Monday, December 30, 2013

A Look Back at a Monumental Year for Equality and Hope for an Even Better Tomorrow

by Shane Bitney Crone
Originally Published: December 30th, 2013

This past year has been one of the most remarkable years of my life. I produced a documentary, called Bridegroom, about the events that occurred after the death of my partner. Bridegroom was screened all over the country at various film festivals, made its television debut on the Oprah Winfrey Network, and can now be streamed on Netflix and rented at Redbox kiosks. In spite of numerous obstacles and opposition, the documentary has managed to reach men and women all over the country and world, and has even managed to change a few hearts and minds.
Personally, 2013 has been a landmark year, but more importantly, it has been been a year that hosted some of the most ground-breaking LGBTQ events in American and world history. Before we charge into 2014, we should reflect on these significant occurrences.
1. President Obama addressed LGBTQ civil rights in his inaugural address.
2. The Supreme Court overturned section 3 of DOMA.
3. The Supreme Court overturned Prop 8, returning marriage equality to California.
4. Marriage equality legislation passed in Rhode Island, Delaware, Minnesota, Illinois and Hawaii. Marriage equality came to New Jersey, New Mexico and Utah through court rulings.
5. Professional athletes currently active in major sports, as well as countless actors and celebrities, came out.
6. The Senate passed the Employment Non Discrimination Act, or ENDA.
7. Marriage equality legislation passed in Great Britain, France and New Zealand.
8. The newly inaugurated Pope spoke in favor of supporting the LGBTQ community, stating, "Who am I to judge a gay person of goodwill who seeks the Lord? You can't marginalize these people."
Some have said that recent achievements should be enough "to keep gay people content." While I firmly believe in celebrating any and all progress, I also strongly feel that we must recharge our focus on the states and countries that still deny equal rights to LGBTQ citizens.
Marriage equality has been at the forefront of the political agenda as of late, but we cannot lose momentum. Too many men and women have died waiting for equality and more suffer each day because of the following "laws."
1. In 29 states, you can be fired for being LGBT. In 33 states, you can be fired for being transgender.
2. The Russian Federation passed a law that bans the "promotion of homosexuality to minors."
3. Croatia passed a referendum banning same-sex marriages.
4. The High Court of Australia ruled that same-sex marriages in the Australian Capital Territory are invalid.
5. India's Supreme Court issued a ruling that re-criminalized same-sex relationships.
6. Uganda's parliament passed a law authorizing a life sentence in prison for being gay.
7. In 76 countries across the world, homosexuality and/or transsexuality are still criminal acts. In at least five countries, both are punishable by death.
The welcoming of a new year means so many things: 365 days brimming with possibility and new beginnings. We must strive to make the most of this clean slate by remembering that what we all have in common is the ability to love and be loved. The sooner we understand and embrace this, the sooner our world will be a much better, and equal, place. A new year means hope and we all deserve hope.
This year, one of the most influential figures of the global civil rights movement passed away. Nelson Mandela was a man of honor, courage and persistence, and spent his life trying to teach the people of the world how to love, respect and accept each other regardless of their differences. He once said:
"I am fundamentally an optimist. Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one's head pointed toward the sun, one's feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lays defeat and death."

Read the original article from Huffington Post here:

