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March 2005

National Women’s History Month

Women Change America

Advancing Women

NCWO announces formation of Younger Women’s Task Force

Work/Life Studies

“Overwork in America” from the Families and Work Institute

Extended, paid maternity leave improves children’s health, cognitive development

The Safety Net

The Missing Piece of the Social Security Conversation

Children and Social Security

Medicaid benefits help low-income mothers stay on the job

Income and Economics

Demos e-journal on women and economic equality

Elsewhere on the web:

News & commentary on reproductive rights

Other news & commentary from Womens eNews, AlterNet and more

past editions of mmo noteworthy ...
National Women’s History Month

Women Change America

The National Women’s History Project has been working since 1980 to raise awareness about diverse and historic accomplishments of women. This year, the group is honoring Women’s History Month by marking the achievements of 144 women who have changed America.

The National Women’s History Project

Women Change America
This web page offers links to short profiles of 144 women who have been recognized by the NWHP over the course of the organization’s 25 year history.

Other resources:

Encyclopedia Britannica Online:
Women in American History
Biographies of notable women grouped by historic period.

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advancing women

NCWO announces formation of
Younger Women’s Task Force

The National Council of Women’s Organizations— a nonpartisan, nonprofit umbrella organization of almost 200 groups that collectively represent over ten million women across the U.S.— has announced the formation of a Younger Women’s Task Force to provide a stronger voice in the policymaking process for women ages 19 to 39 and to “define and develop the next generation of the women’s movement by reaching out to all progressive younger women,” including those who may not identify with the feminist movement.

The new YWTF Issue Agenda lists a full palette of concerns, including:

Raising consciousness about the history and need for feminism:
“While building on the tradition of feminist activism, we plan to redefine feminism for our generation. By this definition, feminism can be an identity but is more importantly a call to action for all individuals. Critical awareness of the ways that sexism and all other forms of oppression are manifest within ourselves and our society is imperative. At the same time, we encourage diverse ways of living out feminist activism.”

Gendered violence
“Although the movement to end gendered violence is thirty years old, the problem persists in epidemic proportions. Younger women are disproportionately affected by gendered violence and play a critical role in raising consciousness to promote accountability. Gendered violence is normalized and accepted in our society and we call for a radical shift in our social fabric to stop it. It is critical that younger women work to raise consciousness, increase visibility, and promote prevention and accountability about gendered violence.”

Economic justice
“All forms of discrimination and inequality in the work place impact individuals' ability to be full economic participants and the overall economic health of society. …The following work/life negotiation issues are important to parents, nontraditional families, and individuals: supporting all care giving, mandating living wages, maintaining a publicly funded Social Security system, redefining success, honoring life outside work and the place of work in life, and expanding economic literacy and participation.”

Regional groups are currently being organized.
For more information or to get involved, visit the YWTF Web page

The National Council of Women’s Organizations

From Womens eNews (www.womensenews.org)

Young Women Meet in D.C., Create Own Movement
By Mary Lynn F. Jones, 4 Feb 05
In an age when many young women refuse to identify with the other F-word, NCWO’s Younger Women’s Task Force is providing the next generation of feminists to with the tools to build a movement of their own.

Other news:

From Womens eNews (www.womensenews.org)

Diehards Breathe Life into Equal Rights Amendment
By Allison Stevens, 18 Mar 05
Dozens of lawmakers braved a blustery spring afternoon to hail the introduction of the Equal Rights Amendment. Thought to have died in 1982, the attempt to provide women’s rights constitutional protection is still very much alive.

From Common Dreams (www.commondreams.org)

Abortion Stance Isolating U.S. at Global Women’s Conference
By Abid Aslam, 4 Mar 05
The U.S. government, under intense pressure from other nations and women’s advocates at home and abroad, dropped its demand that a U.N. declaration on women’s equality state that there is no international right to abortion.

