Category Archives: Shatter The Glass Ceiling

Hillary Clinton’s Survival of Sexism

This blog was originally published in The Huffington Post. The full article with citations can be found here.

At the end of the last presidential debate, Donald Trump was asked to name something about his opponent that he respects. He answered that Hillary “doesn’t quit. She doesn’t give up…She’s a fighter.” This was a rare moment of truth coming from a candidate who literally lies a majority of the time. To me, Hillary is a hero for the valiant fight she’s shown in this race, but for withstanding nearly 40 years of the sexism, misogyny, and discrimination that befall women who seek power and challenge traditional notions of gender. Our country may finally see a woman president not because we as a people have evolved in our thinking about gender roles or because of progressive policy measures that allow women to combine work with caregiving, but rather because of the sheer tenacity of Hillary Clinton herself.

Hillary’s ability and willingness to remain in spaces that are uncomfortable, even hostile toward women, is admirable, though rare to witness (and I mean this both literally—like when Trump loomed over her at the most recent debate—and symbolically, when talking about the space of politics in general). No women has made it to the space Hillary Clinton occupies today, and there are various reasons for women’s lack of ascendancy to the top—in both politics and in the workplace generally. The effects of child-rearing responsibilities have been well-documented as serious barriers to female advancement to the top ranks in companies and in politics. But there may also be more subtle, yet more insidious reasons for women’s under-representation in top positions that have to do with the everyday sexism we experience in the workplace.

Few of us have endured the level of misogyny Hillary Clinton has, but many of us have experienced the micro-aggressions, the small instances of bias, the tiny pinches, scratches, and sometimes cuts that can eventually lead to the deaths of so many promising careers.

This happens everyday at work—when you get cut off or interrupted in a meeting. When your junior male colleague takes credit for your idea. When you look in the conference room and realize every participant sitting at the table is a white man. When your boss expects you to get cupcakes for your co-worker’s birthday. When you find out the man who held the exact position before you made a higher salary. When a client, colleague, or co-worker makes lewd comments that make your skin crawl but you can’t do a damn thing about it—not because laws don’t exist on the books but because sometimes that’s all they are—words on paper that fail to take into account the enormous, oftentimes impossible risks women take in speaking up about sexual harassment.

When women (who are privileged enough to have the choice) leave their jobs—either to opt out of the workforce altogether or to take another position elsewhere—sexism is rarely cited as the reason for the switch. More commonly, women will leave a job to find a company that’s a “better fit,” and some will start their own businesses so they “don’t have to work for anyone.” Some will attempt to find a job that can better accommodate their lives and responsibilities of caregiving. Oftentimes, these career switches are out of male-dominated fields. And then there are some women who leave the workforce altogether to work full-time inside the home. When these career changes are made, the reasons publicly stated may vary, but I would bet a lot that privately, many women are simply exhausted from enduring those little pricks of sexism and misogyny on a daily basis. It may not be a primary reason for leaving (or even a conscious one), but it may certainly contribute to driving women out of certain fields and careers.

And so, the status quo remains: the glass ceiling remains in tact, and patriarchy stays alive and well (though maybe it has the sniffles as of late). And our country and our economy suffer as well, as companies, industries, and fields lose a huge pool of talent.

I have been heartened to see so many men challenge Donald Trump’s sexism in this campaign, especially his blatant defense of rape culture. But this challenging needs to happen more widely—in every office, laboratory, Assembly floor, and school. Trump’s repeated attempt to excuse his support of sexual assault as “locker room talk” speaks volumes about his—and many men’s—absolute refusal to admit their own sexism. To be clear—he is not an aberration but rather a manifestation of the white male privilege that infects our society and drives women away and out of male-dominated spaces.

One way to really make some men angry is to call out their sexism. I have seen many men go to great lengths to justify their actions, defend each other, and deny responsibility. Just a small example—I recently sat next to a man on a plane who “man-spreaded” his legs right into my seat, essentially taking over half my space. I discreetly captured a picture of the man-spreading which I posted on social media with the hashtag #everydaysexism. I couldn’t believe the vitriol I got in response—men I hadn’t spoken to or even thought about in years came out of the woodwork to tell me (or more accurately, mansplain to me) that the man sitting next to me simply had long legs (actually, he was pretty short) and that what he was doing was not sexism. Others questioned why I didn’t just ask him to move, an ask which is symbolic of a broader problem of placing the burden of stopping sexism on women rather than the people who perpetrate it.

