Monday, March 9, 2015
International Women's Day (March 8) receives little attention in the U.S. when compared with other nations. Sometimes we neglect to recognize those close to home who contribute so much to advancing human rights. I encourage you to honor the woman in front of you. In that spirit, I would like to recognize my co-editor, Martha Davis, with whom I am honored to work on this blog. Martha recently answered a series of questions on the status of women, reprinted below.
Martha F. Davis
Issues of equal pay and workplace discrimination affect a huge number of women, and make it more difficult for women to leave poverty. Violence against women also cuts across racial and class lines.
What factors, financial or otherwise, should women consider when choosing a city to live in?
I would look for women in civic leadership positions, percentages of women in the police force and other indicators that show a commitment to women's economic and civic equality.
There are also many factors that, because of gender inequality, men probably never think about, like safety (e.g., street lighting), and (for parents) access to affordable child care and after school care.
How can local health authorities better meet the needs of women?
Violence against women has huge impacts on women's health -- both directly, through the violence itself, and indirectly as it increases women's stress and may make it more difficult for them to care for themselves in other ways.
Many organizations have developed interventions for both men and women, and approaches to curtailing the violence. Violence against women includes stranger violence as well. Media images certainly play a role in opening the door to gender-based violence. Local health authorities can help through public education campaigns, partnerships with public schools and other institutions, and interventions with youth, hopefully before the violence begins.
How can local authorities encourage more women entrepreneurs and support women-owned businesses?
Equal pay initiatives would, of course, indirectly assist with this, since entrepreneurial women would have more access to the seed funds necessary to start a business.
Role models, mentoring programs and support groups, prioritizing these initiatives at the local level, can have a tremendous impact. Similar programs have been very effective in, for example, encouraging women to run for office.
A number of studies have indicated that many women are not great negotiators, that women in general are more ready than are men in general to accept an initial offer even if a better deal is available. Negotiating is a teachable skill. Local authorities could help by mediating negotiations and by offering training to women to equip them to negotiate in a wide range of settings.
What programs should local authorities develop in order to make their cities more women friendly?
San Francisco is the only city in the country that has adopted the international Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women as its local law and it has made an important difference there.
City agencies have conducted gender audits and found a lot of low-cost reforms that they can implement that make a big difference for women. For example, they expanded the hours when people could apply for various permits so that they did not always conflict with school drop-off and pick-up times; they added street lighting to enhance women's safety and job options; they created new programs to support young girls, and so on. Now, the SF Women's Commission has spearheaded the development of guidelines for city contractors to ensure that they meet international standards for women's equality. Adoption of CEDAW has been a vehicle for SF leaders to discuss, prioritize and integrate women's equality into local policies.
How can local authorities encourage more civic engagement among women, including running for political office?
Again, role models, mentors and support groups are critical. The Women in Public Policy Program at Harvard is a good model for this approach. In today's election climate, however, it's money that ends up being more important. Women can learn how to ask for money and connect with supporters, but workplace equality will also make a difference here, as women have more leadership positions and receive equal pay at a level that will enable them to consider a run for office.