Friday, February 26, 2016

Marco Rubio Claims The GOP Is The Party Of Diversity

by Jessica Schulberg
Originally Published: February 25th, 2016

Responding to a question in Thursday's GOP debate about whether Sens. Ted Cruz (Texas) and Marco Rubio (Fla.), both children of Cuban immigrants, were missing opportunities to appeal to Hispanic voters, Rubio said, “We have to move past this idea that somehow, the Hispanic community only cares about immigration.”
Pointing to to the fact that two of the five remaining Republican presidential candidates are Hispanic and one is black, Rubio said, “We are the party of diversity, not the Democratic party.”
The biggest issue for Hispanic voters, he continued, is “the burning desire to leave your children better off than yourself. And you can only do that through free enterprise.”
Rubio had just finished defending his plan to repeal deportation protections for young undocumented immigrations on his first day in office, despite having sympathy for “someone who came here when they were 2 or 3 years old through no fault of their own.”
He justified the move by saying, “We cannot violate the Constitution of the United States the way [Obama] does on a regular basis.”

Read the original article from The Huffington Post here:

National Science Foundation Launches Million-Dollar Initiative To Improve Diversity in STEM

by Laurel Raymond
Originally Published: February 26th, 2016

The lack of diversity in STEM fields has been a persistent problem for decades. White men currently take up 51 percent of all STEM jobs despite making up only 31 percent of the population — which means women and most minority groups are underrepresented and underserved. Not only does this contribute to race and gender wage gaps — STEM workers typically have higher salaries and currently enjoy a lower rate of unemployment than the general working population — but it also critically shortchanges the STEM community, since it means there are likely talented minds that haven’t been reached, and important perspectives that are missing. 
Now, the National Science Foundation (NSF) is asking the scientific community to close that gap. 
NSF launched a new initiative this week dubbed NSF INCLUDES, a mouthful of an acronym that stands for “Inclusion across the Nation of Communities of Learners of Underrepresented Discoverers in Engineering and Science.” The organization has officially called for proposals for projects aiming to increase the participation of women, members of racial and ethnic groups, persons with disabilities, and persons of low socio-economic status in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields. 
The goal of the program, according to NSF Director France Cordova, is to transform STEM over the next 10 years so that it is “fully and widely inclusive,” as she said in a Dear Colleague letter accompanying the announcement. Ultimately, the project aims to shift the workforce until these groups are represented in percentages aligned with their overall representation in the U.S. population. 
The first stage of the program will fund up to 40 projects at $300,000 each for two-year pilots, the exact nature of which is left deliberately vague.
“We leave the specific nature of each alliance and the ambitious goals it will aim to achieve to you to define,” Cordova wrote to the scientific community. 
Successful pilot programs can then compete for five larger “Alliance” awards of $2.5 million per year for five years, rounding out at $12.5 million each. In total, the proposal outlines an investment of almost $75 million over the next 7 years. 
The current science and engineering workforce is heavily slanted towards white men, partly because the older working population tends to be overwhelmingly white and male. In recent years, women have taken home more bachelor’s degrees then men and around half of all science and engineering degrees. However, this varies greatly by degree field; while women take home a majority of biosciences degrees, in some of the most in-demand and high-earning fields — engineering, computer sciences, mathematics, and physics — their numbers lag far behind men
This overall pattern holds for STEM degrees awarded to underrepresented minorities. Most of the gains in recent years have been in psychology and the social sciences, while their share in engineering and the physical sciences have remained flat and their share in math and statistics degrees has actually dropped. Plus, a persistent education gap means that underrepresented minorities are far less likely to enroll in college, contributing to a lower share of the overall degrees (including STEM). And the higher in the educational totem pole, the lower the share of women and underrepresented minorities attaining degrees. 
Increasing the share of women and minorities in the STEM fields would likely have a strong effect on systemic wage gaps, but Cordova and the NSF make a different case for why this diversity initiative is so vital. 
“Full participation of all of America’s STEM talent is critical to the advancement of science and engineering for national security, health, and prosperity,” reads the NSF INCLUDES introduction. 
According to this thesis, the problem isn’t that there are too many white men in the sciences. The problem is that there’s a smaller proportion of blacks, Hispanics, Native Americans, persons with disabilities, and women in the STEM workforce compared to the general population, and that socio-economic barriers still stand in the way of a STEM education — which means there’s talent in the population going untapped. This talent is necessary for the United States to advance in fields crucial to national security, health, and prosperity — as well as to make our research better and more socially relevant.
“Diversity — of thought, perspective, and experience — is essential for excellence in research and innovation in science and engineering,” writes Cordova
Because the STEM community is lacking that diversity now, the next generation of learners may not have the mentors and role models they need to craft their career paths and stay on them. Or, they may be faced with environments that are culturally unwelcomingexplicitly hostile, or more likely, quietly, almost unconsciously biased against them. 
Cordova in her letter, calls these “the subtle, but pervasive, biases that can diminish our collective action.” Along with socio-economic barriers to entry, all of these factors can deter people from entering STEM fields, or cause them to trickle out of the pipeline. 
How NSF INCLUDES will help remove barriers to STEM access and shore up the ‘leaky pipeline’ of STEM learners remains to be seen. Possibilities could range from offering more science and math AP courses in underserved areas to increasing the diversity of STEM PhD earners. The solicitation says only that projects must have measurable benchmarks of success, will likely involve a broad collaboration across public and private sectors, and must be scalable to a national level. 
NSF officials expect to receive over 250 proposals from this initial call, 40 of which will ultimately receive the initial round of funding. It’s an investment in the future that has been long-awaited. 
“The community has been asking us to issue a solicitation for quite a while,” NSF program officer Bernice Anderson told Science.

