Sunday, October 21, 2012

In The Dark Again……..Paycheck Fairness Act (S 3320 and H.R.1519)

Unfair pay practices make it harder for all families to flourish and particularly those that are dependent on the woman as the sole wage earner.  Women continue to be paid on average 77 cents to every dollar paid to a man.  Although the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act helps women and others to assert their rights for pay discrimination it does not encompass all the remedies and tools and employer incentives needed to reverse pay discrimination.
The Paycheck Fairness Act updates, closes loopholes and strengths the Equal Pay Act of 1963 by:  baring retaliation against workers who voluntarily discuss or disclose their wages with co-workers; allowing women to receive the same remedies for sex-based pay discrimination that are currently available to those subject to discrimination based on race and ethnicity; and providing training and technical assistance and outreach to help employers eliminate pay discrepancies.

This Act appears to be a no brainer for working women’s and men’s rights.  President Obama has come out strongly in favor of the Act…..But where does Romney stand on the issue?
Like other issues, Romney has lacked leadership and has remained silent on his position regarding the Paycheck Fairness Act. Why won’t Romney share his position on an issue that is significant to helping women and families flourish economically? 

 When asked by Rachel Maddow whether Romney supported the Paycheck Fairness Act, his campaign provided the following answer:

Of course Governor Romney supports pay equity for women. In order to have pay equity, women need to have jobs, and they have been getting crushed in this economy, losing far more jobs than men. As president, Mitt Romney will create a pro-jobs business climate that will put all Americans back to work.

Given the opportunity in last week’s presidential debate to give examples of how he would support women in advancing fair pay, Romney sidestepped the issue completely and instead talked about “Binders” (see my post earlier on The Binders Issue).
And this is what Leadership looks like to Mitt Romney! 

This is NOT leadership, its hedging a bet.  Maybe that’s a common practice for a CEO of a private equity firm, but it certainly is not what a prospective Commander and Chief ought to do.

“We Love You Women!”  Really?

Violence Against Women.....What's the Issue?

How prevalent is violence against women in the United States and what is its cost?

According to the Centers for Disease Control, sexual violence, stalking, and intimate partner violence are major public health problems in the United States.  Physical injury and mental health issues can result from these forms of violence and may lead to hospitalization, disability or death.  Statistics from the Centers of Disease Control National Violence Against Women Survey, November 2011 report the following.
Nearly 1 in 5 women in the United States has been raped in her lifetime (18.3%) equaling almost 22 million U.S. women.  Nearly 1 in 2 women (44.6%) experienced sexual violence victimization other than rape at some point in their lives which is more than 53 million women in the United States.  About 1 in 8 women or more than 15 million women report experiencing sexual coercion in their lifetimes and more than 1 in 4 women (32 million women) have experienced some form of unwanted sexual contact in their lifetime.

Approximately 1 in 6 women (16.2%) in the United States has experienced stalking at some point in her lifetime where she was very fearful or believed that she or someone close to her would be harmed or killed as a result.
Statistics regarding sexual and physical violence experienced by an intimate partner are equally alarming.  One in 3 women (32.9%) has expe­rienced physical violence by an intimate partner and nearly 1 in 10 (9.4%) has been raped by an intimate partner in her lifetime.

The impact of intimate partner violence ranges from fear for safety to physical injury.  62.6% experienced at least one post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptom, 41.6% were injured as a result of the violence, and 28.0% missed at least one day of work or school.  Research suggests that victims of intimate partner and sexual violence make more visits to health providers over their lifetime, have more hospital stays, have longer duration of hospital stays, and are at risk of a wide range of physical, mental, reproductive, and other health consequences over their lifetimes.

Violence Against Women Act
The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) is a federal law whose purpose is to end violence against women and remedy the laws and social practices that have fostered and justified the history of violence against women. The VAWA was introduced in Congress in 1994 by then Senator Joe Biden and received bipartisan support.  The VAWA was passed in 1994, as part of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, and was reauthorized in 2000 and 2005. The current authorization expired in 2011.  VAWA focuses on nine specific areas of intervention: enhancing judicial and law enforcement tools to combat violence against women (Title I); improving services for victims (Title II); services, protection, and justice for young victims of violence (Title III); strengthening America’s families by preventing violence (Title IV); strengthening the healthcare system’s response (Title V); housing opportunities and safety for battered women and children (Title VI); providing economic security for victims (Title VII); protection of battered and trafficked immigrants (Title VIII); and safety for Indian women (Title IX) (From the American Bar Association).

