The Sum Volume #5: Move

“The first responsibility of leadership is the creation of meaning.”—Warren Bennis.

Welcome to the Sum, where I share my take on the meaning of sum of the week’s parts. I want your voice too. Leave comments here or @GloriaFeldt.

The word of the week is MOVE.

As in a movement has to move to be successful. (Grab your iced tea or mint julep—this Sum will be longer than usual.)

From Suffrage to Full Equality: What’s Next for Women’s Rights?

Barbara Williams, Executive Director,
NY State Women’s Suffrage Commission

Have you seen the new Wonder Woman movie? If so, you probably noticed the reference to suffragists. William Moulton Marston, Wonder Woman’s creator, was inspired by the suffragists.  So on this weekend leading up to the long July 4th weekend celebrating all that America aspires to be, let’s raise our glasses to celebrate the women who fought for our being part of that vision.

Continue reading “The Sum Volume #5: Move”


Gloria Feldt is the author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. Buy the book here. Engage Gloria for a Speech or Workshop. Tweet @GloriaFeldt and connect on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ Gloria is the co-founder (with Amy Litzenberger) of Take the Lead, a new initiative to prepare and propel women to leadership parity by 2025. Find them @takeleadwomen and on Facebook.

“Born Leader” Betsy Rafael Is GoDaddy’s First Female Board Member

Betsy RafaelWhen GM’s new, and first female, CEO Mary Barra moved quickly and publicly to recall cars with the company’s potentially lethal ignition switch problems her predecessors had known but failed to address for a decade, you could feel the fresh air.

It would be foolhardy to say her gender made her act in this ethical manner, or to assume a man would not. Still, you can’t help but notice that Barra straight-up owned the problem in a way startlingly distant from the public relations posturing typical of Fortune 500’s protecting their fortunes.

This happened shortly after I’d interviewed GoDaddy’s first female board member, Betsy Rafael as a follow to my post on Blake Irving last week. I’d had that same airy feeling when I talked with her.

What was your life and career path?
My dad was a human resources executive; my mother owned an advertising agency. Dad told me I might as well focus on a degree that’s practical, where you can get a job, like engineering for accounting.

I got excited about technology in my first job with Ernst & Young. Apple had been a client, then I went to work there. I developed expertise in bringing organizations to scale. I’m a good coach and mentor. All along, I used my background in finance and the numbers of business. I’m goal oriented and liked being closer to the action than auditing the numbers.

You sound very intentional about what your career choices…
I didn’t have a long-term goal of being CFO. Careers are journeys in how you get from place to place. The core is I was a natural leader, a natural delegator, good at communicating and getting people to move in a direction. I keep teams connected. Everything you do as a leader is about connecting with people.

I’ve talked and worked with many women leaders and you are the first who ever said, “I’m a natural-born leader.” Tell me more.
Not only did I feel I was a natural leader, I also invested in my own leadership. You have to invest in yourself. I read every leadership book early on—I wanted to be better, to develop, to grow. To know how do you work through obstacles.

Was any training was particularly helpful to you?
There’s no silver bullet, but every quarter I did an offsite with extended leadership team with outside experts. Even if we only learn one thing each time, we get better. The key is knowing yourself which sometimes executives don’t do, your strengths and weaknesses. And you have to be your own advocate.

You also serve on the boards of Echelon and Autodesk. Why did you join the GoDaddy board?
It’s one of those special companies with a unique global built platform. It has the power of an established company with the energy of a start-up. I was drawn to help them scale.

Only 17% of Fortune 500 boards are female and in Silicon Valley that number hovers at 10%. Why do you think, or do you think getting more women on boards is a good idea?
Yes  —  I do, actually. I’ve always been a believer in my responsibility to help other women. Women always want to be so pure and say we just want the best person, whereas the men help each other. You show the value of diversity when women get onto the board.

