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Showing posts with label work. Show all posts
Showing posts with label work. Show all posts

23 January 2017

When is being a mom an accomplishment?

Image by Erik Kastner on Flickr
When Yvonne Brill died in 2013, her New York Times obituary famously led with her culinary skills. Her beef Stroganoff masked her innovative work on a propulsion system to help keep communications satellites from slipping out of their orbits. The feminist internet clapped back until the NYTimes edited the dish out.

Last week Brenda Barnes, former CEO of Sara Lee, died. The Chicago Sun-Times framed her professional accomplishments along with her title of "Perfect Mom." Fortune called her a hero to working moms.     

I remember reading about her stepping down to attend to her children during their teen years and then later her ramping back up. For a bit, I quite obsessed about Barnes. Why wouldn't I be? In Barnes returned to full-time employment in 2004 I was still a rookie mom with big career aspirations. Anytime I have big dreams, I scour the world for role models to study as if to find clues as to how I can replicate their success. I was still operating under the adage that under no circumstances does a working woman take more than a year off from work if she wanted to stay at the top of her field. I was still healing from being burned by being pushed out of an org after taking family leave from feminist organizing. What magic did she have?

I feel like I saw her speak once. Most likely at some women's professional conference here in Chicago. Or maybe I just read about her enough that I feel like I saw her speak. The two lessons I took away from her was 1) never truly stop working. Fortune mentions this, but belittles her board work while as a "stay at home mom":
she stayed on the sidelines serving as a director on numerous Fortune 500 boards.
This ignores the time and commitment necessary for such board work and the pay. Sure she wasn't a CEO or President of a company, but she was working. Fast Company outlines her "stay at home mom" duties as:
Unlike some women executives who have famously dropped out, Barnes did not go home to write her memoirs or devote herself to charity and her children's soccer schedules. She just chose what is, for her, a less demanding path: She serves on the board of six major companies, among them Sears, Avon, and The New York Times; she's taught at the Kellogg School of Management, and stepped in as interim president of Starwood Hotels and Resorts in early 2000.
The Wall Street Journal similarly noted her work when she was hired at Sara Lee in May 2004.  Never stop working is advice often told to women who want to take extended time off for caregiving. Stay connected to your workplace via committee work, mentoring younger coworkers, etc.

The second lesson I think learned is that Barnes downshifted her career during her eldest kids' teen years. She said something about how the time when they least want you around is actually when they need you the most. As my daughter is now in her teens, I think about that a lot. I  have heard it said by other moms too. I repeat it to others.

Every piece written about her since her death remarks about her role in the never-ending juggle that working moms contend with. Few note that she never really did stop working, she just downshifted. None truly acknowledge the privilege she had to downshift in the first place or how easy it was for her to on-ramp back to the top.

I do think she will always be important to the story of working moms, as I have said, I learned a lot from her. But other women have helped me see the holes in her story, the holes that leave too many mothers without much choice to downshift or even go back to work when they want. I would hope she would want us to notice those wrinkles too.

Thanks, Brenda. Goddess bless you and your family.

02 January 2017

Starbucks Not Serving Up Their Baristas

I've been mentally obsessing over the story of a teenage woman being hit on at a Spokane Starbucks since it went viral a few days ago. The virality of the story seems simple enough - a 34-year-old guy thinks it is ok to ask out a supposed 16-year-old - the internet seems to think otherwise. He gets labeled gross old dude and we feel better about ourselves for being outraged.

I also think the outrage is amplified because many of us are on edge because Donald Trump, a man with a long list of sexual assault accusations, will become the next President of the USA. While his actions clearly did not offend the large group of women who did vote for Trump, the majority of women who did not vote for him ARE PISSED. And if we cannot keep a man who likes to brag about grabbing women by the genitals out of the White House, we can at least be pissed as hell when we see men acting as if women, of any age, are available just because men want them to be.

But what many people, including some women, do not understand is that this type of situation happens every day for women in the food and service industry. 

Last summer UNITE HERE Local 1 released a report, Hands Off Pants On, about the epidemic of harassment and assault in the service sector. They cited a 2015 national survey of "2,235 full-time and part-time female employees and found that 42% of women surveyed in the food service and hospitality industry reported sexual harassment, the highest of any field." UNITE HERE Local 1 went on to drill down into the situation here in Chicago with shocking results.

  • Among the hotel workers surveyed who had been harassed by a guest, over half (56%) of women said they did not feel safe returning to work after the incident.
  • 77% of casino workers surveyed had been sexually harassed by a guest.
  • 78% of women surveyed who serve guests in food and beverage outlets at casinos have had a guest make an unwelcome sexual comment, joke or question to or about them.  

ROC United found that "90% of tipped workers report experiencing unwanted sexual comments or behaviors in the workplace."

Yet we do not hear stories of other service sector workers being harassed or assaulted on a daily basis. Why? I believe it is because 1) these women do not report for fear of retaliation or as the report states, they feel nothing can be done and 2) the age difference in this Starbucks incident set off people's outrage mode quicker than if the guy in question had written a creepy note to a woman of his own age. UNITE HERE Local 1 also points out that "[j]ust 19% of hospitality workers surveyed said they had received training from their employer on how to deal with sexual harassment by guests."

Reporting sexual harassment in the service sector can often be confusing though. With the existence of restaurants like Hooters and their copycats that make their women servers wear revealing outfits more suitable for Vegas, it is no wonder that men can think that a teenager laughing at their stupid joke is flirting. Women flirting to get through to their job is part of what is called emotional labor.

Emotional labor is all the smiling, the "yes, sirs", and the giggles that women must do to fulfill their duty as customer service. The customer is always right, even if he is a skeezy old dude hitting on a barista who is just trying to remember which mocha gets soy and which gets whole milk.