There’s nothing ostensibly damaging inherent to the practice of man-spreading, but it is an example of one of those tiny pricks that have devastating cumulative effects on women. Calling out these instances of sexist behavior is exhausting, because the response is often one of defensive, even hostile posturing. Yet staying silent feels pretty bad too. And often times, when you do speak up, you’re the only one doing so, and that can get lonely.

I can only imagine just how lonely and exhausting being Hillary Clinton is. When she accepted the Democratic nomination back in July, I balled my eyes out when she took the stage. My husband asked me if my tears were tears of joy for the first woman presidential nominee. I told him no, that my tears were for Hillary Clinton herself, tears of solidarity, of relief that she was able to survive the years of tiny and not so tiny cuts to get to where she is today. She truly is extraordinary in her ability to persevere.

This campaign has exposed some of the worst social diseases that linger in our country. Sexism is one of those diseases, and while women have always known it’s existed because we live it everyday, seeing Hillary endure it is like pulling off a bandaid and being forced to actually look at the injury. To me, it feels like a very old wound that women have collectively borne is wide open and exposed, but the question is how we do we heal it properly? Hillary Clinton is our hero of survival, but we cannot rely on lone women to single-handedly dismantle the patriarchy. Healing this wound involves a collective effort from all Americans, as well as progressive policy measures that value women, their work, and the realities of their lives.

4 Ways Hillary Clinton Will Make Life Better For Moms

According to a recent survey of registered voters conducted by ABC News/Washington Post, Hillary Clinton leads Donald Trump among women by 23 points—58% of women voters say they support Hillary, 35% say they would vote for Trump. While gender gaps in elections are nothing new, the Clinton/Trump contest represents a much wider margin than usual. Some would say these polling numbers are no surprise—after months of insulting, deriding, and offending women all over America, it makes sense that American women would punish Trump harshly at the ballot box.

But what also may be contributing to the gender gap is not only women’s distaste for Trump, but their affinity for Hillary. Hillary has talked a lot about women in this election, as well as issues that affect moms, like paid family leave. Rather than focus on why women should hate Trump, let’s talk about the ways Hillary will help women, and specifically, moms. After all, it feels much better to vote for a candidate than against one.
My book, 52 Reasons To Vote For Hillary, is full of plenty of positive reasons to support Hillary (and many of them I didn’t even know until I started the research for the book!). Some of my favorite reasons are the plans Hillary has to help make life better for moms in America—so here are four of them:

1. She Gets Work/Life Balance (Chapter 6)

According to the Make It Work campaign, nearly 90% of American workers do not have any paid family leave, and more than 43 million Americans don’t have a single paid sick day — over half of whom are working mothers.

Hillary wants to change that, and has a plan to guarantee up to 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave to care for a new child or a seriously ill family member. Her plan would also provide up to 12 weeks of leave for employees to recover from their own medical conditions or serious injuries. Hillary’s plans are important not only for the huge financial benefits that women would accrue, but because they send the message that as Americans, we value parenthood, caregiving, and the people who do it.

2. She Will Make Childcare A Priority (Chapter 8)

The cost of childcare in America is outrageous. According to the Economic Policy Institute, the average cost of care for one child exceeds the cost of university in-state tuition in half of U.S. states. In some states where the cost of living is high, families are spending more than $15,000 a year on childcare for just one child. These are financial hardships that many American families simply cannot afford, and as a result, moms drop out of the labor force or scale back more often than dads, leading to a losses in earnings that affects the entire family unit.

Hillary has a bold and ambitious plan to make childcare more affordable for American families. She would cap what families pay for childcare at 10% of their paycheck, a big deal considering half of all American families spend more than that currently. Hillary will also increase access to on-campus childcare for parent students, so that they can further their education while also meeting their parental responsibilities. Hillary’s childcare agenda will go a long way in easing the financial burden on American families and ensuring women can live up to their full economic potential.

