The Pay Gap in the Academe: New Research and Solutions

New research from the Eos Foundation’s Women’s Power Gap Initiative reveals a dramatic gender and race wage gap for professionals in higher education. This study examined publicly available information for 2,300 employees regarding the total compensation data of top earners in public institutions and private higher education institutions in 2017. The authors note that the wage gap persists despite the fact that women make up 60 percent of all professionals in higher education and have been earning the majority of master’s and doctoral degrees for decades. Despite these accomplishments, they noticed these alarming facts:

  • Women represent only 24 percent of the highest-paid faculty members and administrators at 130 leading research universities.
  • The findings of this study parallel those of other recent studies showing that women college and university administrators earn eighty cents for every dollar a man takes home.
  • While women represent 50 percent of medical school students, they hold just 12 percent of top-compensated positions within academic medical centers.
  • Women hold 7 percent of the top-compensated positions within athletic programs. The average compensation for head coaches of men’s basketball teams is 2.5 times higher than that for women’s basketball head coaches.
  • Women of color were “virtually nonexistent” among top earners at the subset of institutions that provided data on race. No female American Indians, Pacific Islanders, or Alaskan Natives were in this group, and only one man was. A minimal number of Asian employees were among top earners: fifty-one men and just three women.
  • Eleven of the 130 institutions studied have reached gender parity, with half of their top earners being women.

Why is pay parity important, besides the obvious answer that discrimination is unfair? The authors of the Eos study point out that colleges and universities are “role models for our future civic and business leaders, making diversity at the highest levels of leadership paramount.” They go on to state that higher education “could and should be the first to achieve gender parity and fair representation of people of color at the top” because organizations must include diverse perspectives to achieve the best results. They also point out that without equitable representation of women at the highest pay levels, the gender pay gap will never improve. In addition, the expression “you can’t be it if you can’t see it” means that women may not think about being senior leaders if they don’t see a significant number of women in those roles.

The findings and solutions offered by these researchers are relevant beyond higher education. Parity within corporations is important for the same reasons that it’s important within higher education. The authors point out that men also tend to dominate higher-earning fields beyond higher education, such as business, economics, natural science, technology, engineering, and math, where men account for 93 percent of the top earners.

The authors offer a number of solutions to the gender and race wage gaps that are useful beyond academia:

  • Organizations need to examine their institutional cultures and systematically change their hiring, retention, and advancement practices.
  • Institutions should ban the use of salary history as a component of the hiring process to ensure that women and people of color are hired on at pay levels equivalent to white men.
  • Conduct regular audits to root out unconscious bias. Hold staff and hiring committees accountable to equitable outcomes, not just hiring processes. In other words, it is not enough to recruit a diverse pool of candidates if the hires are not proportionate to the diversity in the finalist pools.
  • Make disaggregate diversity pay data transparent by releasing an annual report on the percentages of each demographic group within the highest earners.
  • Conduct regular pay equity analyses.
  • Make bold, long-term public commitments to reach equitable representation for women and people of color among the top-earning employees. Presidents should create annual benchmarks to work toward those goals.

The authors note that without transparent disaggregated diversity data at the institutional level and bold annual benchmarks that donors and boards hold institutions accountable for achieving, “we are just tilting at windmills.”

 

Photo courtesy of Bold Content (CC BY 2.0)

Gender Bias Still Strong in Economics

Ben Casselman of the New York Times writes that a body of evidence has been building for awhile that shows a deeply ingrained gender discrimination in the field of economics. Casselman notes that studies in recent years have shown that

  • Women are less likely than men to be hired and promoted as economists.
  • Women face greater barriers to getting their work published in economic journals.
  • Gender and racial gaps in economics are wider and have narrowed less over time than in other fields.

In response to the findings from these earlier studies, Casselman reports that the American Economic Association commissioned a survey of more than nine thousand current and former members to ask about their experiences in the field. Their report, published in 2019, found that

  • A large number of harassment and sexual assault cases exist.
  • Only one in five women reported being “satisfied with the overall climate” in the field.
  • One in three believed they had been discriminated against.
  • Nearly half reported that they had avoided speaking at a conference or seminar because they feared harassment or disrespectful treatment.