Read the original article from Think Progress here:

Why Canada's New Mental Health Programs Are Irrelevant

by Marvin Ross
Originally Published: February 25th, 2016

When Michael Wilson was appointed as the new chair of the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC), I did a blog skeptical of that appointment even though I have a great deal of respect for his advocacy. Wilson, a former cabinet minister whose son committed suicide, was announced as someone who would continue the role of "advancing the promotion of mental health -- and the prevention of mental illness."  I pointed out that I had no idea what improving mental health meant nor how one could prevent something where the cause is not known.
Regrettably, I may be right. Wilson has written a plea in the Globe and Mail for funding for a program of citizen gatekeepers all over Canada who can spot likely suicides and prevent them.
And, respectfully, this is a total waste of time and money.
My blogging partner at Mind You Reflections on Mental Illness Mental Health and Life, psychiatrist Dr David Laing Dawson, has written two blogs on prevention. In his first blog, he points out that despite all the publicity campaigns and efforts "the rate of suicides in Canada, completed suicides, remains statistically unchanged."
He went on to say that:
We know the demographics of completed suicide. We know the risk factors. We know the specific and usually treatable illnesses that all too frequently lead to suicide. So if we truly want to reduce the actual numbers of people who kill themselves (not threats, small overdoses, passing considerations), then we need to stop wasting resources on "suicide prevention programs" and put them into the detection and treatment of those specific conditions so often responsible for suicide 
In his most recent blog that appeared on February 22, he said:
We can talk about suicide prevention in general terms but the one and only time a health care clinician can actually prevent a suicide is when an at-risk individual is sitting in front of him or her. Your patient, new or known to you, at your office, in your clinic, at the hospital.
It appears that the MHCC loves to set up programs that make people feel better but that have never been demonstrated to be effective. That is the case with Mental Health First Aid that the commission promotes and sponsors. As I pointed out in an earlier Huffington Post blog, the research on this simply demonstrates that those who have taken the course feel better about themselves for having taken it but there is no evidence that anyone else benefits.
That is the case with the proposed gatekeeper program being advanced by Wilson. I can't find any study that demonstrates that the existence of a gatekeeper program resulted in a decrease in suicides. One study at the Veterans Affairs Department in the US concluded that "Gatekeeper training for suicide prevention shows promise for increasing the capacity of VA staff to work with at risk veterans." People know more and that is it. There is no proven reduction in suicides.
A study done in a school setting found that teachers learned about suicide but again there is no indication that anyone was prevented from committing suicide because of it. The RAND Corporation in the US published a review of Gatekeeping in 2015 done for the US Department of Defense. Among their conclusions was "The transfer of knowledge, beliefs, and skills learned in training to actual intervention behavior is largely unstudied" and that "Continued research is needed as to how knowledge, beliefs, self-efficacy, and reluctance are related to both intervention behavior and changes in suicide rates." (P 22 of the PDF). 
As Dr. David Laing Dawson mentioned in his blog above, treating the illnesses that lead to suicide is paramount and we can only do that if we have resources to actually do that. So, while Michael Wilson is sitting in Ottawa talking about gatekeepers, there are people in Ottawa (and the rest of the country) who cannot get those needed resources.
Earlier this month, an Ottawa mother complained that her 17 year old suicidal daughter spent eight nights in hospital waiting for a scarce bed in the mental health unit of the Queensway Carleton Hospital and was then discharged while still suicidal. The young woman suffers with depression, obsessive compulsive disorder and severe anxiety. The hospital chief of staff said that emergency room visits for mental health rose 28% over the past four years.
The money being spent on a gatekeeper program and on Mental Health First Aid could better be spent on hospital resources.
And it could be spent on providing doctors who can prescribe needed meds which Dawson also recommends. One study found that "There was greater than a five-fold increase in risk for suicidal behaviour after discontinuation of antidepressant treatment" . Another study of over 5000 people found that  "Depression appears to be under treated in individuals committing suicide, especially in men and in subjects under 30 years of age." Another study found that  "A 1% increase in adolescent use of antidepressants was associated with a decrease of 0.23 suicide per 100 000 adolescents per year." 
So, Mr. Wilson, do lobby for more federal money for mental health/illness but put that money towards more treatment resources for people who desperately need them and that actually have a chance of working.