NIH to fund research workforce diversity program

Originally Published: December 30th, 2013

The National Institutes of Health is releasing three new funding opportunity announcements (FOAs) to develop approaches to engage researchers, especially from backgrounds underrepresented in biomedical sciences, and prepare them to thrive in NIH-funded research careers.
The funding through the Enhancing the Diversity of the NIH-Funded Workforce program will establish a national consortium to develop, implement, and evaluate approaches to encourage individuals to start and stay in biomedical research careers.
Students from underrepresented backgrounds enter early biomedical research training in numbers that reflect the general population but are more likely to exit the training pathways. Substantial research has been conducted to determine the reasons for this and to test interventions on small scales. The new FOAs provide the opportunity for transformation of the biomedical research workforce pipeline through institution-wide, and eventually nationwide, implementation of successful training and mentoring strategies.
“There is a compelling need to promote diversity in the biomedical research workforce,” said NIH Director Francis S. Collins M.D., Ph.D. “A lack of diversity jeopardizes our ability to carry out the NIH mission because innovation and problem solving require diverse perspectives. The future of biomedical research rests on engaging highly talented researchers from all groups and preparing them to be successful in the NIH-funded workforce.”
The diversity program is backed by the NIH Common Fund, which supports programs with the potential to dramatically affect biomedical research by achieving a set of high impact goals within a defined time frame.  The FOAs will establish a consortium of awardees from three integrated initiatives. Awardees will collectively determine hallmarks of success, including core competencies, at each phase of the biomedical career pathway and develop complementary training and mentoring approaches to enable young scientists to meet these hallmarks. Awardees will also test the efficacy of these approaches, and provide flexibility to adjust approaches during the course of the program to maximize impact.  The consortium will disseminate lessons learned, so effective approaches can be adopted by other institutions across the nation.
  • The National Research Mentoring Network (NRMN): The NRMN will be a nationwide network of mentors and mentees spanning all disciplines relevant to the NIH mission. The NRMN will address the critical need for increased access to high quality research mentorship and networking opportunities by establishing an interconnected set of skilled mentors linked to mentees across the country. NRMN will also develop best practices for mentoring, provide training opportunities for mentors, and provide professional opportunities for mentees. The goals for mentoring at each career phase will align with the hallmarks of success to be established by the consortium.
  • Building Infrastructure Leading to Diversity (BUILD): BUILD will provide support for relatively under-resourced institutions with high concentrations of students from disadvantaged backgrounds to implement transformative approaches to the training of students to undertake biomedical and behavioral research. These approaches will emphasize research opportunities for students, along with additional innovative activities, to enable students to achieve the hallmarks of success at each phase. Awardee institutions will be encouraged to partner with research-intensive institutions to expand research opportunities for their students, to foster networking, and to enrich the training experiences available to students at both institutions.
  • The Coordination and Evaluation Center (CEC): CEC will coordinate consortium-wide activities and assess efficacy of the training and mentoring approaches developed by the BUILD and NRMN awardees. The CEC will develop both short- and long-term measures of efficacy, allowing the consortium to continuously gather data and respond accordingly. The CEC will also serve as the focal point for dissemination, sharing consortium progress and lessons learned with the broader biomedical research training and mentoring communities.
“Workforce diversity and inclusion are imperative to optimizing the strength of the NIH research enterprise,” said Roderic I. Pettigrew, Ph.D, M.D., the acting NIH chief officer for scientific workforce diversity and director of the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering. “Indeed, diversity is now well-understood to be fundamental to innovation. These initiatives will strengthen the NIH research enterprise through their efforts to establish more effective ways to engage and train a more diverse and inclusive body of researchers and future scientific leaders.”
It is anticipated that the program will fund up to 10 BUILD primary institutions, one NRMN and one CEC, contingent upon the availability of funds and receipt of a sufficient number of meritorious applications. Applications for the FOAs are due March 18, 2014, with awards to be announced in September 2014. Additional information, including important eligibility criteria for applicant institutions and organizations, can be found in each FOA.
“We look forward to supporting institutions in the development of novel and transformative approaches to student engagement, training, and mentoring,” said James M. Anderson, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Division of Program Coordination, Planning, and Strategic Initiatives, which oversees the NIH Common Fund. “Successful approaches will be widely disseminated, so that institutions beyond those directly supported by the program may adopt and implement the most effective strategies. We anticipate that this dissemination and widespread adoption will have a broad and sustained impact on scientists from all backgrounds.”
In fall 2013, the NIH issued six-month planning grant awards for the BUILD and NRMN initiatives. Planning grant awardees are assessing research resources and training programs already in place at their institutions and formulating plans to extend beyond those resources. Additionally, the planning grants are supporting capacity-building and infrastructure needs assessments. More than $2.7 million was given to 15 BUILD planning grant awardees and more than $1.3 million was given to seven NRMN planning grant awardees. More information about these awards can be found on
To read about the NIH Advisory Committee to the Director Working Group on Diversity in the Biomedical Workforce, visit
The Enhancing the Diversity of the NIH-Funded Workforce program is funded through the NIH Common Fund, and managed by the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities in partnership with the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
The NIH Common Fund encourages collaboration and supports a series of exceptionally high-impact, trans-NIH programs. Common Fund programs are designed to pursue major opportunities and gaps in biomedical research that no single NIH Institute or Center could tackle alone, but that the agency as a whole can address to make the biggest impact possible on the progress of medical research. Additional information about the NIH Common Fund can be found at

Read the original article from NIH here: 

Women climbing the corporate ladder

Originally Published: December 30th, 2013

Culture, gender traits and work life balance requirements continue to be factors affecting women climbing the corporate ladder, writes is founder and managing director of O’Leary PR Mari O’Leary.
Ireland has one of the lowest representations of women in decision-making positions across the political, media and corporate arenas in Europe. To help understand why this is the case, I recently carried out research to identify the factors that impact on the advancement of women on their career paths to the higher echelons of organisations in the financial sector. The results formed the basis of a dissertation as part an IMI master of business degree. 

