Equal Doesn’t Mean Equal Yet: Women’s Equality Day, ERA & The Story of My Life

My friend Carol Jenkins, a board member of the Equal Rights Amendment Coalition was updating me over lunch about the current attempt to get the ERA into the U.S. Constitution.

“This is where I came in,” I said.

ERA-march-300x222The renewed effort, founded in 2014, comes almost a century after suffragist leader Alice Paul drafted the ERA in 1923.  The language is simple : “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State on account of sex.”

Paul, a founder of the National Woman’s Party, was one of the few suffragist leaders who recognized that getting the right to vote in 1920–the reason we celebrate women’s equality day each August 26 – – was not the end of the fight, but merely one necessary, albeit major, victory on the path to full legal and social equality.

Many suffrage leaders declared victory after the passage of the 19th amendment to the Constitution. They went on to other causes, but Paul realized that in a democracy, no political victory is secure without a vibrant movement to keep fighting forward. “It is incredible to me,” she said, “that any woman should consider the fight for full equality won. It has just begun. There is hardly a field, economic or political, in which the natural and accustomed policy is not to ignore women.”

Continue reading “Equal Doesn’t Mean Equal Yet: Women’s Equality Day, ERA & The Story of My Life”

5 Things You Can Do Today for Equal Pay

This was in my Twitter feed today to remind me it’s Equal Pay Day:

I don’t know about you, but I’m sooo tired of hearing that same statistic over and over in the annual communal outcry about the lack of equal pay.

So being a practical activist, I put together these five things you and I can do today to bring about equal pay.

Continue reading “5 Things You Can Do Today for Equal Pay”

Boston Leads the Metropolis Charge to Erase Gender Wage Gap

Boston Women InitiativeEinstein said insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Every year, we hear the same report, that women make 77 cents to men’s dollar. Sometimes 78, but basically, we get the same handwringing commentary and nothing changes. In fact, Catalyst just released its 2013 census reporting that there is still no progress for women as leaders. 

That’s why I was so excited to learn about Boston’s new initiative, designed to do something different to close the wage gap.

According to WNPR’s All Things Considered, “Boston thinks it has a solution. The city is working to be the first in the country to completely erase the gender wage gap. But will it work? That’s our cover story today.”

In April of 2013, Boston Mayor Menino established the Women’s Workforce Council. The council is made up of hard workers across all employment sectors, and their mission is to make Greater Boston the premier place for working women in America by closing the wage gap and removing the visible and invisible barriers to women’s advancement.  Their priority is to come up with new and creative ways of achieving this mission. The NPR story reported on progress to date.

The Women’s Workforce Council has created a compact to which businesses and companies of Boston are asked to pledge to pay their employees equal wages.  It’s a simple enough request.  But since the country seems to be having trouble moving the dial on pay equity, how is it that in Boston the council has already persuaded over 40 businesses to sign their pledge?

Companies that sign the pledge agree to take three concrete steps:

Step 1: Each company is asked to open their books and assess their own wage data.  As Cathy Minehan, Chair of the council, said in her NPR interview, “Sometimes people reject the idea that we have an issue until they actually see their data.”

 
Seattle provides a great example for the importance of this first step.  When Seattle mayor Mike McGinn read the April issued report from the National Partnership for Women and Families, he found that Seattle had the widest gender wage gap out of the 50 largest metropolitan areas in the country. Seeing this information and being able to assess it in front of his own eyes lead him to assemble a task force.  This task force has a four step plan that hopes to launch a Gender Justice Initiative by January 2014. 

 Step 2 of Boston’s plan: Pick three strategies to improve pay equality. The council provides suggestions which include increasing wage transparency, actively recruiting women to executive-level positions, and offering subsidized childcare.

Step 3: Sharing wage data anonymously every two years so the city can measure progress.