What happened with this teenager at the Starbucks is not a new occurrence. It happens all too often and we fail to recognize it. Some of it is friendly emotional labor, it is still labor. It is not just being polite when I go into my local coffee shop and the barista I see almost every day knows not just my order, but every regular's order. Let's keep that in mind as we head out for our morning coffee, panini at lunch, or quick stop dinner. This issue is a women's issue and a feminist issue. Not just for the skeezy dude hitting on a teenager, but for every worker who has to put up with unwanted touches, looks, and comments.

08 March 2016

Book Buzz: Because of Sex: One Law, Ten Cases, and Fifty Years That Changed American Women's Lives at Work

Welcome to a newish feature here! I get far more pitches to review books than I have the ability to read & review. That is where "Book Buzz" comes in. This is where I will post about books that I think look worthy of not only me reviewing, but maybe, just maybe you picking up before I give the thumbs up. I've done this a few times, but finally have a name for it! Yay! Let's get to our first official "Book Buzz," shall we?

Because of Sex: One Law, Ten Cases and Fifty Years That Changed American Women’s Lives at Work by Gillian Thomas takes readers through ten landmark sex discrimination cases that helped dismantle a “Mad Men” world where women could only hope to play supporting roles, where bosses’ leers and propositions were as much a part of the air women breathed as cigarette smoke, and where pregnancy meant getting a pink slip. Readers will meet Ida Phillips, denied an assembly line job because she had a preschool-age child; Kim Rawlinson, who fought to become a prison guard—a “man’s job”; Mechelle Vinson, who endured sexual abuse by her boss before “sexual harassment” even had a name; Ann Hopkins, denied partnership at a Big Eight accounting firm because the men in charge thought she needed "a course at charm school”; and most recently, Peggy Young, forced off her UPS delivery route while pregnant because she asked for a temporary reprieve from heavy lifting

Gillian is a Senior Staff Attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union’s Women’s Rights Project. She previously litigated sex discrimination cases at the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and Legal Momentum (formerly NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund).

You can read an excerpt at Facebook. I hope to bring you a review in the coming months. 

13 February 2016

Beyond Balance Storify

In case you weren't able to attend Women Employed's "Beyond Balance" conversation, I Storified it. Enjoy!

11 November 2015

Housekeeper’s Global Week of Action #fairhousekeeping

Research shows that since 2002, there has been an increase in the number of hotels in Long Beach, CA from 37 to 44 while its workforce has decreased from 2,575 to 2,370, drastically increasing hotel workloads. 

UNITE HERE Local 1 surveyed 18 out of the approximately 29 members of the Hotels Monaco’s housekeeping department in June and July 2015, including 14 women who identified as housekeepers. All workers who responded reported experiencing pain at work (responding affirmatively to the question “do you ever experience pain at work?”) 78% of respondents reported taking pain relievers, citing examples such as Tylenol or Advil. 72% reported having woken up during the night in pain. [link] Actions have taken place at Hotel Monaco in the past and earlier today there was more action.

In an effort to address these issues, community and clergy will accompany Long Beach hotel workers in a program and candlelight march celebrating Housekeeper’s Global Week of Action in which hotel housekeepers across the U.S. and Canada, will be holding protests in 13 cities across North America spotlighting safety concerns and poor wages faced by many women who clean hotel rooms. This action is being held in conjunction with protests organized by housekeepers in more than 30 nations worldwide this week in a call for fairer treatment of hotel housekeepers across the global hotel industry.
If you are in the Long Beach area, please join in on Thursday, November 12th – 5:00 PM at the Long Beach Renaissance Hotel Promenade -- 111 East Ocean Blvd., Long Beach.

To learn more about actions happening this week, follow #fairhousekeeping on Twitter.

Citations from A New Economy for All

21 December 2014

Guest Post: Roxane Gay on Today’s Feminism: “Better is Not Good Enough”

