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The Confidence Gap

May 6, 2014

Hannah Barnett ‘16  Women In Leadership

A recent book emerged by Claire Shipman, a reporter for ABC News, and Katty Kay, the anchor for BBC World America, that brings into consideration a new divide amongst men and women besides that of wage. The book, The Confidence Code: The Science And Art of Self-Assurance—What Women Should Know, discusses the confidence gap between men and women through research and interviews conducted with women in politics, sports, and the military. The book asks questions such as: Is confidence genetic? Is confidence more vital for success than expertise? Why do some women, even at the highest levels in professions, continue to grapple with bouts of self-doubt?

Shipman and Kay’s research produced studies that showed that women underestimate themselves while men tend to overestimate their abilities and performance. One study, conducted by professor Marilyn Davidson from the Manchester Business School in England, asked her students what they expected and deserved to earn five years after graduation. Professor Davidson reported that her male students averaged $80,000 in their responses, while female students averaged $64,000 or less. In applying for job positions, it was found that women applied for promotions solely when they believed the qualifications were met 100 percent while men applied when 60 percent of qualifications were fulfilled.

Since the unveiling of the book, several articles were published with lists and suggestions on how to proceed in closing the confidence gap. The suggestions ranged from building confidence in minors aged 4 to 14 instead of in adults to speaking in lower tones instead of a nervous high-pitched voice to sound more confident. Another article from The Federalist recommended women take more assertive decisions in their everyday lives, such as buying their own birth control or choosing between working at home or in an office, but above all, owning the decisions and pushing through without doubts.

A critique of the book holds that Kay and Shipman focus on the self-doubt that some women harbor inside of themselves and ignore that idea that self-doubt stems from societal issues. The article reads, “While Kay and Shipman give a nod to ambitions women who are judged more harshly than their male peers, they seem to have no solution—other than putting the onus on women to change.” The article goes on to outline that the confidence gap is a societal problem and that not only women need to change their mentality for the gap to become non-existent.

Kay and Shipman’s information may have kinks to work out in how to implement closing the gap, but it is a stepping-stone in identifying the issues men and women can address while working to find solutions in building confidence levels.

Senators Taking on Sexual Assault

May 5, 2014

Nicole Giles ’15  Women in Leadership

New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has spent most of the last year in a major fight over how the U.S. military deals with cases of sexual assault. The Congresswoman has recently announced that the next issue she plans to tackle is one of rising concern in this country: sexual assault on college campuses. However, Senator Gillibrand is not alone in this new focus; fellow Democrat Senator Claire McCaskill is attacking this topic of controversy as well. With the beginning of Sexual Assault Awareness Month of April, the senators began to research further into the issue. McCaskill requested data from U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. This data would be used to show the specifics of what she called the “disturbing” lack of action on the part of the colleges and universities regarding on-campus sexual assaults.

According to a recent press release on April 7, Gillibrand and McCaskill have released a letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee requesting $109 million in new federal funds to be used for the Clery Act and Title IX enforcement on campuses. However, this is merely a first step for the duo. Gillibrand’s communications director, Glen Caplin, said Gillibrand will introduce legislation about sexual assault on college campuses by the end of the year. Gillibrand has also said in a statement that the requested funds would go through the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights that handles over 10,000 complaints a year, but has no staff member dedicated to complaints relating to sexual assault cases under Title IX.

All Clery Act complaints also go through the Office of Federal Student Aid’s Compliance Division, which stated in the press release that it was unable to investigate 63 percent of schools that violated the Act. In addition, around one third of the sexual assault policies at nearly 300 college campuses do not comply with the Act. On Tuesday, April 15th, Senator Claire McCaskill announced the release of an extensive survey that was sent to 350 colleges and universities nationwide as a means to further look into how these campuses handle reports of sexual assault. She hopes to obtain the results by May as a basis to access this current problem in the country.

This topic is extremely relevant to all young women in the U.S., particularly those that are in higher education. By numerous senators focusing on this problem, it confirms that it is a priority for the government. These actions are sent into motion as a means to make our colleges safer, and therefore, make women feel more comfortable attending them. However, this also confirms that the current legislation to combat sexual assault on college campuses has flaws. Despite VAWA, the Clery Act, and Title IX, the statistics of assaults on college campuses are on the rise. This shows that there is still work to be done in order to create the ideal learning environment in which women do not feel like they need to be the only ones preventing rape.

