Monday, August 30, 2010

Back in Cambridge...

The name of this blog is no longer factually correct (sad!), as today marked the first day for me being back in Cambridge. “Shopping days” started today; I’m in the midst of deciding upon classes for the semester, what my PAE might look like, what my PAC (policy area of concentration) should be, running between meetings for the school’s newspaper and the Women and Gender Caucus (WAGC), of which I’m proud to be a co-chair. Leaves very little time to breathe, much less think…

This summer, much like today, went by in a blur. My goals for the summer were to gain a better understanding of the private sector, figure out what consulting really is, explore the gender “space” more fully and to (of course) take advantage of New York. I think I can safely say that I feel I accomplished each of these goals—to the degree to which they can be accomplished within a short, ten-week period. Kennedy emphasizes being “tri-sector” fluent; this was my first professional experience (besides a brief stint at a law firm) working with the private sector, even if it was from a nonprofit standpoint. Our clients really believed in what we were doing as an organization and wanted to make their employees’ experiences better.

Consulting continues to be an interest—although I have to say, I like the approach that Catalyst takes; it’s specific, it’s mission-oriented and it’s targeted at clients who will really implement the changes recommended. My project on Latin American women and ERGs was also a great learning experience—I feel like Catalyst will use the project as they move towards a more global vision. I even have it taped—to be watched later this year

My exploration of gender policy issues will continue throughout the year; I’m so excited to be co-chairing the WAGC and really looking forward to a new Kennedy course, entitled “Closing the Global Gender Gap.” As for my final goal, of fully taking advantage of New York: you could live there your entire life and never run out of things to do. I would LOVE to return and “check off” things that remain on my bucket list. I never made it to Ellis Island, for example. I didn’t stand in line for Shakespeare in the Park tickets. Next time…(hopefully??).

I’m so grateful to WAPPP for the opportunity to have come here. It truly could not have happened without the generous financial support and the serious commitment of the staff at WAPPP to making the student experience better. Thank you!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

If I can make it here...

Friday was my last day at Catalyst…which means summer is coming to an end. I can’t believe how quickly these past ten weeks have flown by; I am certainly not ready to go back to school! Thinking about all that is ahead—from classes to the PAE to the (gulp) job search--is enough to make my head spin and my heart palpitate.

I was incredibly fortunate to have such supportive colleagues and to have made friends with so many great people at Catalyst. This support and encouragement was one of the reasons I was able to fashion my own project—which I delivered last Thursday to Catalyst staff. In addition to my tangible work product, my actual presentation was filmed---something to look forward to watching (and critiquing) in the weeks ahead. Let me know if you want to see the results—I am definitely proud of the final product and hope that Catalyst will use my work as they become more globally focused (rather than their traditional lens on U.S./Canada).

My hope is to remain connected to Catalyst, hopefully through work on the PAE. One of the suggestions I had for a potential topic is to develop a more comprehensive advocacy strategy for the organization—my fingers are crossed on this project, as it would combine both my passion and my skill-set for an organization I truly believe in.

This coming Friday I will be packing my bags and heading home to Boston. While I am definitely excited to see friends and family (and indeed, will spend Saturday celebrating my Dad’s 60th—happy early birthday, Dad!), I will really miss New York. There’s just so much to do here—food, drink, museums, art galleries, culture and history (although I unfortunately never made it to Ellis Island), free concerts, lovely parks, great boutiques, close beaches—and so many great organizations doing important and meaningful work. I’ve also loved being close to my sister for the summer—I haven’t been able to spend as much time with her since we were in high school and living in adjoining rooms.

Hopefully, this is so long—not goodbye. I would love to come back here (especially to Brooklyn!), potentially after I graduate in May of 2011. Until then…wish me luck 

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Street lights, big dreams all looking pretty

Another week (or two) in pictures.

Happy hour with Catalyst co-workers

My sister Kathryn perusing the fish market at Chelsea Market

HKS friends Jason and Kwame at the fundraiser Kwame organized for Harlem Children's Zone (amazing, Kwame!)

And of course, a summer in New York isn't complete without a (few) trips to the beach...Georgetown and Sea Isle City go together like a perfect smoothie.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Concrete jungle where dreams are made of...

Apologies for this moment of self-aggrandizing, but I’m pretty excited about this: on Sunday (well, Saturday, here in NY), I had my first letter to the editor published! It’s in this past weekend’s NYT Magazine, and it was in response to the front-cover article from two weeks ago, "the New Abortion Providers," by Slate Senior Editor Emily Bazelon. Sadly, someone stole my copy of the NYT (I'm going to start leaving passive aggressive notes in my building; I've had more copies stolen this summer than I've actually been able to read), so I haven't actually seen it in print. Still, I am pretty excited about it--it's been a goal on my bucket list for a while now.