Boston Women Initiative2

 The catch, says Minehan, is that none of this is required – it’s all voluntary. Businesses need to find it in their own interest if this initiative is to succeed. So it’s still up to women to advocate for themselves by delivering that message along with the now-ample data to support it.

Mayor Richard Berry of Albuquerque, New Mexico signed a bill in late November that would give a break to contractors working with the city if they would implement equal pay regulations.  A task force headed by women’s rights advocate Martha Burke is currently working to establish new guidelines for combating the wage gap within the city.  While this bill only helps to effect firms bidding with the city in the public sector, the hope is that it will encourage employers in the private sector to pay equal wages as well.

By the end of the year, the Women’s Workforce Council in Boston expects to have 50 companies on board with their initiative. They have one month left to rack up those last 10 companies, and at the rate they’re running, why shouldn’t they succeed? Seattle will soon have an established initiative to move forward with, and hopefully Albuquerque’s first steps will influence positive next steps.

And hopefully these three cities, fronting active change for women’s rights, can influence cities, states, and the national government to not only support change for women, but positively act on making changes for women.

How Women Lead: Not A Hero, Everyone as Hero

 L-R: Lauren Sandground, Rhoda Hassan, Cheryl Swain meet to plan Take The Lead Challenge Feb. 19 launch
L-R: Lauren Sandground, Rhoda Hassan, Cheryl Swain meet to plan Take The Lead Challenge Feb. 19 launch

I recently had the pleasure of meeting Arizona State University student Lauren Sandground at a meeting to plan the Take The Lead Challenge Launch event (happening February 19 at ASU—check it out here and plan to be there live or by livestream). Lauren, a senior, started an organization named Woman as Hero in 2009 after being surprised to encounter gender biases in her own life even today, when young women are told they can do or be anything.

The mission of Woman as Hero is to advocate, enlighten, and inspire both women and men globally and locally to empower girls and women through education and entrepreneurship. They believe it’s everyone’s responsibility to support women in their times of struggle and to help create an environment of unity, respect and dignity.

The hierarchical mindset of top-down, command-and-control single-person leadership has remained largely unchanged since the mid-nineteenth century when organization structures as we know them today were invented by men for men who had women at home doing the housework and minding the children.

This model places impossible pressures on the man—almost always a man–at the top to be THE hero, have all the answers, and take 100% of the responsibility for decisions made. Focus on a single heroic leader stems from the “power over” model of leadership that is no longer functional in our fast moving, complex, brains-not-brawn driven world today.

Indeed, as Gayle Peterson, an associate fellow of Saïd Business School, University of Oxford, and co-director of its Women Transforming Leadership program says, “We don’t need a hero, we just need more women at the top.” 

Key words and phrases that resonate from Woman as Hero’s mission are “both women and men” and “everyone’s responsibility.” This is true whether we are talking about changing the gender and diversity ratios in leadership roles or aiming to improve the quality of organizational leadership overall.

Leadership parity is not easily achieved for many reasons—inertia, co-option, and the resistance of those in power to share it being just a few. Less obvious is the struggle within women ourselves to embrace our “power to” be the leaders of our own lives and in our careers. Changing that paradigm must be fostered by collaboration and deliberate intention.

Woman as Hero observes on its website: “Educating women allows them to help themselves, their families and their communities by giving them the tools to become leaders, otherwise known as the ‘girl effect.’ Their well-being is tied to the well-being of the whole society. It just makes sense!”

But education is only as meaningful as the actions it inspires.

Woman as Hero takes action to inspire broad involvement. Through the hosting of dialogues and film screenings, annual summits, fundraisers, awareness campaigns, and community service projects, Woman as Hero educates to improve the status of girls and women all over the world.

As we digest the remains of our Thanksgiving turkey, there is a lot that we can be thankful for; the progress that women have made since the mid-nineteenth century; the men that have partnered with our movement; and those women who have already made it to the Sweet-C positions of companies and businesses.