What’s your advice to women interested in serving on boards?
I was fortunate that after 2002 when Sarbanes- Oxley came into effect, it put requirements on boards to have people who are qualified, especially in finance. Coming from a background in finance made me stand out as someone who had the experience to be in that capacity. The first thing to understand is your value proposition: finance, legal, securing funding, for example. At the end of the day, they’re looking for people who are experts in their field.

The second piece of advice is to have a network and to understand the people who are going to be making decisions about who joins the board. Are there ways you can get experience relevant to board service without being on a board? Are there ways to enhance your viability as a board member?

What do you do when you’re not working?
I’d like to think I’m a golfer. My husband and I play golf, and we have two dogs that are spoiled rotten. We have 3 out of 4 parents who need some assistance. I serve on the board of trustees of Santa Clara University where I went to school.

Postscript:The press release announcing Rafael’s appointment plays the gender card. But Rafael isn’t just varnish for the company’s image. She sounds solid, matter of fact, well grounded. When she says she’s a natural leader you don’t hear ego — it’s just a fact, ma’am.

You can also imagine that like Mary Barra, Rafael keeps calm in chaos. You sense those studies finding the addition of women increases group intelligence must be true, and that you’ve just met the archetype of the woman whose risk aversion — a key factor in that vaunted better performance of companies with more women on their boards — is firmly planted not in fear but in intelligent consideration of evidence.

Let me know what you think:

  • Are Barra and Rafael examples of a core difference rooted in culturally baked in attributes of gender, or does this behavioral difference have more to do with their being self-selected “firsts?”
  • What would change about organizations if men and women held equal shares of leadership?

Gloria Feldt is the author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. Buy the book here. Engage Gloria for a Speech or Workshop. Tweet @GloriaFeldt and connect on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ Gloria is the co-founder (with Amy Litzenberger) of Take the Lead, a new initiative to prepare and propel women to leadership parity by 2025. Find them @takeleadwomen and on Facebook.

Bikinis and Bongos: GoDaddy CEO Blake Irving Beats the Drums of Change

Blake IrvingWhen you speak with GoDaddy CEO Blake Irving, it’s easy to conjure the teenage percussionist he once was, asserting his high energy drive with his drumsticks, and quite possibly driving his mother crazy by beating bongos while doing the split in the kitchen like Jean-Claude Van Damme in this classically weird GoDaddy ad.

I had a chance to interview the leader of the world’s largest and most controversial domain name registrar, not long after his first anniversary there.

This New York Times piece on GoDaddy’s changed advertising strategy had initially drawn my attention to Irving, who describes himself accurately as gregarious and easy-going. I was curious to find out about his leadership philosophy, and how he had quickly moved the company to a laser focus on the mission of serving small businesses, their core customer base, while deftly changing its public image with women.

Like many women, I’ve in the past been offended by GoDaddy’s sexist brand presence. Remember those Superbowl ads depicting “hot women” in scanty clothes, their come-hither messages aimed to entice adolescent boys — and men who think like adolescent boys — to use the company’s products? Eye rollers became deal breakers as they increasingly objectified women’s bodies, with ample breasts and bikinis splayed over the company website.

And then suddenly, there was the switch from boobs to those funky bongos. What had happened?

The timely confluence of three factors — economics, personal lived experience and women’s activism — I believe, propelled Irving’s successful change of course.

Baring it all: women, business and changing the core culture

I found Irving, who keeps a drum set in his office, straightforward about how he had approached the company. He’s big on doing the hard work of understanding the company and the culture before making decisions about where to take it, then being decisive and consistent about his vision. He likens the discipline of leadership to Jazz, saying that in both, one must simultaneously perfect performance while improvising.

One of the first things he observed is that women, lo and behold, had become GoDaddy’s core customer. “We conducted extensive customer research and found that 58% of our customers are women. Women own half of the businesses in the US, and globally, women are the primary business owners,” said Irving. “The values inside the company didn’t square with the ads that were in the marketplace.”