If you have not yet read the original article, I strongly URGE you to do so and to let me know what you think. I think it is pathetically sad that after finishing it, my first thought was that the next time I will read about any one of these courageous (women) doctors, it will be because they’ve been murdered by an extreme anti-choicer.

Also, take a look at the letter-writers’ names. Notice anything unusual? Out of seven letters, five writers are female. And the only one that wrote in frustration with the so-called “culture of me” that choice provides…was male. Thoughts?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The city never sleeps...better slip you an Ambien

Is it really July 21? It's hard to believe I only have about 2.5 more weeks here. And there's so much to do, you don't want to miss anything (hence the lack of sleep...and a subsequent summer cold).

On the work front…

I got pulled into a client project earlier this month. It is a small one, with only about a month's turnaround time, that’s been really exciting to see develop. We had our initial feedback call with the client this morning and it went well…now on to diagnostic day! Happily, I’ve received some really nice feedback about my work on the team, which was lovely to hear.

On my project…

I’m (finally!) interviewing women from member companies around best practices for women’s networks in Latin America. It took a while to get off the ground, simply because this is a very new area. It’s been great in terms of getting to practice my Spanish and in really getting to do some original research. It's also personally rewarding to talk to women who are extremely passionate about diversity and inclusion practices. What’s not been so great is realizing how little there is out there—and how far these groups have to go.

Countdown to delivering my white paper and presentation…t minus 2.5 weeks. I really want to make this as impactful and comprehensive as possible…and I can definitely see this being an area of interest for a long time. How do you, exactly, ensure that cultural stereotypes and mores do not dictate the future of an entire gender? Things to ponder (perhaps in a PAE…)

On the good news front...

Did everyone see this? I certainly wish the president had been a little more forceful on this issue when he was signing the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act back in January 2009. And yet, I remain ever hopeful that this president really will deliver on his promises and on his values. Let's hope Republican senators and business leaders follow suit.

On the NY front…

I’ve been making time to do some of the things that one needs to do in a NY summer…long walks around the park, yoga, wine and cheese tasting, talking with people whose jobs I’d love to have, traveling a little bit (via bus, of course!). This past weekend, I was able to spend some time with three of my dearest friends, all of whom happen to be former Alliance coworkers, when we all traveled to Philadelphia.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

There's nothing you can't do...

There has been a slew of good news that has come out in support of, and as a result of, women’s increasing participation in the world economy. I’ll mention just a couple…(especially since fellow HKS-er Allison, over at Beck Abroad, has been sharing some great reading herself!).

1. Obviously, this can’t go unmentioned—the U.N. recently decided to create a new agency for the “empowerment of women,” which will combine four previously distinct parts of the U.N. system: the Division for the Advancement of Women, the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women, the Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues and the Advancement of Women, and of course UNIFEM (or the United Nations Development Fund for Women). Read the U.N.’s press release here. While obviously this is great news--and I'm excited to see actual resources being put forth on this issue, I think my friend Kevin might have put it best: "I hope it's not the old routine of sending bills to committee for 'further study.'"

2. Google has announced that it will add to its employees’ pay to cover for a tax on same-sex health benefits AND include domestic partners in its family leave policy—going beyond what's stipulated in the Family and Medical Leave Act. Read more on the story at the New York Times. Hopefully, someday this will not be news-worthy and same-sex unions will be recognized as equal under the law. But I guess one step at a time?

3. In an interview with global NGO Population Services International (PSI), conducted by our fellow HKS student Ashley Judd, Nicholas Kristoff says that the battle to bring attention to so-called “women’s issues” is “… definitely being won. There’s no question that “international women’s issues” are going from a fringe concern and a “soft” issue to a serious topic in the spotlight. Partly that’s because women’s rights are increasingly recognized not only as a justice issue but also as a way to fight poverty and reduce civil conflict.” And in other exciting news, Half the Sky is being translated into numerous languages, including Arabic. Read the full interview in PSI's Impact magazine(and then go out and buy Half the Sky, if you have not already!).

4. In a tip-of-the-hat to Catalyst’s mission, I’m happy to share the fact that 19 women were added to major U.S. companies this year. This story was broken by the blog Companies included Yahoo!, theGap, Netflix and others. Whether this has been driven by the business case , to improve company culture or simply by a sense of fairness, I’m happy to see companies taking proactive steps to counter the fact that women hold a mere 15.2% of all Board seats at Fortune 500 companies. Sorry, but that’s simply absurd.