But let’s not forget how much more we have to achieve; how much more educating and collaborating must be done before we can sit back and relax with our cranberry sauce. I am thankful for young women like Lauren and all of you heroes and very grateful that they are taking the lead for the next wave of women.

Mothers or Others? Why Choose? How Maternity Leave Policy Crushes Women’s Leadership Parity

parental leave policyJamera Lee Massop was an administrative assistant in New York when she became pregnant. She didn’t think being pregnant would or should impact her job.  However, with no reason other than “your contract says we can terminate you at any time for any reason,” Jamera’s company fired her when she was six months pregnant. Jamera felt sure that the company didn’t want the expense of hiring someone to fill in for her when she was on maternity leave. She knew that if she filed a lawsuit against her company she might win, but she felt she could not take the time or money to fight it at this time in her life. After all, she had no job and therefore no steady income. After her baby was born, with nowhere else to go, Jamera entered the New York City shelter system and had to rely on public welfare programs until she could get back on her feet.

Jamera’s story is just one example of how the lack of a viable maternity/parental leave policy harms both individuals and the economy by wasting human capital.

While Jamera was in an entry level position, the reality is that the percentage of women who were terminated shortly before or after their first pregnancy was at 4.7 percent between 2006 and 2008. That means that approximately 158,000 women were let go due to pregnancy during those years. 21.9 percent of these high potential women in leadership positions or on leadership tracks dropped out when they had children because they couldn’t see a way to fulfill their responsibilities as mothers as well as employees, given the dismal state of leave policies in the U.S.

Let’s face it: the structure of most organizations was designed by and for men who had women at home doing the domestic work.

Today women with paying jobs outside of the home make up half the work force. Many companies and organizations have happily welcomed women.  However, our society as a whole has failed to adapt the workplace so that women’s unique needs and those of the changing family structure can be met.

Young children bring a particular dynamic to a family in which two parents work regular jobs.  Children require attention and care, especially in their first few months and years.  If this is a nation that cares about the wellbeing of its next generation, maternity or better yet parental leave policy must be a matter of public concern.

If you think such leave policies are unrealistic, check this out: According to the Paid Parental LeaveInternational Labor Organization (ILO), 169 countries out of the worlds rough 196 guarantee some amount of paid parental leave to employees. For example, Denmark, the United Kingdom, Albania, and Croatia are among the 31 countries whose government run insurance programs provide a year or more of 100% paid, job-guaranteed, maternity or parental leave.

Along with Papua New Guinea, Swaziland, and Liberia, the United States is one of the few countries in the world whose government does not mandate any amount of paid maternity leave.

In 1993 the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) which guarantees 12 weeks of job-guaranteed unpaid leave only to employees at companies with more than 50 employees became U.S. law.  Some states have passed their own more expansive requirements under the FMLA.  Of course, leave policy can be expanded further within the private sector if the organizations so choose.  But in 2011 only 21% of companies that are members of the Society for Human Resources Management offered family leave above the minimum required federal FMLA leave.

The United States makes much ado of defining itself as a forward thinking nation.  Yet it is absurd the way our public policy and work places treat parents, and by association, their children. If the United States believes in family values and cares about its children, it must change how the work force supports new mothers and fathers too.

Providing job-guaranteed paid leave would be far more cost effective than losing employees that companies have already invested time and training into. Companies need women’s talents, and a company that enables families to take care of their children will find themselves with much more loyal employees.  We need not choose between mothers and others.

Women and men who agree with the value of these policy changes can’t afford to wait until they need parental leave to influence their companies or organizations.  We have the assets to create smarter, healthier policies that will shift the work place to be a more family friendly space for the good of all. We must take the lead, and we can do this together.

You can start by taking a look at the New York City Equal Pay Coalition’s petition to end pregnancy discrimination and secure stronger laws for women’s equality. And then send us your thoughts on other initiatives that you support or think we all should.

Adventures of Gloria Feldt, Co-founder and President Take The Lead

gloria-talkingAfi Ofori of Zars Media invited me to write about my career journey (originally published here) and kindly let me repost it here for you.

“Women are leaders everywhere you look, from a CEO to a house wife that holds together a home. Our country was built by women who stand alone.” (Denise Clark)

Hi everyone, I’m Gloria Feldt, co-founder and president of Take The Lead, a new nonprofit organization whose mission is to prepare, develop, inspire and propel women to take their fair and equal share of leadership positions across all sectors by 2025. I’m also an author and public speaker, and former president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

I got into this role out of my passion for equality for all, and in particular for women to get a fair shake. That passion has taken several forms. Take The Lead is the most recent incarnation. It began in 2008, when I discovered while researching an article on women in politics for Elle Magazine that the barriers to women in leadership — whether in the workplace, in civic life and politics, or in personal life — now have as much to do with our own ambivalence toward power as with external barriers.

I know from my own life that this can be a painful issue, so I wanted to inspire, not blame women, and to give them practical tools and tips to help them on their journey forward. You see, I was a teen mom, married my high school sweetheart and had three children by just after my 20th birthday. Climbing out of that situation where I had no education or employable skills took some doing. So I got started in the workplace later than most young women today, and I had to compensate for that by working hard and taking on lots of responsibility.

But they say you write the book you need to read, and confronting my own power demons as I explored women’s lack of leadership progress became my latest of four books, No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. Then people started asking me to teach and conduct workshops to share the practical tips and leadership “power tools” I created to help women deal with difficult issues such as conflict, chaos and controversy that might be holding them back. When I realized that I could never reach enough people with my message in small groups, I joined with a colleague, former investment banker Amy Litzenberger, to start this new initiative.

I am absolutely certain this is the moment for women to Take The Lead! And I am excited beyond words to be launching our first fully online women’s leadership certificate course starting October 2. Anyone can take this 6-week course to uptick her career and embrace her power in fulfilling ways, creating a personal action plan proven to take her to her goal.

I feel like the goddess with 18 hands right now. I am the CEO, the spokesperson, the curriculum designer, the marketer, the social media manager, the fundraiser, you name it. We are a start up nonprofit but we think like an entrepreneurial start up, always looking for strategic alliances and partnerships that can benefit both parties.

As for my work routine……..Can you hear me laughing? Every day is different. But generally I keep mornings (after I exercise — for me this is a requirement to keep my energy high and also I am vain J) open for the most important tasks, whether phoning a potential funder, writing a workshop proposal, catching up my cofounder and board chair, or talking with the few staff and many interns and volunteers we are blessed to have. I work from my home office. I spend about half an hour on social media most mornings, and try not to do more because I am a bit of an addict. I try to take face to face meetings either at afternoon tea time or have walking meetings, both of which I find delightful. Working at home, I have too few boundaries — for example, I am writing this at night on a holiday.

Though I attribute much of my success to the willingness to say “yes” when offered a new opportunity, I do wish I had been more intentional about where I wanted to be and how I wanted to make my mark.  Who knows, I might be president of a large company I started now, or maybe governor of a state.

Do I have any regrets or careers I would have liked to explore? One can never go backward, only forward. And as Diana Nyad has shown, it is never too late to do something you want to do! Now the biggest obstacle is that many people identify me still with Planned Parenthood since it was such a high public profile position, rather than recognizing that I have always been about the big picture of women’s equality and leadership. But that’s not a bad place to be, is it?

How would I rate my success in my current role? You’ll have to ask me that in five years when Take The Lead is thriving — or not! I am very good at setting a vision and goals. I do not love managing the many moving parts of daily tasks that must be done to make the vision happen.

Is there a secret to success…… J. Paul Getty used to answer this question by saying, “Get up early, work hard, find oil.” I haven’t found oil yet, so I rely on getting up early and working hard.

I think the concept of balance borders on absurd. Let’s face it, Life is a series of choices. Every day you have do decide what that 24 hours is going to mean.  So I don’t look for balance so much as asking am I getting my exercise so I feel good physically, have I talked with my kids, and did I have fun in my work. If it’s not fun, stop and go do something else.

Here’s what’s so exciting today: Women are transforming the power paradigm. I have a concept I call “Sister Courage.”  It has three parts:

  1. Be a sister. Reach out to another woman to offer help. Ask for help when you need it. Don’t let yourself be isolated or try to solve all problems by yourself.
  2. Have the courage to raise the issues that concern you. Do you think there is a better way to solve a problem or design a product? Do you want to negotiate flex time so you can see your children more?
  3. Put the two together with a strategic plan to lead to the change you want to see in your workplace.

That’s Sister Courage. And with it, you can change your workplace, your life, your world.

I am inspired to do my work because it is a big, bold vision to change the world for the better. I think we all need to be inspired to do something bigger than ourselves. The time is right for women to reach leadership parity much faster than the 70-year trajectory we have been on. Besides, I get calls and letters like one from Valerie, who took my workshop. A year later called to tell me she had achieved the goal she set for herself using the power tools I taught her — she had just been promoted to vice president.  And there was the young woman who asked for and got $10,000 more in salary than she was initially offered after she read my book. That’s the real payoff — to know I have helped an individual person.

For young people thinking of entering this field, I say, if it is your passion, go for it. But don’t let yourself get lost in a cause — have a plan and a vision of where you want to be in five or ten years.

All things are possible, so go big, and know your worth when you do. Network purposefully, for the world turns on human connections.  Take risks because you can always “unchoose” a path taken, especially when you are young. And in the end, honesty and courage are the most important values, so be true to your own integrity even if it means leaving behind something you thought you wanted.

I want to leave a legacy where women will take their fair and equal share of leadership positions across all sectors by 2025.

And now as my story draws to a close, I would like to leave you with one of my favorite quotes. I collect quotes. I have hundreds of them so choosing just one is hard. However, here’s one I recently learned by the late Muriel Siebert, the first woman to buy a seat on the NY Stock exchange: “If you can’t play with the big boys, start your own game.”

If you’d like to get more of my favorite inspirational quotes, learn my Leadership Power Tools and how to use them to advance your career, I invite you to join up for my online certificate course.

Women’s Equality Day and the Civil Rights March

It was all over the news for days. Every pundit, every political talk show, every newspaper march-on-washington-widerunning big retrospective spreads. Op eds galore, and reminiscences of what it was like to march together toward equality.

Today, August 26 is Women’s Equality Day, the day that commemorates passage of the 19th amendment to the US constitution, giving women the right to vote after a struggle that lasted over 70 years. A big deal, right?

Right. But that’s not what all the news was about. In fact, though President Obama issued a proclamation and a few columnists like the New York Times’ Gail Collins gave it a nod, hardly anyone is talking about Women’s Equality Day. At least not in consciousness-saturating ways that garner major media’s attention, as Saturday’s March on Washington commemorating the 50th anniversary of a similar Civil Rights march.

Yet the two anniversaries are rooted in common values about equality and justice for all. They share common adversaries and aspirations. Racism and sexism are joined at the head.

And as League of Women Voters president Elisabeth MacNamara’s article in the Huffington Post explains, both movements today share the challenge of maintaining the right to vote, earned with such toil and tears and even bloodshed.

Like many people who participated in the 1960′s Civil Rights Movement, I celebrate how far America has moved toward racial justice in the last 50 ‘years. I am grateful to the Civil Rights movement for calling our nation not just to fulfill its moral promise to African-Americans, but by its example of courage and activism inspiring the second wave women’s movement, the gay rights movement, and so much more.

I remember having an epiphany while volunteering for a multi-racial civil rights organization called the Panel of American Women, that if there were civil rights, then women must have them too. That awareness ignited my passion for women’s equality which has driven my career ever since.

But just as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s galvanizing “I Have a Dream” speech thundered, “Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood,” (emphasis mine) and sisters were not mentioned, women have yet to rise to full equality when it comes to honoring women’s historical accomplishments and current voices.

And just as the commemorative March on Washington was a necessary reminder of how far we have yet to go to reach the full vision of the Civil Rights movement, so Women’s Equality Day is best celebrated by committing ourselves to breaking through the remaining barriers to full leadership parity for women.

Check out Take The Lead‘s two posts on The Movement blog calling attention to the auspicious anniversary.

The first is Susan Weiss Gross’s delightful personal story–the tractor being a perfect metaphor — of how she overcame her internal barriers to equality. The second comes from author and Ms Magazine founding editor Susan Braun Levine. Suzanne will be writing about “Empowerment Entrepreneurs” and how empowering each other is the latest development in women’s equality.

Read, enjoy, and then get to work along with Take The Lead, which I co-founded along Amy Litzenberger early this year,  in our 21st century movement to prepare, develop, inspire, and propel women to take their air and equal share of leadership positions across all sectors by 2025.

As the March on Washington twitter hashtag exhorted us to do, “#MarchOn!”

The Young Politica: Why the Paycheck Fairness Act Will Narrow the Wage Gap

Last week, Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) introduced the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would allow employees to discuss their salary information without the fear of companies pursuing legal action against them.mikulkski

The bill is on its third try. In a 2010 senate vote, the bill failed to get any Republican support, even by the female Republican Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-TX) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME), who all voted for the Lilly Ledbetter Act.

According to Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), the Fair Pay Act will:

• Amend the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to prohibit discrimination in the payment of wages on the basis of sex, race or national origin;

• Require employers to give equal pay for jobs that are comparable in skill, effort, responsibility and working conditions;

• Prohibit companies from reducing other employees’ wages to achieve pay equity;

• Require public disclosure of employer job categories and pay scales, without requiring specific information on individual employees; and

• Allow payment of different wages under a seniority system, merit system, or system that measures earnings by quantity or quality of production.

The bill makes perfect sense—give all female workers a chance to see what their equal male counterparts are earning, and see if it matches up without getting sued by employers. In an economy where women earn some 33% less than males, why wouldn’t politicians see this as a good measure for ensuring equal rights?

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Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA)  summed it up best back in June 2012:

“Where are these women supposed to go? What are they supposed to do? Have an appointment with their congressman? Show the congressman their paycheck?”

The split seems to stem from complications that might affect employers. Crisitina Hoff Sommers, author of “Who Stole Feminism?: How Women Have Betrayed Women,” cites market forces as the difference in pay for similar jobs—like a business school professor (a male-dominated field) vs. a social work professor (a female-dominated field). Sommers argues that the gender theory behind the bill sees the higher wages as part of society’s sexist attitudes. “Under the bill, it’s not enough for an employer to guard against intentional discrimination,” Sommers said. “It also has to police potentially discriminatory assumptions behind market-driven wage disparities that have nothing to do with sexism. ”

Political opponents of the bill said that it could bring excessive litigation of the small business community. However, this excess litigation seems like a poor excuse on behalf of the Republican party.

Even if it were true, it seems like litigation is a small price to pay for a large boost in the economy and large boost for most middle-class Americans. Sommers’ argument presents me with a question: how do we value work today and is that how we should be valuing work when fighting for equal rights among both genders? Is it any surprise that we monetarily value a maid, a female-dominated work position, less than we value a janitor, a male-dominated work position, despite the fact that they both have similar jobs?

This bill is not radical legislation. It should not even be a topic of controversy among opposing parties. It helps facilitate equal rights among Americans. Who could possibly be against that?

 

 

The Young Politica: The Growing Debate On Unpaid Internships

Internships are awesome. They look great on a résumé and they help you hone your craft with real-world experience. As a journalism student, I’ve heard the same advice many times: “Do as many internships as you can.” So I have done internships, both paid and unpaid, for the sake of gaining some experience while I’m still in school.intern

Within my school and other universities across the nation, it seems like full-time, unpaid internships are a common practice. For many, these unpaid internships are taken at the cost of relocating away from school (e.g. taking a summer internship in NYC) and/or paying for extra school credit. See, that’s a loophole, folks. As long as it is labeled as ‘educational’, an employer does not have to pay its intern. In reality, paying interns is not about thriving, really; it’s about surviving. Many times, a student is not even reimbursed for housing, food, or transportation.

But there’s a group going against the current, telling students to resist unpaid work. #PayGenY, an initiative sponsored by She Negotiates Consulting and Training, argues that most unpaid internships are illegal.

“We have a very simple lesson: influence for-profit employers, university and professional schools to pay interns,” Victoria Pynchon, co-founder of She Negotiates, said.

The group is starting locally by asking universities in California to stop posting internship announcements for for-profit businesses and even some non-profits, if they don’t provide a living wage to students.

Today’s unpaid interns are working jobs that would have paid others at entry level. Sometimes their work, Pynchon noted, is “mostly clerical.” By replacing these often routine but necessary jobs with unpaid interns, companies are eliminating an entire workforce. Not to mention, using interns for clerical work in this way often violates the Fair Labor Standards Act.

As per usual, women and low-income students get the short end of the stick: “Women are trying to pay off their debts 20-30% longer and they’re getting paid less than their male counterparts,” Pynchon added.

And those students whose parents earn less than the rest of their peers? Many of them cannot afford to pay for extra school credits, let alone work for free. Thus, there is a cycle perpetuated by these corporations, which limits students who come from difficult financial circumstances. Some companies offering unpaid internships acknowledge the gap between low-income and high-income interns (like opportunities for interns in the New Corporation Diversity Program, which I was a part of), which is a step in #PayGenY’s direction.

However, there’s still something off about the bigger picture and many former interns are catching on. Recent lawsuits against Hearst, Harper’s Bazaar, and Fox Searchlight suggest that perhaps for-profit employers may be exploiting the rights of these students, who often work what could be considered a full-time job for free—while still attending to school.

The struggles of unpaid interns have even hit the mainstream. Take, for example, the discussion sparked by the HBO show Girls. At the start of season one, my fictitious kindred spirit, Hannah, attempts to negotiate a paid job from her unpaid internship at a publisher, where she has worked for two years. She is promptly fired.

“It’s a question of consciousness-raising…[for these] widespread scoff laws,” Pynchon said.

It was not until Victoria Pynchon paid a visit to Chelsea Akin’s class that Akin first heard someone say that students should not take unpaid internships.

Akin, who works with #PayGenY, chimed in over the phone: “I thought unpaid internships were the norm.”

The movement is not just supported by Generation Y. Pynchon is a veteran lawyer who has spearheaded #PayGenY’s plan. “My education cost me next to nothing. [Yet even then] I couldn’t take free work…no one has ever told [Generation Y] not to work for free,” Pynchon concluded. “We are not being responsible to the upcoming generation.”

 

 

Three Reasons to Sing Happy Birthday to Alice Paul Today

alicepaul

“I never doubted that equal rights was the right direction. Most reforms, most problems are complicated. But to me there is nothing complicated about ordinary equality.” – Alice Paul, suffragist and author of the still-not-ratified Equal Rights Amendment.

Alice Paul had a singular mission, from which she never strayed: women’s full and unequivocal equality.

Today, on what would be her 128th birthday, I sing her praises and birthday wishes for at least three reasons.