A new study conducted by Dr. Alicia Sasser Modestino and Dr. Justin Wolfers, in a working paper soon to be published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, found that women received 12 percent more questions than men when presenting papers at economics conferences, and they were more likely to get questions that were patronizing or hostile. Modestino and Wolfers gathered this data by recruiting dozens of graduate students across the country to attend hundreds of economic presentations and record what happened. While research presentations at conferences are collegial and respectful affairs in other fields, Casselman notes that they resemble aggressive gladiatorial battles in the field of economics. This hostility is perhaps a key reason why Modestino and Wolfers found that “half of women are saying they don’t even want to present in a seminar.” In fact, another study found that women accounted for fewer than a quarter of the economics talks given in recent years, with racial minorities even more underrepresented.

As mentioned previously, the disrespect that women experience when giving presentations results in women wanting to avoid speaking. This dynamic, in combination with the fact that women are less likely to be invited to present their research in the first place, has long-term consequences for women’s careers in economics. Casselman points out that economists need to disseminate their research at conferences to build their reputations and get feedback on their work. The field of economics has a lot of work to do if the talents of women and racial minorities are to be heard and valued. The culture of conferences could become less hostile and aggressive, and the biases in hiring, promotion, and publication need to be identified and weeded out. A lot of valuable ideas and talent are being lost.

 

Photo courtesy of Financial Times (CC BY 2.0)

More Barriers Fall for Women

Being the first woman to do something seems to be happening more frequently now across a wide spectrum of roles and industries. It is important to take this moment to notice and mark them. We know there is no guarantee that opportunities will stay open to women unless we stay vigilant. Here are some recent “firsts” for women.

Jane Fraser

Jane Fraser will become the first woman chief executive of an American megabank, Citigroup, in 2021. Emily Flitter of the New York Times writes that Citigroup is one of the four largest banks in the United States. Fraser has occupied several global senior leadership roles at the bank in recent years. As research has shown, though, women are often given top corporate jobs when an organization is in trouble. Fraser is no exception as she takes over as CEO of Citigroup in the midst of serious regulatory and financial problems at the bank.

Rashida Jones

Rashida Jones will become the first Black woman to take charge of a major television network, MSNBC. She has held several senior roles and advanced steadily up the ladder at MSNBC. As president of the network, she must now figure out how to retain viewers who found a safe space there for their rage about Donald Trump now that he has left office.

Suzanne Clark

Suzanne Clark became the first woman to lead the US Chamber of Commerce as chief executive. Her appointment became effective in March 2021. Lauren Hirsch explains that the CEO of the Chamber of Commerce is one of the most powerful jobs in business. Clark’s appointment ends a twenty-four-year run by Thomas J. Donohue, who focused his power on backing the Republican Party for much of his tenure. Clark intends to shift the chamber to be an advocate for bipartisan moderation. Previously, in her role as president of the chamber, she helped start the Equality of Opportunity Initiative, which aimed at closing racial wealth gaps.

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala became the first woman and first African to serve as director-general of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in March 2021. As Ana Swanson writes, “Dr. Okonjo-Iweala takes the helm of the W.T.O. at a particularly difficult time for the global trade body. . . . It has fallen short on several of [its goals].” Swanson also points out that “the organization’s system for dispute settlement also remains crippled after challenges from the Trump administration.”

Maral Javadifar, Lori Locust, and Sarah Thomas

Maral Javadifar and Lori Locust became the first women to coach in the NFL Super Bowl, and Sarah Thomas became the first woman to work as a Super Bowl official in 2021. Change is slow in the NFL, but some is happening.

Claire Cain Miller reminds us that progress and achievements “can be taken away if we don’t work to sustain it.” She points out that political scientists think representation matters in three main ways:

  • Representation in positions of influence can break down stereotypes about who can be a leader.
  • Research from around the world has demonstrated that a role model effect is especially strong for young girls, summarized as “if you can see it, you can be it.”
  • The identities of leaders shape which issues they pay attention to and how they do their job. When women make up an equal presence of decision makers, it increases public trust in decisions.

