed her mind? Or he starts looking at the next or younger intern and wants to move on and move her out?

And what about the rest of the staff who aren’t sleeping with the boss? If someone who’s known to have done so (and sooner or later, everyone will know) goes on to be promoted, the perception will be that sex was the reason—even if that person is the smartest, most talented person onboard.

The result isn’t hard to predict: resentment, lower morale, conflict, and when opportunities arise, people jumping ship.

Sexual favoritism is a form of sexual harassment. Those who aren’t in a romantic relationship may well feel disadvantaged by that fact. The company opens itself to legal liability.

CBS says Letterman wasn’t their employee. But companies have an affirmative duty to protect workers from third party harassment—especially in cases like this when the third party holds so much power at the workplace.

My concern is that corporate execs will learn the wrong lessons from this case.

They’ll review the company sexual harassment policy to make sure it’s silent on supervisors sleeping around unless there’s egregious retaliation. They’ll remind themselves to call the bluff of anyone who threatens to reveal misdeeds.

And there’ll be a huge run on personal recording devices.

So this is an appeal to human resource professionals and boards of directors to draw the right conclusions from the Letterman experience.

First, make sure there is a written sexual harassment policy and that all employees, senior management included, are trained about that policy and their rights and responsibilities under it. Make sure the policy spells out clearly that senior managers (no matter who signs their paycheck) may not have romantic entanglements with any subordinate. If he or she does, the relationship must be disclosed immediately so management can see whether there’s a disinterested outside party who can take over supervision of the lower level individual. If not, the relationship should end or one of the individuals should leave.

Second, firms—including media outlets—should have an arrangement with an independent, outside counsel with no ties to the organization. That counsel’s number should be made available to all employees with instructions to call with impunity in the event that a top-level staff behaves inappropriately, whether to them or someone else. Employees should be assured that such a call will be held in strictest confidence until the matter can be properly—and promptly—investigated.

As for Letterman and anyone else in his position, here’s some advice: If nightly adoration and huge paychecks aren’t enough for you, try sweat yoga or cold showers.

Ask yourself if you were just Joe Schmo and not in a position of power, would this woman be interested in you?

Above all, ask yourself: if the staffer were my daughter, how would I want her boss to behave?


Miss Representation Documentary

Miss Representation from Girls Club Entertainment, LLC, Writer/Director/Producer Jennifer Siebel Newsom

Miss Representation explores women’s underrepresentation in positions of power and influence in America by challenging the limited portrayal of women as encouraged by the mainstream media. As the most persuasive and pervasive force in our culture, the media dictates cultural values and gender norms, which in turn seep into our subconscious and impact both our attitudes and actions. In this climate of dangerous stereotypes and rigid gender roles, women are trivialized, objectified, and rarely viewed as powerful figures—making it more difficult for women to feel powerful themselves. Accompanied by a collaborative social outreach campaign, Miss Representation will celebrate women’s progress across America and empower our audience to take action for transformative social change. 

The film is transitioning into post-production mode,  as the production company edits a rough cut for film festival submission this winter.

(Look for it in theaters near you- WSUSA)

Girls Club Entertainment, LLC

Independent films that focus primarily on empowering women.

Call for Action

Remarks by Karen Nussbaum, Executive Director, Working America, Before the Joint Economic Committee Hearing on Balancing Work and Family in the Recession: How Employees and Employers are Coping
July 23, 2009
Thank you, Chair Maloney, Vice-Chair Schumer, and Ranking Member Brownback.


My name is Karen Nussbaum. I am here today representing a lifetime of experience representing the concerns of working women: as the founder and director of 9to5, the National Association of Working Women; the Director of the Women’s Bureau of the U.S. Department of Labor, the highest seat in the federal government devoted to women’s issues; assistant to the president of the AFL-CIO; and currently as the executive director of Working America, the community affiliate of the AFL-CIO, an organization of 2.5 million working women and men who do not have a union on the job. My professional experience as a working women’s advocate – and an advocate for working men and families – spans all occupations, union and non-union.

The Deteriorating Work-Family Balance

For generations, the problem of work and family was solved simply – pay a family wage to a single breadwinner. Accepted norms governed employer-employee relationships, strengthened by unions and collective bargaining. This solution didn’t work for everyone – around 40% of African American women worked throughout the first half of the 20th century, while single women of all races didn’t earn a family wage – but the post-World War II economic boom saw a common increase in standard of living across all income groups, families were tended to and communities benefitted from the volunteer activities of their members. The American middle class blossomed in these years. A 1974 Business Week editorial signaled a shift in employer strategy towards workers, wages and benefits: “It will be a bitter pill for most Americans to swallow – the idea of doing with less so that banks and big businesses can have more.” This signaled the inception of a low road strategy, in which employers reduced wages and benefits for most workers, creating a privileged group of professional workers at the top at the expense of a broad middle class; drafted low-wage workers, particularly women, into the workforce; and made a concerted effort to reduce worker bargaining power.

This strategy has proven effective for employers and disastrous for workers and their families. Working and middle-class people shared in the postwar boom, but after 1973, workplace standards were steadily eroded and most Americans ended up doing with less.

  • Median family income stagnated, and actually dropped from 2000-2006. 1
  • Defined benefit pensions became a thing of the past – 25 years ago more than 80% of large and medium-sized firms offered defined benefit pensions; today, less than a third do. 2
  • Nearly half of private sector workers have no paid sick leave.3
  • Nearly a quarter of workers have no paid vacation or holidays, 4 and Americans work, on average, a month longer each year than in 1983. 5
  • More and more women are working multiple jobs and non-standard hours – more than one out of four regularly work nights or weekends; and nearly half of all women work different schedules than spouses or partners.6

And banks and big businesses – until they crashed – did get more.