Read the original article from The Huffington Post here:

11 Things People With PTSD Want You To Know

by Lindsay Holmes
Originally Published: February 26th, 2016

Everyone goes through moments of fear, but for those with post-traumatic stress disorder, terror has a way of taking on a life of its own.
People with PTSD have often undergone situations that most people can't even begin to fathom. While everyone recovers from trauma differently, those with PTSD tend to have lingering stress that interferes with their everyday lives. It's as if their "fight or flight" response never shuts off. As a result, they're forced to make adjustments to their daily routines.
Sounds miserable, right? Unfortunately, that's just the beginning. PTSD is a complex condition that many don't understand. Below are some important things to keep in mind when it comes to the mental health disorder:

1. You don't have to be a veteran to have PTSD.

The disorder can develop after a traumatic event, like witnessing or experiencing sexual assault, violence or death. It is estimated that 60 percent of men and 50 percent of women will experience one traumatic event at some point in their lives, although that doesn't necessarily mean they will develop PTSD.
The condition is most commonly linked with war veterans, who while active were likely surrounded by scarring situations quite regularly. It is expected that between 11 and 20 percent of vets who served in operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom suffer from PTSD in a given year.

2. The time it takes for the condition to develop varies.

Sometimes symptoms don't show up right away. There are two types of PTSD, according to researchers. There's short-term or acute, from which a person can recover after a few months, and chronic or ongoing, where symptoms tend to persist throughout a longer period of time. 

3. At its worst, PTSD can lead to suicide.

One of the horrible side effects of any mental illness is a risk for harmful or suicidal thoughts. It is believed that both deployed and non-deployed veterans have a higher risk for suicide than the general U.S. population.
If you or someone you know needs help, please call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Outside of the U.S., visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of international resources.

4. It's not totally unheard of to have PTSD.

Nearly 8 million American adults suffer from PTSD in a given year, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Additionally, about 8 percent of the population will experience PTSD at some point in their lives.

5. The symptoms are all-consuming.

The effects of PTSD aren't just emotional. The condition been associated with physical issues, like poor cardiovascular health and gastrointestinal problems. It's also classified by paralyzing episodes of fear, avoidance of situations that trigger those fears and mood changes like extreme guilt, worry or loss of motivation.

6. There's a huge stigma surrounding the condition.

Like most mental illnesses, people with PTSD are often plagued by negative stereotypes. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, only 25 percent of people with mental illness feel like others are understanding about their condition. This is a huge problem since stigma often prevents people from seeking proper treatment.

7. It's not a punchline.

Using mental illnesses in a colloquial manner or as a joke only perpetuates incorrect perceptions. Think twice before you claim a stressful day at work or an uncomfortable argument "gave you PTSD."

8. Remedies for PTSD vary depending on the person.

Mental illness isn't one-size-fits-all, and neither is the treatment. People with PTSD will likely have to try different therapies, medications or other techniques in order to find what works best for them. 

9. It's not "all in their head."

The mind is the most complex organ in the body, and related illnesses should be treated as such. Research shows that traumatic stress impacts regions in the brain. In other words, the condition is not something a person can just "get over" or an attitude they adopt just to seek attention.

10. The triggers aren't universal.

Because PTSD stems from different traumatic experiences, the triggers that aggravate the condition and prompt flashbacks to the event aren't going to be the same for everyone. While the condition is manageable, there's always a chance that a person on the street, a sound in the grocery store or even a comment from a relative can provoke a paralyzing fear. It's a hard reality to deal with on a regular basis.

11. It's possible to live a healthy, productive life with PTSD.

Just because someone has PTSD doesn't mean they're unable to function or live fulfilling lives. Once again, the right treatment is necessary. Like cancer or the flu, an illness is just an aspect of someone's reality; a piece to a whole puzzle. Their illness does not define them -- and that's the most important thing to remember.