Nearly three hundred bad feminists gathered at the Chicago Temple on December 10 to hear New York Times best-selling author Roxane Gay discuss issues around feminism, inequality, and the struggles that 21st century women still face at an event hosted by Women Employed. Gay’s commentary and criticisms on Wednesday were in line with those found in her recent book Bad Feminist—incisive and insightful, covering a broad range of topics with her signature quick-witted sense of humor. Some highlights from the evening:
On the wage gap: “Women have compromised enough! 77 cents is a compromise. Pay me a dollar, you asshole!”
On burning out in social services and activism: “Self-care is a priority. You must decide how much self care you need. If you burn out, then you’re not doing anything. If you’re not here, you can’t do any good in the world.”
On not always having an opinion: “Sometimes it’s Tuesday and I’m thinking about macaroni and cheese.” 
On privilege: “Saying that you have privilege does not mean that you do not have suffering.”
On intersectional feminism: “Feminism is so much more complicated than just gender. If good feminism is only about middle class white women, then I don’t want to be a part of that feminism.”
As Gay points out, there are̶—or at least there should be—as many different kinds of feminism as there are different kinds of people. A problem emerges, however, when one type of feminism comes to stand in for all types of feminism—when one approach or perspective claims to authoritatively represent all perspectives. Broadly speaking, mainstream feminist movements have left behind women of color, low-income women, and LGBTQA women. As Gay writes, feminism is certainly flawed, but it is flawed because it is a movement powered by people who are also inherently flawed.  At its best, feminism has the potential to offer a way to navigate our shifting cultural climate and to help women find their voices, which is what we find in Gay’s work.
Bad Feminist is easily one of the best books I’ve read this year. Gay’s writing is accessible and her tone approachable, yet her criticisms are articulate and pointed, as she never waters down the complexity of her arguments. In fact, one of Gay’s greatest strengths as an author and speaker is her ability to personally connect with her audience, allowing her to present highly sophisticated and nuanced social critiques without alienating anyone through the use of jargon-laden language, as may be the case with fellow academics (Gay is a professor at Purdue University). After all, what good is critical cultural commentary if someone needs a PhD to understand and respond to it? We need clear and discerning voices like Roxane Gay’s to serve as models and encourage us all to look much more critically at the world around us. Furthermore, the breadth of issues that Gay addresses in Bad Feminist speaks to the landscape of today’s feminism—complex, rapidly developing, contested, and above all, still necessary. 
Sure, things have improved for some women, but they have not improved enough, particularly not for women who are not highly educated, straight, middle-class, able-bodied, documented, and white. When women hold less than 20% of seats in Congress, when popular music boasts lyrics like “I know you want it,” when 1 in 5 women are raped or sexually assaulted in college, when there were over a thousand bills proposed in 2011 that intended to limit women’s ability to access an abortion (200 of which passed), when white women earn 77 cents, black women 64 cents, and Latina women 53 cents to every man’s dollar, how can anyone really say that feminism is irrelevant? At this point, we should not be questioning the relevance of feminism, but rather, we should be rolling up our sleeves and asking, “Where do we even start?”
And this is no easy question. During the question and answer at Women Employed’s event, an audience member asked Roxane how to know when to pick your battles. After all, the problems are complex and numerous, and most of us only have a finite amount of time, energy, and resources that we can dedicate to the causes we believe in. Gay’s advice was simple, but powerful: 
Use your voice where it will do the most good.
You can’t do everything, but you can do something. No matter where you live, what you do for a living, or how much time or money you have, there is a unique way that you can contribute to social change. Do you have a bit of financial flexibility? Make a donation to a women’s nonprofit (such as Women Employed). Do you have expertise in your field? Mentor younger women or donate your time and knowledge by serving on a council or board. Even more importantly: do you have a voice? Speak up, and do so as often as you can. Do you have ears? Listen to others who have experiences and perspectives different from your own. If nothing else, be proactive and stay informed about what’s going on. Sure, things are better than they were a generation or two ago, but as Gay aptly puts it, “Better is not good enough, and it’s a shame that we would settle for so little.”
Here’s the truth: all feminists are bad feminists. We’re imperfect, and our feminisms are imperfect. As individuals, we each have limited perspectives. We contradict ourselves. We make mistakes. We’re human. But does that mean we abandon feminist causes? Definitely not, because then we’re really in trouble. We do the best we can with what we know, we get challenged when someone disagrees, we pay attention and remain open to new perspectives, and then when we know better, we do better. We may all be bad feminists, but it’s up to bad feminists to keep fighting the good fight.
Rachel Clark studies Women’s and Gender Studies at Carleton College in Northfield, MN. In December, she had the opportunity to intern with Women Employed, a Chicago-based nonprofit organization that advocates for increased educational and employment opportunities for working women. She aspires to one day be a professional feminist. 

14 August 2014

Guest Post: Reflections on Anita Hill, Twenty-Three Years Later

VLF welcomes Lauren Miller's guest post about a recent viewing of "Anita: Speaking Truth to Power."Lauren is a Chicago-based womanist impassioned about all things related to holistic wellness for marginalized women. As Engagement Coordinator at Women Employed, she energizes young professional women online, and offline, to promote practices and policies that support real change for America’s working women.

“I was raised to do what is right. And can now explain to my students, first hand, that despite the high cost which may be involved, it is worth having the truth emerge,” asserts Anita Hill in 1991 to a crowd of familiar faces in Oklahoma.

This moment, and the power of those words, were experienced yet again to a sold-out crowd of professionally diverse women of all ages during an event hosted by Women Employed on August 5th. The eyes of Chicagoland’s foremost women lawyers, political leaders, and advocates of Women Employed were transfixed on the screen displaying one of Chicago’s only screenings of Anita: Speaking Truth to Power. The film highlights the important narrative from twenty-three years ago when one woman’s raw testimony, broadcast in the international spotlight, emboldened millions of women to tell the truth and ushered in major changes in sexual harassment policy and female representation in politics. Anita Hill's 1991 testimony before the Senate judiciary committee, in which she accused Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment, sent shock waves through every office in America and brought the important issue into the open.

This new documentary, directed by Academy-award winning filmmaker Freida Mock, illuminates the disgrace of America’s political leaders’ inability to authentically listen to and engage with sexual harassment. An experience now more widely acknowledged within our contemporary moment, progressive women have always recognized sexual harassment as stitched in the very fabric of what it means to exist as a woman in a patriarchal society. From cat calls and street harassment to the prevalent male gaze and more strange, graphic, and lewd sexual violence, we’re no strangers to sexual harassment. Sure, we can examine the statistics, but talking directly with our mothers, sisters, and girlfriends provides more visceral stories that empower many of us to speak out and act.

However, as Anita: Speaking Truth to Power reminds us, the truth is not easily digested by those unwilling to engage with it—those socialized firmly within a patriarchy that promises, among other things, to allow an otherwise rightfully deserving man to continue toward the prize he has earned. When Anita spoke out, many questioned, “Why could she not simply keep her mouth shut like she had done for so many years?”. One patronizing query from a member of the judiciary committee was, “Why in God’s name” would you ever speak to him again, Anita? This is wounding to listen to.

As Hill reflects in the film, twenty-two years after the hearings, “[t]he more I understood about sexual harassment, the more I understood that it was only part of the problem. Sexual harassment is just part of a larger issue of gender inequality.” Blaming the victim is an archaic sexist remedy with “dealing” with sexual harassment —putting a band-aid over a festering, infected wound that hasn’t been treated or even looked at truthfully and with compassion. If every woman were to not speak to or engage with her perpetrator, society would indeed look dramatically different—it would be far more quiet.