  • Between 1948 and 2001, in each cyclical recovery, corporate profits grew an average of 14% while worker salaries grew at half that rate. Between 2001 and 2004, while workers’ incomes shrank by 0.6%, corporate profits grew 62.2%.7
  • From 1987 to 2005, the percentage of Americans without health insurance grew from 12.9% to 15.9%,8 while from 2002 to 2005 alone, insurance company profits soared by nearly 1000%.9

A Return to Standards

Once known as “cafeteria benefits,” work and family policies such as child care or flextime were seen as options that could be chosen to fit personal needs above and beyond the basic benefits. While some employees – primarily urban professionals – were making choices at the cafeteria, the great majority of working people no longer even had meat and potatoes. 

Some leaders, such as former General Electric CEO Jack Welch, say that there is “no such thing as work-life balance,”10 that working women have no choice but to sacrifice either work or family. But Ellen Galinsky’s impressive work demonstrates that work/life policies are viable and widespread, increase productivity and personal satisfaction. Her research demonstrates that pursuing work/life policies in a recession is good for the bottom line.

However, after a 30-year experiment with voluntary adoption of work/family measures in the workplace, we know that reasonable standards will not penetrate the workplace without enforcement. A small minority of professional workers will have the benefits and arrangements they require, but
the majority of workers will be subject to work schedules beyond their control, minimal or no benefits and no paid leave to care for their families.

As we decide how to cope with recession, we have the perfect opportunity to take the next step and create workplace standards that are good for the bottom line and for working families.

Freedom to Join a Union and Bargain Collectively

The most effective and flexible way to create customized improvements at the work place is by enabling working people to talk directly with employers about what is needed – otherwise known as collective bargaining.

A recent study by the Labor Project for Working Families found that, among hourly workers, 46 percent of unionized workers receive full pay while on leave compared to 29 percent of nonunionized workers, while companies with 30 percent or more unionized workers are five times as likely as companies with no unionized workers to pay the entire family health insurance premium.11 The Employee Free Choice Act would restore the right to collective bargaining, which would help create a contemporary version of work/life balance.

Health Care

Health care costs are crippling families and employers and crowding out the possibility of other workplace improvements. With health insurance expenses the fastest-growing cost component for employers,12 employers do that offer health coverage are finding it difficult to compete, both with companies in countries that have universal coverage and with employers in the U.S. that do not offer benefits. Meanwhile, workers’ out-of-pocket costs have soared from $1,320 in 2001 to $3,597 in 2008 13 and medical debt is a factor in 62 percent of personal bankruptcies.14 Solving the health care crisis would create a new floor for the work/family balance, boosting disadvantaged families while reassuring middle-class ones that one piece of bad luck would not
plunge them into bankruptcy.

Work/Family Standards

In addition, there are key work/family standards which provide the framework for moving forward.

  • Paid sick days
    • Paid sick days help reduce the spread of illness in workplaces, schools and child care facilities, yet 79 percent of low-income workers – the majority of whom are women – do not have a single paid sick day.15
    • Congress should support The Healthy Families Act (H.R. 2460), which would provide full-time employees with seven paid sick days per year – and a prorated amount for part-time employees – to be used for short-term illness, to care for a sick family member or for routine medical care
  • Paid family leave
    • The Family and Medical Leave Act has been a great success. Since 1993, workers have used the FMLA more than 100 million times.16 Yet, half of the private-sector workforce is excluded from it and 4 out of 5 eligible employees who need leave could not take it because it was unpaid.17 FMLA coverage should be expanded and wage replacement be added.
  • Control over work hours/flexible work hours
    • Flexibility in regards to workers’ work/life balance is particularly important given that Americans work nearly nine weeks (350 hours) longer each year than Western Europeans.18 In 1970, fewer than half (38 percent) of U.S. women with school-age children were in the labor market. By 2000, more than two-thirds (67 percent) were on the job.19 In the U.S., two-thirds of working couples with kids put in overtime.20 Flextime helps solve the common conflict between lengthening work hours and our personal obligations. Flextime gives a worker more control over her or his schedule on an hourly, daily, weekly, seasonal or annual basis. If Workers are expected to flex to the job, the job should flex back.
  • I’d like to recognize Chair Maloney for her leadership on this issue and ongoing commitment to working families across the country. Securing a flexible workplace for women and families is essential to balancing the daily demands of work and personal life, and the Working Families’ Flexibility Act seeks to advance that cause.

    • Paycheck fairness
      • The Paycheck Fairness Act is not strictly a work/family policy but it does seek to restore balance – in the wages paid to women and men. (H.R. 12) would close loopholes in the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and is long overdue.
    • Misclassification of employees
      •  Misclassification of employees allows employers to save on taxes and benefits, and harms workers and their families by excluding them from health insurance, workers compensation, minimum wage and overtime pay, and family and medical leave or unemployment benefits.
    • Child care and pre-school
      • Affordable child care is a must for single mothers, families that require two incomes to get by, and women who choose to continue working while their children are you.
      • Early childhood education would not only benefit children but would enable their parents to save on childcare costs and potentially return to the workforce sooner if they chose.