Read the original article from The Huffington Post here:

The future is in code and I want women to write it

by Kathryn Parsons
Originally Published: February 26th, 2016

Say the word code and it immediately conjures images of boys in hoodies in basements listening to loud music and shooting nerf guns. But the future is being written in lines of code. I passionately believe that. And I want women to be part of that future. 
Decoded began in 2011; we wanted to create a technology education experience that could demystify the dark arts of “digital” for anyone and everyone. We wanted to be able to teach someone code in a day. It was a mission impossible we set ourselves over a whiskey sour in Shoreditch, with nothing more than a credit card loan and a huge amount of hope and belief.
Technology is impacting everything and everyone. Yet how many people can confidently say that they understand the technologies behind the screen? Or that they feel like an active participant in the digital world, rather than a passive observer? I think about 1%. That feels wrong. Especially considering recent research estimating that up to 47% of roles can be easily replaced by machines in the next 10 years
That whiskey sour in Shoreditch was the moment I fell down the rabbit hole and the beginning of Decoded. 
Fast forward to 2016 and we are one of the biggest technology educators in the world working with boards and leadership teams across every single industry, sector and government recently launching our offices in New York, Sydney and Amsterdam. We have achieved the mission impossible and it has resonated beyond our wildest dreams. With a mere marketing budget of £27 to promote ourselves (wastefully spent on “Geek” T-shirts), over 3,000 different businesses across over 50 different cities around the world have since experienced our work.
We’ve moved beyond code to decoding the dark arts of data, hacking and cyber security, machine learning and more. We campaigned for code on the UK national curriculum which was successfully introduced in September 2014 – a worldwide first. 
I think that, in the right hands, technology can be an incredible force for good. It feels like this is just the beginning. I am very excited about the journey but I also think the destination is another 10 years away. 
The team inspires me daily and has taught me a lot. I have to pinch myself to think that constantly pushing the limits of what we can learn and do in the realms of technology and then decoding that for the rest of the world to understand is actually our job!
In the last few months alone Denise (a mathematical genetics graduate) turned a room of 100 people into a neural network, Olly (still only 24, a self-taught coder from the age of six and philosophy graduate) taught the boards of one of the largest entertainment companies in the world about the power of APIs, and Alex (ex-security white hat hacker) created a simulated game to replicate a real hack on a bank. 
They are individuals with incredible technical capabilities, but also human beings with brilliant communication and empathy skills. People often ask me a lot about what it is like to be “the boss”. It just does not feel like that. Decoded is not very hierarchical, it is very trusting and everyone is very empowered. The structure is less like an organisational triangle. And more like a network. A bit like the web really.
Most of the time my days are really very random and fun; I could be suddenly on a plane to San Francisco, conference calling with Australia at midnight or heading to a meeting at Number 10 to discuss how to help start-up businesses grown in the UK.
I am really passionate about creating an environment where anyone with an idea can have the opportunity to create a business, equipping the next generation with the technology skills they need and championing women in technology.
It means that I am out most evenings and at the weekends I am mentoring start-ups, getting involved in roundtables on cyber security, speaking at events at schools, holding networking events for women in business or advising government groups to help make the UK a great place for business. 
The worst part of my job is constantly being connected. I don’t think I am alone in finding it sometimes totally overwhelming. We were not created to be always on. Technology should enable us to be better, not control us. I completely switched off my emails last year and focused on the team. I am back on email, but in a more conscious way.
Some of the earliest pioneers in computer science were women. Yet, today women are opting out of STEM at school level and technology at career level in their droves.
We have to banish the myths, cliches and stereotypes that have evolved which say “this is not for girls”. It is. Why can’t the next billion-dollar tech company be led by a woman? And why aren’t there more technology products created for and by women? I want to change that.
It’s why I am such a big advocate for women in tech and business, ensuring that there is visibility, opportunity, education and mentorship. But much more is needed, specifically financing. I have a cunning idea up my sleeve and it’s something I want to take on in 2016, so watch this space.

Read the original article from The Guardian here:

Nine Ways to Combat Unconscious Bias in Hiring

by Kira Makagon
Originally Published: February 25th, 2016

For anyone starting a company, a top concern is hiring the best people in order make up the strongest team. I place high value on diversity considerations, as I've seen in my companies how diverse teams yield the best results. RingCentral recently brought in a speaker to broaden awareness of diversity issues. Dr. Lauren Jackman of Medallia gave us a presentation called "Understanding Unconscious Bias: Tools and Strategies," focusing on women in leadership and on ageism, specifically.