All the women identified as barrier breakers in this post are facing tough challenges. As previously noted, women are often not elevated to senior position until organizations elevating them face a crisis, which is true for most of the women mentioned here. They are going to need us at their backs.

 

Photo courtesy DFID – UK Department for International Development (CC BY 2.0)

The Truth about Rosa Parks: How Change Really Works

I had the good fortune to spend a week at the Highlander Institute in New Market, Tennessee, as part of my graduate education. Attendance at a Highlander program was required to complete of my doctorate degree specialization in transformative learning for social justice. At Highlander I learned the truth about Rosa Parks and how change really works.

The Highlander Folk School (which later became the Highlander Institute) was established in 1932 by Myles Horton in the Tennessee hills and initially focused on labor organizing and adult education. According to the Stanford University page about them, “by the early 1950s, however, it shifted its attention to race relations. Highlander was one of the few places in the South where integrated meetings could take place, and served as a site of leadership training for southern civil rights activists.” The Ku Klux Klan menaced them regularly. Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. were among the activists who spent time there building the civil rights movement.

Like most white Americans, I grew up with the myth of Rosa Parks as a simple seamstress, cast as meek, tired, quiet, and middle class, whose single act on a Montgomery bus changed the course of history. Jeanne Theoharis of the New York Times writes that this is a narrow, distorted, and inaccurate view of Rosa Parks. In fact, the truth about Parks is much more interesting and informative about how change really happens.

Theoharis tells us that Parks, born in 1913, had been a civil rights activist for two decades before her historic refusal to give up her seat in the “whites-only” section of the bus in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1955. Before her famous bus stand, she focused tirelessly on voter registration, criminal justice, and desegregation. She attended leadership and movement strategy sessions at the Highlander Institute in the early 1950s where civil rights activists planned actions to challenge Jim Crow segregation laws. Refusing to get up from a seat on the bus was one of many strategies planned, and fifteen-year-old Claudette Colvin was arrested in March 1955 for refusing to give up her seat on a bus. At the time Black Montgomerians decided she was not the right test case. Parks was the next to try it. The combination of her timing and the networks in place, ready to spring into action when she did, resulted in the launch of the successful bus boycott on the day Parks was to be arraigned in court. It took organization and a lot of people to pull off the boycott. Theoharis notes, “The boycott succeeded in part because the Black community organized a massive car pool system, setting up some 40 pickup stations across town, serving 30,000 riders a day. . . . The boycott seriously disrupted city life and bus company revenues.”

Parks and her husband both lost their jobs, received regular death threats, and never found steady work in Montgomery again. Forced to leave Montgomery for Detroit, they struggled financially for the next eleven years. Rosa Parks spent the next several decades fighting racism in the North. In the 1960s and 1970s she was part of the Black Power movement. “Freedom fighters never retire,” she observed about a friend—and she never did either.

Parks fought her whole life against racism, which she saw as a national cancer. Her real story helps us to see our country’s history more honestly and understand that change comes from only disrupting the status quo and persevering to push for change. We must all do our part to get rid of the cancer of racism in this country.

 

Photo courtesy of Matt Lemmon (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Updates on the Shecession: Current Research on Working Mothers

Early in the pandemic I wrote a post about the potential long-term impact of the pandemic on working mothers in the United States. Now, several months later, new studies reveal the following bad news for working mothers:

  • The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in the first ten months of 2020, women lost 5.4 million jobs—nearly 1 million more than men. Women of color suffered a higher proportion of these losses overall, and in December 2020, Black, Hispanic, and Asian women suffered all the women’s job losses.
  • Vice President Kamala Harris notes in the Washington Post that women in low-wage industries such as hospitality and health care, many of them women of color, have been hit the hardest. She also writes that in February 2020, before the pandemic, around five million women were business owners. By April, one in four had closed their doors for good. The numbers are worse now.
  • Gina M. Raimondo and Mary Kay Henry cite in the Washington Post a report from the US Department of Labor in October 2020 showing that of the 1.1 million people age twenty and older who left the workforce between August and September, 865,000, or about 86 percent, were women who dropped out of the labor force. This includes 324,000 Latina women and 58,000 Black women and is more than four times the number of men who dropped out.
  • Helaine Olen notes in the Washington Post that a study by the Center for American Progress “revealed one-third of unemployed women under the age of 40—the ‘millennial mothers’—said the reason they were not working was that they needed to mind the children.” Olen points out that “women’s workforce participation rates are now what they were in the late 1980s. Decades of women’s progress at work and at home have been wiped out in a matter of months.”
  • Wendy Wagner Robeson at the Wellesley Center for Women cites a recent Lean In study showing that “one in three mothers may be forced by the pandemic to scale back their hours or leave the workforce entirely.”
  • Research from the Undefeated Survey on Race and Health found 32 percent of Black mothers say the pandemic has had a major negative impact on their ability to pay for basic necessities like housing, utilities, and food. Pew Research data shows that the number of single Black and Hispanic mothers who are employed fell by nearly twice as much as for single white mothers.