    It has taken decades to achieve basic workplace standards – in some cases it has been more than a century of struggle: overtime after 40 hours, no child labor, non-discrimination, and more recently, unpaid family leave. Many benefits workers took for granted in the 1950s are now seriously eroded. We are now far behind all other industrial countries both in standards and practice and we have seen that without the standards, we will not have the practice.
    Now is the time to put the next generation of basic workplace safeguards in place.

    1 Economic Policy Institute, 2006. “State of Working America.” Accessed 7/19/09.
    2 Jacob Hacker, 2008. Testimony Before Committee on Education and Labor, U.S. House of Representatives Field Hearing on “The Impact of the Financial Crisis on Workers’ Retirement Security.” Accessed 7/17/09.
    3 Vicky Lovell, Institute for Women’s Policy Research, “Women and Paid Sick Days: Crucial for Family Well-
    Being, 2007.”
    4 Center for Economic and Policy Research, 2007. “U.S. Only Advanced Economy That Does Not Guarantee Workers Paid Vacation.” Accessed 7/21/09
    5 Darrell Hutchens and Jeff Milchen, 2003. “Americans Working More, Earning Less.” Accessed 7/19/09.
    6 AFL-CIO, “Ask A Working Woman Survey 2000,” poll conducted by Lake Snell Perry & Assoc., 2000.
    7 Economic Policy Institute, 2004. “When Do Workers Get Their Share?” Accessed 7/19/09.
    8 U.S. Census Bureau, “Historical Health Insurance Tables.” Accessed 7/20/09.
    9 AFL-CIO, “Insurance Company Profits are Fat and Healthy.” Accessed 7/20/09.
    10 Jack Welch speaking to the Society for Human Resource Management, 6/28/09, quoted by Andrew Leonard. Accessed
    11 Jennifer MacGillvary and Netsy Firestein, 2009. “Family-Friendly Workplaces: Do Unions Make a
    Difference?” Accessed 7/17/09.
    12 National Coalition on Health Care. Accessed 7/22/09.
    13 Hewitt Health Care Initiative/AFL-CIO.
    Accessed 7/22/09.
    14 CBS News. Accessed
    15 Economic Policy Institute, “Minimum Wage Issue Guide,” 2007, Accessed 7/22/09.
    16 Testimony of Debra Ness before the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Subcommittee on Children and Families, Feb. 13, 2008,, and “The Family and
    Medical Leave Act Regulations: A Report on the Department of Labor’s Request for Information 2007
    Update,” U.S. Department of Labor, June 2007, at 129.
    17 Jane Waldfolgal,; Jody Heymann,; “Balancing the Needs of Families and Employers: Family and Medical Leave
    Surveys 2000 Update,” conducted by Westat for the U.S. Department of Labor.
    18 (10/9/2006)
    19Win-win flexibility: New American Foundation
    20One sick child away from being fired: When “opting out” is not an option. Center for WorkLife Law

    UN Creates Agency for Women

    From, 9/25/09:

    UN Takes Step to Tackle Global Women’s Issues

    In case you missed it, exciting news came out of the opening session of the UN General Assembly last Monday: after nearly three years of negotiations, member states voted to create a UN agency for women.

    The new agency’s mandate will be to “promote the rights and well-being of women worldwide and to work towards gender equality.” Currently, the UN’s gender programs are scattered across various agencies through four different programs: UNIFEM, the Division for the Advancement of Women, the Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues and the UN International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (UN-INSTRAW). The new entity will be headed by an Under-Secretary General who reports to the UN’s Secretary General, on par with agencies like UNICEF and UNHCR.

    Groups that have been campaigning for the body (such as Gender Equality Architecture Reform, or GEAR) hope that a composite, super-agency will not only raise the prominence of gender issues on the global agenda but also boost funding for women through the UN, which they say has been low under the current structure. GEAR and others are calling for $1 billion in start-up money for the new agency (for comparison, the 2007 budgets for UNICEF and UNIFEM in 2007 were $129 million and $3 billion, respectively).

    There is no doubt that the step is a good one for the world’s women, especially those living in the world’s poorest countries. For over two decades, development experts have been saying that countries who invest in education, health and economic opportunities for their women see greater results in poverty reduction and development across the board. Yet while some progress has been made in improving the lives of women around the globe (through expanded access to microfinance and treatment to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV/AIDS, for example), the fact remains that women are still bearing the brunt of extreme poverty and disease and in many countries, are systematically excluded from the economy and politics and living in fear of violence and rape.

    The UN decision follows other signs that momentum is building for a renewed effort to tackle global women’s issues. Earlier this year, President Barack Obama created the first ever Office on Global Women’s Issues in his Administration (with veteran women’s advocate Melanne Verveer at its head) and in Congress, Senator Barbara Boxer now chairs a subcommittee with global women’s issues in its purview. The need to invest in women was also a recurring key theme of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s recent trip to Africa, and this past month both the Clinton Global Initiative and the New York Times have highlighted the topic in a major way.

    So it seems that everyone- and now the UN- agrees: women are key to a healthier, more prosperous and stable world. The challenge is now to translate this growing consensus into action. At the UN, details on the new agency will be ironed out over the coming months after Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon comes up with a proposal to member states on the body’s mission, funding, structure and oversight. The first indication of how much muscle the new agency will have. Meanwhile, here in the U.S., the FY011 budget should be a good sign of where the Administration’s priorities lie and how they match with Congress. We’ll be watching these developments at ONE closely, so stay tuned here for news from both fronts.