Reauthorizations in 2000 and 2005 that included improvements and more programs in the legislation also received bipartisan support.  Until this year reauthorization of the Bill had not been an issue.   However, reauthorization is languishing in Congress.
The Senate version of reauthorization (S 1925) was passed by the Senate on April 26, 2012, by a 68-31 vote and included new provisions to protect Native Americans, undocumented immigrants, college women and LGBT members. 

The House version of reauthorization, H.R. 4970, a more restrictive version of reauthorization passed by a vote of 225-205, with 216 Republicans and 6 Democrats supporting.  H.R. 4970 excludes the additional provisions the Senate reauthorization included  such as protections to Native American women and also seeks to limit the number of U Visas that are granted to women who were abused, giving them temporary legal status and work eligibility.   The American Bar Association, among others, opposes H.R. 4970, considering it a retreat in the battle against domestic and sexual violence.
Mitt Romney has NOT publically stated his position on the Violence to Women Act.  In April 2012 a spokeswoman for the Romney campaign stated that he "supports it" and "hopes it can be reauthorized without turning it into a political football."   What Romney supports is anybody’s guess.  Romney still has not declared his support for either the Senate or the House reauthorization bill.  We do know, however, how Romney’s running mate Paul Ryan stands on the issue.  He voted in support of the restrictive House bill.

Unlike President Obama and Vice-President Biden, Romney has consistently evaded taking a meaningful stand on many women’s issues……in this case by leaving voters in the dark about where he stands on the Violence Against Women reauthorization. 

“We Love You Women!”  Really?

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Fact Checking "The Binders" and Romney

I absolutely cringe when women are not given the credit that they are due.  This was the case when Mitt Romney left the impression in the Presidential debate on Tuesday evening that HE was the driving force in initiating a drive to find qualified women to appoint to his cabinet.  NOT True.  Furthermore, his track record on increasing women’s representation in his cabinet did NOT hold during his tenure as governor.  Here are the facts:

1.      Romney gave the impression during Tuesday night’s debate that HE was the driving impetus behind collecting the binders of resumes in search for qualified women to hold cabinet positions.   This is NOT TRUE.  The Massachusetts Government Appointments Project (MassGAP),   a bipartisan coalition of over 40 women’s groups whose purpose is to increase the number of women appointed by the governor to senior level cabinet positions, put together the resumes PRIOR to the gubernatorial election . Prior to the election MassGAP asked both the Democratic and Republican(Romney) candidates at that time to sign a pledge that if elected they would increase the number of females in the senior level positions.   So Romney didn’t even give women credit, where credit is due, in initiating the campaign to increase women’s representation in government---instead he took it for himself.   

2.       An independent study by the University of Massachusetts, commissioned by MassGAP provides the results of THEIR effort to increase women’s representation in government.  And guess what?   Romney’s track record on women appointed to senior level positions DOESN’T hold.  Here are the results . During the initial response to the MassGAP initiative (2002-2004) 14 of Romney’s first 33 appointments (42 percent) to senior level positions were women.  From 2004-2006, however, at the end of Romney's term, women made up just 25 percent of the 64 new appointments.

3.       The report’s conclusions state that  “MassGAP’s early impact---with then-Governor Romney selecting women as 42% of his new appointments---was promising.  However, the analysis in this report suggest that subsequent appointments did not reflect in a continued commitment to the selection of women for high-level posts.  The net result over the four points in time suggest that women’s gains between 2002 and 2006 were elusive:  women at the end of the Romney administration did not hold a higher percentage of senior-level positions than when he took office. “  The principal reason for this, according to the report, is that Romney placed  men in positions previously held by women more often than he placed women in positions previously held by men.    
Romney’s attribution that he was the driving force in increasing women’s representation in appointed government positions, and not  MassGAP,  is as self-serving as one can get.  Leaving the impression that he had a stellar record in maintaining women’s advancement in senior level positions throughout his tenure as governor is simply a misrepresentation of his record.

