women's rights

How I Can Be a Better Half the Sky Ambassador

Half the Sky movementI FINALLY have a private screening for Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide scheduled for this weekend. Granted, it's only a partial screening of the economic empowerment section, but it's a chance to educate people and to engage them in discussion and action on a very critical women's rights issue. I wouldn't be able to do this without the help of the St. Louis chapter of the Young Ambassadors for Opportunity. They're an organization that promotes micro-lending and insurance for small business owners in developing countries. Partnerships are critical to being a good Half the Sky Ambassador or in any other activism and non-profit work. However, much more than partnerships are needed to effect change for women around the world or in any other issue. Here's a few things I could do to accomplish more and to be a better ambassador for women's rights and equality:

Write More Articles on the Subject

Writing is one of my best and biggest assets and one that I need to leverage more in my ambassadorship. I haven't written any articles yet on the issues, at least not as a Half the Sky Ambassador, and I certainly have the ability to do so. Outlets such as International Political Forum, Daily Globe, my personal blog, Technorati, and the Amnesty St. Louis blog are all perfect places to cover the many issues addressed in the book and film and to encourage action. I just need to make the time to do the necessary research, to come up with good topics, to pitch the articles, and to get them done. Easier said than done, sure, but I can do it. What I should do is connect these issues with current events where possible, bringing attention to them because there's demand to learn about the current event while offering a different angle to these stories that hasn't been covered before.

Work on That Fundraiser

After the St. Louis Amnesty International chapter read the book and watched the film, we were inspired to do something. Women's rights are human rights and many of the issues portrayed in both are issues that Amnesty is also working on. Our plan was to have a fundraiser and raise money for one of the organizations in the film. However, as an Amnesty International chapter, we learned that we couldn't raise funds for anyone other than Amnesty International. It's part of the organization's rules. So, we couldn't do the fundraiser under the organization's name, although our group leader offered the opportunity for someone to take the reins and to manage the project on their own.

This is something that I should work on and plan a fundraiser for April or May when the weather is nicer and people aren't hung over from the holidays and all that spending. I think it would be fun to do a silent auction/trivia night, where it's a cheap entry fee of $5 but most of the fundraising money come from purchasing entries for the silent auction. The hard part will then be getting enough prizes for the silent auction and getting prizes that are good enough to auction off. But, I think if I start now and plan for an April or May event, it could be a really awesome fundraiser and something that I could at least get the Amnesty International group to attend or to set up a table to collect signatures.

Make Time for Strategy

The main reason why I'm not all that good an ambassador is because I don't make time for it. I just hope that I have time for it eventually, somewhere during the day. But, I never do because the time always goes toward things that I make time for, which is usually work stuff and video games. I think what I should do is plan for one screening for one-half of the documentary while preparing for this really awesome fundraiser.

What's Holding Women Back from Having it All

women having it all I have FINALLY gotten around to reading Why Women Can't Have It All, the July/August 2012 cover story from the Atlantic by Anne-Marie Slaughter (Hey, the thing is six pages on the Internet. That's a lot!). It stirred tons of controversy when it first came out, and I do agree with many of the points she made. Things do need to change, and those that have been able to accomplish it have been incredibly blessed. I also think that Slaughter left out some major points also, a few other things that need changing as well. In order for women to have it all, it's not that women who need to change, or that they need to do better in navigating the rules of society. It's that the rules need to change, plain and simple, and it really comes down to changing workplace policy and perceptions about workplace policy.

Employers Shouldn't Discriminate Against Pregnancy

I remember one evening, a couple of years ago, when two young professionals were talking near the bus stop as I was waiting for the bus. One of them had just gotten a new job (at a law firm, if memory serves me correctly) and just discovered that she was pregnant. She worried that she would lose her new job because of it, and that her new employer might suspect she lied or covered it up just to get the position. What baffled me about this was the this woman didn't realize that it's illegal for her to fire here for being pregnant, that it's illegal for her employer to disqualify her from the position for being pregnant, and that it would have been illegal for her employer to ask about pregnancy or family planning during the interview.

I don't think it's unreasonable for her to be scared about her job, especially since employers still show disregard for the 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act. It's also hard for women to have it all, and to go for having it all, when there is very real and legitimate fear that our own employers will prevent us from doing it. However, I do think more women need to realize that this law exists and to enforce it, like in the case of the young professional I overheard. If she did end up getting fired, then she would have had a legitimate case on her hands and could have held her lawyer accountable.

We Need Mandatory Maternity Leave in this Country

The United States is one of only four countries in the world—along with Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Papua New Guinea—where workers do not have the right to paid maternity leave. No wonder women can't have it all! Once we have children, many are forced to make a choice between career or family. Without maternity leave, these women must either spend time with the children and earn no income, or earn the income and have to balance childcare expenses, breastfeeding, sleepless nights, and everything else that comes with parenting.