What are the long-term implications of the pandemic for working mothers? The Center for American Progress reports that:

  • A thirty-three-year-old woman in the United States with an annual salary of $50,000 stands to lose $571,223 over her lifetime by taking five years off of work for childcare.
  • A thirty-three-year-old woman earning $50,000 per year who leaves the work force for five years can expect to lose $157, 704 in retirement assets and benefits, assuming she retires at age sixty-seven.

Helaine Olen points out that because of what’s happened to women’s employment in the pandemic, women twenty-five, forty, and even fifty years from now will be receiving smaller social security checks when they retire.

Raimondo and Henry suggest that going forward, women, particularly women of color, must have affordable pathways to higher-wage industries, subsidized college tuition, paid family leave and sick leave, and affordable quality childcare. Economic recovery depends on parents being able to work and paid a living wage. Now is the time for the United States to get systems in place to support working families. Our economy is badly damaged. Let’s do what it takes to “build it back better.”

 

Photo courtesy of Ran Allen (CC BY 2.0)

The History of Tipping: Why Restaurant Wages Are So Low

A long time ago I worked as a bookkeeper for several small restaurants. As I prepared payroll checks, I often wondered why servers were paid less than the minimum wage—a lot less. The current hourly wage is still very low: $2.13 per hour for restaurant servers. I never heard or read an explanation for this low wage until now. A recent article by Michelle Alexander entitled “Tipping Is a Legacy of Slavery,” really opened my eyes. She explains that she came to understand the history of tipping in the United States when she read a book by Saru Jayaraman entitled Forked: A New Standard for American Dining.

Alexander notes that “after the Civil War, white business owners, still eager to find ways to steal Black labor, created the idea that tips would replace wages.” While tipping originated in Europe as a way for aristocrats to show favor to servants as bonuses, restaurant owners in the United States mutated the idea into a way to limit pay for Black workers by defining tips as the only source of income. The Pullman Company tried to get away with this to underpay train porters who were predominantly Black, but the porters formed a union and eventually got higher pay. Restaurant workers, mostly women and disproportionately Black, were not able to unionize. In fact, Alexander explains, when the Roosevelt administration signed the first minimum wage law in 1938, it excluded restaurant workers. It was not until 1966 that a subminimum wage was formally created for tipped workers, locking the tipped workforce, which is 70 percent female and disproportionately Black and brown women, into a subminimum wage, currently $2.13 per hour. Alexander points out that the subminimum wage “continues to perpetuate both race and gender inequity today,” which has been made even worse by the pandemic. Specifically, Alexander points out that

  • A mostly female, disproportionately women of color workforce of tipped workers still faces the highest levels of harassment of any industry.
  • Women restaurant workers in the forty-three states with subminimum wage standards report twice the rate of sexual harassment as women working in the seven states that pay a full minimum wage on top of tips. These women are not as dependent on tips and feel more empowered to reject harassment.
  • The pandemic has exasperated the vulnerability of subminimum wage restaurant workers as customers now subject them to “mask harassment” in order to earn tips. With tips down 50 to 75 percent, male customers know women are desperate.
  • Before the pandemic, Black women who were tipped restaurant workers made five dollars per hour less than their white male counterparts, who more often work in fine dining establishments. Black women tend to work in casual dining restaurants where tips are lower.
  • In the pandemic nearly nine in ten Black tipped workers report their tips decreased by half or more, compared to 78 percent of workers overall.
  • In addition, tipped workers are now required to do more for less—enforcing social distancing and mask rules, which creates hostility and further reduces their tips.