My literature review revealed a combination of intrinsic and extrinsic factors that collectively interact or individually contribute to the low representation of women at executive board and partner level. These factors fell under three key themes: culture, both organisational and societal; gender differences; and work life balance – lifestyle choices.

The qualitative research for the dissertation was conducted with two groups of five women each: the first were at partner or board level, while the second were at the critical middle management level ascending the corporate ladder. The research gathered valuable insights that identified challenges faced by women as they climb the corporate ladder. Barriers ranged from the traditional societal perception of women to the less obvious but highly influential intrinsic gender attributes. These women also contributed strategies and interventions that they believe organisations and women can implement to address the issues and support women on similar career journeys.

It has been 40 years since Ireland joined the EEC and the Civil Service Act was amended. While women have achieved equality in areas, their numbers remain low in decision-making positions within organisations. Change is occurring and awareness of the benefits of diversity and equality are increasing organically. My research attributes this primarily to the influence of parents from one generation to the next. In particular, the maternal influence has been instrumental in changing the perceptions of men and their attitudes to women in the workplace and their role in the home. However, women still have primary responsibility for childcare and housework and those in middle management would put their careers second to their partners.  

As well as existing in the Irish home, the glass ceiling is clearly positioned at middle management and remains supported by corporate models designed by men. Two key issues were identified. The first is the ‘Boys’ Clubs’ perception that because ‘you are female you will not be available or capable’. The second issue is that this is the critical point where most women opt out and off the career ladder for lifestyle reasons, in particular when starting families. Aligned to this is the perception that a woman’s career will stall and she will be overlooked for promotion unless she indicates and demonstrates otherwise. 

These perceptions and stereotypic biases need to be addressed to help change how women, particularly with children, are perceived in their organisations. Women have the ability to lead, to make decisions, have children and continue to work. Ultimately, it is not the woman who needs to change, it is the structures and perceptions that must evolve.

Encouragingly, my research found that those women who reached senior level within their organisations encountered no insurmountable barriers. Contrary to popular belief, it is men in senior positions who are instrumental in supporting women’s progression, acting informally in the role of sponsors. Without this support, women, despite their best efforts, would find reaching the top even more difficult.

Awareness of the importance of sponsorship of women needs to be increased within the senior levels of organisations. To counteract reputational risk, organisations can adopt a structured approach to sponsorship where regular sponsor sessions are incorporated into the working schedule and/or become part of a personal development programme. Alternatively, as more women move into senior positions they too can become sponsors.

Networking is increasingly being recognised by women as an enabler. Although the majority acknowledged that networking does not come naturally, they recognise the benefits of building relationships with decision-makers and sponsors internally and with clients and peers externally to support their career progression.
Gender diversity
Increased awareness and recognition of the benefits of diversity at the decision-making levels of organisations are needed. Diversity is proven to be more productive and profitable for organisations. This means accepting different perspectives and skills rather than conforming and diluting women’s contributions. 

Globally there is a move away from the male oriented autocratic ‘command and control’ directive leadership style to a more collaborative approach. This is a positive development and an enabler for women. The dominant style for women leaders was found to be collaborative, balanced with autocratic and the ability to make decisions and work independently. The increasing use of the participative style by men may also contribute towards the reduction of women experiencing the ‘double bind’ of balancing directive and collaborative.

The findings of recent studies show that women outscore men in leadership capabilities and are generally considered to be more effective. This is an essential enabler. The co-author of one of these studies Dr Jack Zenger recommends sending the senior management of organisations “a very clear signal that the data is clear when women are put in senior positions they perform every bit as well as men, if not a little bit better”.

As well as having the leadership capabilities women in the financial services sectors have all the attributes of successful women internationally. They have the drive, hard work ethic, results orientation, resilience, team leadership and they work continually to improve their own performance. However, research has found that the synergy of other characteristics form challenging barriers that inhibit progress.

Confidence is integral to a women’s ability to be assertive about her performance, to promote herself, apply for promotions, advocate for herself and to seize opportunities. My research found that confidence is a major issue and barrier for even successful business women.

Half of the participants experienced confidence issues. An overwhelming 80pc of participants in middle management acknowledged that self-confidence and/or self-doubt was a concern at times. However, of real interest is the finding that 20pc of these women alluded to imposter syndrome and serious self-doubt about their capabilities. Participants on both levels unanimously agreed and observed that men appear more confident and actively promote themselves, often despite not having the right qualifications.

As a strategy to address low confidence, many women resourced themselves with further education to gain qualifications and lend credibility. However, this is not always enough and the participants noted that they were systematically being overlooked for promotions.

Increased awareness of the limitations that women impose on themselves and the recognition of gender differences are needed. Organisations can introduce strategies such as coaching programmes to support women. By addressing these issues and instilling confidence, women will be empowered to realise their potential and embrace career decisions.