World’s Women Stand Together for Equality
By Niko Kyriakou, 12 Mar 05
The Fifth World Conference on Women drew to a close with a reaffirmation by ministers, government delegates, first ladies and non-governmental representatives from around the world that ‘women's rights are human rights’. But for many who attended the two-week conference, ‘reaffirmation’ was not enough.

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work/life studies 

Overwork in America

A new study released by Families and Work Institute, Overwork in America: When the Way We Work Becomes Too Much, reports that one in three American employees are chronically overworked, while 54 percent have felt overwhelmed at some time in the past month by how much work they had to complete. The study of more than 1,000 wage and salaried employees identifies for the first time why being overworked and feeling overwhelmed have become so pervasive in the American workplace.

The study found that the way we work is more predictive of feeling overworked than hours worked. Employees were more likely to feel overworked when they were unable to focus on their work “because of constant interruptions and distractions as well as excessive multi-tasking required to keep up with all that has to be done on the job.” Women were more likely to feel overworked than men, even though they typically work fewer hours. Women were more likely to report that their jobs required more multitasking than men did, and the study’s authors concluded that “too much multi-tasking” accounts for why more women feel overworked.

The employees who were least likely to feel overworked were those worked in “effective” workplaces. “Employees who have jobs that provide them more opportunities to continue to learn, whose supervisors support them in succeeding on the job, who have the flexibility they need to manage their job and their personal and family life, and who have input into management decision-making are less likely to be overworked. This is true even when they work long hours and have very demanding jobs.”

The researchers also found that workers who were “family-centric” (putting a higher priority on family than work) were less likely to be overworked than employees who were “work-centric.”

Overwork in America also reports that 37 percent of the workers in the study took less than a seven-day vacation (including weekend days), and only 14 percent took a full two weeks of vacation or more.

The Families and Work Institute

Overwork in America:
When the Way We Work Becomes Too Much

Ellen Gallinsky, James T. Bond, et. al., 15 Mar 05
Press release with research highlights
Executive Summary, 13 pages, in .pdf

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Extended, paid maternity leave improves children’s health, cognitive development

New research published in the February 2005 issue of The Economic Journal (UK) finds that longer, paid maternity leaves are beneficial to the health and behavioral outcomes of young children. A study by Lawrence Berger, Jennifer Hill and Jane Waldfogel found that in the U.S., 63 percent of women who work prior to giving birth return to work within 12 weeks of giving birth, and 37 percent return to work full time. Children whose mothers returned to work within 12 weeks fared worse on “a number of health and development outcomes” than children whose mothers took longer leaves. The effects were stronger when mothers returned to work full time. The researchers concluded that “U.S. policy-makers should reconsider the wisdom of welfare policies that require women to return to work within three months of giving birth, and should explore options to extend parental leave coverage to cover more new parents, provide some mechanism for paid leave, and grant a longer period of leave.”

Other studies in the same journal found that longer paid leave reduces infant mortality, but unpaid leave did not have the same positive effect. Longer paid leave “also improves cognitive outcomes. Children whose mothers return to full-time work in the first eighteen months score lower on later cognitive tests, although not if they have been in formal (paid) child care.” Researcher found that part-time work in the first 18 month was “clearly not harmful” to children’s cognitive development.

Extending Paid Maternity Leave: Health Benefits for Children (Overview)
Briefing paper from the Royal Economic Society

Early Returns to Work Linked to Poorer Child Health and Development Outcomes
Briefing paper from the Royal Economic Society

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the safety net

The Missing Piece of the Social Security Conversation

Mothers & More, an organization dedicated to improving the lives of mothers through support, education and advocacy, recently launched a special web feature on “Why Social Security Matters to Mothers.” The organization does not take a formal position on the issue of private accounts, but calls for more comprehensive reforms: “No one talks about the real problem– the fact that our retirement systems are based on sixty-five year old values about men, women, work and money.”