The pandemic and a new president of the United States have created an opportunity to fix this egregious legacy of slavery with new minimum wage legislation, the Raise the Wage Act. This legislation will raise the minimum wage overall and fully phase out the subminimum wage for tipped workers. The restaurant industry pays millions of dollars a year to fight pay raises, but it is time that tipped workers were paid a full and fair living wage. Let’s all encourage our congressional representatives to support the Raise the Wage Act.

 

Photo by Danny Kang on Unsplash

Gender News: International Roundup

Several recent important moments in history for women in other countries stand out and seem important to highlight. Here are a few.

France

This headline in the New York Times caught my attention: “City of Paris Fined Nearly $110,000 for Appointing Too Many Women.” It seems that the first-ever woman mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo was deemed to be too successful in correcting historic imbalances in gender representation in city government. Technically, the law under which she was fined says that no more than 60 percent of appointments in a given year can be given to one gender. Her appointments of women in 2018 exceeded that percentage, but women now hold 47 percent of senior leadership positions in city government overall. Women still make up only 37 percent of top civil service jobs in the country. After centuries of male-dominated leadership in France, this fine is absurd.

Poland

Amanda Taub, writing for the New York Times, reports that women have been at the heart of a large protest movement in Poland rebelling against a court decision to ban most abortions. The large protests produced a delay from the government of the implementation of the new ban, but it could still be implemented any time. Taub explains, “Women’s demands for reproductive freedom and their calls for greater equality threaten to upend a power structure” controlled by men since the fall of Communism.

Switzerland

In September 2020, Swiss voters approved a law mandating paid paternity leave, making it the last country in Western Europe to do so. Switzerland has been slow to recognize gender equity. Women did not gain the right to vote until 1971 and had to get permission from their husbands to work outside the home until 1988. The new law does not apply to adoptive or same-sex parents. More work needs to be done.

Vatican

I have written in past articles about the frustrations of women in the Catholic church because of the lack of leadership roles for women. Elisabetta Povoledo, writing for the New York Times, reports that “Pope Francis has changed the laws of the Roman Catholic church to formally allow women to give readings from the Bible during Mass, act as altar servers and distribute communion, but they remain barred from becoming deacons or priests.” These new roles are not new for many women in the church, especially in developing countries. While this is considered a step forward by some for the pope to formalize these roles, the lack of access to the senior leader roles of deacon or priest remains disappointing to many.

Japan

Shinzo Abe resigned in September 2020 as prime minister of Japan after serving in office for eight years. One of his most consequential unfulfilled promises was his goal of promoting women in the workforce, specifically into management roles. At the end of his eight years, this promise remains unfulfilled. Motoko Rich and Hisako Ueno report that in 2020, women held less than 12 percent of corporate management jobs and represented less than 15 percent of lawmakers in Japan’s parliament. Until more women are in parliament, significant policy changes to make childcare more available and to support women’s careers will remain unlikely. Rich and Ueno cite Megumi Mikawa as saying, “The fundamental ideas of the country are controlled by men. That’s why we don’t have any policies to really cater to ordinary people.” Unfortunately, there is no indication that the patriarchal culture of Japan is going to change any time soon.

Stay tuned—hopefully more change is on the way.

 

Photo by Dovile Ramoskaite on Unsplash

Biden Nominates the Most Diverse Cabinet in US History

Let’s mark this moment. As of this writing, President Joe Biden has officially nominated the most diverse cabinet in US history. If members are confirmed, this will be the first-ever gender-balanced US cabinet with 50 percent of positions (eleven positions plus Vice President Kamala Harris) held by women. Of the eleven women nominated, seven of them are women of color—another long-overdue milestone. Several men nominated are also men of color, increasing the diversity of the whole cabinet. Here are the eleven women nominated to cabinet positions that require Senate confirmation, and some other notable nominations for women. Their level of competence to serve in these positions is exciting.