Instead of focusing on teaching girls how to protect themselves from rape, the country needs to focus on teaching men, and women, not to rape. The high statistics of this problem leads to the belief that it is a societal problem for the U.S. that could stem from a number of problems such as the prevalent “rape culture” in the country. To have this type of culture present is to present the idea that sexual assault is accepted by society because society is blind to the facts about the issue. Under a “rape culture,” society is taught that rape is only when a stranger attacks a random female walking by or that if a girl is dressed provocatively that she is asking for misfortune to fall upon her. Hopefully, with the new focus of some of the female senators in office, this topic can be discussed and a plan of action can be put in place to eliminate these injustices to young woman across the country.

“It’s Not A Myth. It’s Math.” President Obama

April 21, 2014

Erin McGoldrick ’14  Women in Leadership

Women on average earn 77 cents for every dollar that men make, inspiring the holiday Equal Pay Day.  This is an alarming statistic in present day America and has become a hot button topic in politics this April.  Obama recently signed two executive measures with the purpose of assisting in closing the pay difference between men and women.  The executive orders included barring federal contractors from retaliating against employees who discuss their salaries and an instruction to the Labor Department to collect statistics on pay for men and women from the Federal contractors.

Pay disparities exist in all areas of the American workforce, whether it be the women making up 4.6 percent of Fortune 500 CEO positions, top actresses in Hollywood or even teachers.  The steps being taken to enforce equal pay have sparked a political debate.  The Democrats, who have more women in the Senate and House, are being seen by Republicans as capitalizing on the gender-gap advantage.  As President Obama pushes for equal pay, it is worth noting that pay disparity even exists in the White House.  Members of the Republic National Committee have been pointing to pay disparity that exists in the offices of several Democrats.  The push for equal pay has brought the faults of Democrats and Republicans into the light in terms of gender-gap and pay-gap.

The proposed legislation, the Paycheck Fairness Act, was intended to be an extension to the Equal Pay Act of 1963. The Paycheck Fairness act has three main components, the first being to make wages more transparent.  The second factor is requiring that employers prove that wage discrepancies are tied to legitimate business qualifications rather than gender.  The third component is to prohibit companies from taking retaliatory action against employees who raise concerns about gender-based wage discrimination.  The bill has been brought before Congress in the past, making it passed the House of Representatives but stopped by the Senate.  On April 9, 2014 the Senate Republicans blocked the proposed legislation.

The proposed legislation received immense support from the National Women’s Law Center, stating that requiring employers to give a “factor other than sex” for pay differences prevents the employer from determining pay based on factors that have no relevance to the job being performed.  The act does not prevent employers from giving different salaries based on merit and seniority or quantity and quality of production.

Critics of the Act, such as Daniel Fisher from Forbes magazine, have stated that the “factor other than sex” reasoning would make employers appear discriminatory, when the wage difference may be due to the individual’s salary history and negotiating skills.

Before the Paycheck Fairness Act was shot down, Obama had staged a ceremony where he was introduced by Lilly M. Ledbetter.  Ms. Ledbetter was part of a high profile Supreme Court case in which she sued Goodyear Tire for being paid significantly less than her male colleagues.  Unfortunately, the Supreme Court ruled that her case had been filed after the statute of limitations.  To date, this deadline for filing a discrimination suit has been changed by Congress and became the first bill signed by President Obama.

The Paycheck Fairness Act ultimately did not make it through the Senate; however, the discussion on equal pay is far from over.  As Senator Barbara Mikulski said, the Paycheck Fairness Act is worth getting emotional over.  The attempt to begin debate on the Act failed 53-44.  All Republicans voted against the cloture motion and all Democrats voted in favor of advancing the bill.  Despite the failure to pass, Mikulski’s comments still ring throughout Congress and the drive to end pay disparity continues to progress.

The Paycheck Fairness Act: Blocked by Republican Senators Again

April 16, 2014

Micaela Edelson ’17 Inside Politics

On April 9, 2014, the motion to reintroduce the Paycheck Fairness Act was blocked by the U.S. Senate Republicans. Two days prior, President Obama signed an executive order that would encourage federal contractors to make salary information more accessible, so women and minorities would be able to know if they were being paid unfairly.

However, the Senate did not agree with President Obama’s advancements toward gender pay equality. The Washington Post states that the Paycheck Fairness Act would have allowed employees to inquire about another employee’s wages in a complaint or investigation without the risk of employer retaliation. Thus, female employees would be allowed to check if they are receiving the same wages as their male counterparts. This act would also require employers to provide the Department of Labor with wage data, organized by race and gender, as well as display the wage differentials between males and females in the same job position. April 9th was the third time this act has been blocked in Congress; it was only six votes short of being open for debate.