The group notes that “Social Security was designed to discourage women from employment, to encourage men to work by linking benefits to income and years worked, and to send a message to women to stay married since their economic security was tied to being a dependent of a wage-earning husband. Sixty-five years later, one result is that we reward mothers, and anyone who gives up earnings in order to care for others, with financial dependency and increased risk of poverty in old age.”

An issue summary by Kristin Mashcka, President of the Board of Directors of Mothers & More, states:

Social Security, as part of its promise to retirees, must count unpaid care work as a “contribution” to our economy and to society and protect the economic security of those who care precisely because private retirement vehicles cannot account for unpaid work. Our society and our economy couldn’t function without this unpaid labor. Unless Social Security benefit levels are related to all work– both paid employment and unpaid care work– we are choosing to penalize motherhood and anyone who takes the time and energy to care for others.

Mothers & More

Why Social Security Matters to Mothers
Introduction, comparison table and links to additional resources

Motherhood: The Real Social Security Crisis

By Kristin Mashcka

The Real Social Security Crisis
”Sixty-six years ago, a spirited debate about the future of Social Security found one participant noting approvingly that the proposal on the table would ‘take away the urge [of married women] to go back [to work] and compete with single women.’”
10 pages, in .pdf

More Social Security resources:

National Women’s Law Center (www.nwlc.org)
50-State Report on Social Security
A February 1 report from the National Women’s Law center shows how many women, men and children receive Social Security benefits in each state; the percentage of elderly women that would be poor without Social Security; how much the benefit cuts under the leading proposal (Plan 2 of the President's Commission) would cut the typical widow's benefit and how that reduced income (including private account proceeds) compares to the poverty line; how much money the state economy would lose if the Plan 2 cuts were in effect, and how that figure compares to overall state expenditures.

Previously in MMO Noteworthy:
Social Insecurity: resources and reports on women and social security
(Dec 2004

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Children and Social Security

Over 5 million children in the U.S. benefit from Social Security, either directly as beneficiaries or indirectly as members of households that receive a monthly Social Security check. According to a press release from the National Center for Children in Poverty, Social Security is the single largest support program for children in the United States, and it prevents many children from falling into poverty because of a parent’s death or disability. In February the NNCP published several briefs on children and Social Security; all are available from the organization’s web site.

National Center for Children in Poverty:

Whose Social Security:
What Social Security Means for Children and Families

Feb 2005. 10 pages, in .pdf

Why Social Security Matters to Children and Families:
What Every Policymaker Should Know

Feb 2005. 4 pages, in .pdf

Children, Social Security, and Private Accounts:
10 Questions for Policymakers

Feb 2005. 2 pages, in .pdf

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Medicaid benefits help low-income mothers stay on the job

A new report by economist Heather Boushey from the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) finds that work supports make a significant difference in the ability of low-wage mothers to stay on the job and move up the income ladder. Boushey found that mothers leaving Medicaid who receive job-related health benefits are nine times more likely to stay employed than mothers who leave Medicaid without finding a job with benefits. However, during the slow economic recovery of the early 2000s, less than a quarter of women who left Medicaid found a job with health benefits.

Center for Economic and Policy Research

Medicaid Subsidies Can and Do Help Working Moms

1 page, in .pdf

Full report:
Done Right, Work Supports Work
Medicaid and Mothers Employment and Wages

By Heather Boushey, Mar 2005
14 pages, in .pdf

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Related news stories and commentary

From Womens eNews (www.womensenews.org)

Women Lose With Social Security Reform
By Heather Boushey,
Women live longer, earn less and fill more caretaking roles than men. For all these reasons they have a lot to lose if Social Security is changed, says economist Heather Boushey. So who would win? Wall Street brokers spring to her mind.

Budget Proposal Cuts Billions From Medicaid
By Ann Pappert, 11 Feb 05
The proposal for the federal budget for 2006 released this week contains billions of dollars of cuts in Medicaid funding and a restructuring of the health care program that would put millions of American women at risk.