It's tough to have it all when you might not be guaranteed a position if you take time off, or don't take the time off and sacrifice parental involvement. It's tough when that balancing act could jeopardize your job performance, and then you're fired or passed up for that promotion. When women have access to paid leave after the birth of a new child, they are more likely to return to work than women who do not have access to paid leave. Even if these women do eventually return to work, they don't exactly pick up right where they left off professionally. Mandatory paid maternity, and paternity, leave would make is so much easier for women to have it all because having it all wouldn't be about doing things in the right order or making the right choices. It would be about working with life, and the fact that family and children are a big part of many people's lives.

Workplace Flexibility isn't Tough to Accommodate Anymore

Not every position can be done remotely, but many more can be done remotely than 20 years ago, maybe even 10 or five years ago. The rise of virtual offices, coworking spaces, and technology make it much easier than ever for people to stay in touch with their employers and coworkers, to get work done on their terms, and to get work done where they want to get done. With workplace flexibility, those without children can work at night because they are night owls. They can work through a cold without spreading it around the office. They can work in St. Louis for an employer in Chicago or New York without any difference in productivity or workflow. They can save their companies money because their employers don't have to pay for the utilities and office space to house them, they don't have to lose valuable time to commutes, traffic, and travel, and they don't have to worry about hiring and retention because people are leaving companies for competitor that offer workplace flexibility.

Is it really so farfetched a notion to offer workplace flexibility to someone who wants to be a better parent and spend more time with their family? Women, who may be incredible talent and great employees, also get pregnant. It shouldn't be such a baffling idea to do what it takes to keep them on the team and accommodate them. Not doing so could inadvertently help your competitors, who are always on the lookout for incredible talent and great employees.

In Conclusion

Digiday put it best when it ran an article about dads in the advertising industry:

When I asked Perello if he ever worried about the impact that having kids would have on his career, he responded, “I’m guessing that question goes through the minds of moms today — I can say from my point of view that, no, that has never crossed my mind, and that’s an interesting commentary on life today that I have never thought about that.”

It's certainly interesting when it seems like men can have it all, and that men don't even consider the possibility that children could negatively impact their career. No one ever thinks that a man won't be as good at his job because he is a new father or an expecting father, but many employers (and maybe even co-workers) are quick to perceive a pregnant woman or a new mom as someone who won't be as productive or who won't be able to get things done. It's certainly tougher to have it all when those around you too easily say that you can't have it all, that kids just get in the way.

The 801 Books that I am Reading

Half the SkyOkay, it's not quite 801, but it certainly feels that way because I am trying to read more than one book at this time and reading more than one book at a time is very difficult. I accomplished once when I was 16, but all three books were fiction and I could blast through them fairly quickly. Considering that the books that I am reading now are all non-fiction, it's not quite the blast through that I would like. I also don't have the time that I used to have when I was 16 (who does, right?). Anyway, here's a list of those many books that I am reading. Maybe writing about them will get me a bit more excited about reading them.

Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide

I actually read this book a few years ago, but I need to read it again for my Amnesty International chapter's book club reading. It's a powerful book about women's rights and what can be done to improve the position of women in societies around the world. You read this book, and your first world problems seem trivial and that you shouldn't even be complaining in the first place. I am excited to read it again.

Yes, the book now has two accompanying documentaries, and I've seen those too. They aren't a replacement for reading the book, but a nice supplement since they cover the same topics but do not discuss the same, exact stories.

How to Beat Sit-&-Go Poker Tournaments: A No-Limit Hold'em Guide to Beating Sit-&-Gos

Almost done with this one! It's an easy read, and I have learned a thing or two about playing SnGs. However, the book is a bit elementary, and I want to move on to poker books that have recommended and recommended over and over, poker books that folks have said have changed and have really improved how they played. Although this book I'm ready has helped, it's not in that category.

Of course, once I finish this book I have to move on to numerous other poker books, those highly recommended poker books I mentioned. They include (but aren't limited to):

Food, Inc.: How Industrial Food is Making us Sicker, Fatter and Poorer - and What You Can do About It

This book a companion to the documentary by the same name (which is really, really good, by the way). I've gotten interested in food recently since I went vegan about six weeks ago (I think I've lost about 10 pounds, just by eating differently). So far, I've watched other documentaries and have read vegan cookbooks and what not about what foods to eat and why they are better and what's going on with the food sold in restaurants and supermarkets. I want to read this book, and to watch the documentary again, to continue educating myself about food and the food industry/

More on the Way

Yes, I am adding even more to this list. My business coach wants me to get started on reading the two content marketing books I said I would read by the end of March. I've chosen my two, and once they are available at the public library, and I need to get on reading those. I tend to get though books on topics like the media and marketing really quickly, since I am very interested in the topic and I find these topics the most relevant to me.

Okay, I need to get to my reading.