5. Catalyzing, the Catalyst blog written by Catalyst president and CEO Ilene Lang, was recently named by ForbesWoman as one of the best websites for women. To see/read more/get inspired, check out the full list.

Of course, it’s not all been good news. We don’t even have to look beyond U.S. borders to see this---the pay gap persists, 47 years post Equal Pay Act, reflecting our underrepresentatation in politics, women continue to be underrepresented on Sunday news shows and women MBAs continue to earn less and hold lower ranking jobs than their just-as-qualified male counterparts. So call your Senators and your Congressperson in support of the Paycheck Fairness Act (S. 182 and H.R. 12, respectively) and do not be afraid to speak up if you feel you are witnessing workplace unfairness. That’s what Google employees did.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

I'm up that Brooklyn...

As promised, a (BK) life in pictures...

Entrance to Prospect Park, celebrating Brooklyn all summer long.

Look familiar?

Finally reconnecting with my wonderful HKS peers...

Happy July 4th, everyone...(ok, I admit it: this picture was taken at MOMA, not in Brooklyn).

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Big lights will inspire you...

My work at Catalyst has kicked into higher gear now that I’ve been here for a few weeks and have started to get the hang of the office. The work is nothing like anything I’ve ever done—even though Catalyst is a nonprofit, and has a very mission-driven approach, Advisory Services, the department within which I’m housed has almost a private-sector feel. This surprised me, especially at first, since I’ve never worked in a consulting capacity before. Even though the work is mission-driven, and every client we take on is working towards diversity and inclusion approach, at the end of the day, each client has its specific goals, capacities, and deadlines. Very different from policy studies—but Kennedy emphasizes being tri-sector experienced, and I certainly feel like I’m gaining a lot through this kind of interaction.

The team has a big deadline/presentation coming up, so we’ve all been working hard to prepare. This is great for me—I get to see the end result and hear the feedback. At the same time, another project is starting as well, so I’ll get to see the beginning, too. In fact, I participated in a focus group the other day which yielded fascinating results with regards to how women employees saw their career prospects vs. men. The groups’ results will be the starting point for another engagement.

I’m also starting up my own project, which is exciting and the reason why I was so keen on joining Catalyst in the first place. As emerging markets become more and more important for Catalyst members, the Advisory Services team is taking a more global approach to its practices. I’m specifically tasked with researching, thinking about, interviewing and doing outreach on and about how women’s networks could work within a Latin American context. While the project is slow-going, it’s been very interesting as there is really very little out there on this topic. The project presents a real opportunity not only to serve Catalyst members but also explore a new topic area. I hope to be able to produce a white paper before I leave in August, as well as kick –start Catalyst relationships in the area by leveraging both the knowledge we build and my Spanish language skills.

Monday, June 14, 2010

These streets will make you feel brand new...

I'm constantly amazed at just how much life there is here. Even though I'm not doing any foreign travel this summer, as many of my fellow WAPPPers are, New York is new enough to me that I feel each day brings something of a surprise. Whether it's a new neighborhood, a restaurant, an art festival, there's always something going on...and I'm trying to take advantage of it (without going broke in the process...).

Yet even as I'm discovering new things, the days have settled into a comfortable routine. The pictures below give a little bit of a sense of what daily life is like, at least on the Manhattan side of the bridge.

My office building is right at the tip of Wall St., where it hits South St.

The Statue of Liberty is just a few blocks down...

Manhattan, seen from Governor's Island...

Stay tuned for pictures from BK.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Still Holding Up That Sky

This post has little to do with New York or my work with Catalyst, other than the fact that for the past week or so, during the commute between my lovely apartment in Park Slope and the hustle and bustle of Wall St., I’ve been immersed in Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn’s Half the Sky. I finished this morning…and I’m at a loss at what to do next. So, I did what any at-a-loss American would do: I opened my wallet. You may have noticed the new “badge” at the bottom of this page. This morning I funded medical supplies to safely deliver pregnant women's children in the DRC through Global Giving. Even for someone on a tight student budget, it’s possible to make just a tiny dent in the world, to try to make it just a little bit better for someone else. I am so inspired (and honestly, put to shame) by the women leaders profiled in this book. I know that--as a person studying the nexus of gender and policy!--I can and want to do more—so if you have more ideas, please send them my way!

