Re:Gender works to end gender inequity and discrimination against girls and women by exposing root causes and advancing research-informed action. Working with multiple sectors and disciplines, we are shaping a world that demands fairness across difference.
FastCompany profiles high-achieving women from the world's largest companies, innovative startups, philanthropic organizations, government, and the arts combined forces to change the lives of girls and women everywhere.
The debate over this proposed legislation reveals serious flaws in reasoning about the impact of public efforts to promote fair pay. Recent academic research suggests that many women are underpaid for the same reason that many chief executives may be overpaid — because the labor market doesn’t work according to the standard textbook model based on impersonal forces of supply and demand.
The Paycheck Fairness Act would have required employers to give a “business” reason for paying men and women different wages for equal work. It would also have prohibited retaliation against employees who revealed wage information.
Criticisms of the proposed legislation took several forms. A common claim was that it would do more harm than good, because pay discrimination is not the most important cause of gender disparities. Conservatives are not the only ones who insist that women are paid less primarily because they choose to devote more time to family responsibilities than men do. The New York Times columnist Eduardo Porter recently articulated a similar argument.
But pay discrimination and choices to take time out of paid employment are complementary rather than competing explanations of gender differences in pay. Women who are paid less — or who anticipate fewer opportunities for promotion — than their male counterparts are more likely to drop out of paid employment. Their choices represent, in part, a response to discrimination.
If a woman does drop out for a while, an employer who pays her less is off the hook. Case law shows that a lower level of experience on the job is typically considered a bona fide “business” reason for paying someone less. In herdiscerning analysis of the impact of the Equal Pay Act passed in 1963, a University of Maryland law professor, Deborah Thompson Eisenberg, points out that the Paycheck Fairness Act would have simply codified majority interpretations of that law.
EIGHTEEN MONTHS INTO my job as the first woman director of policy planning at the State Department, a foreign-policy dream job that traces its origins back to George Kennan, I found myself in New York, at the United Nations’ annual assemblage of every foreign minister and head of state in the world. On a Wednesday evening, President and Mrs. Obama hosted a glamorous reception at the American Museum of Natural History. I sipped champagne, greeted foreign dignitaries, and mingled. But I could not stop thinking about my 14-year-old son, who had started eighth grade three weeks earlier and was already resuming what had become his pattern of skipping homework, disrupting classes, failing math, and tuning out any adult who tried to reach him. Over the summer, we had barely spoken to each other—or, more accurately, he had barely spoken to me. And the previous spring I had received several urgent phone calls—invariably on the day of an important meeting—that required me to take the first train from Washington, D.C., where I worked, back to Princeton, New Jersey, where he lived. My husband, who has always done everything possible to support my career, took care of him and his 12-year-old brother during the week; outside of those midweek emergencies, I came home only on weekends.
As the evening wore on, I ran into a colleague who held a senior position in the White House. She has two sons exactly my sons’ ages, but she had chosen to move them from California to D.C. when she got her job, which meant her husband commuted back to California regularly. I told her how difficult I was finding it to be away from my son when he clearly needed me. Then I said, “When this is over, I’m going to write an op-ed titled ‘Women Can’t Have It All.’”
She was horrified. “You can’t write that,” she said. “You, of all people.” What she meant was that such a statement, coming from a high-profile career woman—a role model—would be a terrible signal to younger generations of women. By the end of the evening, she had talked me out of it, but for the remainder of my stint in Washington, I was increasingly aware that the feminist beliefs on which I had built my entire career were shifting under my feet. I had always assumed that if I could get a foreign-policy job in the State Department or the White House while my party was in power, I would stay the course as long as I had the opportunity to do work I loved. But in January 2011, when my two-year public-service leave from Princeton University was up, I hurried home as fast as I could.
"We’d love to have a gender lens, but we’d have nothing to invest in.” I rocked back on my heels, absorbing this statement from the head of the Africa division of a large social investment fund.
Yet he is not alone. Two years ago, when I first talked with the head of a domestic fund investing in women entrepreneurs, she said, “Jackie I don’t have a gender lens.” Her concern was that a “gender lens” made her appear soft, not return-focused.
For the last two years, I’ve led Women Effect Investments, a field building initiative for gender lens investing. In the process I’ve discovered multiple challenges talking about gender in the investment world. It surfaces concerns about quotas and quality, culture and stereotypes. It is seen as soft, unnecessarily feminist, or limiting. I see a huge opportunity in transcending these concerns. Given women’s centrality worldwide to economic development, health, education, and a strong civil society, investing with a gender lens illuminates opportunities and highlights risks. Take, for instance, the need for electricity in maternity clinics or the challenges that emerge when loan officers are all men. If more investment vehicles employed a gender lens, we could accelerate change for everyone.
To clarify what I by lens—I mean the point(s) of view by which we can analyze investments. There are at least three different lenses that highlight investment opportunities, and they can and often do overlap.
From being treated as a quiet, supportive half of society, women who want to start a business in India now find the country to provide one of the most fertile environments based on indicators such as business confidence, motivation, financing options and other sources of support.
The finding is part of Dell Women's Global Entrepreneurship Study conducted across 450 women entrepreneurs from US, UK and India commissioned by Dell.