“We love you women!”  You be the judge.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Fair Pay......What's the Issue?

I established a company that helps women develop their leadership and economic potential and I work with women every day who are attempting to make the world a better place through senior and executive leadership .  The fact is this, however:  The glass ceiling still exists and it not only directly hurts women, but also hurts their families and children, and the general economy and well-being of our country.
Supporting equal pay for equal work by providing practical avenues to achieve justice and fairness and to hold those accountable for discrimination should be a sufficient and compelling enough ethical argument in and of itself to support fair-pay legislation. 

However, the business case is equally compelling for gender diversity and fair pay.  Studies consistently conclude that inclusion of women in the top ranks of company leadership has a direct and positive impact on a company’s bottom line and risk management and that companies that have the best records for promoting women outstrip their competition on every measure of profitability.   Yet women disproportionately are failing to attain senior level positions and the substantial pay gap between males and females with the same qualifications doing the same work is unfortunately still a reality.   
The first law that President Obama signed after becoming president was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009.  This act is an amendment to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and states that the 180-day statute of limitations for filing an equal-pay lawsuit regarding pay discrimination resets with each new paycheck affected by that discriminatory action.  The law directly addressed Ledbetter v Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co, a 2007 Supreme Court Decision that interpreted the statute of limitations for presenting an equal-pay lawsuit begins on the date that the employer makes the initial discriminatory wage decision.  Protecting the rights and interests of women over business practices that discriminate (and in Ledbetter’s case discriminated for 19 years) should be a no-brainer. 

When Mitt Romney’s campaign was asked if he would have signed the Act had he been President, their response was “We’ll get back to you on that”.  Some hours later the Romney campaign came out with a general statement that Romney supported equal pay.  However when pushed to say whether he supported the Act or not in a later interview , Romney would not provide a definitive answer.  Saying that you support equal pay for women is NOT the same as saying you that you support the Act.   Romney says he wouldn’t repeal the Act.  But Presidents don’t repeal Congressional Acts; only Congress can repeal legislation.
And when Romney had the opportunity to clarify his position on the Fair Pay Act at Tuesday’s Presidential debate, he side stepped the question posed to him by an audience member.

If Congress repealed the Fair Pay Act, would Romney sign or veto the bill?  What does Romney actually support with regard to fair pay for women?  It’s hard to tell because he refuses to give his position. 
However, we do know where Romney’s running mate Paul Ryan’s stands on the Fair Pay Act.  He voted against it.

Women's Issues and the Presidential Campaign

There’s a lot at stake in this Presidential election.  The results will touch women both directly and indirectly and have a cascading effect onto the lives of their children and immediate and extended families.  As the founder and director of a Center for Women’s Leadership Development I feel that I have a responsibility to offer opinions on how I believe the candidates stand on women’s issues.
 I could easily duck this responsibility by stating that stepping into the political debate may possibly alienate current or potential clients, pose a threat to my business or diminish my standing in some way.  However, that would not be leadership.

My life’s purpose is to inform, inspire, motivate and help others fulfill their potential.  If I choose to “hide” behind a rock and keep my beliefs and opinions to myself then I have failed miserably as a role model for others and in fulfilling my purpose. My hope is that my blogs will move people to conduct their own research and fact checking, and critically analyze their own positions and motivations as well as those of the candidates.
My blog posts over the next two weeks will focus on topics that directly and indirectly affect women.  In my search for the presidential candidates’ positions, I first examined their official websites.  

In an era when women and women’s issues are critically important to our country and economy and our actions a source of influence for the world, I was amazed that Mitt Romney, unlike Obama, has no category for “women” on the Issues page of his website. 
As I continued my research, however, I could only conclude that the reason for this omission is because Mitt Romney doesn’t have much to say on women’s issues other than offering generalities and platitudes. 

More often than not, Romney has evaded taking a position on several  major issues and legislation of the day affecting women.   As examples, he is silent on the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, The Violence to Women Act re-authorization, and the Paycheck Fairness Act.   The absence of a definitive position on these and other issues leaves voters uninformed about how he will govern when it comes to issues affecting women and is a failure of leadership.  Women voters, their families and the country deserve to be treated better.