In 2009, President Obama signed the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which extended the period of time available for women to sue on the basis of gender discrimination. This law allows the 180-day time period to file a lawsuit be reset with every paycheck that is affected by the discrimination. However, this act did little to stifle the evermore present gender pay inequality. Currently, females receive an average of seventy-seven cents for every dollar a male earns. This disparity is even present in the President’s administration. In 2011, female federal workers received an average salary of 93% of what their male colleagues received.

Gender wage equality falls under the category of civil rights. An employee should not be discriminated against based on gender, race, religion, sexuality, and numerous more defining characteristics. However, President Obama argues that “this is not just an issue of fairness…it’s also a family issue and an economic issue.” As women consist of half of the workforce, the disparity just decreases the amount of economic activity in the market.

One argument in opposition of this act that has been made all three times it has been rejected, is that one of the only results would be an increase in lawsuits against employers. Some Republican senators have even argued that this law is condescending to women. Senator Lynn Jenkins (R-KS) states, “Many ladies I know feel like they are being used as pawns, and find it condescending [that] Democrats are trying to use this issue as a political distraction from the failure of their economic policy.”

The significance of this vote is that the act was not even opened for debate. If Senate Democrats and Republicans cannot even agree to debate the gender pay gap, it is unlikely that an agreement regarding the best approach to address the inequality will be reached anytime soon.

Ready For Hillary, But Is Hillary Ready For Us?

April 11, 2014

Spencer Bradley ’16  Women in Leadership

“I’m ready for Hillary,” was the campaign slogan for Hilary Clinton’s campaign slogan in 2012. But are we ready for Hillary Clinton anymore today than we were eight years ago? While considered the front runner of the Democratic Party, should she choose to accept the nomination, Hillary Clinton faces challenges to her potential presidential run. First and foremost is the double edged sword of her tenure as the Secretary of State.

Clinton’s foreign policy record has left a massive mark in the eyes of the voters, with the Huffington Post stating that, “Clinton even surpassed her former boss, President Obama, by 14 percentage points in the category of ‘strong and decisive’ leader.” The population is backing Hillary’s credentials, as indicated by her service in the ending of the Iraq war, the Arab Spring and the strengthening of American international reputation. The philosophy of the state department was extension of American friendship, which for the most part worked well with our allies. However, Clinton’s foreign policy record is tainted by two State Department legacies that will impact her potential of taking the election for the Democrats: Benghazi and missing funds.

Benghazi was a devastating event for the State Department, as well as the Obama administration, giving Republicans the ability to call for restructuring of the State Department for, “competency issues.” Bear in mind that, “Benghazi was a tragedy for which the State Department bore much responsibility; but, after the Bush years, the rest of the Administration’s record is no minor achievement.” The State Department was faced with the removal from the Middle East conflicts, as well as other engagements within the region. Clinton’s policy as Secretary of State was characterized as clean up of the Bush years. If Clinton can use that momentum against the war and conflicts in the region, then Benghazi may be hand waved away in the eyes of Independents and Democrats. If anything, as characterized by her strategy as Secretary enacting Obama’s policy to the letter, Clinton may run against her party’s image. However, what is dangerous to her potential as president is missing funds from the State Department.

A recent report found that six billion funds went unaccounted for during Clinton’s tenure. The six billion in unaccounted funds poses a “significant financial risk and demonstrates a lack of internal control over the Department’s contract actions,” according to the report. The loss of funds in a recession is troubling to any candidate and calls into question Clinton’s ability to lead her own department and manage her house. This will prove to be the second challenge to Clinton.

However, what is of note is the “double standard” applied to women in politics, with Nancy Pelosi agreeing to the views of Clinton,  “If Hillary Clinton thinks there is a double standard – she’s been in the main event, and that is a presidential race – then I respect that.” If Clinton were a man, perhaps the vitriol towards her character would be focused on the overall State Department, rather than one human being. Whether Clinton was personally involved is currently irrelevant, but until the loss of funds is explained, this will be the weakness that could prevent Clinton from carrying the Democrats to victory during the 2016 election.

Americans want a more transparent government. Missing funds does not speak highly of competency in government. What Clinton must do, in order to alleviate the concerns about her department’s transparency, is to go on the offensive. The longer this goes undisclosed, the more likely Republicans will mobilize this as a quality against her credentials. If she takes a page out of Chris Christie’s recent handling of his own scandal and let an investigation clear her, she would speak volumes to voters as a trust-worthy politician, a commodity in today’s political climate.