From AlterNet (www.alternet.org)

Communities in Crisis: A New Student Study
By Kathryn Gillick, 16 Feb 05
A new study, conducted by students around the nation, shows that more and more people in the U.S. are hungry, homeless and getting turned away from shelters lacking the funds to help.

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income and economics

Demos e-journal on women and economic equality

The March 2005 edition Around the Kitchen Table, a monthly e-journal published by Demos— an organization providing research and advocacy “to help build a society where America can achieve its highest democratic ideals”— focuses on the concerns of women.


Around the Kitchen Table, March 2005:
Concern of Women

Print version, 11 pages, in .pdf

Individual articles:

Who Pays for Today’s Families?
By Heather Boushey
We’ve all heard quite enough by now of the Lawrence Summers debacle at Harvard. He hypothesized that that the lack of progress for women in the sciences is attributable to either women's innate abilities (or lack thereof); the “general clash between people’s legitimate family desires” and employers’ demand for long hours, or– less likely in his view– discrimination. Controversy aside, what's indisputable is that caring labor is critical for the reproduction of our society; somebody has to do it and somebody has to pay for that time. Unfortunately, public policy failures have meant that women with children are the ones paying the most.

The Wage Penalty of Our Earliest Educators
by Tamara Draut and Julia Busch
From child care centers to pre-K programs to the elementary classrooms, it is women who heed the call to educate the next generation of citizens. Unfortunately, this laudable commitment to educating and caring for children results in lower lifetime earnings for women. Nowhere is the educator wage penalty more egregious than in early childhood care and education.

Bankruptcy: The New Women’s Issue
By Professor Elizabeth Warren
If the bankruptcy legislation that’s currently being debated in the Senate (S.256) passes, it is women who disproportionately will bear the brunt of higher costs, more restrictions and less protection from creditor abuses. Women are now the largest demographic group in bankruptcy, outnumbering men by about 150,000 per year. More than a million women will find their way to the bankruptcy courts this year--more women than will graduate from fouryear colleges, receive a diagnosis of cancer, or even file for divorce. The rapid rise of women in bankruptcy illustrates a shocking decline in the financial health of women who should be succeeding in our economy.

A Woman’s (Net) Worth
By Javier Silva
While the widening wealth gap between rich and poor has garnered much attention, the wealth gap between men and women is equally astounding. Single women have about half the net worth of single men. In just about every category of wealth-holding, from personal savings accounts to retirement accounts, single women hold half the value of their male counterparts. The differences between non-homeowners are even larger– single female renters hold about a quarter of what male renters hold. And never-married women have the lowest level of net worth of all types of households.

Related news and commentary:

From Womens eNews (www.womensenews.org)

Women’s Groups Ready for Budget Fight
By Allison Stevens, 17 Feb 05
Women's rights activists are readying a major offensive to save dozens of federal programs that aid women from the budget ax, the opening salvo in a likely turbulent year marked by battles over Social Security and judicial nominees.

From AlterNet (www.alternet.org)

Screw the Children
By Molly Ivins, 17 Feb 05
What’s really sad about the budget is that all this damage is being done to real, living children— to save what is, in Washington terms, pennies.

A Livable Minimum Wage
By David Swanson, 21 Feb 05
Despite the lack of interest or action at the federal level, more than 30 states are taking direct action to increase the minimum wage.

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elsewhere on the web:

News & commentary on reproductive rights

From AlterNet (www.alternet.org)

The Real Choices Women Make
By Karen Rosenberg, 15 Mar 05
The real stories of women who have had abortions can't be pigeonholed in a propaganda debate. They surprise even a seasoned activist and could change minds in unlikely places.

Safe, Legal, and Never
By David J. Garrow, 24 Feb 05
In an effort to win converts, reproductive rights advocates may be giving up too much.

Frozen Embryo = Person?
By Sherry F. Colb, 23 Feb 05
A judge’s decision that frozen embryos are people has ramifications far beyond stem cell research, reproductive rights and fertility medicine.