Careful not to disparage GoDaddy’s founder, Irving opines that Bob Parsons knew garnering attention could gain market share. But he acknowledges, in today’s economy, a successful company has to be inclusive of women, both inside the company and in its public face: “We value everybody. We allow women customers to pursue their own ventures. We do not want to objectify them.”

And Irving believes a successful company’s employee base has to match its customer base. GoDaddy’s leadership overall is 30% women, and they’ve just appointed Silicon Valley insider Betsy Rafael (about whom I will write in my next post) to their board. Though she’ll be their first female board member, one gets the feeling she won’t be the only one for long.

I’ve even noticed more female (and female-friendly) voices lately when I call GoDaddy for customer support.

So the marketplace has pushed GoDaddy, as it has many companies, to better serve women customers and better treat female employees. But other factors are also at play.

The personal is still political

Often it’s soft hearts for their daughters that influence men to want women to get a fair shake. But Irving, who has sons and no daughters, says his views were shaped by his mom, wife and sisters — feminists all. And he was moved by the untimely death of his youngest sister, a leading researcher on the effects of women’s body image. He promised her he would do everything he can to get women into leadership in the tech industry. He’s making good on that promise.

At the root of social change is always the personal story, the most powerful driver in all realms. So for Blake Irving, commitment to advancing women comes from this deep well of lived experience.

But for changes in any field to occur and to stick, pressure for that change also has to come from outside.

How women are changing GoDaddy

GapAppIt’s said that the job of advocates is to make it impossible for decision makers not to do the right thing.

Women customers had begun beating the bongos of change at a volume impossible to ignore. Many were quietly voting with their mouse clicks, moving over to other web hosts. My female journalist friends launched a campaign to move their own website hosting to other services.

When I posted on my Facebook page about GoDaddy’s sponsorship of the Close the Gap App, a young woman entrepreneur quickly let me know her university still won’t use GoDaddy’s services because of its founder’s highly publicized ultimate macho elephant killing escapades in 2011. There’s even a hashtag #breakupwithgodaddy.

And if anyone thinks it’s hard to affect large systemic change like Take The Lead’s goal of reaching leadership gender parity by 2025, look at GoDaddy. Women, as purchasers of 85% of consumer products, now very much possess of all the power we need to achieve whatever we want.

Whenever I tell audiences that it’s time to change the narrative about women’s leadership from problems to solutions, they cheer. There is a readiness as never before, and clearly there are male champions like Blake Irving who will — and do — use their power to drive that change forward.


Gloria Feldt is the author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. Buy the book here. Engage Gloria for a Speech or Workshop. Tweet @GloriaFeldt and connect on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ Gloria is the co-founder (with Amy Litzenberger) of Take the Lead, a new initiative to prepare and propel women to leadership parity by 2025. Find them @takeleadwomen and on Facebook.

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.


Gloria Feldt is the author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. Buy the book here. Engage Gloria for a Speech or Workshop. Tweet @GloriaFeldt and connect on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ Gloria is the co-founder (with Amy Litzenberger) of Take the Lead, a new initiative to prepare and propel women to leadership parity by 2025. Find them @takeleadwomen and on Facebook.

The Young Politica: Guns on Campus

If you, like me, have come to look forward to Maegan Vazquez’s “Young Politica” columns on Heartfeldt, you are going to miss her interesting take on the world through the students’ lens. During the past two semesters that she has interned for me, it has been my pleasure to see her grow and her writing develop.

Enjoy her last column here.  I told her I predict we’ll be reading her in the Washington Post in a few years.

Today, airsoft rifles closely resembling AK-47s were found in the dorm room of a New York University student, according to the New York Post. The psychology student, Bernard Goal, 20, allegedly assembled and sold them for up to $500 each. collegecrime

The story may not have been at the top of my radar (nor on the radar of the New York Post a few weeks ago, but in a post-Boston Marathon and post-MIT shootout world, I have become hyperaware of all things ammunition on campus—especially when that campus is my own.