And, their silence would do what, exactly? It would neither create healing nor effectively “shame” the perpetrator into feminist, equitable actions—a responsibility that is not just on women, and shouldn’t be.

What Hill encourages us to do with these words is examine the larger issue. Her story invites us to interrogate gender inequality and the particular nuances of being both female and black. In the film, years later, reflecting on the sensationalized trial, Anita mentions that “[i]t was really the combination of my race and my gender and it changed the dynamics.”

In the face of a decisive and divisive panel of all white, all male political leaders, Anita remained steadfast. She spoke the opening words of this blog post within days of her testimony against then-Supreme Court justice nominee Clarence Thomas. As she speaks them, the calm yet strong Anita appears extraordinarily self-assured—something notable for a woman who faced, head on, the politics of Washington and all of the messy, and messed-up, dynamics related to being both woman and black. That Thomas was already hand-picked by George Bush, Sr. to be the next conservative Supreme Court justice and that, for that administration, he would also be the justice of color, albeit token, mattered. That Thomas recognized the elephant (read: blackness) in the post-Civil Rights era room and, after Hill’s detailed testimony with several witnesses who spoke additional truth to power, intentionally chose to victimize himself as casualty of “high-tech lynching for uppity blacks” mattered. Thomas understood the weight of that statement in planting fear in the minds of the panel who would rather avoid “racist” label in the early ‘90s. That the panel of deciders was all white and all male matters. All of this matters.

And what matters for us–what we must keep in perspective about this story’s relevance for us today—is that this story illuminates institutionalized dynamics of race, power, sex, and control in the United States. It’s dangerously easy for us to look at this narrative in isolation. It’s easy for us to demonize a man, especially a black man, for being hypersexual, degrading, and violent towards a woman. Yes, what Thomas did is unequivocally horrendous. That being said, it’s harder for us to critique everything surrounding this story: the nearly missed opportunity and near-refusal for a hearing; the sheer lack of preparedness of our politicians when listening to Hill’s experiences; the way that Hill quickly became the one “on trial;” the endemic nature of sexual harassment for a patriarchal society, and therefore the obvious nature of all that occurred within the hearings. That this turned into a spectacle is both disturbing and shameful, but it ultimately illuminated the prevalence of sexual harassment and racial and gender tensions within our nation’s very fabric.

21 February 2014

Guest Post: Mad Men Workplace Policies and Leaky Pipelines: Women Journalists Talk Gender Bias

Viva la Feminista welcomes, Ambar Mentor-Truppa as a guest blogger today! Ambar is a Chicago-based feminist and public relations executive committed to cultivating the next generation of women leaders. As a board member and chair of Women Employed’s Advocacy Council, Ambar mobilizes young professional women to advocate on behalf of all working women and families. 

“I lived through the Mad Men era!” That’s what author and trailblazing journalist Lynn Povich told the crowd gathered for a panel discussion co-hosted by Women Employed on February 13th.

The audience listened attentively as Povich continued, sharing the story of how she and her female colleagues confronted the blatant sexism at Newsweek in the 60s. When they were told that “women don’t write at Newsweek,” the women not only didn’t accept it; they fought against it. In 1970, Povich and 45 other women sued the magazine for sex discrimination.

“We loved Newsweek—we just wanted Newsweek to be better,” Povich explained. She and her Eleanor Holmes Norton, now a D.C. congresswoman. Their landmark victory sent ripples through the entire news industry, paving the way for sex discrimination lawsuits against the New York Times and the Washington Post. One measure of the suit’s success is that just five years later, Lynn became Newsweek’s first female Senior Editor.

Joining Povich at the panel discussion was recent Newsweek writer Jesse Ellison, who co-authored a Newsweek article on the 40th anniversary of the landmark lawsuit questioning how much has actually changed for working women. The two remarkable female journalists answered questions posed by moderator Peggy Davis, a nationally recognized lawyer who serves as the Executive Director for the Chicago Committee where she advances racial and ethnic diversity in the legal profession.

While Povich spoke about how she and the other women experienced blatant sex discrimination, Ellison described the more subtle forms of gender bias in the workplace today. In the 2000s, she and her fellow female journalists at Newsweek watched as men around them were given plum assignments, raises, and promotions, while they were left to “walk in place.” They had been raised to believe that they could do anything, that our society had achieved equality—so it took them a long time to identify what they were facing as gender bias. “Today, it takes longer to say something is sexist,” Ellison told the crowd. “It’s a watered down version” that is consequentially “harder to pinpoint.” It was only after Ellison and her female colleagues began sharing their stories that they realized they were facing a collective problem in a flawed system rather than individual failings.

The women discussed the ways this more subtle gender bias plays out in today’s workplace. Povich described how although there are women with the experience and skills to lead, they still aren’t getting ahead. Povich called this a “leaky pipeline” problem: our workplaces aren’t structured to allow women to both be good mothers and good bosses, so many of them either opt out or are forced out of upper management positions.
fellow plaintiffs won the lawsuit with the help of the ACLU and their attorney,

During the Q&A session, the discussion touched on many of today’s hot topics for working women, ranging from the confidence gap outlined by Sheryl Sandberg in Lean In to the evolution of feminism and the women’s movement. “Our feminism was a very visible feminism,” Povich told the audience, describing the sense of sisterhood and united purpose created by the women’s, civil rights, and antiwar movements. “Today, feminism is online.” She mentioned the recent article in The Nation, Feminism’s Toxic Twitter Wars [ed. VLF's response]. Ellison also spoke about the divisions among women today and how she and her co-authors faced backlash from other women for publishing their article on the 40th anniversary of the sex discrimination lawsuit. One of her hopes for the future is that women and men can overcome some of their differences and join together to fight against bias in the workplace.