Women view ambition differently to men. Those who reached partner or board level were more comfortable using the word ‘ambitious’ while those on the middle rungs described themselves as ‘competitive’. All were driven, hardworking and willing to compete with their male colleagues; however, ambition was not a word they used. Instead they indicated mastery of a role and recognition of accomplishments as important factors.

The majority of the women favoured taking an opportunistic approach to their careers, embracing opportunities that were presented to them. Only a third of the participants acknowledged they were ambitious and strategic about their career progression, setting challenging goals for themselves.

Ultimately, it is up to the woman to take charge and be responsible for her career advancement. Women consider themselves equal to their male colleagues and must equally identify ways to promote their competencies. Women work hard at presenting a confident fa├žade by perfecting their work. Therefore by setting ‘Smart’ goals (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time bound) women can overcome these barriers step by step.
Work life balance
The mantra of the new millennium ‘Live to work or work to live’ and the need for a better work life balance were evident. All the women surveyed had worked the ‘Anywhere Anytime’ performance model and acknowledged it was a barrier. 
The majority in middle management would move organisation or division to achieve a better work/life balance. Women with children in middle management were prepared to request working conditions that suited their work life requirements. 

There was a significant shift in attitude around women and children. While the senior group featured only one mother, in contrast only one woman in middle management had planned not to have any children. The presence of two mothers, both with two children and in senior roles, was a very positive indication that there has been a significant cultural shift. Both women were promoted following the birth of their children and each had negotiated flexible working arrangements to balance work and home commitments. Also, none of the participants said they would defer having children until reaching senior level. 

Overall it was acknowledged that men’s attitudes are changing and becoming more supportive of women and the family. Currently, partners/husbands of women in middle management provide support with domestic duties and childcare. However, women still take on the primary responsibility for both. All women with or planning children signalled that they would take on more responsibility and reduce their work in favour of their husband’s/partner’s career, if required. 

Organisations need to create an environment where women with children can thrive. Firstly, the stereotypic perceptions of women being distracted by children and domestic crisis need to be erased. Secondly, changes in systems such as flexible working arrangements or tailored hours should be implemented to facilitate women.

The women described themselves as being organised, time aware and productive. However, what they need is the confidence to advocate for themselves and clearly demonstrate to decision makers that they are staying and remain focused on their career.

Without interventions or change women will continue to slip off the glass ceiling at middle management. All women had experienced the perception by both male and female colleagues and superiors that, because they were at the ‘age’, there was an expectancy to have children. The implication being that they would opt out of their career and/or would not be considered for promotion in the event of pregnancy.

The majority of participants at both levels agreed that being absent through maternity leave and/or working shorter hours reduces the opportunity for promotion in favour of men who are present and available. There was unanimous agreement that significant numbers of women opt out for work life reasons once they have children. However, for those women who stayed focused on their progression up to maternity leave and planned their return their careers have continued to flourish. This can be attributed to three key elements: the support of their organisations, their commitment to their career progression and not considering having children and working as an issue.
Maximising opportunities 
In the collaborative spirit women and men need to work together and maximise the opportunities that the new era presents. Women need men to advocate for them and men need to be willing to take the risk and give women the opportunity to prove that diversity and equality in decision-making contributes to business performance.

Organisations can implement practices that will support and encourage more women to progress to the higher echelons. 

Women need to identify the enablers and recognise the powerful attributes they possess. And they need to empower themselves to take charge of their careers. The foundation is to build their confidence, set ‘Smart’ goals and adopt a more strategic approach along their career path. They need to start promoting and advocating for themselves and particularly when they have children in terms of work life balance. 

Women who want to reach the higher echelons of organisations in Ireland can do it – it is a choice. The skylights in the glass ceiling are open.

Read the original article from Business & Leadership here: 

In 2013, a great debate over flexible work options

by Ryan Faas
Originally Published: December 30th, 2013

With few exceptions, it's rare that a changes to a company's HR policies become major news items or front page headlines, but that's exactly what happened nearly a year ago when Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer canceled the option for employees to work from home. Without meaning to, she created a media firestorm and sparked a national debate about flexible work arrangements. Even after explicitly saying that her strategy was specific to Yahoo's situation and that she wasn't advocating such a move for any other company, the debate continued for months.

It's easy to see why so many people reacted to Mayer's decision. If a major tech company felt that flexible and remote work options were so problematic that they needed to be unexpectedly canceled with no recourse for employees that couldn't easily make into the office every day -- some of whom took jobs at Yahoo with the written understanding they would work remotely -- then what was to stop any other company from doing the same thing, particularly in more traditional fields where telework is a very new concept?