For now, fellow students, now that you get to actually choose your reading material (the best perk of not being in school, in my opinion), please, please, please, buy, borrow, beg, or take out a copy of Half the Sky from your local library. If it doesn’t absolutely convince you that the path to increased opportunity, living standards, and yes, economic prosperity (I am interning on Wall St.) lies in the hands of women—and push you to do something about it---I will buy your copy of the book from you. Or donate to Global Giving in your name. Your choice.

For more about the book, read the NYT Sunday Magazine article here.

If pictures are worth 1000 words to you, take a look at the photo gallery here.

To check out ways you can give back, help combat illiteracy, maternal mortality, sexual slavery and forced prostitution and promote women and girls’ education and empowerment in every sense of the word, check out any of the following websites: Global Giving, Apne Aap, Kiva, Care, 34 Million Friends, Global Fund for Women, Equality Now, Tostan, Vital Voices, Fistula Foundation, the Polaris Project, Girls Inc., and many, many more.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Now you're in New York...

Moved into my new apartment yesterday (thanks, JJ!). It’s in a great location, in the heart of Park Slope, Brooklyn. I wanted to be here mainly so I could be close to my sister, who’s a few short blocks away, and for the relatively easy commute (not to mention, more affordable rent!). I share the space with two other girls, both NYU Law students, who both seem very nice. One thing I was not prepared for: the size of the apartment. My room is lovely and thankfully, fits all of my belongings (read: clothes, books and shoes), but the living space/kitchen is quite small (and I love to cook). It will take some getting used to—I have definitely been spoiled by my wonderfully spacious Porter Square apartment.

My first day at Catalyst was today and I was pleasantly surprised to find some familiar names—mainly, professors, researchers and writers with whom I’ve become familiar over the past year. Catalyst runs a daily service called “Daily News,” which compiles all of the gender-relevant media of the day. It was great to see my former professor Barbara Kellerman’s piece on the list. What was not so pleasant was reading the comments afterwards. It is disheartening to read comments about how the real problem is women getting to too many management positions or how there’s really no problem at all, women and men are just different. Frustrating—and one of the things Catalyst is working to change.

For now, no big projects to report, as today was spent mostly in orientations and getting to meet people around the office. There’s a big project due this week that is allowing for a “all-hands-on-deck” that will afford some visibility into some of the larger project goals for the summer. I’m hoping to really dig into some substantive work this summer and to get a better understanding of how not only the private sector works, but how we can mainstream gender and gender-aware practices into organizational culture.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Let's back it up a bit...

Some background on why Catalyst, why HKS and why this blog:

Until last summer, I worked for the public policy office of the Alliance for Children and Families in Washington, DC. As the lead child welfare policy analyst (read: lobbyist), I was responsible for representing my members' voices in Congress, coordinating grassroots advocacy efforts, working within a coalition of child welfare-focused organizations to promote national child welfare reform (read all about the Fostering Connections Act of 2008 and its implementation here) and writing policy analysis of legislation on child welfare, nonprofit issues, service and even a (small) portion of the economic stimulus.

My seven years (college included) in DC brought me to the Kennedy School, where two courses in management and a course on institutions supporting families opened up new avenues of study, even as they inspired me to explore in depth—and work to solve--an issue that has always mattered to me: how gender can serve as a barrier to professional (and political) achievement and what to do about it. After all, it's not Kennedy if you're not asking what you can do...

My summer internship with Catalyst will expose me to a sector with which I’ve not had much experience—the private sector—even as it affords me an opportunity to learn about the ways in which women can learn from—and support—each other as they move up the career ladder. I will also (finally) put my Spanish major to use, as Catalyst seeks new ways to reach out to Latin American clients. Most importantly, I am excited to help change these statistics.

While the internship presents a new topic area and a new forum within which to work, I know it will also make me a better advocate for the communities I was working with before. In many vulnerable communities, empowering and educating women is often the first step to improving the community as a whole. No matter whether life post HKS takes me back to DC, to New York, or elsewhere, I know that this summer will provide a solid foundation from which to follow my passion for women’s issues—especially with regards to understanding management, building networks, and serving as an informed advocate—and help me to contribute to the world in a meaningful way.

Hi, blogging world.

This is me (and a stray dog in Istanbul).

I am excited (and extremely fortunate) to be spending the summer in New York, working with Catalyst, Inc., the leading nonprofit membership organization dedicated to building inclusive workplaces and advancing women and minorities in business. This is possible due to the generosity of WAPPP at the Harvard Kennedy School and the Roy Family Internship Fund.

This blog will follow my summer experiences-- discovering more about women's professional networks, examining the unique challenges facing women as they ascend the professional ladder, working to advance solutions in this arena...and of course, exploring the city of New York (especially my new neighborhood, Brooklyn!).