Nov 23, 2014

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We’ve Come a Long Way…Not

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Women's History Month

This year’s Women’s History Month theme is Women Education and Women Empowerment — my two life passions as a woman and professional.  But I can’t stop feeling cynical about how far we’ve come as a society (and world) where half the population continues to be socioeconomically and politically disempowered and excluded. I choose to celebrate Women’s History Month by asking four very powerful questions:

How do I explain to my 5-year old girl that, in over 200 years, there has never been a female president in this United States of America?

The political pipeline in this country appears to be designed to “fit” men only.  A myriad of social, economic and educational factors are responsible for the fact that men have access to political arenas — local, state and government.  But sexism is at the root of these sociocultural and political factors.  Women in politics are continuously questioned and undermined.  The few women, like Hillary Clinton and Michele Bachmann, that have ran for political office have been mocked — from their intelligence and motherhood, to their values and decisions.  We need to start shifting how we see and treat women in politics, and provide avenues for young women to become politically engaged.

Why do women continue to be absent and under-represented at board meetings in major companies we (women) have helped grow with our hard earned dollars?

Reports have shown that women, in particular, are decision-makers at home when it comes to large purchases, including cars and home appliances.  Our consumption power is undeniable.  Our dollars drive the financial success of major companies and yet, we are significantly under-represented in high tier executive positions.  This is more the case for Latina women.  Think twice, ladies, before you buy that next big purchase — how is that company/store treating women? Let’s make a political statement with where and how we spend our dollars.

Why are we still fighting for and defending our reproductive rights?  

Recently, Sandra Fluke, Georgetown University law student, testified before Congress in support of the Obama Administration’s commitment to preserve the copay-free birth control benefit for all women, under the Affordable Care Act — allowing employees at religiously-affiliated institutions to obtain coverage from their insurers. Ms. Fluke has been attacked by hostile, anti-women comments in the media, and her testimonial has been weaved into the current political rhetoric.  Women’s fundamental rights to their health continues to be undermined and threatened in this great American country, in the 21st century.  The decisions I make about my body and my health are mine, not anyone else’s business.

Why are we valuing entertainment over domestic violence? (Chris Brown at the Grammy’s Award…).

As a society, we collectively sent a very powerful message to our girls and boys, when we allowed a violent man, with a history of domestic violence, to take center stage at the Grammy’s and be awarded for his talents.  I believe in rewarding people for what they’re good at, but I also believe bad behavior should have serious consequences.  I am very concerned by the erosion of our social consciousness for what is right, moral and ethical.  Girls and women are most affected when our social values become demoralized.  If you have a young daughter at home, I urge you to have a conversation about her thoughts on domestic violence, love and relationships with men.  Enlighten her and empower her with wise words, before she fully internalizes the sexist values of our times.

Women Around the World

Women's History Month

While we pause to celebrate Women’s History Month, let’s not forget the hundreds of millions of women around the world that live in societies marked by female oppression and serious social disempowerment.  March 8th is International Women’s Day.  Consider what initiatives (small or big) you, your community or your company can make to help the advancement of women around the world.  Check out Kiva, for example, a non-profit organization with a mission to connect people through lending to alleviate poverty. You can finance a loan as small as $25 to a woman entrepreneur in Nigeria or Colombia.

What are you most concerned about when it comes to women and society?

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Angélica Pérez-Litwin

Angélica Pérez-Litwin

Dr. Perez-Litwin is the Founder & CEO of ELLA Leadership Institute, a multi-platform professional development organization designed to advance the careers and leadership of women. She's the creative force behind the LATINAS THINK BIG™ national tour, sponsored and live-streamed by Google.

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