3. She Will Fight For Equal Pay (Chapter 17)

On average, women in America get paid 79 cents to a man’s dollar. But the burden is even heavier for moms, who make 73 cents for every man’s dollar, costing women around half a million dollars in earnings over their lifetimes.

Hillary believes that equal pay is not only a woman’s issue, but a family issue and an American issue. She has outlined a plan that would give women the tools they need to fight workplace discrimination and promote pay transparency across our economy so that women have the information they need to negotiate fairly. The cornerstone of her plan, the Paycheck Fairness Act, holds employers accountable by requiring them to prove that wage discrepancies are tied to legitimate business qualifications and not gender, and by prohibiting companies from taking retaliatory action against employees who raise concerns about gender-based wage discrimination.

When Donald Trump and other Republicans accused Hillary of playing the “gender card” because of her focus on equal pay, Hillary had this to say to her detractors:

“If talking about equal pay and paid leave and more opportunities for women and girls is playing the gender card, then deal me in!”


4. She Will Protect Women’s Reproductive Health (Chapter 39)

As all moms know, giving life is among the greatest of life’s joys, but becoming a mother is also a major, life-changing responsibility. Families do better when they have the resources to plan and make their own decisions with the counsel of their doctors. That’s why Hillary has always been an ardent supporter of women’s reproductive rights, including access to contraceptives and safe abortions.

As President, Hillary will defend the Affordable Care Act’s provision that prevents insurance companies from discriminating against covering women because of their reproductive health care needs. She has also promised to nominate Supreme Court justices who will uphold Roe v. Wade and protect women’s access to reproductive healthcare.

To Hillary, when women are healthy, America will be healthy, and it is critical to ensure women have the opportunities and access they need to build healthy and productive futures for themselves and their families. As with other issues that affect women, Hillary has argued that reproductive rights are not only women’s issues, but affect the entire country in important ways:

For too long, issues like these have been dismissed by many as ‘women’s issues’ – as though that somehow makes them less worthy, secondary. Well, yes, these are women’s issues. They’re also family issues. They’re economic issues. They’re justice issues. They’re fundamental to our country and our future.

While Donald Trump and other Republicans continue to subscribe to dated notions of family structures and gender roles, Hillary understands that changing times call for updated policies that move our country forward. Gone are the days of dads bringing home the bacon while moms fry it up in the pan — the world has changed, and our rules need to sprint to catch up. Hillary’s plans will make life better for moms, and in turn, for American families.

Read more about Hillary’s plans to help American families get ahead in 52 Reasons To Vote For Hillary, on sale now.

5 Facts About Mother Candidates, After Hillary Clinton’s Historic Nomination

This article was originally published in Romper, July 2016. See original article for links to sources.

Hillary Clinton’s candidacy so far has been historic. Clinton has spent her life knocking down barriers to get to where she is today, and people of all political persuasions can agree that her trailblazing is an inspiration to women and girls the world over. Not only is Hillary Clinton the first woman candidate to top a major-party ticket, she’s also the first mother (and grandmother!) to get this close to becoming the leader of the free world.

Being a woman, mother, and grandmother matter because these identities (and the experiences and knowledge that comes with them) set Clinton apart, particularly from her opponent, Donald Trump. For one, Clinton’s visibility may have an important role model effect on other women and young girls: seeing a woman, mother, and grandmother occupy the highest position of power in the United States can encourage more women to seek office themselves, according to Political Research Quarterly. Secondly, mothers may have a unique viewpoint that they’ve developed through living the trials and tribulations associated with raising children. Electing mothers who get and understand what American families need to thrive may have profound, positive public policy effects — in fact, research conducted by Dr. Michele Swers in the book The Difference Women Make finds evidence that women policymakers are more likely than men to introduce, sponsor, and advocate for issues that disproportionately affect women, like paid family leave and childcare subsidies.

But while our country might be better off with more women and mothers in office, there are several barriers to electing more of them. I have a PhD in political science and work in the public opinion industry where I’ve been studying mothers in politics for nearly a decade. I can say with certainty that Clinton’s success is, unfortunately, very much the exception rather than the rule. Women face a host of obstacles in the climb to the top — both in business and in politics — but throwing children into the mix dramatically heighten barriers to women’s advancement, according to a 2012 report by Jennifer L. Lawless on The Continued Under-Representation of Women in U.S. Politics.

Because mother politicians are still so rare in America, there is very little knowledge about them and what — if anything — makes them different. I’ve culled together the little research available (and much of it is research I have personally conducted) to present to five things to know about mother candidates:

When Moms Run, They Campaign Differently Than Dads

When women with young children break through the initial barriers and run for office, they tend to campaign differently than their male counterparts. While fathers showcase their children on the campaign trail, women tend to minimize their role as mothers. With my colleague Dr. Mona Kleinberg, I conducted a study of candidates in competitive congressional races — “A Mom First and a Candidate Second: Gender Differences in Candidates’ Self-Presentation of Family” — and found that men were more likely than women candidates to feature pictures of their children on their campaign websites. Despite high-profile mother candidates like Sarah Palin, who attempted to use her parental status as a credential, women are still more likely to campaign by themselves rather than with their families.

For higher levels of office, including executive roles, women may minimize their roles as mothers to assuage voter fears that young children would be a distraction or take the politician away from her duties as a representative. This is a stereotype men rarely — if ever — have to confront.

Overall, Mothers Are Less Politically Ambitious

According to the Rutgers Eagleton Institute of Politics, a total of 46 women serve the 114 U.S. Senate. In a 2015 report also completed by Rutgers’ Eagleton Institute of Politics, 84 of the 435 members of the U.S. House of Representatives were women, and they represented 31 states. And research about mother candidates — particularly those with young children — is scant because so few mothers actually run for office. Women tend to enter politics when they’re older, after their children are grown, when childcare responsibilities lessen, according to research by Susan J. Carroll and Kira Sanbonmatsu titled “Gender and the Decision to Run for the State Legislature.” In an examination of the freshmen members of the 113 Congress, the Center for American Women and Politics found that while half of the male freshmen in Congress had young children at home, only one woman did.

The Center for American Women and Politics also conducted a national survey of state legislators — a position that’s often a stepping stone for Congress — and found that 23 percent of male legislators had children under 18 compared to just 14 percent of women, a statistically significant difference. In the same survey, a 57 percent of women state legislators said the age of their children was a very important consideration in their decision to run for office — only about two in five men said the same.

Mothers, then, tend to weigh family considerations more heavily than fathers (likely because they shoulder more responsibility for childcare).

Voters May Penalize Moms Of Young Children…

voters. A study I conducted in 2010 titled “Voting For Mom: The Political Consequences of Being A Parent for Male and Female Candidates” published in Politics & Gender found that voters believe men with young children will have more time to serve in office compared to women with young children — an assumption that hinges on the reality that despite women’s advances in the workplace, they are still doing just as much, if not more, work at home. In fact, a recent national survey I conducted with my colleagues at Whitman Insight Strategies found that 55 percent of partnered women say they are responsible for caring for loved ones, including children and elderly relatives, while only 39 percent of partnered men say the same.

Especially striking is the finding that this pattern holds across generations — millennial women are just as likely as women from the Greatest Generation to perform these levels of work inside the home, an indication of the durability of gender roles.

The study I conducted in 2010 for Politics & Gender also found that mother candidates are perceived as less viable than father candidates, which may point to an unconscious bias voters bring to their evaluations of mother candidates. Indeed, a survey conducted by Pew Research found that nearly two in five Americans believe the trend of more mothers of young children working outside the home had been bad for society.

But Childless Women Receive The Harshest Penalty

As many barriers as there are for moms in politics, childless women are viewed even more negatively. The study I conducted for Politics & Gender also found that voters are significantly less likely to express support for a childless woman candidate and prefer her to have children who are grown. For men, parental status was far less relevant in voters’ evaluations. Being childless may be considered “deviant” and perpetuate stereotypes of “career women” (read: any woman who seeks power in her own right) as selfish, cold, and out-of-touch.

Having children may make candidates of both genders more relatable to voters who are looking for candidates who “understand” them. However, this puts women candidates in a double bind: having young children can be a liability if voters question her ability to juggle both the demands of child-rearing and the responsibilities of public office, but having no children puts women in the position of having to confront stereotypes related to being childless. Having adult children may be the “ideal” parental status for women, but running for office later in life limits opportunities to gain the necessary experience to run for higher levels of office.

When Moms Win, They’re More Likely To Push Policies That Help Families

Numerous studies have shown that women tend to have different policy priorities than men and are more likely to advocate for policies that help working families, like paid family leave and child care, according to PoliticalParity.org’s research on “Why Women? The Impact of Women in Elected Office.” When Clinton was pregnant with Chelsea, the law firm she worked at didn’t offer a maternity policy, and the partners would barely acknowledge she was even pregnant. In a 2012 interview with CNSNews.com, Hillary Clinton spoke candidly about her pregnancy:

“I was the only female partner, and they’d never had a female partner and certainly not a pregnant female partner. And they literally just were not sure what to do with me. I would walk down the corridor getting more and more pregnant, and the men in the firm would like look away, never say a word.”

And when a partner called Clinton after she gave birth and asked when she was coming back to work, she responded that she needed four months off, creating the first family-leave policy ever at her law firm. In a speech given at the State Department’s 2012 National Work-Life and Family Month, Clinton said,

“And I was in the hospital when one of my partners called to say congratulations, and then in the course of asked, ‘Well, when are you coming back to work?’ And I said, ‘Oh, I don’t know. Maybe in four months.’ And that’s how I created the firm’s first-ever maternity leave policy.”

Even though Clinton was fortunate enough to get the time off she needed to be with Chelsea, many women get much less time off, if at all — today, a quarter of all women in America have to leave their newborn and return to work within 10 days of giving birth because they have no paid leave. On her website, Clinton credited her experience in shaping her strong support for policies like guaranteeing paid family leave, making childcare more affordable, and raising the minimum wage — all of which are critical policy changes that will strengthen American families and create more opportunities for women to get ahead. As Clinton said:

I think that this is an issue that is not a woman’s issue. It is a human issue and a family issue. After all, there is little doubt that balancing work and family responsibilities is done in one way or another by people everywhere, every day.
This is not to say men or childless women can’t strongly advocate for policies that help American families — they are certainly can and have throughout history. But women who have the lived experience of being a mother and all that it entails may have a better sense of what the government needs to do to help make life easier for working families. Electing more of these women will go a long way toward passing more family-friendly policies that will strengthen the whole country.

Ironically, the policy changes that make it easier for women to combine motherhood and a career is ultimately what will help encourage more mother candidates to run for office. Hillary Clinton’s visibility — as a woman, as a mom, and as a grandmother — may help propel this forward. You can’t be what you can’t see, and seeing a mother occupy the highest political office in the land may do much to break down barriers for women candidates in general.

hillaryandchel

4 Ways For Women To Get Ahead In The Business World

This article was originally posted on Changeboard, 6/1/16.

The advice I give in this article is not meant to replace or ignore the largescale institutional and cultural changes that need to be made for more women to advance in the business world. As I have written elsewhere, policy changes that would ensure equal pay for women, provide paid family leave, and allow parents to work and take of their children at the same time are all essential to women’s advancement in the workforce. Culturally, we need to eradicate the unfair standards and expectations we hold women to but not men.

But those of us already in the workforce need practical strategies to navigate business environments that are often unfavorable to women and hold them back from moving to the top. Until the large-scale work of reforming institutions and cultures is done, here are 4 things women can do to break down barriers and get ahead in their careers:

1. Negotiate your salary

All else equal, on average employers pay women less than men. Over the course of a woman’s life, unequal pay costs her around $400,000. Until our laws are able to remedy this gross inequality, women need to negotiate their pay with their employers.