Janet Yellen—Treasury Secretary

As reported in New York Magazine by Intelligencer staff, Janet Yellen will not only be the first woman to lead the Department of the Treasury but the “first person to have headed the Treasury, the central bank and the White House Council of Economic Advisers,” the three most powerful economic positions in the nation. In recent months, Yellen has expressed a willingness to use fiscal measures to stimulate economic recovery in a nation with a poverty rate above 11 percent. “This is not a good time to have fiscal policy switch from being accommodative to creating a drag,” Yellen said in October. “That’s what happened [last decade], and it retarded the recovery.”

Deb Haaland—Secretary of the Interior

Biden nominated New Mexico Representative Deb Haaland to be his pick for secretary of the interior, becoming the first Native American to lead the department that determines policy for federally owned natural resources, as well as tribal lands.

Gina Raimondo—Commerce Secretary

CNN reports that Gina Raimondo is the first woman governor of Rhode Island and has served in the role since her election in 2014. She has been praised for her leadership amid the coronavirus pandemic and for the remarkable economic turnaround she led in her state before the pandemic.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield—US Ambassador to the United Nations

New York Magazine notes that Biden named Foreign Service veteran Linda Thomas-Greenfield to the UN ambassador position. He will reestablish the role in the cabinet after his isolationist predecessor demoted it.

Jennifer Granholm—Secretary of Energy

Politico reported that Biden will name former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm as the leader of the expansive Department of Energy. Her experience in Lansing from 2003 to 2011 is an asset as Biden works to speed up the transition to electric cars, among other green energy priorities.

Avril Haines—Director of National Intelligence

According to New York Magazine, Avril Haines served as the deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency from 2013 to 2015. If confirmed, she will oversee the seventeen agencies that make up the nation’s intelligence community, becoming the first woman to fill the role.

Neera Tanden—Office of Management and Budget

As reported by the Wall Street Journal, Biden nominated Neera Tanden—the frequent Twitter user and president of the center-left think tank Center for American Progress—to be his OMB director.

Katherine Tai—US Trade Representative

CNBC announced that Biden nominated Katherine Tai to be the top US trade representative. Tai was a trade lawyer on China during the Obama administration. The US trade representative is responsible for developing and recommending United States trade policy to the president of the United States, conducting trade negotiations at bilateral and multilateral levels and coordinating trade policy within the government through the interagency Trade Policy Staff Committee and Trade Policy Review Group.

Marcia Fudge—Secretary of Housing and Urban Development

Representative Marcia Fudge of Ohio was selected to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Politico notes that while Fudge lobbied to be the first Black woman nominated for the post of secretary of agriculture, she has a big role to fill at HUD since this department will play a key role in the incoming administration’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has caused millions of people to fall behind on rent and mortgage payments.

Isabel Guzman—Administrator of the Small Business Administration

Ms. Magazine reports that Biden nominated the director of California’s Office of the Small Business Advocate, Isabel Guzman, to lead the Small Business Administration, a cabinet-level position.

Cecelia Rouse—Chair of the Council of Economic Advisors

Cecilia Rouse was a member of the Council of Economic Advisors during the Obama administration. She is an American economist and dean of the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University.

Other notable nominations of women to cabinet-level positions include Gina McCarthy as the White House climate czar, Jennifer Psaki as the White House press secretary, Susan Rice as the White House Domestic Policy Council director, Rochelle Walensky as the director of the CDC, and Rachel Levine as assistant secretary of health. Levine, if confirmed, will be the first-ever openly transgender woman to be confirmed by the Senate. Let’s give our support to these stunningly qualified women as they take on leadership of our troubled country.

 

Photo courtesy of John Brighenti (CC BY 2.0)

Change Is in the Air for Families and Caregivers

Once in a while, events in the country bring different interest groups into alignment to work together for structural change. It seems possible that the combination of the urgency of hardships families are experiencing wrought by the coronavirus pandemic, the election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, and the narrow Senate majority established by the election of two Georgia democrats will create that possibility. As I wrote in a previous post, citing Claire Cain Miller, “Nearly everybody cares for family at some point”:

  • In two-thirds of married couples with children, both parents work.
  • Nearly half of adults in their forties and fifties are caring for both children and parents.
  • The United States is the only developed Western country that does not support working parents with national policies for paid family leave or subsidized childcare.