The ongoing dialog touched on many disruptive workplace trends -- working from home, working outside typical business hours, BYOD, the flexible workspace andcoworking trends, remote access to corporate systems and data, mobile security, theentrance of millennials into the workforce, and the continued blurring of the line that used to demarcate the work-life balance -- to the point that some attendees at the 2013 CITE Conference advocated the phrase "work-life blend" instead.
See also: Google Glass gets a competitor -- but it may have one fatal flaw
Here are a few key questions about flexible work solutions that emerged from the months of debate inspired by Mayer's decision.

Does physical proximity mean more and better innovation? Google, where Mayer served as a senior executive before taking the CEO job at Yahoo, certainly seems to think so. The company provides all manner of perks -- free shuttle buses from around the Bay Area, day care, fitness centers, game rooms, massages, and even haircuts. Those efforts and even the design of buildings and layout of departments are designed to keep people at the Googleplex and encourage random chance meetings of employees from vastly different areas of the company. Although that has worked very well for Google's carefully handpicked employees, it likely won't be effective in the majority of organizations.

Do flexible and remote work options mean employees never come into the office? According to Citrix VP of HR Brandy Fulton, the answer is no. While many workers like the flexibility of working remotely occasionally, the majority of workers don't want to work from home every day.

Are millennials pushing remote or flexible work options? The answer is both yes and no. Millennials may be seen as leading the charge, but all demographics seem eager to explore flexible working arrangements.

Can remote workers be as effective and engaged as on-site employees?According to research, the answer is an emphatic yes. In fact, it shows that remote workers are often more engaged and on point that workers in the same office. At the same time, there are situations where remote workers do slack off (it's widely assumed that this was part of the reason for Mayer's decision). But there are very effective strategies that can head off such problems and ensure remote workers andthose in the office are engaged and collaborating successfully.

Are there dangers to allowing some workers flexible options while withholding them from others? Yes. Many managers are keenly aware of this when considering flexible work options. Generally, these options need to be consistently applied within a team or department. Offering training and tools to managers that want to offer flexible work choices to their staff can be critical to success. That said, some jobs simply require employees to be on site during certain hours. There can also be extenuating circumstances, like caring for an aging parent or special needs child, that are involved in some remote work decisions. In these cases, team members should be aware there are extenuating circumstances, even if the details aren't shared to respect the privacy of the employee.

Does remote work mean working at home or in coffee shops? No. There are arange of options including coworking spaces, shared office space (short term and long term), and remote branch offices. Each of these options has its own pros and cons.

Does flexible work always mean remote work? Not at all. Although working from home is the first thought most of us have when we hear flexible work options, it can also apply to when and how people work as well as where. On of the advantages of coworking spaces is the flexibility of the space itself. Desks are rarely assigned and cubicles are usually nowhere to be seen. Instead members of the space have the ability to sit and work wherever and however they choose. That can mean lounging in a more social-oriented space, hunkering down in a designated quiet space when intense concentration is needed, grabbing one or two colleagues and using a private conference-type space for collaboration, or using a traditional desk/workstation. These options, or parts of them, can be brought into corporate offices, though the transition needs to be well planned and follow solid strategies that have proven been successful in companies that have made the switch.

Beyond Yahoo -- HP says no to remote work while the federal government says yes
Although Yahoo was the biggest news of the year when it comes flexible and remote work, it wasn't the only major story:

HP also canceled remote work options. This fall, HP followed Yahoo's lead in asking employees to work in the office rather than from home. Although HP didn't issue a formal company-wide policy forbidding remote work, AllThingsD reported that employees were told they should work in the office if they were able and that a question-and-answer document distributed to employees stressed similar goals of greater opportunities for collaboration and innovation that Yahoo espoused. Also like Yahoo, HP's decision appeared to be part of a broader turnaround effort by HP's CEO Meg Whitman.

The federal government is actively trying to get workers out of the office. While Yahoo and HP took strong positions against working from home, the federal government has been taking the opposite approach and is actively encouraging telework programs. Legislation passed in 2010 required agencies to develop telework policies and programs and created positions for telework coordinators at virtually every agency.

During 2013, The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) emerged as one of the most proactive agencies in encouraging telework options and those options are widely used by its staff. A survey of FEMA managers showed that 70% had employees that work remotely one or more days each week, 56% reported being more productive when working outside the office, and 30% noted higher levels of productivity from teleworking employees.