The Perception of Women in Leadership

April 10, 2014

Katerina Krohn ’17  Women in Leadership

After the large success of her book Lean In, Facebook CEO Sheryl Sandberg’s new campaign has continued to keep people talking. Her campaign, “Ban Bossy,” is working to stop the use of the word “bossy.” After addressing unequal representation of women in professional leadership roles in her book, Sandberg’s new movement focuses its efforts on a younger crowd. Sandberg and her supporters believe that the term “bossy” is too often being used to describe women young and old. The term labels the confident actions of young women as a type of negative behavior. Sandberg’s bold move to denounce bossy has gained the support of not only her followers, but also big name celebrities such as Beyoncé and Condedoleeza Rice, who have also taken the pledge to help eliminate the term bossy.

The campaign’s website states, “When a little boy asserts himself, he’s called a ‘leader.’ Yet when a little girl does the same, she risks being branded ‘bossy.’” Sandberg is working to eliminate the word in order to allow girls to step up as leaders without fear that they will be labeled as bossy. To accomplish this goal, Sandberg has recently teamed up with the Girl Scouts of America. The Girls Scouts share the similar goal with Sandberg of promoting young women in leadership. Research from the Girl Scouts Research Institute found that 53% of young girls involved in girl scouts has been called bossy at least once. U.S. Girl Scouts CEO Anna Maria Chávez recently explained, “Girls are twice as likely as boys to avoid leadership roles for fear of being deemed ‘bossy’ by their peers.” Disappointed by the current setbacks to girls in leadership, Girl Scouts has added banning bossy into their programming. The Girls Scouts will ban bossy and focus on building confident leadership in young women.

As the campaign begins to gain popularity, critics have begun to question whether or not Sandberg’s campaign is necessary. Some wonder whether eradicating bossy from dialogue will actually change the way that young women are viewed by others and themselves. Others are unconvinced that the use of bossy is even a problem, doubting that the word is actually being used to describe women disproportionately. The success of Sandberg’s campaign is still unclear, but studies have shown that the term bossy is clearly being used more frequently to describe females. Nic Subtirelu, a third year Ph.D. student in applied linguistics at Georgia State University, studied Google and literature in order to investigate the use of the word bossy. Subtirelu found that bossy is a gendered word, currently being used to refer to women 1.5 times more frequently than to men.

Sandberg’s campaign may or may not be able to clear the term bossy from everyday vocabulary, but the movements that she has started have already brought light to the topic of women in leadership. Time will tell if her movement can succeed in “banning bossy.”

Good News for the Republican Party

April 7, 2014

Yanet Gonzalez ’17  Inside Politics

Hillary Clinton’s potential 2016 run for the presidency has the Democratic Party thrilled in hopes of maintaining their hold of the White House. The Republican Party, however, is feeling the pressure as they work hard to find a candidate capable of battling Clinton. Despite the fact that neither party has announced its official candidate and that the election is still two years away, people are anxiously anticipating this election, feeling that it would cause a major historical moment. Although it is difficult to avoid getting tangled up in the 2016 presidential election, the more pressing issue for both parties should be the primary elections which are scheduled to take place on November 4, 2014.

Currently, the Senate consists of 53 Democrats, 45 Republicans and two Independents. However, according to Natalie Silver from The New York Times, it would be possible for the Republican party to seize control of the Senate while also maintaining control of the House after the primaries. Of the 35 seats that are up for election, 21 are held by democrats, while only 14 are held by Republicans. Though the Republican Party is currently the minority, this could be beneficial for the primaries because it means that they would have fewer seats to defend in states that are likely to remain Republican. Recent polls show that Democrats are likely to retain 15-16 of the 21 seats that they currently hold, although five of those seats are highly contested today. The Republican Party has the opportunity to obtain senate seats for West Virginia, Montana, North Carolina, Louisiana and South Dakota. If they are successful in doing so, the 114th United States Congress will favor Republicans.

Though they would need to win 6 additional seats in order to get a simple majority, Obama’s low approval rating of 41% is paving the way for Republicans to control both the House and the Senate. A recent poll showed that over half of the American people are unhappy with direction in which Obama is taking the United States. The slow economic recovery and unsuccessful implementation of the Affordable Care Act have not helped Obama during his second term, and are likely to affect voter outcome this fall.

Over the past few years Obama has had difficulty working with the House, which has significantly stalled legislation and has prohibited the Democratic Party from moving forward with their agenda. A Republican controlled Congress would mean that Obama’s last two years in office would be even more ineffective. History has shown us that the stage in which a particular party leaves the country in greatly influences how constituents vote for the following election. The lack of action from the Democratic Party over these next two years could hurt any Democratic candidate seeking office in 2016. Although the upcoming presidential election is important, in order to be successful, both parties ought to prioritize the primary elections first.