    -Nora Coghlan

    UN Women


    Supporting Equal Pay for Our Global Sisters

    Global Equal Pay


    For More info. on Equal Pay in England-


    For more info. on Equal Pay in Germany-


    For more info. on Equal Pay in Australia-

    A Good Read


    You Are Your Own Glass Ceiling

    We’ve come a long way, ladies. But here’s why good girls still finish last.

    By Jessica Bennett | Newsweek Web Exclusive 

    Aug 31, 2009

    I did a media-training session with a couple of colleagues a few weeks back, to hone our on-camera skills. There were seven of us—four men, three women—and each of us was interviewed, then critiqued, on a giant flat-screen television overhead. I spoke about a story I’d spent months working on, and gave what I thought was a confident interview. So did my other female colleagues.

    But when we watched ourselves on the big screen, our apprehension became embarrassingly clear—especially in comparison to our male counterparts. The trainer described me as "sing-songy," my voice inflecting up, time and again, turning my statements into questions. We used self-defeating words like "sort of," and started our sentences with "I’m not sure, but"—doubting our opinions before we even expressed them. The irony, of course, is that we’re accomplished journalists; we knew these topics well. So why did we sound so unsure of ourselves?

    It was mortifying to watch myself apologize to the camera, but the consequence of that insecurity isn’t just bad media. According to a new book about female self-esteem, being cautious and apologetic impacts just about every standard measure of success in the workplace: money, accomplishment, recognition. In The Curse of the Good Girl, author Rachel Simmons argues that women pressure themselves to fit the mold of modest, selfless, rule-following "good girl" for fear of being labeled a "bitch." But it’s those bitchlike qualities that help us get ahead—which means we’re left with imbalanced salaries, lower titles, and shorter professional trajectories. "In many ways the zeitgeist is that girls are excelling and boys are having trouble," says Simmons. "But it all depends on what you’re measuring."

    It’s easy to look at today’s women and think we’ve come a long way. On one hand, we’ve reaped the benefits our feminist mothers fought for, and we’re encouraged, time and again, to "be whatever we want to be." We outnumber boys in graduation rates, college enrollment, and school leadership positions, and have proven ourselves professionally. Things look promising; to the point that even a beauty queen can climb on stage and declare "there are no longer any barriers against us," as did the winner of Miss Universe this month. (Though apparently she doesn’t see the irony of announcing this while being judged and rated on her appearance and poise.)

    But all those ribbons and medals don’t translate to the real world if women are too afraid to ask for what they deserve. As Simmons puts it, "Girls collect achievements by the handful, but often don’t have the confidence to own them." Sure, we may outpace the guys around us in school, but by the time we enter college, we’ll have given up our leadership roles. We’ll make up just a third of business-school students and barely a quarter of law-firm partners. We invalidate ourselves through speech, body language, and weak handshakes. And we still earn less—77 cents to every dollar—and ask for raises less frequently. "If you look at girls on paper, they’re terrific," says Simmons, who runs a leadership institute for girls and has also written on female aggression. "But get them into a job interview or negotiating a raise, and it’s another story."

    Part of that comes from a lifetime of mixed messages about what it means to be strong. We’ve grown up watching the Hillary Clintons of the world vilified for being pushy, while our soft-spoken colleagues struggle to rise up the corporate ladder. Society, pop culture and the media all encourage us to be tough but sexy in the process. In a way, we’re hybrids of the 1950s woman, who was forced to conform, the 1970s woman who refused to, with a bit of 21st-century porn culture thrown in. We live with outdated expectations about what’s acceptable, while pressuring ourselves to achieve it all.

    As Simmons describes it, it’s a "yes, but" mentality: yes, be a go-getter, but be nice all the time. Yes, accomplish, but don’t brag about it. "It is a constant qualification—two steps forward, one step back," she says. "And just as an anorexic might say, ‘I shouldn’t eat this, it will make me fat,’ girls are saying to themselves, ‘I shouldn’t say this, it will make me a bitch, a drama queen, an outcast.’ "

    Nowhere is that qualification clearer than in the words of a bunch of middle-school girls, whom Simmons surveyed. Asked to write down how society expects a "good girl" to behave, their responses ranged from "perfect" and "kind," "intelligent" with "tons of friends" to "no opinions on things" and "doesn’t get mad." A bad girl, on the other hand, was described as a "proud" "rule breaker" who "speaks her mind" and likes being the "center of attention." Or, to put it simply, all of the things that make somebody a good leader.

    How do we reconcile those two extremes? Perhaps by shifting some of the blame onto ourselves. Time and again, studies have shown that girls face pressures that are unique. We feel burdened to please everyone (as reported by 74 percent of girls in a 2006 Girls Inc. study) but worry that leadership positions will make us seem "bossy," (according to a recent Girl Scouts report.) Yet we’ve been mulling about the loss of girls’ self-esteem since the ’90s, when Mary Pipher’s Reviving Ophelia became standard reading for every mother.

    It seems that while the doors of opportunity have finally opened, we’re still having trouble walking through them. "We’ve created what I call a ‘psychological glass ceiling’," says Simmons. "But on some level, we need to say to ourselves, ‘Yes, I have the same piece of paper from the same university, but why aren’t I walking through the law firm door?’" We’ve come along way, ladies. But we’ve still got a lot further to go.