The General Services Administration (GSA) doubled down on flexible workspaces and telework when redesigning its headquarters in Washington. As reported by theWashington Post this summer, the agency cut the floorspace used by employees in half and eschewed the cubicle in favor of open plan design with shared desks and flexible workspaces that employees can use while in the office, creating a sort of government coworking space. Employees are encouraged to work remotely from home or elsewhere. The move allowed the agency to reduce its office footprint enough to reap $30 million in "cost avoidance" according to a blog post by GSA administrator Dan Tangherlini.

Cost has been a large motivator for government agencies in encouraging telework and the across the board spending cuts known as sequestration that went into effect early in the year may have added pressure to keep workers at home. According to aDeloitte report released in February, 32% of the federal workforce is eligible for telework, though only 7% of workers take advantage of the option. The report noted that if all federal employees eligible for telework worked remotely half the time, the government would save around $5.4 billion.

FedTech Magazine recently noted that telework is also advantageous during severe weather in Washington that can effectively shut down large parts of the government. The report also notes that a Citrix estimate pegged the cost of enabling telework throughout government at $30 million, less than one third the cost of lost productivity for a single government snow day.

Coworking and shared office space helps workers get jobs and contracts A recent study from the Netherlands showed that coworking spaces and similar shared flexible work environments are viable ways not just to collaborate but also to develop business networks and to secure clients and contracts. Most notable is that it is unlikely that these opportunities would have presented themselves in traditional offices or home offices.

These trends are all part of the transformation of the workplace -- and even the very concept of work in the 21st century. Virtually every organization in every industry is grappling with how to address or incorporate them. While many of those trends started with the broad adoption of mobile devices and cloud services, they are ultimately about human resources and management as much as they are about the technologies involved.

Read the original article from Cite World here: 

Putting women at global decision making tables requires action!, says Equality Now

by Shelby Quast

Syrian health worker
Without the work of women health workers in Syrian displacement camps the desperate need for midwives as well as child and reproductive health services would go unmet. This woman health worker in a Syrian displacement camp in Iraq in 2013 is checking newborns to make sure they are free of any health problems that may arise. Image: UNICEF
(WNN) Washington, D.C. UNITED STATES, AMERICAS: Peace accords which include women and civil society organizations have a much higher chance of sustainability than those formulated by only men.  These lessons should be applied to countries-in-transition like EgyptYemen and Syria, where the participation of everyone in the peace-making process is vital.
What does strong leadership really mean?
It’s a big question.  In business or politics, it tends to imply power, control, dominance, status, ‘might and fright’ – often with some ‘collateral damage’ along the way.
For those of us working to advance the rights of women and girls around the world, this territory – and this type of language – is all too familiar.  Power and dominance has to be supposedly ‘over’ somebody for it to be effective.  Something has to be lost if we are to ultimately gain.  The end justifies the means.  Or so we are told.
However, the dominance of one element of society over another means that potential is lost on every level.  And the argument that a ‘firm hand’ needs to be taken has meant that enlightened contributors are more often than not silenced or sidelined.
There has been much discussion already about women’s leadership and the importance of women having a seat at “the table”.  And it is a common phrase in the halls of power:  if you are not at the table, you are on the menu.
Access to this table is presumed to be equally available to everyone.  However, little consideration is given to the ingrained social, political and economic structures in which this potential ‘sitting’ takes place.  The table is also located in a room which is locked by the power structures of government, where women – and, in fact, most of the community it serves – must be granted entry.
This typically patriarchal definition of leadership has not exactly worked well for us and dominance is not a sustainable economic or political model.  Nor is it a sustainable ‘human being’ model.  It denies participation and it causes irreversible harm; it blocks progress and growth.
So, instead of inviting women to this somewhat inaccessible table, maybe it is time to build a new one; an access point that is sits within – rather than above – the community.
At a basic level, the economic argument for redefining leadership in this way is very strong.  Economists from the World BankOECDIMF,Booz and CompanyGoldman SachsCredit Suisse and HSBC Bank have all stated that ensuring gender equality is the most beneficial thing we can do to end economic stagnation and unlock a new wave of growth.
Investing in female-led businesses has generated higher rates of return too.  And companies with female board members tend to be more profitable.  We cannot determine if the chicken or egg came first, but the end result is the same.
The economic argument for equality goes even further than this.  Post-2015, a key UN Development goal is to “eradicate poverty and transform economies through sustainable development”.  This can only happen through first of all tackling the root causes of all forms of violence and discrimination against women and girls.  In practice, to complement the donation of billions of aid dollars to the developing world to eliminate poverty, the most cost-effective solution is to remove those blockages which hinder – and often totally eliminate – the contributions of half of that country’s population.
In addition to realizing the economic benefits of gender equality, redefining leadership also means introducing specific legislation, which specifically aims to end violence and discrimination against women and girls – in all respects – to give everyone an equal opportunity to contribute.
The type of leadership, which relies on part of society holding power over another segment, is not sustainable.  However, leadership which ensures justice is something which will prosper over time.
This has transformational implications for some of the biggest issues affecting the world today – and goes much further than national borders.  It also affects more than just the political and economic spheres.  In ‘Sex and World Peace’, Valerie Hudson remarks that international security can be dramatically increased by ensuring gender equality.
New constitutions should clearly reflect these gains too.  Efforts should also be made to ensure that the harmful social norms of the past are urgently addressed, because having laws in place is not enough; these laws need to be systematically implemented to allow all voices to be heard equally.
Ensuring equality for women and girls is the answer to a lot of our big questions – economically, politically and socially, but it is also the fair thing to do.
Redefining leadership will mean building a new table, constructed with material which stands the test of time; a platform, which is accessible for everyone to sit at, in a much more secure position on level ground.