As a member of the media, it would be naive of me to cite this as a reason for stricter gun laws on campus. Even I know that when in search for stories, a journalist often writes about what is most concerning to their audience at that moment in time. Right now, almost anything guns is a-go.

Up until recent events, campus gun laws were not an issue I was concerned with; mainly because my college doesn’t have a real campus. Rather, students take classes in buildings scattered across lower-Manhattan. What I associated with mass school shootings was a closed-off, centralized area where students typically congregate. And that’s just not an element of campus life NYU can really facilitate. But when I realized that a student from my school could potentially be selling guns within student housing for months without faculty noticing, I became concerned for my safety.

I, along with 91% of Americans, agree that it is time to instate universal background checks for new gun owners. Universal background checks may not have prevented NYU’s snafu, nor would they have the power to prevent current gun owners from having their weapons taken away. But in the long run, universal background checks would have the potential to save lives being taken by those who should not have weapons in their hands.

Unlike those who want to take the second amendment in its purest form, I would be willing to make the sacrifice of a single universal background check if it meant that innocent lives were saved.

Last week, a bill to support universal background checks failed by six votes. The bill finally made the floor four months after the Sandy Hook shooting, and nine months after the Aurora movie theater and Wisconsin Sikh temple shootings. When lawmakers take this long to fail a bill that would only have the power to benefit the American public, there’s no doubt of the power that rich lobbyists, like the NRA, have over Washington.

I never imagined that gun laws on campus would be an issue in a place like NYU, in Bloomberg’s New York City, where even moderates are castigated for their supposed lack of tolerance or unfeasible economic beliefs.

When a student at a residence hall just down my street is illegally making and selling guns from his dorm room, I had to ask if no-tolerance rules were the only rules that mattered in when it came to the safety of students. Strict gun rules on college campuses are prevalent across the country, but students would reap the benefit of safety if universal background checks were put into place.

Thank you so much for following me on my journey towards political self-discovery. I’ve loved your feedback and I am so grateful to have had this unique opportunity. Many thanks to my mentor, Gloria Feldt, for assisting me with the column and for championing my growth as a writer, feminist, and activist.

If you’d like to know what I’m up to, you can find me on Twitter (@maeganvaz) or you can find me studying and working in Washington D.C., where I’ll (finally!) be “walking the walk” this fall.


Gloria Feldt is the author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. Buy the book here. Engage Gloria for a Speech or Workshop. Tweet @GloriaFeldt and connect on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ Gloria is the co-founder (with Amy Litzenberger) of Take the Lead, a new initiative to prepare and propel women to leadership parity by 2025. Find them @takeleadwomen and on Facebook.

Women’s Campaign Fund Won’t Settle for Less Than Half

Monday night I attended the bipartisan Women’s Campaign Fund’s  annual “Parties of Your Choice“.

Changetheplayers600

As always, they begin with a raucous reception at Christie’s for several hundred guests, after which we all scatter around town for intimate dinners in beautiful homes. At each party, there are several WCF-endorsed candidates or elected officials who tell their tales and make their pitches.

Here are a few photos I took during the evening, which was peppered with chants of “Change the players. Change the game.”

Gala guest Ilene Wells "Wearing the Shirt"
Gala guest Ilene Wells “Wearing the Shirt”

Valeria Arkoosh of PA wants to be the first female MD in Congress
Valeria Arkoosh of PA wants to be the first female MD in Congress

Sam Bennett, President of the Women's Campaign Fund, cheers on the dozens of WCF-endorsed candidates and officeholders
Sam Bennett, President of the Women’s Campaign Fund, cheers on the dozens of WCF-endorsed candidates and officeholders

MSNBC host of The Cycle, Krystal Ball, MC'd
MSNBC host of The Cycle, Krystal Ball, MC’d