The evening finished on a hopeful note: the message that Povich says she wants people to take from her story is that “it is possible to change the system from within.” It may not be easy, but as her own story testifies, it can happen. And what should that change look like? “The workplace has to be restructured for working parents. This isn’t a women’s problem—it’s a societal problem. And I’m hoping young men, who are far more involved in raising their children than my father’s generation was, will come together with their female colleagues, who still bear most of the responsibility for child rearing, and demand that their workplaces change.”

Watch the video below to hear Lynn Povich and Jesse Ellison talk about making change at Newsweek.

19 December 2013

Dining ethically is more than just a good tip

Anyone who has ever eaten out knows that you should tip your server. But most of us most likely do not know WHY we need to leave a fair tip. For the record, I usually tip around 20%. The closest I have been to being a restaurant server was my summer at Santa's Village putting french fries and pizza puffs on people's trays. I did not wait tables to make my way through college. Why? Cause I knew I would totally and utterly suck at it. Thus, I tip as generously as I can, especially when very much earned, because I admire anyone who can remember my order, check on me and all that jazz that makes a meal out a happy event.

I was shocked to learn, a few years ago, that because servers work for tips, their minimum wage is $2.13. What the WHAT?! And that hasn't changed in 22 years. I did know that most of them do not have access to paid sick days. Which of course means people who serve you lunch have to decide to go to work sick (possibly making you sick) or staying home and losing money. What would you choose? But how can we make any difference in this situation? Well, I have a tip for you!

ROC United has released their 2014 Diners Guide [pdf] and in it I learned that there is an alternative restaurant association being built. Sadly only two Chicago restaurants are members: Sugar Bliss Cake Boutique and Uncommon Ground [pg 9-10 of the guide].
ROC United asked restaurants about their practices with regard to:
a) wages for tipped workers and non-tipped workers,
b) paid sick leave policy,
c) advancement opportunities for workers to move up the ladder.
Restaurants could earn up to 5 points or stars. In the guide itself theses Chicago restaurants earned at least a two-star rating:

DIMO’S PIZZA - 2 stars
FIG CATERING - 3 stars
HOULIHAN’S - 3 stars

They also ranked national chains including:
OLIVE GARDEN - Not only zero stars, but a sad face! In fact all Darden restaurants get the sad face because "in 2011, workers filed several federal lawsuits and legal charges against Darden for workplace violations such as discrimination and wage theft." Page 9 of the guide 

But since we all can't only eat at the restaurants who are doing a decent job in relation to their workers, ROC United includes a few business-card-sized notes you can leave with restaurants to let them know that you care about their workers. There is also a page that lists all restaurants by state, so no need to try to figure that out yourself.

11 July 2013

Soledad O'Brien wants you at #OfficeHours

Viva la Feminista is happy to participate in today's Office Hours event with broadcast pro, Soledad O'Brien at 2pm ET/11am PT.

This is your chance to ask Soledad a question about your career! She'll be sharing her own career advice.  And you can watch it all right here at Viva la Feminista. I thought this would fit right in with our Summer of Feminista theme!  So what are you going to ask?

About Soledad O'Brien, Award Winning Journalist, Documentarian, News Anchor and Producer

Soledad O'Brien is an award winning journalist, documentarian, news anchor and producer. O’Brien was the originator of “Black in America” and “Latino in America”. In June she launched Starfish Media Group, a multiplatform media production and distribution company, dedicated to uncovering and producing empowering stories that take a challenging look at the often divisive issues of race, class, wealth, poverty and opportunity through personal stories. Starfish Media Group continues to produce “Black in America” and “Latino in America” and other programming for CNN. In June 2013, O’Brien joined HBO and ‘Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel’ as a correspondent.

O'Brien has reported on breaking news from around the globe. In 2011 she won an Emmy for "Crisis in Haiti Report" on Haitian orphanages, following the massive earthquake. Her coverage of Hurricane Katrina earned her and CNN a George Foster Peabody award. She also received another Peabody award for her coverage of the BP Gulf coast Oil Spill. Her reporting on the Southeast Asia tsunami garnered CNN an Alfred I DuPont award.

O'Brien's critically acclaimed documentary series, Black in America and it's follow-up "Latino in America" are among CNN's most successful domestic and international franchises. In 2013 "Latino in America 2", the story of a Latina boxer who dreams of Olympic glory, won the celebrated Cine Award for documentaries. Her documentary "Gay in America: Gary and Tony have a baby," and "Unwelcome, the Muslims Next Door" also won numerous journalism awards. O'Brien was named journalist of the year by the National Association of Black Journalists and one of Newsweek Magazines "15 People Who Make America Great." In 2013, O'Brien joined Harvard University as a Distinguished Fellow and was appointed to the Board of Directors of the foundation for The National Archives.

O’Brien is also the Moderator and Executive Producer of the National Geographic Bee. In the wake of hurricane Katrina, O'Brien and her husband Brad created a foundation to help disadvantaged young women get to and through college. This year they will award scholarships to 25 deserving young women. O'Brien lives in Manhattan with her husband and four children.

About Office Hours

Office Hours is a weekly, 30-minute video chat with extraordinary leaders. The live Q&A session grants you an exclusive inside look into the career path, lessons learned and personal advice from top leaders and experts - right from the comfort of their office.

26 March 2013

Latino and Women Farmers and Ranchers Have Until May 1st to File A Claim

Earlier this month Latino USA reported that "in 2000, about 1400 Latino ranchers and farmers sued the US Department of Agriculture for denying them loans based on their ethnicity." Women, like Rosemary Love, were discriminated against on the basis of sex.

While the USDA has announced a claim process, Latino and women farmers are not a class action, thus they must file a claim in order to obtain financial compensation in the form of cash or loan forgiveness. 

Details as to how to file a claim can be found on the . The DEADLINE has been extended to May 1, 2013. 