    Find this article at

    © 2009 

    Women and Philanthropy

    August 23, 2009
    The Way We Live Now

    The Power of the Purse


    Remember the concept of “sisterhood”? That quaint relic of an idea that women owed it to other women to crash through ceilings and navigate a male world? It just might be taking new root in a most unexpected place — among women with money. There are more women controlling more wealth in the U.S. than ever before. (Of those in the wealthiest tier of the country — defined by the I.R.S. as individuals with assets of at least $1.5 million — 43 percent are women.) And unlike the women who preceded them — old-school patrons who gave to the museum and the symphony and their dead husbands’ alma maters — these givers are more likely to use their wealth deliberately and systematically to aid women in need.

    To appreciate the magnitude of this change, go back 150 years or so to the women’s suffrage movement. Back to when one of its leaders, Matilda Joslyn Gage, lamented: “We have yet to hear of a woman of wealth who has left anything for the enfranchisement of her sex. Almost every daily paper heralds the fact of some large bequest to colleges, churches and charities by rich women, but it is proverbial that they never remember the woman suffrage movement that underlies in importance all others.”

    Then jump forward to the present: globally, more than 145 funds, with assets of nearly half a billion dollars, exist to improve the lives of women and girls. Many focus their efforts domestically; about a third work internationally. Not one existed in 1972 when the Ms. Foundation, the first national fund for and by women, was established. Collectively they now form the Women’s Funding Network and have plans to increase their joint coffers by another billion dollars by 2018, in concert with a drive called Women Moving Millions, which aims to encourage individuals, mostly women, to donate $1 million or more. The goal was to raise $150 million in three years, a target exceeded this spring by $30 million.

    Women Moving Millions began with the literal sisterhood of Helen LaKelly Hunt and Swanee Hunt. Daughters of the legendary oilman H. L. Hunt, they were raised “like Southern belles,” Helen says — taught that money was something a woman “shouldn’t worry her pretty little head about.” As adults they discovered the power of philanthropy, and about three years ago Swanee (whose own nonbelle career includes years as ambassador to Austria and a lectureship at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, where she teaches that gender parity is the way to ensure peace and rebuild societies) called Helen with an offer. “She said she was going to leave me a lot of money in her will,” Helen says, “but I might die first and ruin the surprise, so why doesn’t she give it to me now.” Swanee’s $6 million, and $4 million more from Helen, became the initial pledges to the campaign.

    Helen was motivated in part by her own historical research. While writing her doctoral thesis on the origins of feminism, she pieced together the evidence that wealthy women sat on the sidelines during the fight for the right to vote. “Women gave heart, mind, body, intellect, will, blood, sweat and tears, but not their dollars,” she says. “Women didn’t fund suffrage; now women are funding women. That’s historic.”

    Some of these new-style philanthropists have familiar names. Oprah comes to mind, as do Abigail Disney, a grandniece of Walt’s, who, with her husband, Pierre Hauser, created the Daphne Foundation, in 1991; and Jennifer Buffett, daughter-in-law of Warren, who is co-chairman of the NoVo Foundation with her husband, Peter; both give much of their money to programs that support low-income women and girls. But most names are not as well known — like Kayrita M. Anderson, the daughter of a housecleaner, whose family foundation has given more than $2 million to help stop child prostitution. Or Jacki Zehner, the first female trader to become a partner at Goldman Sachs and whose family foundation pledged a million to the W.M.M. campaign.

    In general, women give differently than men. They are less likely to want their names on things and more likely to give as part of drives (large ones, like Women Moving Millions, and smaller ones, like living-room “giving circles”) that include other women. And they tend to spotlight different causes (women’s health, microfinancing of businesses owned by women) and for different reasons. A study of more than 10,000 large donors by the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University suggests that while men describe their giving as practical — filling in the gaps that government can’t or won’t — women describe theirs as emotional, an obligation to help those with less.

    Behind all this giving lies the theory that helping women and children is the way to change the planet. “Seventy percent of people living in poverty around the world are women and children,” says Christine Grumm, president and C.E.O. of the Women’s Funding Network. “If women have a roof over their heads and a home free of violence, and good and affordable health care, then so do children. In the larger picture, it’s not just about women, but entire communities. Women are the conduits through which change is made.”

    What kind of change this X-linked economic paradigm will bring is still an open question. But what already seems clear is that women are finding their financing clout, and they might have found new unity to boot. “You’ve heard that old nursery rhyme?” asks Helen LaKelly Hunt. “The king is in the counting house counting all the money, the queen is in the parlor, eating bread and honey?” Not anymore, she says. Now “the queen is in there counting, too.” And she has brought a whole roomful of her friends.

    Lisa Belkin is a contributing writer and the author of the Motherlode blog.

    September 6, 2009

    The Power of the Purse

    As a historian of women in the United States, I need to point out that this is not the first time in history that wealthy women have used their money to advance the cause of women’s rights. One example was Alva Belmont, who was the key financial backer for both the suffrage movement and efforts to improve wages and conditions for working women in the early 20th century. Belmont not only gave large amounts of her own money to these causes, she was also a tireless fund-raiser.

    Belmont also supported the more radical side of the suffrage movement, later known as the National Woman’s Party (N.W.P.). These were the women who picketed the White House during World War I, going so far as to compare President Wilson to the German kaiser for refusing to grant women the right to vote. Once the suffrage battle was won, the N.W.P. went on to promote the Equal Rights Amendment, a move that was controversial even among many former women’s suffrage supporters.

    Professor of History
    Central Connecticut State University
    New Britain, Conn.

    The Time is NOW to Demand Women Equality in the WorkPlace

    Now that it looks like we’re the majority in the workplace, this is the time of the essence to demand equality in the workplace.
    Women take over job market
    By Dennis Cauchon, USA TODAY
    Women are on the verge of outnumbering men in the workforce for the first time, a historic reversal caused by long-term changes in women’s roles and massive job losses for men during this recession.

    Women held 49.83% of the nation’s 132 million jobs in June and they’re gaining the vast majority of jobs in the few sectors of the economy that are growing, according to the most recent numbers available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

    That’s a record high for a measure that’s been growing steadily for decades and accelerating during the recession. At the current pace, women will become a majority of workers in October or November. The data for July will be released Friday.

    "It was a long historical slog to get to this point," says labor economist Heidi Hartmann, president of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.

    The change reflects the growing importance of women as wage earners, but it doesn’t show full equality, Hartmann says. On average, women work fewer hours than men, hold more part-time jobs and earn 77% of what men make, she says. Men also still dominate higher-paying executive ranks.

    Women have been a growing share of the once heavily male labor force for nearly a century, recording big bumps during epochal events such as the Depression and World War II.

    This time, the boost came from a severe recession that has been brutal on male-dominated professions such as construction and manufacturing.

    Through June, men have lost 74% of the 6.4 million jobs erased since the recession began in December 2007. Men have lost more than 3 million jobs in construction and manufacturing alone.

    The only parts of the economy still growing — health care, education and government — have traditionally hired mostly women. That dominance has increased in part because federal stimulus funding directed money to education, health care and state and local governments.

    The Postal Service is cutting tens of thousands of unionized, blue-collar jobs dominated by men while new hires are expanding in teaching and other fields dominated by college-educated women.

    The gender transformation is especially remarkable in local government’s 14.6 million-person workforce. Cities, schools, water authorities and other local jurisdictions have cut 86,000 men from payrolls during the recession — while adding 167,000 women, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

    "Unemployment among men isn’t going to last forever," says University of Chicago economist Casey Mulligan. "People will move from construction and manufacturing to industries that are creating new jobs." Mulligan expects the portion of jobs held by women to peak slightly above 50% this year, then drop below half when the economy recovers and more men find work.

    Equality in workforce numbers reflects a long-term cultural change, says Maureen Honey, author of Creating Rosie the Riveter, a book about the government’s campaign to persuade women to work outside the home during World War II. "The image that the man has to be the breadwinner has changed," Honey says.

    Women’s Equality Day 2009

    Celebrate Women’s Equality Day, by blogging about it, and watch the movie “Iron Jawed Angels”

    A Great Movie!

    Wear Purple in Solidarity!

    From, 8/12/09:

    “Iron Jawed Angels” recounts for a modern audience a key chapter in U.S. history, the story of suffragists who fought for the right to vote during a period covering 1912-1920. The movie focuses on two young women, Alice Paul and Lucy Burns, and their fight to build on the previous work of the National American Women’s Suffrage Association (NAWSA). The movie stars Hillary Swank, Frances O’Connor, Angelica Huston and Julia Ormond, and there are many other outstanding actors in the film.

    The film describes the struggles of brave women as they picketed the White House, spoke at public gatherings, lobbied President Wilson and members of Congress, wrote articles, and published their own newspaper. It also shows their arrests and subsequent time in a prison/work house. The film does not “pull any punches.”

    As we remember the struggles to abolish slavery and to establish civil rights, we must also remember the struggles for women’s suffrage. Those of us who live today with so many freedoms have a debt to pay to those who worked hard and, in some cases, gave their lives to those labors. Both adults and young people should know who made it possible for us to live with those freedoms — names such as Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Ida Wells Barnett, Alice Paul, Lucy Burns, Carrie Chapman Catt. West Virginia had its own heroines: Lenna Yost, Henriette Romine Fulks, Fannie Wheat, as well as many in the trenches.

    We hope the film will trigger us to read more about these heroic women so that we will not forget what they sacrificed for us. Understanding our history gives us courage and strength to work for the issues that confront us today. The right to vote did not come easily to our country and we should not take our responsibility to vote lightly.

    Helen Gibbins is president of the League of Women Voters of the Huntington Area.

    August 26th is the anniversary of national woman suffrage.  Across the seventy-two years between the first major women’s rights conference at Senecca Falls, New York, in 1848, and the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, thousands of people participated in marches through cities like New York and Washington DC, wrote editorials and pamphlets, gave speeches all over the nation, lobbied political organizations, and held demonstrations with the goal of achieving voting rights for women.  Women also picketed the White House with questions like, “Mr. President, what are you going to do about woman’s suffrage?” “Mr. President, how long must women wait for liberty?”  This was the first time in history that a group of people picketed the White House. 

    The woman suffrage amendment was introduced for the first time to the United States Congress on January 10, 1878.  It was re-submitted numerous times until finally in June 1919 the amendment received approval from both the House of Representatives and the Senate.  Over the following year the suffragists spent their time lobbying states in order to have the amendment ratified by the required two-thirds of the states.  On August 24th, Tennessee, the final state needed for ratification, narrowly signed the approval by one vote.  The vote belonged to Harry Burn, who heeded the words of his mother when she urged him to vote yes on suffrage.  The U.S. Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby signed the amendment into law on August 26, 1920.

    Fifty years later on August 26th, 1970, Betty Friedan and the National Organization of Women (NOW) organized a nationwide Women’s Strike for Equality.  Women across the political spectrum joined together to demand equal opportunities in employment, education, and twenty-four hour child-care centers.  This was the largest protest for gender equality in U.S. history.  There were demonstrations and rallies in more than ninety major cities and small towns across the country and over 100,000 women participated, including 50,000 who marched down Fifth Avenue in New York City. 

    Several other acts occurred on that day to help the cause and prompt more press coverage on the women’s movement.  For example, women in New York City took over the Statue of Liberty.  In preparation, several women climbed up to measure the wind velocity.  Later they returned to the Statue with two forty-foot banners to hang from the crown.  One read: “March on August 26 for Equality.” The other: “Women of the World Unite.”  An organized group stopped the ticker tape at the American Stock Exchange, and they held signs with slogans like, “We won’t bear any more bull.”  Another action taken during the day was a lawsuit filed against the New York City Board of Education to gain equality for women in educational administration. The case lasted about ten years and finally resulted in a larger increase in female principals. 

    While the strike did not halt the activities of the nation, it drew national attention to the women’s rights movement.  For example, The New York Times published their first major article on the feminist movement by covering the events of the day.  It even included a map of the route the marchers took through New York City. 

    The following year in 1971, Representative Bella Abzug (D-NY) introduced a bill designating August 26th of each year as Women’s Equality Day and the bill passed.  Part of the bill reads that Women’s Equality Day is a symbol of women’s continued fight for equal rights and that the United States commends and supports them.  It decreed that the President is authorized and requested to issue a proclamation annually in commemoration of woman suffrage and the 1970 Strike for Equality. Women today continue to draw on the history of these brave and determined women.

    Joint Resolution of Congress, 1971
    Designating August 26 of each year as Women’s Equality Day

    WHEREAS, the women of the United States have been treated as second-class citizens and have not been entitled the full rights and privileges, public or private, legal or institutional, which are available to male citizens of the United States; and

    WHEREAS, the women of the United States have united to assure that these rights and privileges are available to all citizens equally regardless of sex; and

    WHEREAS, the women of the United States have designated August 26, the anniversary date of the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, as symbol of the continued fight for equal rights: and

    WHEREAS, the women of United States are to be commended and supported in their organizations and activities,

    NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, that August 26th of each year is designated as Women’s Equality Day, and the President is authorized and requested to issue a proclamation annually in commemoration of that day in 1920, on which the women of America were first given the right to vote, and that day in 1970, on which a nationwide demonstration for women’s rights took place.


    Women’s Equality Day 2006 – 2008

    From 2008: 

    Today is Women’s Equality Day!

    The California Commission on the Status of Women joins the Nation in celebrating the 88th Anniversary of Women’s Equality Day. Each year Women’s Equality Day is celebrated on August 26th to commemorate the 1920 passage of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, granting women the right to vote. Congress designated this date in 1971 to honor women’s continuing efforts toward full equality. Spearheading the effort was U.S. Representative Bella Abzug (D-NY).

    Women winning the right to vote was the culmination of a massive, peaceful civil rights movement by women that had its formal beginnings in 1848 at the world’s first women’s rights convention, in Seneca Falls, New York. In addition to celebrating the voting rights of American women, Women’s Equality Day also symbolizes the continued fight for equality, justice, peace, and development for women from various nationalities, ethnicities, cultures, religions, economic and political backgrounds.

    The Commission on the Status of Women encourages you to celebrate and reaffirm women’s right to vote –
    and honor the heroic suffrage movement that won that right for all women –  
    by voting  in November!

    If you are not registered to vote – visit the Secretary of State’s office at and register today!

    Party Celebrate Women’s Equality Day, on August 26 every year! (wearGirlpurple- the traditional and contemporary color that represents women empowerment!) 

    From 2006 & 2007:

    From, 8/24/07:

    A Brief History of the Suffrage Movement and Women’s Equality Day

    On July 13, 1848, five women met for tea in upstate New York. Having commiserated about the lot of women in American society, they did something brash and wonderful…they sent off a notice to the local newspaper announcing “a convention to discuss the social, civil, and religious conditions and rights of woman” to be held just six days later in Seneca Falls.

    The Women’s Rights Movement was born!

    Perhaps inspired by the sovereignty of Iroquois women, (See Sally Roesch Wagner) convention participants drafted a Declaration of Sentiments which began: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, That all men and women are created equal…” One of the resolutions called for universal women’s suffrage. One hundred women and men from all walks of life signed that Declaration. Only one, nineteen-year-old Charlotte Woodward, lived to see women win the vote.

    On August 26, 1920, after a 72-year struggle, the 19th Amendment to the Constitution of the U.S. was finally ratified, granting women the right to vote nationwide. The actual text:

    Section 1. The right of the citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.

    Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

    In 1971, Congress designated August 26 as Women’s Equality Day, as a reminder of women’s continuing efforts for equality.

    Of course, the struggle for women’s rights didn’t end in 1920. To read more about the women’s movement in contemporary times, I recommend “The Women’s Rights Movement: Where It’s Been, Where It’s At,” a talk by Sonia Pressman Fuentes.

    From, 8/24/07:

    What is Women’s Equality Day?

    At the behest of Rep. Bella Abzug (D-NY), in 1971 the U.S. Congress designated August 26 as “Women’s Equality Day.”

    The date was selected to commemorate the 1920 passage of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, granting women the right to vote. This was the culmination of a massive, peaceful civil rights movement by women that had its formal beginnings in 1848 at the world’s first women’s rights convention, in Seneca Falls, New York.

    The observance of Women’s Equality Day not only commemorates the passage of the 19th Amendment, but also calls attention to women’s continuing efforts toward full equality. Workplaces, libraries, organizations, and public facilities now participate with Women’s Equality Day programs, displays, video showings, or other activities.

    Joint Resolution of Congress, 1971
    Designating August 26 of each year as Women’s Equality Day

    WHEREAS, the women of the United States have been treated as second-class citizens and have not been entitled the full rights and privileges, public or private, legal or institutional, which are available to male citizens of the United States; and

    WHEREAS, the women of the United States have united to assure that these rights and privileges are available to all citizens equally regardless of sex; and

    WHEREAS, the women of the United States have designated August 26, the anniversary date of the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, as symbol of the continued fight for equal rights: and

    WHEREAS, the women of United States are to be commended and supported in their organizations and activities,

    NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, that August 26th of each year is designated as Women’s Equality Day, and the President is authorized and requested to issue a proclamation annually in commemoration of that day in 1920, on which the women of America were first given the right to vote, and that day in 1970, on which a nationwide demonstration for women’s rights took place.

    From Pink Magazine- Aug/Sept 2006:

    Celebrate the right to vote on August 26, the day the 19th Amendment, which gave women this right, passed in 1920.  “Many people are shocked to learn that women were beaten or imprisoned for the right to vote,” says Molly Murphy MacGregor, executive director of the National Women’s History Project.  “It took 72 years to accomplish this.  Since votes for women weren’t proposed until 1848 at the Seneca Falls Woman’s Rights Convention, that’s how long it took to change the hearts and minds of people.”

    4 Ways You Can Celebrate:
    1.  Rent the movie Iron Jawed Angels, the story of suffragists Alice Paul and Lucy Burns, starring Hillary Swank.
    2.  Visit the National Women’s History Project website.
    3.  Register to vote!
    4.  Give out Voting Registration Forms (available at on August 26- Women’s Equality Day.
    5.  From WS blog editor: Contact your U.S. Representatives, and ask them to co-sponsor the Women’s Equality Act, The Paycheck Fairness Act, and The Fair Pay Act.
    –Kathryn Whitbourne
    About Alice Paul
    Alice Paul, who formed the National Women’s Party, relentlessly picketed the White House during WW1, becoming one of the nation’s first key women in politics.  Arrested and placed in solitary confinement, she began a hunger strike and was later taken to the prison hospital, then put in a psychiatric ward and forced-fed.
    Responding to public outcry about the prison abuse of suffragists, President Woodrow Wilson finally announced his support for a suffrage amendment, which became law in the summer of 1920.  Paul later wrote the first draft of the Equal Rights Amendment and continued campaigning for women’s rights.
    –Allison Sparks

, 8/26/07:

    Decades later, we resume the debate on equality

    August 25, 2007

    August 26 is Women’s Equality Day. Most Americans don’t even know what it is, and aside from commemorations by a few female leaders on Capitol Hill, it is hardly noticed. But it marks one of the most important days of the last century for women — the day the final state ratified the 19th Amendment in 1920 — and women were granted the vote.

    That year also marked what suffragists of the time thought would soon be another constitutional milestone, the Equal Rights Amendment. With their newfound franchise, women believed they could convince legislators to put women on equal footing in the Constitution with men (white men from the beginning, black men since passage of the 14th Amendment in 1868). The ERA was penned by Alice Paul, the suffragist jailed for picketing the White House and nearly starved in Occoquan prison outside Washington.

    But it was not to be. Here we are, 87 years later — a lifetime in anyone’s book — and women still haven’t achieved equal constitutional status. First introduced in Congress in 1923, the ERA was not passed and sent to the states for ratification until 1972, with an artificial time limit of only seven years for approval by the states. In that brief time it was ratified by 35 states, but was stopped three states short by millions of corporate dollars backing Phyllis Schlafly’s anti-woman storm troopers, who feared unisex toilets more than they valued freedom from discrimination.

    Most U.S. citizens don’t remember that fight, and many believe the ERA was ratified. The reality is that the legal rights women currently enjoy are not rooted in the Constitution, but in a series of statutes like the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, executive orders like affirmative action, and various rules interpreting laws such as Title IX, guaranteeing equal educational opportunity. Because we don’t have an ERA, depending on their origin, all of these can be revoked in the dead of night by any simple majority of Congress, bureaucrats in a hostile administration, or the president himself.

    George W. Bush and company know this very well. They have been systematically eroding the gains women have made since they took office. They have weakened Title IX through rule changes.

    A major one now allows schools to force girls, but not boys, to prove they are interested in participating in sports before they are given the chance to play, and so-called “separate but equal” single-sex public schools are allowed for the first time since 1972.

    With the appointments of John Roberts and Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court, the assaults on women’s employment rights and legal abortions have begun in earnest. Wasting no time, the Court has already upheld the first federal abortion ban since Roe v. Wade, and severely limited women’s right to sue in cases where they’ve experienced pay discrimination.

    Recently renamed the Women’s Equality Amendment by its chief sponsor, Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), the ERA is the essence of brevity: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” That’s the whole thing. A simple concept that had the blessing of both political parties until the Republicans struck it from their platform in 1980 and the Democrats followed suit in 2004.

    It’s high time the ERA was put back in the center of public debate, and this long election season is the perfect opportunity.

    Office seekers not remembering that right to vote we’re celebrating on the 26th do so at their peril. Women are now the majority of the electorate, and can control any election. Close to 80 percent of the public, both female and male, favor an Equal Rights Amendment. Candidates of both parties for the Congress and the presidency ought to be listening.

    Burk is the director for the Corporate Accountability Project for the National Council of Women’s Organizations in Washington D.C.

    Copyright © 2007, Newport News, Va., Daily Press