Dr. Jackman's presentation began with an assumption that our company shares: diversity is valuable. RingCentral is the first truly global cloud communications company. To stay at the forefront of our industry, we must account for a host of different perspectives in order to continue to build for our diverse world. With women continuing to be under-represented in technology leadership roles and with the median age of our tech workforce skewing young, how can we make sure that we're accounting for the diversity we need to consider in order to serve a growing global customer base that is not disproportionately male and young?

Hiring for a diverse workforce in the global marketplace requires increased attention to detail and hard work, and that starts with hiring managers asking themselves about the biases they may carry - even ones that they don't know about. Dr. Jackman recommended that we all visit a website to take an Implicit Association Test (IAT). There are over a dozen of these, and I recommend that everyone try these tests themselves; they are eye-opening! My own results led me to understand that there is, indeed, a gap between my own theories and practices when it comes to biases. So, what can I do to make sure I'm being as fair as I can be?

According to Dr. Jackman, research shows the following ways to correct for bias in hiring:

1)  Flexibility. Have policies as an organization that support equality. Policies such as flexible hours, work-from-home, and family leave make ALL employees happier and more productive at work.
2)  Partnerships. Partner with groups that help you target diversity in your pipeline. One example is a group called Girls Who Code.
3)  Teach. Teach employees about implicit bias through presentations like Jackman's. Google has been doing this and measuring it for a while and found that employees are better informed about bias and more likely to scrutinize their own behaviors.
4)  Practice mindfulness. Dr. Jackman shared that one of the few strategies proven to reduce your bias score on the IAT is practicing mindfulness meditation for even just 10 minutes beforehand. Her theory is that meditation is strengthening you to be more deliberate in your thinking. She pointed out that we don't always have time for meditation, so she led us in an exercise called "box breathing," or "trigger breathing" in military terms, that can help, too. This involves breathing in for two counts, holding for two counts, breathing out for two counts, holding for two counts, and repeating.
5)  Define requirements narrowly. Know that women are likely to apply for a position when they meet 100% or more of requirements; men will apply if they meet only 60%. Ask what are true requirements versus nice-to-haves.
6)  Advertise without bias. Think carefully about job postings, and screen them. Some words, like "dominance" or "digital native" will turn off some populations. There is a company called Textio that offers a tool to which you can copy and post job listings. Then, they'll tell you if your posting is skewed in any way and how.
7)  Hire groups. If you know you're hiring five people in the next year, think about that hiring as the year's "class." Thinking in that way increases the likelihood that women and minorities will be selected by twice as much. As diversity is very much about the composition of a group, this makes a lot of sense.
8)  Use rubrics. Codify what's critical before interviewing candidates so that you're looking for candidates who meet clearly-defined requirements rather than trying to mold a job to a candidate you like.
9)  Pay attention to your environment. Gender-neutral cues in the workplace - thinks like nature posters versus sci-fi ones -- will attract better candidates.

Dr. Jackman closed with an example that really drives home the point of how important it is to remove bias in hiring. According to a slide she showed citing a study by Goldin & Rouse in The American Economic Review in 2000, America's symphony orchestras were only 5% women in the 1970s. Orchestras began to hold "blind" auditions, which involved putting up a screen so that the player couldn't be seen and laying down carpet so that women's heels couldn't be detected clicking across the floor. These seemingly-minor changes increased the likelihood that women would join orchestras by 50%.

We don't need screens and carpeting in order to hire more diverse staff these days, but we do need to pay attention to details ranging from what we offer as a company to make our employees happy to how we conduct our hiring. With Dr. Jackman's talk, our company invested in tuning in to our unconscious biases, and I look forward to ongoing conversations about it as we continue to strive to diversify our workplace and the technology sector in general.

Read the original article from The Huffington Post here:

Kelly Knox: The Model Championing Body Confidence For People With Disabilities

by Ellen Wallwork
Originally Published: February 24th, 2016

Body confidence has become synonymous with feeling happy with your dress size, but for many people it goes beyond that.
One in six people in the UK have a disability, yet you wouldn't know that if you looked at the London Fashion Week catwalks or advertising campaigns.
Model Kelly Knox has spoken out in support of The Huffington Post UK's Fashion For All campaign to celebrate moments of diversity in fashion, as she is on a mission to make the industry more inclusive before her five-month-old son Jenson reaches an age where this exclusion becomes an issue for him. 
"Fashion For All sings the song of my heart," she explained. "Fashion needs to be inclusive of everyone, regardless of colour, size, age or disability.
"People with disabilities are often the most visible section of society, but in the fashion industry it's like they don't exist at all."
kelly knox
Kelly Knox
"We live in a diverse society and I want my son to grow up in a world where he and his peers are empowered by the images they see, so they can feel confident no matter what their skin colour or what their body is like," Knox continued.
"I believe it's every person's birth right to grow up with confidence, in an inclusive society where they can celebrate their individuality, embrace their differences and just be human beings.
"But when only one type of body is represented in fashion it makes people feel unconfident in their skin and that holds them back in all aspects of life, from job interviews to relationships."
Kelly Knox: Models With Disabilities - The Most Underrepresented Group in Fashion
#Fashion4All: Join Our Campaign to Champion Diversity on the Catwalk
5 Beauty Bloggers With Disabilities You Need To Follow
Knox has been modelling since 2008 when she won 'Britain's Missing Top Model' a BBC show about women with disabilities trying to get their break in the modelling industry. 
Knox was born without a left forearm, but it wasn't until filming for the series began that she began to think of herself as "disabled".
"Growing up I never classed myself as 'disabled', I know that might sound weird, but in my house we never used the word," she explained.
"My friends didn’t see me that way. My family didn’t see me that way. I didn’t see me that way.
"But when I joined 'Britain's Missing Top Model', it was as though all of a sudden I was labelled as a 'disabled person' and it felt like that came to be my defining feature.
"It was only then that I started learning about how society perceives disability.
"That's when I knew I needed to work to change this."
kelly knox
Kelly Knox shot by Rankin
Knox has landed some major jobs: being shot by Rankin, modelling for P&G and featuring on as part of a Debenhams campaign.
Last September she was approached to walk in Lenie Boya's spring/summer 2016 London Fashion Week show alongside Paralympian Stephanie Reid, but she had to pass up the opportunity as she had given birth to her son just the month before.
But Knox has been disappointed to note that almost all of her jobs have been part of a push by the company to highlight disability - a trend that only ever seems to last one season.
"This tokenism has been the problem I've faced all throughout my career," she said.
"I do something massive and then suddenly it's like I don't exist. Not only that, but it's like models with disabilities don't exist. It's very frustrating. 
"It's like brands are just ticking a box - using a disabled model for one campaign. But what about the next campaign? 
"It has to be consistent to make a difference to how people with disabilities are perceived."
kelly knox
"There has only been one job I've had so far that I've got from an open casting," said Knox. "For everything else my management have been contacted by a team saying they want to use Kelly to fit a brief for a 'disabled model'.
"And I don't want that to be taken the wrong way, I'm grateful for that - the brands who are actively casting disabled models are the innovators.
"They can see that diversity isn't a passing trend, it does sell, it's what people want to see. They're the people who are making the changes.
"But for true change we need to get to a stage where all models can turn up to open castings - regardless of any disability they may have - and have an equal chance of getting the job."

Knox is the co-founder of Diversity Not Disability – a campaign that launched at the start of the year to celebrate all body types and promote equal representation of models with disabilities across all platforms of the media.
It is her hope that her campaign will lead to more opportunites for people with disabilities.
"I've always said I don't feel disabled myself, it's the attitudes of others that 'disable' me and create barriers to what I can achieve," she explained. 
"I want to be part of bringing change to the fashion industry, to break down the barriers so all models can achieve their potential, no matter what their body type.
"And that, in turn, will help a younger generation grow up to feel body confident." 

Read the original article from The Huffington Post here:

Ranking The FIFA Presidential Candidates On Gender-Equity Reform

by Julie Foudy
Originally Published: February 25th, 2016

When Sepp Blatter ended his 17-year FIFA reign with a six-year suspension for corruption, the throne was left empty. Now, the world is watching -- its most popular sport hanging in the balance -- as five men vie to wear the badly tarnished, yet still powerful crown of FIFA president at the most important time in the organization's history.
And let's not forget, half of the population -- girls and women -- around the globe still often lack access to play or to influence the beautiful game. (It took FIFA over 100 years to elect a woman to its executive committee in 2013.)
So with them in mind, espnW and Women in Football sent out a survey last week to get the candidates' positions on gender-equity issues. For those who responded, we've included some of their answers below.
Will the next president chart FIFA's road to reform, or lead the organization back down the same ol' dusty road? We take a look at how they fare in some of the most important points, ranking them from one (most reform-minded) to five (least reform-minded).

1. Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein, 40, Jordan

Ali Bin Al-Hussein
Philipp Schmidli/Getty Images

Not that Prince Ali, but wouldn't it be fitting if the Disney song could be playing while FIFA delegates cast their votes? I can see the delegates dancing down the aisle. But, I digress ...
Prince Ali is the youngest candidate in the field and the most progressive. The third son of Jordan's late King Hussein, Ali has studied at some of the finest institutions in the world -- including the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in England, and Princeton in the U.S. -- and he served in the Jordanian Special Forces.
He was the sole opposition to Blatter in the May 2015 election -- in which he had UEFA on his side -- but he's considered an outsider looking in this time around. UEFA and CONMEBOL (the South American Confederation) have publicly said they are backing Gianni Infantino.