11 July 2011

Other things I've written...but not here

Woohoo! It's another post about stuff I've written for other blogs.

First up is a piece I did for Gapers Block last month on the Chicago Bandits and the grand opening of their stadium:
Opening night for the Chicago Bandits, Chicago's professional softball team, was a pitchers' duel between Bandit Monica Abbott and the USSSA Pride's Danielle Lawrie. After a picture perfect first inning, an errant throw by Abbott in the second led to the Pride getting on base. Thankfully she was saved by a clinic-worthy cutoff throw to home to keep the game scoreless. The duel resumed and continued until the bottom of the seventh, when the Bandits skillfully moved Megan Wiggins, who led off the inning, around the bases, capped off with Caitlin Lever's shot to right field to bring Wiggins home. The crowd erupted in a roar to signal the end of the game. [read the rest at Gapers Block]

Second is a bit of an op-ed I write for Gapers Block about the Chicago Red Stars shortened home season:
Women's professional sports has a long history of ups and downs. Women's professional soccer reached its peak in 2000 by riding the wave of Mia Hamm fever and the USA team winning the World Cup in sports bra-baring style. But then the fans did not show up and the Women's United Soccer Association folded in 2003. In 2009, the Women's Professional Soccer League opened shop with a Chicago franchise, the Chicago Red Stars, and played at the beautiful Toyota Park in Bridgeview. They fielded all-star players like Illinoisan Ella Masar and Brazil's Cristiane.[read the rest at Gapers Block]

And no, Andrew hasn't totally roped me into being on staff at Gapers Block. But I am joining their softball team.

Lastly, I wrote a ranty lil piece for Chicagonista on women and unions. I'm sure that one will "haunt" me in the future. But ya know what? I stand by that piece. And hopefully my future self will too.
Late last week, the Mayor said that the city workers union had to come up with contract concessions by July 1st or risk hundreds of layoffs. The current contract was signed by former Mayor Daley and built upon the idea that furlough days would continue and Mayor Emanuel does not want to continue them. And that means real money needs to be cut and by last Friday.

So why am I saying that this is a way on the working women of Chicago?

Think about it. Who are the bulk of Chicago teachers? Women. Women make up 60% of local employees*. When we get to state employees, it is 50.7% of workers, which makes Governor Quinn’s refusal to pay raises important to this state’s women…and as we know, when women are shortchanged, families are shortchanged. [read the whole piece at Chicagonista]
 I'm scheduled for a piece at Girl w/Pen soon, so head over there too.

20 April 2010

Equal Pay Day 2010: Wage gap in science and engineering

Today is Blog for Equal Pay Day! 

This post isn't meant to be lazy, but I realized that the idea I had for today I already did over at Girl w/Pen. Yes, I've finally gotten to the point in my writing where I have forgotten what I've written about. It took a web search to remind me. Oh, so pathetic...but back to today's post....

One reason why I am passionate about piquing girls' interest in science and engineering as a career path is the money. Even in this recession, starting salaries for computer-related and engineering careers are on the rise. They are also usually higher than any other field. This can be quite a carrot for sticking out a second semester of Calculus or even organic chemistry.

But I also tell my students that there is a wage gap for scientists and engineers. Back in 1999, the National Science Foundation found that the wage gap for engineers was only 13 cents. Not bad. Overall for science, engineering and math, it looks like the wage gap in 2001 for starting salaries was 24 cents.

Some have theorized that the difference in the wage gap between science and engineering can be attributed to the market. Since there are less women in engineering, they can usually negotiate a better salary since they are more in demand. Some have also theorized that the biological sciences are facing dropping salaries since more women are entering...This is yet to be proven...salary wise anyway.

Bottom-line is that the wage gap impacts all women. Even in uber-women dominated careers like nursing, men out earn women.

And of course the gap widens for women of color as seen in these lovely graphics that the Feminist Looking Glass posted from NPR. Although considering the serious lack of people of color in science and engineering, I'd love to look at that wage gap.

Other Equal Pay Day links of note:

27 March 2010

Women's History Month: That stripper pole is someone's office!

Today's Women's History Tidbit:
1900: Effa Manley is born in Philadelphia. From 1935 to 1948 she will run the Newark Eagles, a Negro Leagues baseball team, which she co-owns with her husband.* She is the first woman to be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.**

This was originally posted on the AWEARNESS blog. 

At least that's what Quansa Thompson is trying to claim. She's a smart cookie exotic dancer from Washington, DC who is suing her former "employer" for not paying her and her fellow dancers a wage. I put employer in quotes in this context because the owner of the club claims that "he treats dancers as if they were patrons, charging them $20 admission, then letting them keep whatever they earn without any additional fees."

No matter what your stance is on strippers or exotic dancers, I hope that you agree that they are working. They are providing entertainment that draws people in to pay real money to enter an establishment and buy food and drinks. Sure they get paid a lot (at least the ones in the WaPo article do) to entertain, but that doesn't mean that employers should get off the hook. Thompson says that she might start a magazine; I think she should enroll in law school. There are a lot of other women out there who need a gutsy woman like her, who is willing to speak out for her rights as an employee, to stand by them!

And thanks WaPo for an educational and entertaining article. I can't figure out if my favorite line was about Warren Buffet or the safety net.

* Source: 2010 Women Who Dare Engagement Calendar from the Library of Congress 
** Source:  ESPN

15 October 2009

It's been a busy month for science grrls!

Originally posted at Girl w/Pen

It seems like every other story in the past month had a science grrl at its core. Some were good, some not so much. I honestly couldn’t make up my mind on which story to write about, so I’ll write a little about all of them:
  • Elinor Ostrom is the first woman to win the Nobel Prize in Economics. The best part of her story? That her high school advisor told her that she couldn’t take trigonometry because she was a girl. It’s been quite some time, but if that advisor is still alive, I hope they give her a call to apologize. Otherwise, girls take note. My high school advisor was horrible my freshman year, so I switched. If you don’t feel supported, find someone else to talk to!
  • Ostrom topped off what has been a banner year of women winning the Nobel. We had the first time two women won a Nobel together (in medicine). The advisor-former graduate student pairing makes my heart a flutter. Now that’s Sisterhood NOT Interrupted! In addition, Ada Yonath won in Chemistry.
  • The motive for the murder of Annie Le is still to be revealed, but for me it doesn’t take much to see this crime as a possible crime against women in science. While I was still pondering the role that gender in the lab played in the crime, another woman was attacked in a lab. Sadly women in science history holds one huge dark chapter: In 1989 a man massacred 14 women as he “fought feminism” in Canada.
  • In animation land, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is telling young girls to not dumb themselves down and embrace their geekdom. My husband took our six-year-old daughter to see this movie while I was out of town over the weekend. She’s certainly not dumbing herself down…yet…but my money is on the fact that she’ll remember that the main character’s dad dies rather than she should be herself.
  • Considering the high participation of women in environmental science and public health, we could see more women winning Nobels if some new awards are added in the future.
  • And while she does fall under science FICTION, I think that Octavia Butler deserves to close out this post. Her novels paint a bleak picture for our future, but the way to avoid most of it are also laid out in her novels. She uses science to craft her stories, even in her last unfinished story arc on vampires science is a huge character. And now the Huntington Library is where her papers will be stored (PDF link). I eagerly await a biography on this genius who was taken from us way too soon.

06 October 2009

Women Tweeting Women

Women Employed, a fab Chicago organization,  is doing a 24 hour Twitter campaign called “Women Tweeting Women” on Wednesday, October 7, 2009.

The idea is to post information about inspiring women throughout the day. On Twitter please use the hashtag #wtw09 when tweeting about the inspiring women in your life.

This should be a lot of fun!!

Even thou I don't quite have a "I'm a feminist ask me how" button on, other women just seem to know and I get asked questions about career development. One nifty aspect of Women Employed is their Career Coach. Now I love my job, but I know I need to up my ante soon. For me that means finally getting my butt in gear to start a PhD program. But a few years ago I had no idea where I was headed. Luckily I have a great mentor in my boss, so she was a world of help. But I also know that many of us have dreams and aspirations that isn't the same as our day jobs. So why not try Career Coach to get started on your plans? I don't think electronic tools like this will give anyone the answer, but it can be a good first step and sometimes, that's what we all really need help with.

26 March 2009

Working as a Professional Feminist

This post is for the Fem2.0 "What is work?" blog carnival.

I've never stopped to think of what work means to me. It's just one of those words that you take for granted. But as I stop to ponder my relationship with the word, it's amazing.

As a Latina of Mexican heritage, work is not a four-letter word. Lazy is. Despite the stereotype of Mexicans & our siestas, we work hard. In fact I didn't know what a siesta really meant until I got to Spanish class in 7th grade. A siesta in my household meant taking five minutes for some iced tea. I haven't studied our relationship with work to know if Latin@s are taught to work hard to fight against the stereotype or we just work hard naturally. Pollo - huevo. Either way, it was drilled in me early on that we work hard for what we have. And that continues to this day.

I know that I am privileged in a way that sometimes overshadows my very humble lower income background. I have a bachelors and a masters degree. I am married to a man who is also a college-educated Latino. We met before either of us had our degrees. Considering that only 12% of Latinos have college degrees (pdf!) I would say that's quite a privilege in this economy.

I am mostly privileged in that I call myself a professional feminist because I have a job that allows me, wants me to do feminist work every day and I love it. Yes, it's work in that there are days where the clock just creeps by. It's work that I have to raise money so that I can do work. My salary might be paid by the state, but the programs I plan are paid by funds I raise. It's also very hard work getting students to come out for a program that they request, but somehow life gets in the way of them attending. I like to describe my job as being a grassroots organizer for women majoring in science & engineering. I have to herd them and sometimes bribe them with pizza. It's hard work.

I also have to break their hearts and that's really the hardest part. When a students asks me why we don't have infant care. When a student asks me why a general science course is so "hard" and doesn't understand why a 50% is passing in college. The cold truths of academia breaks some of them and my job is to tell it like it is, but also instill some hope that if we all work together, maybe, just maybe things will change.

And that's why I call myself a professional feminist. I'm not professional in that I'm churning out book after book. I'm not professional because I get paid thousands of dollars to speak (althou if you want, just ask!). I'm professional in that I get paid to work for educational and economic equity by supporting young women who want to be scientists and engineers. Some days that menas helping them network. Some days that means seeing yet another student tell me how her professor let the men in the class "be boys" during lecture.

I'm a campus feminist, but I'm sending my students out into the world and arming them with feminist tools.

Now as a new freelance writer/pro-blogger, work is different. That work looks frivolous to many. Images of sitting in a wifi'd cafe come to mind and honestly, that is where some of my best work is born. But some days it is harder than herding undergraduates. It's almost like always being in graduate school. Research, citations, editing and then waiting for validation in comments or emails from readers. Or the rejection email. It's still work, but it's invisible to most.

Yet the most invisible of all my work is mothering.

Oddly it is the work that I think moms get the most recognition from.

People may ask how I do so much or give me kudos for doing so much, but rarely do people want to hear the gory & hilarious details of mothering. Currently I've discovered that if I fall bask to sleep after I wake up my daughter, she wants to surprise me by getting dressed & washed up. This allows her to come, wake ME up and then I say, "Oh! You're dressed!" This does nothing to speed things up in the morning, but it does bring the "Come on!" and screaming down to almost nothing. And honestly, that's worth the extra 5 minutes we're always running late by.

Mothering is a lot of work and the emotional toll is the hardest part.

Do I think we should get paid for mothering? No. Do I think we should have paid leave, paid sick days and affordable child care? Yes. There's a world of difference between being paid to have children and having a society that values all children.

So what is work?

Work is the stuff we do each day for our loved ones, to pay the rent and in order to take a vacation once every few years. Work is work. You know what it is because it makes you sweat.

08 February 2009

Women's Bureau of the US Dept of Labor

In 2001 the Bush Administration attempted to kill the Department of Labor's Women's Bureau. This underappreciated arm of the government mission is "To improve the status of wage-earning women, improve their working conditions, increase their efficiency, and advance their opportunities for profitable employment."

While I have to fully admit that the Women's Bureau, even under a very tight budget, has been pretty good to my place of employment during the past administration*, I have been awaiting a change in the White House with the hope that the WB would be allowed to fully do what they are meant to do. I've received word from friends that current NOW President Kim Gandy's is being thrown about for Director of the Women's Bureau!

If I'm correct, this position can't be filled until we get Hilda Solis confirmed.

After Kim's term is over at NOW (sometime in August, I believe) she would be a wonderful person to lead the WB. I've worked with Kim over the past 5 1/2 years on various NOW issues. While we haven't always agreed on methodology & implementation, we do agree on the centrality of economic justice to women's rights.

Kim understands that choice cannot mean anything without women having access to education & training and to fair & equal pay. She understands that the fight for marriage equality is not just about marriage, but economic security. Kim gets it people.

There is also "an anonymous" email going around smearing Kim based on the fact that NOW endorsed Obama & Biden. Oddly I didn't see a similar smear campaign against Hillary Rodham Clinton, patron feminist saint, for taking the Secretary of State job with the Obama administration. Apparently Clinton supporters who followed Clinton's call for unity are traitors, but not Clinton herself. OK, I get that. Not.

Yes, there are other feminists who would do an awesome job at WB. But there is nothing I have seen, heard, or experienced that would convince me that Kim Gandy would not rock the WB.

We need someone with the passion that Kim has in the WB to not just make sure that it sticks to its mission, but also that women's working issues are not sweep under the rug with stories about men losing their job faster than women. The economic status of women is not just about how many of us are working -- With the wage gap, us women need to work more than men to earn enough as men -- It is nuanced with discrimination, child care issues and elder care issues. It is about women working multiple past-time jobs when their husband's get laid off. It is not as simple as counting jobs, but the quality of those jobs.

I would be proud to continue working with Kim Gandy if she is indeed appointed as Director of the Women's Bureau. The women of this country would be well represented.

* One of my office's projects is listed on the left sidebar. Hint, it's in purple.

21 January 2009

Michelle Obama: Mother or Career Woman?

From the new First Lady's webpage:

When people ask Michelle Obama to describe herself, she doesn't hesitate. First and foremost, she is Malia and Sasha's mom.

But before she was a mother — or a wife, lawyer, or public servant — she was Fraser and Marian Robinson's daughter.

This introduction for the First Lady's biography has continued the discussion on whether or not Michelle Obama downplays her achievements as a working woman. She is quite accomplished on her own as witnessed by a press release by Leadership Greater Chicago and Crane's Chicago:

He was known as “Michelle’s husband — that guy who’s a state senator,” recalled Mr. Goolsbee, the only one of the three to make it to Monday’s event.

I know pointing that line out and me adding that my husband knows people who knew Michelle when she was THE OBAMA in town, will just add fuel to the "she's downplaying her role" fire.

But is she really downplaying her role?

No, she's not.

Michelle is a mother and the mother of two young girls who are now in the center of international attention. As a mom, we can easily quit our office jobs, even if we love them, but we can't quit our kids. Now you're asking yourself, isn't Barack quitting his kids? If his letter to the girls is true, no. I believe that he believes this path is HIS best way to be a father to the girls.

Is it gendered? Hell yes.

But that's the way they played their cards.

Would I play my cards that way? I can't say for certain. My husband & I try to take turns on who is out front. And honestly one never knows when one of us will "shoot way in front." From what I've read of Michelle & Barack, he has had his eyes set on running for political office for years. She preferred to leave her mark in other ways, in the way that most of us actually walk. Did she make that choice knowing that public life makes it harder to be a mom? I don't know.

What I do know is that Michelle oozes strong woman vibe. Whether she is touting her degrees and lengthy resume, dancing elegantly with her husband or mothering her daughters, she is a strong woman. As my husband said when I asked him what he thought, "She's a strong woman who balances it all in her own way."

Do we need a new definition of motherhood or fatherhood in this situation? Perhaps. Remember that grandma moved into the White House for a reason. My bet is that Michelle will log just as many frequent flyer miles as Barack - And we will be a better country for it.

Malia & Sasha - Thanks for lending us your parents for the next 4-8 years. We owe ya.

07 November 2008

Larry Summers Is Not the Change I Was Expecting

Here's my first commentary published on the Women's Media Center's website:

As President-elect Obama moves quickly to assemble his team, women leaders monitoring his choices have put up a red alert about a reported short-list choice as secretary of the Treasury. Veronica Arreola, an educator and advocate for women in the sciences, explains why.
Click here to read the full article:

WMC Reprint & Credit Requirements: The Women's Media Center grants permission to reprint free-of-charge with the understanding that media outlets credit the author of the piece and the Women's Media Center, as in: "by [author's name] for The Women's Media Center (www.womensmediacenter.com)." If the format allows it, please note at the end: "The WMC is a non-profit organization founded by Jane Fonda, Gloria Steinem, and Robin Morgan, dedicated to making women visible and powerful in the media."


This blog is my personal blog and is not reflective of my employer or what I do for them.
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