Youngest NY State Assemblywoman, Nily Rozic, bucked the Queens political machine and won in a surprise upset
Youngest NY State Assemblywoman, Nily Rozic, bucked the Queens political machine and won in a surprise upset

Clarkstown councilwoman Stephanie Hausner 'liked' this picture of her that I posted on Facebook, even though I misspelled her name
Clarkstown councilwoman Stephanie Hausner ‘liked’ this picture of her that I posted on Facebook, even though I misspelled her name

 

 

 


Gloria Feldt is the author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. Buy the book here. Engage Gloria for a Speech or Workshop. Tweet @GloriaFeldt and connect on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ Gloria is the co-founder (with Amy Litzenberger) of Take the Lead, a new initiative to prepare and propel women to leadership parity by 2025. Find them @takeleadwomen and on Facebook.

Women’s History Month: Why Sally Jewell as Secretary of the Interior Could be a Historic Win

Sally Jewell is a one-woman powerhouse. The REI CEO has just been approved by a bipartisan United States Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee by a vote of 19-3, according to the New York Times. Her next stop—a full review by the U.S. Senate.

“She is going to give each member of this committee her ear and her expertise that comes from having managed to pack a host of professional careers – petroleum engineer, C.E.O. and banker, to name just a few – into just one lifetime,” Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, told the committee.Jewell

Jewell’s diverse experience has made her a unique contender for the job. In comparison to her possible predecessor, former Senator Ken Salazar, Jewell has no government experience. However, just as Salazar made a historic impact by becoming one of the first Hispanics to earn a spot in the Senate, Jewell’s confirmation would make her the second woman to hold the Interior Secretary position.

An avid environmentalist these days, Jewell, 56, is not afraid to say that she started off as a petroleum engineer for Mobil Oil. Her range of experience provides her with a widened perspective. She has worked as a foreman for drill crews, an investment banker, and is now the CEO of a highly successful outdoor sports corporation. She’s a Jane of all trades—a banker, a boardroom member, and a mountain climber. She takes heed to both economic fronts and conservation efforts.

“She knows the link between conservation and good jobs,” President Obama said during Jewell’s nomination earlier this month. “She knows that there is no contradiction between being good stewards of the land and our economic progress.”

Her duty as Interior Secretary would include management of on- and off-shore drilling, overall energy use, and overseeing 1/5th of the country’s land—which includes national parks, wildlife refuges, and Bureau of Land Management holdings. Jewell has helped lead the way for advocating the exploration of the outdoors to more women, young people, and people of color.

But can she reinvigorate the U.S.’ interest in the outdoors?

Jewell is the only woman formally nominated for Obama’s second term Cabinet. If confirmed, she might end up serving her term with as few as only two other women within the administration.

As of yet, President Obama has protected less land than any of the previous four presidents, according to the Center for American Progress. By getting Jewell, a business-savvy woman in the Interior role, the GOP may ease their previous halt on conservation initiatives. And the outdoors industry expert could be the secret to getting Congress to finally act on climate change, a key initiative Obama raised during his State of the Union Address.

 

 


Gloria Feldt is the author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. Buy the book here. Engage Gloria for a Speech or Workshop. Tweet @GloriaFeldt and connect on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ Gloria is the co-founder (with Amy Litzenberger) of Take the Lead, a new initiative to prepare and propel women to leadership parity by 2025. Find them @takeleadwomen and on Facebook.

The Young Politica: What’s Next for Student Loans

In my last column, I wrote about how the sequester could deeply impact students of all ages—by cutting education jobs, programs like Head Start, food stamps, and limiting financial aid. Well, once again, kids trying to get an education are at risk of being undercut by the federal government.

studentdebt

The interest rate of new federally subsidized Stafford loans will revert to 6.8 percent from 3.4 percent. The rate subsidized loans, which go to low-income households, was supposed to rise to 6.8 percent back in June 2012, but the rate’s expiration was postponed for a year. This year’s extension lasts until June 30, 2013. If Congress does not act to change the rules or extend the loan rate expiration date, an estimated 7.4 million college students will be affected.