Where he stands on gender-equity issues

Prince Ali did not respond to our survey but has been vocal about these issues in prior interviews. According to an interview in Unleash Football:
"I would tackle gender balancing and policies on FIFA bodies, address best practices such as equal pay for equal work, commit to having an outside entity credentialed in this area to measure progress on gender balance. I would have a separate budget for women's football derived from new revenues, maximize the commercial potential of the Women's World Cups, create an incubator in FIFA where its high-growth, high-potential concepts/projects go; e.g. where we want to see the next WWC and what it takes to get there. I would work on a real growth strategy to improve access to the sport globally, as well as increase financial resourcing and rewarding FAs that go beyond the minimum quotas for women football and show real commitment with additional funding as well as increasing programs from FIFA to help develop female coaches and referees."

My take

Prince Ali has ideas about gender-equality solutions, and he also has a plan. He fought hard for women soccer players to be able wear headscarves, helping to promote the game through the Arab world. And many FIFA insiders say he's in the game for the right reasons and is truly reform-minded. Alas, those within FIFA do not embrace change so quickly, even when the world and organization begs for it. And though he has the support of US Soccer, many think Prince Ali will fall to No. 3 in the voting.

2. Gianni Infantino, 45, Switzerland

Gianni Infantino
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The attorney is running for president by default, it seems. He spent seven years as the right-hand man of former UEFA head Michel Platini, who was also suspended in the bribery scandal with Blatter. Until then, Platini was the favorite to run as the European candidate for president. Infantino has always played the CEO role, with lots of experience navigating soccer's upper echelons. Some have questioned if he would prefer being FIFA's secretary general instead.

Where he stands on gender-equity issues

"If I am elected the next FIFA president, women's football will be a priority," Infantino told us, "and this will be reflected in how FIFA distributes its development funding." He said he would increase staff to develop women's football projects in the member associations. "Specific initiatives will be put in place to support the member associations to develop their club and league structures to further drive that growth and improve the grassroots and elite player pathway systems."
He also said he wants to see "intensified efforts to promote the women's game and ensure more diversity at FIFA HQ, and that includes employing more talented women, including in leading positions. I will be committed to strengthen gender equality, promote the advancement of women and improve the resourcing of women's football." He said he would also "make sure that there is a strong investment in the marketing opportunities for women's football. It's probably the area in which football can grow even more, so we need to facilitate this and put the resources we have at the service of this objective."

My take

Most of this sounds great. But I present to you the UEFA executive committee -- of which Infantino has been CEO since 2007 -- which has one woman. I think it is always important to match words to what the candidate lives.
His responses sound promising, but the big question I keep coming back to is: How will FIFA set the trend so all other federations will be motivated to follow? How will it ensure a strong investment in the commercial and marketing opportunities for women's football? Infantino acknowledges the enormous growth potential on the women's side in his manifesto. Coupled with his interest to provide more funding for member associations with more transparency for how they spend that money, women's soccer could get the attention, and equally important, the political will it deserves. Fingers crossed.

3. Jerome Champagne, 57, France

Jerome Champagne
AP Photo/Francois Mori
The former diplomat is a FIFA insider -- he previously advised Blatter as deputy secretary general and director of international relations -- and an outsider because he speaks of necessary (gasp!) reform. Caught on the wrong side of the political game when he was fired from the organization in 2010, he remains oddly loyal to FIFA and Blatter (who did the firing). He seems determined to give his insights into how FIFA should be run "because I feel more [confident] than ever that football should play its transformative role to serve a fractured, unequal and globalized world with the vision of true world governance."

Where he stands on gender-equity issues

Champagne directed us to his manifesto. He also told Unleash Football:
"The most important [thing] is to have more women and girls playing the game, and it is moving in the right direction. For [example,] the Norwegian FA reached a total parity among members of its ExCo. The number of registered female players reached 100,000. ... More and more women have leadership positions in the football pyramid. Three women are presidents of a FA (Guatemala, Sierra Leone, Turks & Caicos) and a lot of others are general secretaries -- such as in France, Grenada -- or deputy general secretary of the Oceania Football Confederation. But it is not enough."
Champagne then told the site he would create a women's club World Cup "to stimulate the strengthening and creation of women's national leagues around the world," along with creating a women's football division inside FIFA and establishing "a quota of women in all FAs executive committees around the world."

