In Pennsylvania, little gender representation

By Lynn Yeakel

“No taxation without representation” was the cry that ignited the American revolution. Women in Pennsylvania may have no representative of our gender in Congress after the current session. Allyson Schwartz, the only woman in the tri-state Congressional delegation, gave up her seat to run in the Democratic gubernatorial primary. There are six women across Pennsylvania running as major-party candidates for the state’s 18 U.S. House seats in the general election but they are facing male incumbents. Also, the Pennsylvania general election for Governor in November will be a Tom-Tom race, as Inquirer columnist Karen Heller cleverly noted.

How can it be that so few Pennsylvania women are engaged in the political process? Let’s start with voter turnout. Only 20 percent of all female and male registered Democrats went to the polls Tuesday. (In 2010 when the Republicans had contested primary races, 27 percent voted.) In addition, about 15 percent of the voting age population is not even registered.

Yeakel is Founder and Executive Director of Vision 2020, a center within Drexel University College of Medicine’s Institute for Women’s Health and Leadership.

 Imagine what the suffragists would think of this dismal percentage of participation by women. They marched, they demonstrated in front of the White House, they went to jail,  they went on hunger strikes and alienated friends and family – all to gain the right to vote for our half of the population. As Vision 2020 works with Mayor Nutter, the National Constitution Center and civic leaders to make Philadelphia the site of the national centennial celebration of the 19th amendment that granted women’s suffrage, we must register, educate and mobilize women to vote in our state and across the nation.

We must also encourage more women to run for office. It’s hard on many fronts – personal, professional, financial. And it’s no fun to lose. Ask Schwartz, McGinty, Margolies and Arkoosh how they feel following Tuesday’s results. But if women don’t run, we cannot complain about the lack of gender representation.

It’s been 22 years since I ran for the U.S. Senate. All that I learned from that experience, which changed my life in many ways, influences my work today. Yet so little has changed during that time in the Commonwealth. I was only the second woman in Pennsylvania history to win a major party nomination for U.S. Senate and no woman since has done that. Pennsylvania remains in the bottom of the pack in terms of women in state-level elected office.

From a positive perspective, there’s great opportunity for growth in civic engagement of Pennsylvania women. If women run and women vote, women will win. And all of Pennsylvania will win, too.

Lynn Yeakel is Founder and Executive Director of Vision 2020, a center within Drexel University College of Medicine’s Institute for Women’s Health and Leadership.

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Four Resolutions We Must Make (and keep) This Year

Each year we make resolutions or promises to ourselves that are not kept. We promise to eat healthier than we ever have, read more, learn a new skill or forgive someone we haven’t spoken to in years. But, as we pile on our ritual resolutions we find that they are hard to keep up with. Let’s change that when it comes to advancing gender equality with four resolutions we should and must make.

1. Asking more women to run for office and more candidates to add women in leadership positions once elected. Vision 2020’s Rhode Island Delegates did just that with their Rhode Island GAP project, working Governor Chafee to elect more women in government. These women worked with their elected official to increase the number of women in state appointments from 15 percent (2010) to 34 percent (2013). In February, our Pennsylvania Delegate Dana Brown’s Ready to Run project will educate and train women who would like to run for office.

2. Mentoring or sponsoring a woman in your hometown. Did you know that women who have active sponsors are more likely to continue working at a company? Become a mentor or sponsor at least one woman you know. Learn more about how companies are using sponsorship here.

3. Adding the Pressure. Pioneers like Susan B. Anthony, Gloria Steinem, and our own Lynn Yeakel have paved roads that were once quite narrow for women by adding pressure and keeping it. We must continue to hold the media, elected officials, businesses, and others accountable for adding more women to leadership positions or removing demeaning images of women.

4. Giving back. Donating is just one way others can help. If we were to give just a few dollars to an organization that aligns with gender equality we can become one step closer to reaching a 50/50 society that will benefit generation to generation.

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Delegates Share State Initiatives with National Ally

Vision 2020 Delegate Carolyn Cook (D.C.), Kate Campbell Stevenson (MD), and Visionary Delegate Carmen Delgado Votaw

Vision 2020 Delegates Carolyn Cook (D.C.), Kate Campbell Stevenson (MD), and Visionary Delegate Carmen Delgado Votaw

On November 26, Vision 2020 Maryland Delegate Kate Campbell Stevenson, spoke on “Trailblazing Women, Past and Present.” at The Clearinghouse on Women’s Issues held in Washington, DC. The Clearinghouse on Women’s Issues (CWI) is a Vision 2020 National Ally that presents expert speakers on current topics which impact the lives of women, particularly public policies that affect women economically, educationally, medically and legally. They also cooperate and exchange information with other organizations that work to improve the status of women, nationally and internationally.

Campbell Stevenson shared why and how she uses the transformational power of the arts to promote women’s history and women’s leadership. Her one-woman show, Forging Frontiers: Women Leaders in STEM is Campbell Stevenson’s Vision 2020 Maryland State Initiative and features Marine Biologist, Rachel Carson and Arctic explorer, Louise A.Boyd along with contemporary STEM leaders.

She also recognized Visionary Delegate Carmen Delgado Votaw for her most recent honor being selected as the The National Women’s History Project’s 2014 Honoree as a Woman of Character, Courage and Commitment. Delgado Votaw joined Campbell Stevenson in sharing more information about Vision 2020 goals, initiatives and partnerships and also introduced Carolyn Cook, founder of United for Equality, LLC as a new Vision 2020 Delegate from Washington, D.C.

