Issue 134— July 6, 2020

My cousin Elizabeth is making good use of this time of sheltering during the pandemic to dig into our family history. It was rooted in the small town of Birzai, Lithuania for hundreds of years until two world wars either killed them or dispersed them to many corners of the world. One of the most intriguing and yet exasperating parts of this exploration is getting the names right as spellings varied from language to language. Vinn became Vinh or Bein, Henne to Hannah, and even some in the same nuclear family some people spelled their last names differently.

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Issue 133 — June 29, 2020

One thing COVID-19 has done is make life easier for introverts.

If you break out in a cold sweat at the thought of networking, in the sense of walking into a large room full of people you don’t know and trying to make connections that will be useful to you in your professional life, while balancing a beverage — it might seem in first blush that at least that worry is over.

But the reality is your network is your net worth.

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Most of our talk about women’s career advancement seems to focus on elite colleges and high profile professions such as corporate leadership. Yet there are many jobs open to women who want to try less obvious routes to career success.
AAUW has long been a leader in workplace advancement and pay equity for women.

Their recent research into the higher student loan debt burden women experience due to the gender pay gap found that many women – more than 4 million – view community college as their best, and most affordable, option after high school.

Dana Kaplan’s story of how she succeeded in a typically all-male field is a fascinating example of how community colleges can help women change careers or to gain the skills they need to advance in any chosen profession.

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If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.

Like a lot of recent graduates, Kaplan had trouble getting work in her chosen field — philosophy — after college. She realized she needed a change when she found herself stuck “9 to 5 in a cubicle. I couldn’t stand it.”Or, if you’re an auto mechanic and 2011–12 AAUW Career Development Grantee Dana Kaplan, try something completely different!

I asked Kaplan how she made the jump from one career to the next. “I always knew I wanted to work with my hands,” she said. For a while she considered going into construction, to which people generally responded, “You’re too smart; you’re too pretty [for a job like that].”

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Consider this your Women’s History Month bonus post. In the heated contemporary debate about whether Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s exhortation to women to Lean In will help women in less elevated positions, Ruth Nemzoff, Resident Scholar at Brandeis Women’s Studies Research Center and author of Don’t Roll Your Eyes: Making In-Laws Into Family reminds us that this dispute is hardly new. You could substitute “Sandberg” for “Friedan” in most of Nemzoff’s article. And the takeaway lessons for women remain the same too.friedan-collage

Let’s not waste our time denigrating Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique because it focused only on the problems of affluent women, rather, let us praise her for starting a revolution.

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Making a box-office success movie or TV series without a woman in a sexualized or type-cast bimbo role has historically been hard to impossible. (Read “Leadership Fictions:Gender, Leadership, and the Media”, Take The Lead’s special report on how media influences women’s perceptions of themselves as leaders and others’ ideas about them for some shocking statistics.)

That’s why women today who create media by producing, writing, and directing are of the utmost importance to creating the future of our choice.

Some women in leading roles on and off screen—like Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Lena Dunham, and Shonda Rhimes—use their writing to make women the protagonists of their stories. Their takes on what those roles mean to women and feminism, however, are quite diverse.

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I remember how excited I was to discover Rosabeth Moss Kanter in the early 1980’s. She was one of the few females writing about leadership and organizational change management. I hungrily devoured The Change Masters as a relatively new nonprofit CEO navigating roiling changes in the healthcare and political landscape while learning to lead a complex organization toward continued growth.Kantor

This distinguished Harvard Business School professor’s influential theories about change in the workforce have permeated much of the thinking about organizational change. And unlike the men writing and teaching about it, Kanter infused her work with a lens on one of the biggest workplace changes of the 20th century: women breaking through workplace glass ceilings.

Kanter, former editor of Harvard Business Review and author of 18 books, has been named one of the “50 most powerful women in the world” by the Times of London, and the “50 most influential business thinkers in the world” by Accenture and Thinkers 50 research.

Her groundbreaking book Men and Women of the Corporation—I mean, who had ever mentioned “women” and “corporations” in the same book title?—remains a classic analysis of power distribution within organizations.

Kanter told the hard truth about women in the workforce, after conducting a five-year study on the American manufacturing company. She explained how women were tokenized to work in clerical jobs rather than management; and how even though there were plenty of women in large organizations, they rarely ran the show. She observed that the first women breaking through to leadership roles were still tokens in a male dominated workforce.

In 1979, she wrote:

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Today’s U.S. Congress is made up of less than 20% of female members—18% to be exact—a far cry from the parity we strive toward. Any conversation about Women’s History Month must include the rather dismal representation of women in American politics across the board.nhwomen

The Congressional delegation from New Hampshire are the exception to that 20% barrier. Last November, two women won Congressional seats, joining the two women who already held New Hampshire’s two Senate seats. To top it all off, the state’s governor, speaker of the State House, and chief justice of the State Supreme Court are all women as well.

These women have made history by making New Hampshire the first state with an all-female Congressional delegation.

The senators include Jeanne Shaheen (D) and Kelly Ayotte (R). The new Representatives are Carol Shea-Porter (D) and Ann McLand Kuster (D). Let’s not forget about Gov. Maggie Hassan (D), the only female Democratic governor in 2013, state speaker Terie Norelli (D) and State Chief Justice Linda Stewart Dalianis.

While this should be celebrated as a historic win for women and women’s rights, the beliefs of these women are diverse, to say the least. On one hand, there’s Carol Shea-Porter, who stands with EMILY’s List and the National Women’s Political Caucus, among other feminist organizations. And then there’s Kelly Ayotte,

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