My take

I absolutely agree with the ideas he lists here regarding the creation of Women's Club World Cup, a "women's football division" inside FIFA (no division exists and the three committees that deal with women's soccer all stand to be abolished with this new set of statutes), and the establishment of a quota in every federation's executive committee around the world.

4. Tokyo Sexwale, 62, South Africa

Tokyo Sexwale
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By all accounts, Sexwale may not even be up on the docket Friday. He may have pulled out of the race. The mining multi-millionaire is also a politician, anti-Apartheid activist and former political prisoner. Interestingly, he does not have the backing of his own African Confederation.

Where he stands on gender-equity issues

Sexwale told Unleash Football:
"Women's participation in football should be free from discrimination, with childhood mentorships, expert coaching, and real access to training and playing facilities including academies. Thus the injection of funds into women's football by global sponsors needs encouragement, including by government sport ministries, especially in the less-developed areas of the world.
"Special attention should be laid on open channel broadcasting of women's football -- not just the women's World Cup -- to educate the public and to encourage young players.

My take

Sexwale has not been actively campaigning for the presidential position. He isn't a player in these elections.

5. Sheikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa, 50, Bahrain

Sheikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa
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Sheikh Salman is a cousin of King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa. Salman was president of the Bahrain Football Association before he became president of the Asian Football Confederation in 2013, which then put him on FIFA's executive committee. If you aren't worried about Sheikh Salman being favored to win the FIFA presidential election, you should be.
When he was re-elected as the Asian Confederations president in April 2015, he told the delegates it is important to "stand up for Qatar for their credentials and legitimacy to stage the World Cup 2022." (Legitimacy among these allegations?) He then finished his speech by addressing Blatter: "Dear President, rest assured the Asian football family stands firmly behind you."
That should be enough said, but wait, there's more. When he was asked to sign a pledge put forward by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and three other groups asking presidential candidates to agree to "six clear steps that will put FIFA on the road to ensuring its events do not cause or contribute to human rights abuses and corruption," Sheikh Salman would only sign an amended pledge; he removed specific references to the World Cups in Russia (2018) and Qatar (2022), and abuses against women and LGBT groups. His justification? "I am of the view that we must not be selective in any area that concerns human rights." Hmm.
And if you aren't in full panic mode yet, I give you this: Even though Sheikh Salman has repeatedly been accused of human rights violations in the brutal crackdown of a peaceful pro-democracy protest in Bahrain in 2011 during the Arab Spring (which included his own soccer players and which Sheikh Salman denies), FIFA's election committee sees him as fit to run for president.

Where he stands on gender-equity issues

In his response to our survey, Sheikh Salman told us he supports FIFA gender-equity initiatives, adding that the AFC already has a "minimum requirement" in its statutes for women to be included on its executive committee. "If we want to introduce meaningful change, we must elect women into those positions of executive power that allow for top-down initiatives throughout football," he said, adding that if he were to become FIFA president, he would "implement similar programs as I have in Asia and would further stipulate and support programs and procedures that empower women. No doubt it would set a clear signal if I were to find a high-powered woman CEO for FIFA, which is certainly something I would actively pursue."
Additionally, he stated his support of the quota suggestions, timelines for implementation and potential penalties for non-compliance put forth by the Women's Football Taskforce.

My take

These are some bold statements by Sheikh Salman. The woman CEO is one thing, but it is quite remarkable that he supports quotas -- and a willingness to push them through the member associations -- since the FIFA Reform Committee would not adopt them in their proposed new statutes. Social change is difficult, especially in countries that require a major shift in culture. History has found that cultural and societal movement takes more than just a nudge or suggestion; sometimes you have to bring in the motivation of a quota law to get this done. Salman's answer is not convincing given his history. If Sheikh Salman gets through as FIFA President, it means far too many FIFA Member Associations are not serious about reform.
And there you have it, a glimpse into the smoke and mirrors that is the FIFAverse. The guy who is the most reform-minded doesn't appear to have the backing to win, while the guy who is the least reform-minded does. Can it get any more FIFA than that? The optimist in me thinks there is enough public outrage for the vicious culture of corruption to be broken. The realist in me says, Who are you kidding? If Prince Ali cannot win the election (a win appears very doubtful based on preliminary rumors), then the next best in line, in my opinion, is Gianni Infantino. He has the experience, the mind and now, hopefully, the will to push FIFA toward reform.
May our collective glass be half-full Friday, may the cycle be broken and may the right person lead them there. Because if the new president does come in with an intent to chart a fresh, innovative, transparent way of doing business, the opportunity for positive change is immense. Girls and young women around the world will win. Societies will win. And finally -- finally -- we inch closer to FIFA's stated mission: developing football everywhere and for all.