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.

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