Note that each year the date to change the rate is extended, the federal government loses out on about $6 billion in revenue. But students don’t necessarily have to be the ones paying the price. If there would have been more oversight on the financial aid process, the federal government could have prevented a loss of $200 million in federal student aid fraud since 2009.

What’s a good solution? Rather than postponing the expiration again, the House Education and the Workforce Committee argued that Congress should reevaluate their rate-setting process for all government-issued college loans.

FoxNews.com reports that the Department of Education has also been sending out letters to inform Direct PLUS Loan borrowers that their fees are being raised as a direct result of the automatic budget cuts (or the sequester) that happened after the federal government could not come to a fiscal agreement. Fees for loans issued after March 1, 2013, will have an adjusted loan rate fee—from 4.0 percent to 4.204 percent.

Students are taking more and more hits, but at least they’re putting up a fight.

Historically Black Colleges and Universities are not ruling out suing the Obama administration for disproportionately affecting their students with new financial aid policies. The policies, which were enacted in October 2011, allow a Direct PLUS Loan borrower’s credit to be checked back five years—rather than the previous 90-days standard. This limits many students, especially students from a low-income background, from being able to take out these loans without having a parent with a spotless credit history.

On the upside, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau announced new rules that will be enacted to protect borrowers from federal loan servicers, which collect debts from student lenders.

The new rules will require all servicing firms to be subject to audits by the CFPB, according to the Huffington Post. The new rules aim to make servicers accountable by investigating possible reports that may mislead borrowers on their rights and terms of their loans. The end goal for the borrower is to avoid ruining their credit.

Today, the nation’s student loan debt surpasses credit card debt.

Maybe a complete overhaul of the system may seem like the next step, given that nothing else seems to be working. But instead of only impacting students who are striving to get an education, maybe we should be focusing on oversight the federal government has slacked off on instead.

 

Maegan Vazquez, a Texas born sophomore at New York University, brings her young woman’s lens on all things political to Heartfeldt Blog every Monday. Send news tips to maeganvaz@gmail.com

The Young Politica: Students Should Brace for the Sequester

Once again, we’ve waited until the last minute to try and fix our fiscal problems. This time, it’s the sequester that will go into effect on March 1st unless Congress acts. sequester

If the sequester goes into effect, about one trillion dollars of federal spending will get cut—half of the cuts going towards defense ($42.7 billion). These cuts may cause furloughs in defense sectors (military, airport security) and other cuts may leave many teachers out of jobs.

About $3 billion of sequester  cuts will go towards education. According to the National Education Association the sequester will result in: 

  • Services cut or eliminated for millions of students.
  • Funding for children living in poverty, special education, and Head Start slashed by billions.
  • Ballooning class sizes.
  • Elimination of after-school programs.
  • Decimation of programs for our most vulnerable—homeless students, English language learners, and high-poverty, struggling schools.
  • Slashing of financial aid for college students.
  • Loss of tens of thousands of education jobs—at early childhood, elementary, secondary, and postsecondary levels.

However, the education cuts can be made smarter in a smarter way. Arne Duncan, the U.S. Secretary of Education, suggested reallocating funds may ease the blow for students. He cites a previous change in budgeting:
“We took $68 billion that was going to subsidize bankers from our student loan program…put about $28 billion to cut the deficit…$40 billion to increase Pell grants. We’ve gone from six million Pell recipients to about nine million Pell recipients without going to taxpayers for a nickel.”

The sequester was built to be an ultimatum that forced politicians to revisit the government’s budget. However, delay towards addressing the issue has created bipartisan distaste for the imminent measures. Neither side wants this plan to become permanently enacted. Yet, neither wants to see their side lose, even a little bit.