New legislation proposed by the Biden-Harris team “approaches the care economy in a holistic way, across the age spectrum,” says Ai-jen Poo, executive director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, in an article by Paula Span. Their plan combines Medicaid benefits for older and disabled adults, preschool funding for toddlers, and better pay and benefits for home-care and childcare workers into one package. Specifically, Span explains:

  • The Biden-Harris plan builds on earlier campaigns for paid family leave and recent efforts to rebalance Medicaid, making it more focused on covering caregiving at home for older adults rather than in dreaded nursing homes.
  • Their plan would convert “the anemic federal Family and Medical Leave Act, which mandates only unpaid leave, into 12 weeks of paid leave.”
  • It proposes a tax credit for as much as $5,000 to reimburse families for expenses associated with unpaid caregiving, such as paid help, home modifications, remote safety monitoring devices, and hearing aids.
  • It would also give family members social security credits for time out of the labor force to care for family members.

How will this caregiver package be paid for? Span notes that the Biden team asserts that the costs can be paid for over ten years “by rolling back tax breaks for real estate investors with incomes over $400,000 and increasing tax compliance for other high earners.” The Biden team also asserts that the plan will create three million new caregiving and education jobs and increase employment by five million by allowing unpaid caregivers to reenter the work force.

This kind of change is so needed but will not happen without strong support. Let’s let our congressmembers know that we support caregivers by writing and calling them to support this legislation when it comes up—and I believe that it will come up soon.

 

Photo by Josh Appel on Unsplash

Gender and Sex Discrimination in Sports: Good News for Sarah Fuller

Title IX of the Education Amendment, signed into law in 1972, “forbade institutions receiving federal funds—virtually all public schools and universities—from discriminating on the basis of gender” in organized sports, as reported by Margaret Renkl in the New York Times. Practically speaking, this meant that schools had to provide equivalent resources for sports, but they did not have to let the women and men play on the same teams. This is why the story of Sarah Fuller is so significant. Fuller was invited to step onto the field for the Vanderbilt University football team, the Commodores, in November 2020. Fully suited up in pads and team jersey, she became the first woman to play in a Power 5 football game when she performed the second-half kickoff. Renkl notes that Fuller wore her own helmet emblazoned with the words “Play Like a Girl,” the slogan of a nonprofit that promotes sports and STEM opportunities for girls.

Thanks to Title IX, Fuller had the training, skills, and confidence to step in when the team, due to the coronavirus, was left without a kicker. The Vanderbilt women’s soccer team had just won the Southeastern Conference Division I championship with Fuller as a goalkeeper with a powerful kick—and the Commodores badly needed a kicker. She received a personal tweet from Hillary Clinton saying, “Thank you, Sarah, for helping to prove that women and girls belong on every playing field—quite literally.” Why shouldn’t women and girls be able to bring their talents to any and every field, not just those designated for women and girls?

In fact, so many opportunities in sports and elsewhere are defined as “for women” or “for men” when, in reality, the lines of sex, gender, and talent are blurred and beyond these binary categories. Talents are denied rather than celebrated based on criteria that are unfair and unproven. Jeré Longman of the New York Times writes about the uproar over who can compete in certain competitions in the Olympics. Based on sex testing that arbitrarily defines which chromosomes and hormones qualify someone to run a race as a woman, Longman cites Payoshni Mitra, an Indian scholar and athlete’s rights activist, as saying that the World Athletics organization is committing human rights violations by enforcing testosterone regulation on intersex athletes like Caster Semenya of South Africa and Annet Negesa of Uganda, both talented athletes who identify as women and who are not being allowed to compete unless they agree to undergo medical intervention. Longman notes that Human Rights Watch has deemed “medically unnecessary and humiliating” medical interventions as discriminatory and racially biased, disproportionately affecting women of color when there is no scientific consensus on the precise impact of testosterone on athletic performance.

Maybe it’s time to remove these artificial barriers of sex and gender and let all people bring their talents to whatever their field of endeavor is.

 

Photo by John Torcasio on Unsplash