Read the original article from Women News Network here: 

Why Gender Diversity Matters in Politics

by Jon Geeting
Originally Published: December 30th, 2013

My buddy Rich Wilkins provides the brogressive response to my argument that it would be bad if we had an all-male US House delegation.
Unfortunately, I think he has created a strawman version of my argument to make things easier on himself. There’s more at the link but the parts I bolded are the parts I’m disputing:
This brings me to Jon Geeting’s piece on the lack of female representation in PA’s Congressional Delegation. His argument has two parts, and I will take it as such.
  1. We should not have a current 17-1 male to female split in the House seats in PA. We shouldn’t have an 18-0 split after the next election. In reality, we should have about a 9-9 split, or at least politically we should have 2 or 3 female Democrats out of the five. 
  2. He thinks we should pick women candidates just because they have better life experiences or something. Better life experiences? I couldn’t disagree more. Why? Bill Clinton, Ted Kennedy, FDR, JFK, LBJ, RFK, Hubert Humphrey, Tip O’Neill, Harry Reid,…. I’ll just stop there. There is no evidence that white guys can’t represent liberal interests in an effective way. They have done a wonderful job in the past, and can still, if they actually are liberal and believe in the principles of the party. Do women do a great job representing us? Yes, they do. Nancy Pelosi, Hillary Clinton, Elizabeth Warren, you name it. Should there be a lot more of them in PA? Yes.Should you just pick a woman because she’s a woman? Never. It’s a bad way to pick government and a bad way to win elections.
First, I never gave a number for how many women representatives I think PA should have. Women are about half the people, so yeah 9-9 would be the ideal, but a perfect split probably isn’t totally necessary. The key priority for 2015 is “more than zero.”
And the reason it’s a key priority isn’t that an all-male, overwhelmingly white delegation can’t representliberal interests well, it’s that they have different ideas about what liberal interests and priorities are than women do, or people of color do, because your life experiences shape what’s important to you.
An all-female US House delegation would have very different ideas about what the party agenda should be, and which issues are most important to prioritize in Congress. If you had a delegation of all business owners, or all doctors, they would have certain biases about what’s important.
The idea that white liberal men don’t bring their own built-in biases from their own (substantially more privileged) lived experiences to politics, and are some kind of neutral group is absurd. Truly representative government requires a diversity of perspectives, especially in a party whose electoral base is dominated by working class women and people of color.

Read the original article from Keystone Politics here: 