First, She lived her principles—“wore the shirt” as in Power Tool #6. Interestingly, though today most of the opposition to women’s equality comes from the fundamentalist denominations of many major religions, Paul credits her religious upbringing for her deep convictions about the righteousness of women’s suffrage and women’s equality in general. As her biography on the Alice Paul Institute’s website says:

Raised in an area founded by her Quaker ancestors, Alice and her family remained devoted observers of the faith… As Paul noted years later, “When the Quakers were founded…one of their principles was and is equality of the sexes. So I never had any other idea…the principle was always there….

This upbringing undoubtedly accounts for the many Quaker suffragists including Susan B. Anthony and Lucretia Mott, both whom Paul admired and considered role-models. Alice’s faith not only established the foundation for her belief in equality but also provided a rich legacy of activism and service to country.

Second, Alice Paul was a crackerjack organizer.  While the trajectory toward greater liberties for women perhaps seemed inevitable by the early part of the 20th century, Paul knew that real systemic change comes when courageous people, willing to embrace controversy and confront injustice, organize to make it happen.

While a student at the University of Pennsylvania, she joined the National American Women’s Suffrage Association (NAWSA). She was quickly appointed as head of the Congressional Committee in charge of working for a federal suffrage amendment, a secondary goal to the NAWSA leadership. In 1912, Alice Paul and two friends, Lucy Burns and Crystal Eastman, headed to Washington, D.C. to organize for suffrage.

With little funding but in true Pankhurst style, Paul and Burns organized a publicity event to gain maximum national attention; an elaborate and massive parade by women to march up Pennsylvania Avenue and coincide with Woodrow Wilson’s presidential inauguration. The parade began on March 3, 1913, with the beautiful lawyer, activist, and socialite Inez Milholland, leading the procession, dressed in Greek robes and astride a white horse.

The scene turned ugly, however, when scores of male onlookers attacked the suffragists, first with insults and obscenities, and then with physical violence, while the police stood by and watched.

The following day, Alice’s group of suffragists made headlines across the nation and suffrage became a popular topic of discussion among politicians and the general public alike.

And third, Paul knew that even when victory is won, a viable movement must continue to be proactive, with fresh initiatives to keep expanding the progressive agenda that had propelled the suffrage movement in its early days but that had all but been lost once the 19th Amendment to the U.S. constitution giving women the right to vote was ratified in 1920.

So she wrote the original ERA, introduced in Congress in 1923 as the next step she thought the women’s equality movement should take.

Paul also started the National Women’s Party, believing that without a political organization’s clout, women’s concerns would never be taken seriously by politicians. Paul was also one of the few women’s suffrage leaders who realized that getting the right to vote was necessary but not sufficient to enable women to be equal partners in society.

“When you put your hand to the plow,” Paul said, “you can’t put it down until you get to the end of the row

Forty years ago the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) finally passed out of the U. S. Congress and was sent to the states to be ratified

And we are not at the end of the row yet.

This constitutional amendment that would–IF it had been ratified by 3/4 of the states by its ten-year deadline in 1982– have ensured equal rights could not be denied on the basis of gender is back on the front burner, thanks to Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin’s introduction of a resolution on March 8th (International Women’s Day), 2012, but it has not yet been passed. Baldwin’s resolution would have eliminated the time limit for the ERA to be voted on by state legislatures. And only three 3 more states are needed to finish the job.

Alica-Paul-March

Though Paul’s dream of an ERA didn’t pass in her lifetime–she died in 1977–and might not pass in mine, her courageous leadership to initiate this drive for full legal equality for women did foment many advances in employment via Title VII of the Civil rights Act, sports and educational opportunities via Title IX, more women running for political office, and so much more. Could Paul have envisioned Hillary Clinton’s race for president? Or that we have now had three female secretaries of state in a row?

Alice Paul’s life illustrates brilliantly that one person taking action can make an enormous difference. Her leadership legacy lives on, vibrant and bearing witness to the significance of her life. It should inspire others who struggle for social justice to risk taking the leadership for what they believe.

So let’s sing together: Happy birthday to you, dear Alice Paul, and thank you for your vision, courage, and persistence for women’s equality.