From Working for Change (www.workingforchange.org)

Abandoned at birth
Do some conservatives love fetuses more than babies?

By Cynthia Tucker, 14 Feb 05
There has long been an odd cognitive dissonance in the anti-abortion movement, a strange disconnect of values. Many family-values-loving conservative Christians are staunchly opposed to programs that would help poor children get health care or day care or decent housing. It is as if they adore the child still inside the womb, but despise him as soon as he comes screaming into the world.

From TomPaine.com (www.tompaine.com)

Abstinence Budget
Karen Pearl, 2 Mar 05
The Bush administration’s proposed budget requests an additional $39 million for abstinence-only sex education programs “To say that these programs are not getting results is an understatement. Consider: Teens who participate in abstinence-only programs may abstain from intercourse longer than others, although even that much is uncertain. But the vast majority of them do have premarital sex, and when they do, they are significantly less likely to use condoms and birth control than those who have received comprehensive sex education. Abstinence-only education places them at greater risk for unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV/AIDS.”

From Women’s eNews (www.womensenews.org)

Battle for Choice Rages Through Statehouses
By Cynthia L. Cooper, 3 Mar 05
As state legislatures face a deluge of anti-abortion proposals, pro-choice activists are hustling to stem further losses to reproductive health rights. In Michigan, a lawsuit filed on March 1 challenges a state law that will ban most abortions.

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Other news & commentary of note

From Women’s eNews (www.womensenews.org)

New Gloss on Motherhood, But Few Changes
By Luchina Fisher, 18 Feb 05
Motherhood has a new gloss on it courtesy of advertisers and mainstream media, but moms and other observers question whether the underlying conditions of mothering in America have undergone any substantial change.

“Mocha Moms” Down-Shift Careers for Motherhood
By Luchina Fisher, 22 Feb o5
More black professional women are choosing to be stay-at-home moms, reversing a centuries old trend. These moms say they are down-shifting their careers to enjoy a sense of motherhood typically thought to be a preserve for white women.

Pregnancy Employment Bias Suits Surge
By Katrina Woznicki, 1 Mar 05
Female employees charged pharmaceuticals giant Novartis with maternal bias as part of a $100-million gender-discrimination lawsuit last week. The case joins a surge in litigation brought by pregnant women charging job discrimination.

Black Women at Higher Risk for Major Diseases
By Molly M. Ginty, 25 Feb 05
African American women are twice as likely as white women to develop diabetes, heart disease and other major health problems. As the government addresses these disparities, African American health advocates are forging initiatives of their own.

Hurry Up History! We Need a Female President
By Marie C. Wilson, 21 Feb 05
On President’s Day, Marie Wilson lists five reasons why the White House has not yet belonged to a woman. But with the world in such a mess--and women so prone to cleanup duty— she predicts a female president within her lifetime.

From AlterNet (www.alternet.org)

Women Without a Clue
By Lakshmi Chaudhry, 17 Mar 05
It's not the number of women in the newsroom that counts towards diversity. It's what they have to say.

From The Christian Science Monitor (www.csm.com)

Bringing up baby in a bubble
By Marilyn Gardner, 19 Jan 05
Marketers tap into American parents’ anxiety about child safety with a plethora of products that promise to protect children from a variety of “dangers.”

From USA Today (www.usatoday.com)

Yep, life’ll burst that self-esteem bubble
By Sharon Jayson, 15 Feb 05
Self-esteem became a buzzword more than 20 years ago, fueled by parenting experts, psychologists and educators. Believers suggested that students who hold themselves in high regard are happier and will succeed. That culture was so ingrained in parents that protecting their children from failure became a credo. But empty praise— the kind showered on many kids years ago in the name of self-esteem— did more harm than good.

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March 2005

Shawna Goodrich contributed to this month’s noteworthy.

previously in mmo noteworthy ...

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