It reveals that 71 per cent of woman entrepreneurs in India have a branding in market for their businesses and eight in every 10 woman entrepreneurs are hiring which indicates an expansion spree in their individual businesses as well as increase in employment opportunities too.
"When I started my business I didn't even know how to write a business proposal for getting a loan sanctioned. But I was born to be a businesswoman and hence I could reach this stage without looking back," says Rita Singh, MESCO Steel Group who has been awarded the "Best Woman Entrepreneur of the decade" by FICCI.
Another entrepreneur Ishita Swarup, who owns a shopping portal 99 labels says, "Women have become more experimental and are slowly shedding their inhibitions of taking risk. I frequently meet women who want to start something of their own but are afraid of taking the plunge and always advise them to just make a plan and hit the market. Over thinking should be kept for handling crisis if there are any."
A state lawmaker who says she was barred from speaking in the Michigan House because Republicans objected to her saying "vagina" during debate over anti-abortion legislation performed "The Vagina Monologues" on the Statehouse steps — with a hand from the author.
Eve Ensler, whose groundbreaking play about women's sexuality still packs theaters 16 years after it debuted, oversaw Monday night's performance by Democratic state Rep. Lisa Brown, 10 other lawmakers and several actresses.
Capitol facilities director Steve Benkovsky estimated about 2,500 spectators — women and men — watched the play in downtown Lansing from lawn chairs and blankets. Billed on Facebook as the "Vaginas Take Back the Capitol!" event, the combination play and protest included political signs and chants of "Vagina! Vagina!"
Ensler, who flew in from California, where she's overseeing production of her new play, said she was thrilled to be involved and likened the punishment meted out by the Republican leadership of the state House to "the Dark Ages."
"If we ever knew deep in our hearts that the issue about abortion ... was not really about fetuses and babies, but really men's terror of women's sexuality and power, I think it's fully evidenced here," Ensler told The Associated Press by phone Monday before arriving in Lansing.
"We're talking about the silencing of women, we're talking about censoring people for saying a body part," she said. "Half of these people who are trying to regulate vaginas, they can't even say the word."
Brown made her comments during debate last week on legislation that supporters say would make abortions safer but that opponents say would make it much harder for women to get abortions. While speaking against a bill that would require doctors to ensure abortion-seekers haven't been coerced into ending their pregnancies, Brown told Republicans, "I'm flattered you're all so concerned about my vagina. But no means no."
Brown was barred from speaking in the House during the next day's session. House Republicans say they didn't object to her saying "vagina." They said Brown compared the legislation to rape, violating House decorum. She denies the allegation.
The military is falling short in providing equal health care for women on the battlefield even as public pressure grows to allow them a broader role in combat, an Army task force led by female officers concluded.
"The health issues and uniform issues are areas that if we are going to be expanding the role of women (in combat), or even maintaining the current role, we need to do a better job at, so that women are equally served," says Army Col. Anne Naclerio, a pediatrician who leads the task force.
None of the health problems outlined in the report would bar women from serving in combat but instead create unnecessary physical discomfort, Naclerio says. The Army treated about 450 women for urinary tract infections in Afghanistan last year, according service data.
Basic improvements are needed to help women avoid higher rates of urinary tract or vaginal infections, stress-related menstrual difficulties and the chafing, bruising and bleeding caused by ill-fitting body armor designed for men, the task force's report says.
Since reporting to their boats in November, 25 women who broke one of the Navy's final gender barriers have gone on patrol and been accepted among their crews.
"The men adjusted to us being there, and we adjusted to them," said Lt. j.g. Megan Bittner of the USS Ohio gold crew. "It was quick. There were no big problems. No stumbling blocks along the way. It was just learning as a junior officer how you fit on the boat."
Female Bosses. They’re a type, aren’t they? At least that’s what dueling research findings seem to suggest. You either get the ones who hang with their sisters at some women’s conference and then offload a project to run home to their kids, or some alpha female whose stiletto seems aimed at kicking you back down the career ladder. If they work in a male-dominated industry, they benefit from more slack than guys when it comes to making mistakes, according to research by Christian Thoroughgood of Pennsylvania State University. Linguistics expert Judith Baxter has found they’re not even funny: More than 80 percent of quips from senior women were met with silence in her research, while 90 percent of the men’s jokes got an immediate laugh.
And working for a female boss if you’re a woman? Don’t get the experts started. Women with female bosses report more headaches and anxiety than those who report to men, a University of Toronto study found. German researchers found they suffer higher levels of depression. Maybe that’s because female bosses direct their hostility toward other women more than 70 percent of the time, according to the Workplace Bullying Institute, while men are more inclined to make everyone feel miserable. Then again, consultants Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman surveyed 7,280 leaders last year and found women notably better at mentoring, motivating, and driving for results (PDF). Put them in charge, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has found, and other women in the company end up making more money.
Now comes a June 12 study from Catalyst, a nonprofit group that focuses on expanding opportunities for women in business. As part of its ongoing study of 742 MBA grads, it found that women are not only better than men at helping others—women and men—move up the ladder, but those who sponsored others or developed others earned an additional $25,075 in compensation from 2008 to 2010. Moreover, 73 percent of those mentors are especially inclined to help women, while only 30 percent of the men were.