Why has there been such a delay? Well, for starters, President Obama wants to replace the sequester with a new deal that includes increased taxes and spending cuts. Another option would have been John Boehner’s plan B, which would reallocate cuts towards food stamps, the Affordable Care Act, and Dodd-Frank. While plan B seems to be a manifesto of Republican ideals for government spending, these cuts most likely will not go through this time around.

As the decision date nears, schools are handing teachers pink slips that say they will not be able to return next fall. It’s not just the workers that need to worry; it’s students, too. With decreases in financial aid, special education programs and Head Start losing funds, students of all ages will be losing out on their education if the sequester is enacted as is.

The problem with the sequester dates back to 2011, when it was passed as part of the debt ceiling compromise. When a deal was reached to stop us from falling off the fiscal cliff, the sequester was subsequently delayed until March. We’ve known about this problem for about two years, yet we’re only trying to fix the cuts about a week before they go into effect. Way to go, Washington.

It is time for each party to make some sacrifices and compromises for the benefit of the American people.

 

 

Maegan Vazquez, a Texas born sophomore at New York University, brings her young woman’s lens on all things political to Heartfeldt Blog every Monday. Send news tips to maeganvaz@gmail.com

The Young Politica: How Increasing Girls in STEM Programs Can Improve the Nation

In your junior high science classes, how many female scientific pioneers were in your textbook? I doubt that there were more than a handful.

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In freshmen geometry class, did you learn about any famous female mathematicians? Probably not. I did not know about Sally Ride until I graduated from high school and even today, I could not tell you about any legendary female mathematicians.

Pioneering women have been historically absent from all school subjects, not just science and mathematics, since the dawn of the schoolhouse.

Even these days, when more women are going to college than men in this country, there remains a lack of women entering science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) career fields. The reasons for the interest gap are complicated, according to Christi Corbett, senior researcher for the American Association of University of Women.

“The direction of scientific inquiry is influenced by the people doing the work,” Corbett told me over the phone. Women comprise only 20% of the bachelor’s degrees in engineering and computer science fields. One can infer that women must then only make about 20% of the decisions in, say, scientific research.

Corbett helped compile Why So Few?—a comprehensive report that tries to solve why so few women are entering STEM fields. According to the studies in the report, there are still stereotypes which discourage girls from applying themselves towards STEM careers; girls tend to assess their abilities in STEM fields lower than boys do, even when they have similar scores; and girls tend to go into ‘helping’ professions (e.g. nursing), rather than higher-paying jobs in STEM fields that do not get as much recognition for helping others (e.g. engineering).

These girls’ lack of confidence and lack of encouragement by others even contributes to the gender wage gap, because STEM careers tend to have higher salaries than careers in social sciences and humanities.

“If there aren’t any women in STEM fields then there are ideas aren’t being brought to the table,” Christi Corbett said.

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So what’s being done to solve this problem? In the past year, the United States government has taken the initiative to plan new STEM projects and fund existing programs. I would have loved to have been a part of their new NASA G.I.R.L.S. program when I was younger!

AAUW is launching two of their STEM programs nationwide: Tech Savvy and Tech Trek. Tech Savvy is a conference that provides a day of workshops to sixth-to ninth-grade girls and their parents. Tech Trek takes 12-13 year old girls to college campuses, offering interactive classes and field trips with women professionals, offering real-life role-models to girls interested in the STEM fields.

It seems that though the shift to more female scientists and engineers may be slower than other fields women have infiltrated, it is improving.

“It’s nice to see that things are changing,” Corbett commented. “Women have infiltrated in all the majors and now they are finally beginning to see STEM role models.”

The efforts made to ensure that more girls enter these fields should be heavily supported, because an increase in high-paying STEM workers means a smarter nation and a wealthier nation.

 

Maegan Vazquez, a Texas born sophomore at New York University, brings her young woman’s lens on all things political to Heartfeldt Blog every Monday. Send news tips to maeganvaz@gmail.com