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Today’s Teens are Tomorrows Leaders: Music City Girls Leadership Academy Lays Foundation

Patricia Pierce with her mentee Katie Delay from Chattanooga, TN.

Patricia Pierce with her mentee Katie Delay from Chattanooga, TN.

Leadership is a lifelong process and developing leaders in middle and high school is not too early to start. Teenage years are critical period for developing leadership skills. Young girls don’t necessarily recognize their leadership potential or realize that participating in school activities and sports provides excellent opportunities for leadership development.

Music City Girls Lead! is a leadership academy designed for high school girls in grades 9 through 11 in Middle Tennessee to develop and build on their leadership potential. It is being held as part of the activities leading up to the 2014 NCAA Women’s Final Four Basketball Tournament that will take place in Nashville.

The Champions4Women Committee of the Nashville Local Organizing Committee is partnering with Lipscomb University’s Nelson and Sue Andrews Institute for Civic Leadership to offer the leadership program. The program focuses on topics of developing as a leader, becoming an ethical leader in a multicultural society, developing vision and voice, learning to use technology in leadership roles, promoting wellness and health, and transforming vision into results. The girls participated in classroom activities and online learning as well as collaborating with classmates on a community project and having the opportunity to communicate with a professional woman who was assigned to be their mentor.

Twenty-eight girls graduated from the inaugural program. Dates for the second program will be announced soon. The girls may not have been sure what to expect from the program, but they left not only with leadership skills, but with confidence and determination to take an active role in their school and community and to make a difference. Our communities need these strong, creative, courageous young women to take leadership roles, because they are going to change the world!

This blog was written and submitted by Tennessee Delegate and Chair of the Champions4Women Committee Patricia Pierce

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Women Heroes Soar High in Box Office

The holiday season is a time for families to join together and go see the latest box-office hit. Last weekend was no exception. The box office report announced The Hunger Games: Catching Fire broke a November record with its hero, Oscar winner Jennifer Lawrence as its star.

Catching Fire made history with its $16.1 million debut — only three films have opened higher. Yes, the novel based film broke a record with a woman portrayed as the hero as its star. But, what does this tell us about women as the headliners in the media?

Only a few minutes into the film we begin to see the familiar face of Katniss Everdeen – strong, intelligent, and courageous. Women as heroes are an image parents can be proud to show their children.

If more women and men support films whose female characters are presented in a positive light, perhaps negative stereotypes and traditional gender roles depicted in film, music videos and other forms of entertainment will end for future generations.

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Information Sciences isn’t Just for Men

Marissa Mayer once said, “I refuse to be stereotyped,” an unsurprising statement as she works in the very heart of an industry in which women are virtually absent. Mayer was Google’s first woman engineer, and she is now the CEO and President of Yahoo. Needless to say, she has certainly beat all stereotypes.

It’s no secret that technology is taking over. Technology is prevalent everywhere, in every industry and in every company. Our future depends on technology.

Colleges and universities are beginning to offer more and more computer science and engineering courses to please their ever increasing amount of applicants interested in such fields. However, this pool of applicants is extremely male-dominated. According the National Center for Women and Information Technology. Women earn 57% of all undergraduate degrees, but only 18% of computer and information sciences undergraduate degrees.

What does this say about our society when women are so absent in an industry that already dominates our culture?

Moreover, the computer industry has a steady supply of well-paying and steady jobs, yet very few applicants qualified to take such jobs. Still, according to the Washington Post, only 5.7% of women work in the computer industry. Consequently, these stable and well-paying jobs are mostly given to men, while women are still twice as likely to work in jobs with poverty-line wages.

Why is this so? Because, as quoted by Sheryl Sandberg (COO of Facebook), we still live in a society where GAP sells t-shirts “that [say]  ‘Smart Like Daddy’ for boys and ‘Pretty like Mommy’ “ for girls.

Media teaches girls to value beauty and looks over their own intellect, which directly correlates with women’s lack of confidence in the mathematical and engineering fields.

International Computer Science Education week is from December 9th-15th. In honor of this week, we should make it a priority to spread the work about the ever-lacking women workers in the engineering and computer science fields, and continue to work towards a society in which women can program in peace.

This blog was written and submitted by Vision 2020 Junior Delegate Madeleine Cheyette of California.

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Report Gives Dollar Amount to Domestic Violence in Tennessee

When a dollar figure is attached to a problem, it draws special attention. That’s one of the many important results accomplished by the Tennessee Economic Council on Women with its recently released report, “The Economic Impact of Violence Against Women in Tennessee.”

The report, based on statewide surveys, nine public hearings throughout Tennessee, and available crime data, puts the cost of domestic and sexual violence and human sex trafficking targeting women at $866 million each year, paid for largely through tax dollars, healthcare premiums, charity and lost productivity in fields like law enforcement, medical care, social services, and private enterprise. What this tells us is that domestic and sexual violence, while they may occur behind closed doors, affect everyone.

Prevention is one of the keys to breaking the cycle of violence that is passed from parent to child by abuse experienced or witnessed. Educating the next generation to value and respect each other is the best hope for a violence-free home and safer world.

This is a sobering but important report, produced under the direction of TECW Chair Yvonne Wood and TECW Executive Director Phyllis Qualls-Brooks, and it serves as an inspiration for other states to address the scourge of violence against women.  Vision 2020 is fortunate to have Wood and Qualls-Brooks serving as Delegates.

Lynn H. Yeakel

Founder and Co-Chair of Vision 2020, a national initiative to advance women’s economic and social equality

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