10 Transgender Wins of 2013 You Should Know About

by Mara Keisling
Originally Published: December 30th, 2013

If anything is true of transgender rights in 2013, it's the year the right wing fringe in the U.S. set their sights and their fundraising machines on our community.
Between Arizona lawmaker John Kavanagh's attempt to criminalize transgender people for using public restrooms to the radical National Organization for Marriage's campaign torepeal California's equal access law for transgender students, this was the year the right wing fringe started gunning for us with their hate.
Their standard operating procedure is well-documented. A right wing extremist group fabricated stories of an innocent transgender girl in Colorado preying on other girls in locker rooms resulted in that transgender child being placed on suicide watch. A minor-league GOP official in South Carolina threatened to round us up into concentration camps. And anti-transgender groups put forward their best effort to block or repeal local LGBT non-discrimination laws in San Antonio, TX and Royal Oak, MI. (They failed, by the way).
And while the threat from right wing extremists will only grow in 2014, the attacks are coming as we expected they would when the National Center for Transgender Equality was first founded. For the last ten years, we have been carefully allocating our resources, laying the groundwork for win after win that smartly sets us up for the next win. So despite the right wing's best efforts -- for transgender people and the transgender movement -- 2013 was also the year when the dominoes on healthcare, employment protections, and ID records began to fall the way we needed them to.
While we'll continue to push back on the growing threat of right wing extremists, 2013 marks an important year for transgender people -- it will be remembered as a year that put us right to the edge of the tipping point. Below is a list of 10 wins in 2013 that, I believe, illustrate why.
1. Trans-Inclusive Anti-Violence Programs
In February, Congress passed the first explicitly LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination law at the national level as part of reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). The law protects LGBT people from discrimination in programs such as domestic violence shelters and rape crisis centers, and allows federal grants to focus on anti-violence work for LGBT people.
2. Historic 2-1 Senate Vote for Transgender Workplace Protections
The first-ever U.S. Senate vote on a transgender-inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) was a remarkable triumph. Only a single Senator spoke in opposition to the bill, and 10 Republicans joined 54 Democrats in voting for ENDA. In the coming months, advocates will continue building Republican support in the House and put pressure on Speaker John Boehner to bring the bill up for a vote.
3. Strides for Transgender Students
Almost every month has brought new signs of progress in eliminating barriers and protecting opportunities for transgender students. In February, Massachusetts education officials released the strongest statewide rules to date protecting transgender students, following Washington and Connecticut. In June, the Colorado Civil Rights Division ruled that a school committed unlawful discrimination by requiring a transgender girl to use a staff restrooms instead of the girls' restroom. In July, the U.S. Justice Department entered a landmark Title IX settlement requiring a California school district to treat a transgender boy "the same as other male students in all respects," and in August California passed legislation making this application of the law explicit.
4. Social Security Eases Gender Change Rules
In June, the Social Security Administration finally modernized rules for changing your gender designation in SSA records. The move brings Social Security in line with rules for U.S. passports, immigration documents and many states' driver's license rules, and helps eliminate confusion, embarrassment, and increased exposure to discrimination when transgender people interact with SSA staff or other government offices. Records for veterans and military dependents are the last major federal system where transgender people still have to meet burdensome requirements to update gender.
5. States Stand Against Insurance Discrimination
In 2013, five states and the District of Columbia began telling insurance companies for the first time that excluding healthcare for transgender people from their plans constitutes unlawful discrimination. At least some plans in California, Colorado, Oregon, Vermont, Connecticut and D.C. are already updating plans to comply, providing individuals with equal coverage of medically necessary care for the first time. While many corporations and universities are eliminating exclusions voluntarily -- and finding there's no added cost to doing so -- those buying insurance on their own may need to look to their states to take action.
6. State, Local Equality Laws Advance
Efforts continued in red, purple, and blue states alike to pass laws to protect LGBT people in jobs, housing, and other settings. Delaware became the 17th state to include gender identity, but less noticed was passage of LGBT protections in Puerto Rico (with four times Delaware's population). With the passage of these laws, an estimated 4.5 million more people are living in a jurisdiction with an LGBT non-discrimination law on the books. Local laws also continued to advance, expanding protections from San Antonio, TX to Shreveport, LA.
7. A Record Year of Visibility
Positive visibility for transgender people in America seems to grow with each passing year. This year, that visibility was led by a wave of human-interest stories on transgender people and their families like Coy Mathis and Lana Wachowski, and by the critically acclaimedperformance of Laverne Cox on the hit show Orange is the New Black. Cox's character has become a window for non-transgender Americans to begin to understand the plight of transgender people, and the role racism, poverty, and prison have in the lives of many in our community.
8. Name, Birth Certificate Changes Get Easier (CA, OR, D.C.)
While half of states now make it relatively easy to update the gender on your driver's license, efforts are also underway to ease the basic step of legally changing names, and the often even tougher step of updating one's birth certificate. This year Oregon and the District of Columbia joined at least three other states in guaranteeing that individuals won't be required to show proof of surgery to update their birth certificates. D.C. also joined the nearly half of states that have eliminated requirements that name changes be published in the newspaper, an expensive and intimidating step for many transgender people. Similar legislation has been proposed in California and Hawaii.
9. Depathologizing Gender Identity
In May, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) published the fifth version of its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, officially renaming "gender identity disorder" as "gender dysphoria" and formally recognizing that it is not a transgender person's innate identity, but the distress some feel about an identity, body, and social role that don't line up, that may call for treatment. The conservative APA also issued statements condemning anti-transgender discrimination and specifically calling for insurance coverage of healthcare for transgender people.
10. Hope for Transgender Inmates
As calls for scaling back America's reliance on imprisonment grow from Texas to the White House, major steps are being taken to keep transgender people who are behind bars safe. In Harris County, TX., America's third-largest jail was the latest to adopt comprehensive policies that include housing inmates based on their gender identity, following standards from the U.S. Justice Department. NCTE will continue this work while also advocating for fewer prisons and less imprisonment.

Read the original article from Huffington Post here: