Archive for October, 2010

Media sexism remains a burden for women candidates

October 29, 2010

By Swanee Hunt, the Eleanor Roosevelt Professor in Public Policy and founding director of the Women in Public Policy Program at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and Kerry Healey, the former lieutenant governor of Massachusetts.

American women hold 12 percent of governor’s seats and make up 17 percent of Congress. If these numbers sound low, that’s because they are: The United States ranks a stunning 85th in the world in women’s parliamentary representation. No matter which side of the aisle prevails in the upcoming mid-term elections, both sides can agree the U.S. needs to draw on 100 percent of its citizens’ talents to meet our huge challenges.

Many factors contribute to the gender gap in political leadership, but a recent study sponsored by the new Name It. Change It. campaign highlights the role of sexism in the media’s treatment of female candidates both to deterring women from running for office and also decreasing their chances of success when they do throw their hats in the ring. Thanks to Lake Research Partners’ groundbreaking findings, for the first time we have hard evidence that the media are holding back political parity. According to Lake, even subtle slurs in newspapers, blogs and on television and radio negatively impact voters’ opinions of a candidate’s trustworthiness and values, making voters less likely to cast a vote for female candidates who have been the subject of media assaults that target their gender or sexuality.

In the past few months, the experiences of Nikki Haley, Betty Sutton, and Elena Kagan have demonstrated how women

of all parties and branches of government get slammed by the same denigrating treatment. Despite differences in backgrounds, careers, and ideologies, as they’ve traveled the road of women in public life, their journeys — a congressional seat, a gubernatorial nomination and the highest bench in the land — have been regrettably similar. True, they all saw some success this year: Kagan was confirmed, Haley won her primary and Sutton is running a competitive re-election campaign. However, their media coverage distracted the public from judging them primarily on their professional qualifications. The consequences are far-reaching: Women who watch other women subjected to degrading treatment are deterred from seeking office. If we’re going to dip deeper into our nation’s talent pool for future leaders, we need to ensure a gender-neutral media.

If Nikki Haley wins, she’ll be the first woman governor of South Carolina. But while Haley pursued and won the Republican nomination — in the state with the fewest women in elected office — two men came forward to claim they had had affairs with her. The media went into overdrive. Blogs about the alleged affairs were peppered with words like slut and whore, and conservative blogger Eric Ericson wrote in Haley’s “defense”: “This violates the very basic laws of nature: Hot women do not have affairs with ugly guys unless those guys are rich.” Following Haley’s nomination, some in the media weren’t asking how she’d govern; they were asking if she was “hotter” than Sarah Palin.

Betty Sutton can probably relate. A second-term Democratic congresswoman from Ohio, she was the youngest woman ever elected to the Ohio House of Representatives. Having held public office since she was 25, Sutton has myriad accomplishments behind her, including her primary authorship of 2009’s “Cash for Clunkers” program. But when The Republican Review urged voters to “take Betty Sutton out of the House and put her back in the kitchen,” the blog went viral.

As Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan waded through her confirmation process, she experienced a piercing media spotlight often focusing on her gender instead of her accomplishments. We have had the privilege of seeing firsthand how Kagan consistently brought an atmosphere of civil public debate and personal respect to her interactions with faculty, students, and alums at Harvard Law School. The American public, however, may not know Kagan was the first female dean of Harvard Law School or that she clerked for Chief Justice Thurgood Marshall, but they know she hasn’t married. While the nominee was giving seventeen hours of straightforward testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee, we were treated to whispers about her sexual orientation and comments on her appearance.

Every election day, we two travel to the polls to cancel each other’s votes. But we, and millions like us, must stand together and “name it” until media outlets “change it.”

Published in the The Post and Courier Friday, October 29, 2010.

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Our Own Self Worth

October 27, 2010

Women have been struggling to receive salaries that reflect the work they perform. The Equal Pay Act of 1963 gave women the right to obtain equal pay for equal work. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 gave women the right to seek equal pay of comparable work. Despite these legislative victories, gender based pay inequity still exists and there are many arguments rationalizing its existence. Among them are education, the undervaluation of women’s work, time in employment, employment selection, and the thought that this is a women’s issue.

Surrounded by leaders like House Speaker Nancy...

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Although President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act into law, there is much work ahead of us. It behooves all of us to recognize our own self-worth and not settle for the low salaries when our experience and education speaks volumes. It is also crucial that we aggressively seek methods to invest wisely and to pursue opportunities that will propel us to levels that will allow us to live comfortably, retire graciously, and to prosper because accepting less weakens our economic power.

How I Won Oprah

October 20, 2010

By Shari Stauch, C4W Board Member and author and CEO of Shark Marketing Co., marketing and PR for authors and publishers.

I’ve been watching Oprah since I was a teenager back in Chicago. True story: Dad owned a 24 hour billiard club and even all those supposed “tough guys” would gather around the club’s TV every weekday morning, 9 a.m., to watch Oprah in those early days; she was our morning cup of coffee…

25 years later and I’m still watching, albeit from 900 miles away in Charleston, SC and in a 4 p.m. time slot. So, when it finally dawned on me that this was really to be Oprah’s last season I told my friend Doretha Walker, fellow board member and current prez of Charleston’s Center for Women, “We gotta’ go!”

Doretha’s also an Oprah fan – even has a photo taken with Oprah and other Center for Women board members from when Oprah gave our cherished center a $25,000 Angel Network grant after her sold-out appearance in Charleston in 2006. (That was the year before I got on the board – shucks!)

Unfortunately, those of us truly inspired by Oprah to “give back” and “live our best lives” and start new businesses and all that jazz also “know for sure” that we’re plumb outta’ time to remember to get to Oprah.com and check on the ticket situation. When we did, it looked bleak.

Well, Friday night was the Center for Women’s 20th Anniversary Gala (huge fun!) and among ten silent auction packages – all named for women in history who amaze and inspire us – was an “Oprah!” No, it didn’t include Oprah tix or a flight up there to see all my siblings, but it was named Oprah, and that was enough for me!

Three hours later I’d secured my winning bid and my big yellow bucket packed with $1,500 worth of goodies and gift certificates, including a huge green housecleaning; a custom color/wardrobe consultation; beauty products; green household products and more! Better still, Center for Women threw one heck of a great party, and, as president-elect, I’m now so looking forward to embarking on the next 20 years, filling some monster shoes of the great women that steered us through the first 20…

Will I finally get to see Oprah this season? I don’t know… but winning Oprah, and for a great cause like Center for Women, sure felt GREAT! And as Oprah would say, “That’s what I know for sure…”

C4W Member Profile: Lindsey Ballenger

October 13, 2010

What is your profession? Full Time Mama to Ella [2 ½ years] and Alex [8 months], Owner of The Charleston Shucker Company, Part Time  Special Projects for nonprofit organizations, and occasional swim instructor.
What do you enjoy doing outside of your career? Although some may say that right now I am “outside” of my career, but I am simply making the most of my time with my babies and always seeking to find the right balance between home and work. Working from home is a blessing and a challenge and I am very thankful for these opportunities.

When I am not having tea parties with the kids or working in my home office, I crave time to go boating and fishing with my husband and friends.

How long have you been a member of the Center for Women? Since 2006

What inspired you to become a member? The amazing women of the C4W! Upon meeting Jennet, Amanda and Leigh Ann I had to join!!

What kind of impact has the Center for Women had on you? The Center for Women has been a wonderful connection point for me in our community. I have enjoyed the professional and personal development programs, philanthropy opportunities and connecting with other powerful women!

How has living day-to-day as a woman affected you? I love being a woman! I think I’d make a horrible man anyway. And I am so grateful for the opportunity to be a mom to two girls. It will be my challenge and honor to raise them to be self-confident and independent young women.

What kind of message would you like to send out to women who are trying to succeed in today’s economy? Don’t be afraid to ask. Stand up tall, find your voice, and your seat at the table. So many times, as women, we do not ask for what we want. Hearing NO is the worst that can happen anyway. Whether it is a raise, a more flexible work schedule, a special discount or the ability to use an expired coupon, ASK! Because you will be amazed at how often you hear YES!

C4W Member Profile: Ronii Bartles

October 6, 2010

What is your profession? Business Management Consultant

What do you enjoy doing outside of your career? I love to watch college football (I’m a WVU fan), lay by the pool with a good friend or good book, go to the movies and eat popcorn with lots of butter and letting someone else cook for me. I’m a mentor for Big Brother Big Sisters and I enjoy hanging out with my little brother BJ (he’s not so little anymore, he is 15 now) on the weekend and having lunch, watching movies or going to the Charleston Museum.

How long have you been a member of the Center for Women? A year and a half

What inspired you to become a member? I was inspired to become a member by other women in businesses who are members. C4W members are so enthusiastic about The Center’s programs and members; I had to find out what it was all about.

What kind of impact has the Center for Women had on you? The Center for Women has been a good support system, educator and promoter. I have been able to find answers to problems at the Center for Women because of their programs designed to educate women business owners as well as meet other amazing women in the community that make a difference for all of us. The Center for Women has provided me with opportunities such as the annual Women in Business Conference to learn and grow, which has made my business more successful.

How has living day-to-day as a woman affected you? I have never really thought about it because my mother is a strong, independent businesswoman that I have never known any other way to be. Having such an amazing role model really paved the way for me to break down barriers and be my own person and start a company. I would say living day-to-day as a woman has affected me in a positive light because I have accomplished to many things that have propel me to this point in my life to be a better friend, partner and business owner.

What kind of message would you like to send out to women who are trying to succeed in today’s economy? I feel that women are better equipped to handle the stresses of today’s economy and society because we have an innate ability to cope against all odds. My advice would be to find the positive in every situation and what are/have you learned from this experience because every situation and experience is a learning opportunity to be successful.


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