I remember being very intimidated the first time I negotiated my salary. But I had done my research and knew what I was being offered was lower than market standards and under-valued my worth as an employee. I wrote out “bullet points” for what I was going to say during the negotiating process and even practiced them beforehand.

Striking a balance between appearing confident and grateful is the key to a successful negotiation, and also points to why negotiating is so hard for women in the first place. Many women are taught—and expected by others—to be people pleasers who don’t rock the boat and accept what they are given. Asking for more money defies these expectations, which is why it’s difficult to do.

Begin the discussion by telling your employer how pleased and excited you are about the opportunity to work for the company. Then show them that you did your research about market pay and other tidbits that you can find on Google or by asking others in the industry. Finally, ask for a number that is slightly higher than what you really want—while some employers will give you what you ask for, others will continue the negotiating process and offer you less than what you ask for. Raising the number you ask for helps offset that possibility.

2. Ask for a raise
Unless you work for an organisation or company that regularly provides raises to its employees, you are probably going to have to ask for a raise. Too many women (and some men) believe that if they work hard, their good performance will get recognised with more money. Unfortunately, that is not always the case.

A recent study found that a majority of men have asked for a raise while less than half of women have. If you’ve been producing excellent work and believe you deserve a raise, go ahead and ask for it — research shows that you will probably get it.

I’ve done this a lot throughout my career, and as with salary negotiations, it helps to prepare ahead of time and record your accomplishments and reasons for asking for a raise. The time you’ve spent in a certain position or role often matters less than what you have done for the company during that period, so play up your achievements as well as the additional responsibilities you want to take on in the future.

3. Take credit for your work
One great thing about having more women in the workplace is that they tend to be collaborators and team players. Unfortunately, this work style can work against you when men are more likely to be competitive and take credit for the work that you’ve done. Studies have shown that on team or group projects, women tend to give more credit to their male colleagues and take less for themselves. This hurts women if their overall contribution to their company or organisation is not recognised.

I see this dynamic play out with my male colleagues all the time. In staff meetings, I always say “we” when I’m talking about a project I’m working on with other people, even if I’m the lead on it: “We are working on the presentation,” “We believe we should move in this direction,” etc. In contrast, many of the men I’ve worked with will talk in the first-person about projects: “I am working on the presentation,” “I believe we should move in this direction,” and this is true even when they are not the project leads. So while women downplay their contributions, men play theirs up.

Women should not assume that their boss knows who “really” does the work—he or she doesn’t. Talking casually but directly with your boss or supervisor about your recent role or contribution to a project helps make your case. I will often say something to my boss that emphasises my leadership on a project and compliments my colleagues—because they deserve credit too. Something like “I really loved taking the lead on this project and introducing this new framework in our reports, and I think Jill and John really grew a lot from this engagement as well,” tends to work well.

4. Connect with other women
I’ve seen women get very competitive and sometimes try to undermine each other in the race to the top. Don’t do that—women need to support each other and lift each other up in the workplace. While some level of competition is healthy, putting others down to get ahead yourself is not a viable strategy, and I’ve often seen this backfire on both women and men.

What does work is forming professional relationships with other women—with those above and below you. Seek out a more senior woman at your company or in your industry as a source of support and advice in your career. It’s also important to give back and mentor younger or less experienced women to help them navigate the business world as women. This is how you build a network which will come in handy throughout your career—for leads on new business, job prospects, or just for having the support and encouragement from people who get it.

I Wrote A Book!

I am so excited to announce the publication of 52 Reasons To Vote For Hillary, a book I co-authored with Bernard Whitman, my colleague at Whitman Insight Strategies. The book will hit stores early July, but you can pre-order your copy now via Amazon.

It’s no secret that I am an active Democrat and long-time supporter of Hillary, and Bernard is too. We wrote this book not only in support of Hillary’s candidacy, but because we both felt there was a need to set the record straight and give voters the facts about who Hillary is—both as a public servant and as a person. After Hillary announced her candidacy, Bernard and I were struck by the media narrative that framed Hillary as an elusive enigma, someone that has occupied the political spotlight for decades, yet is in many ways “unknown.” We know from our experience working on campaigns as strategists that voters need to be able to relate to a candidate and feel that the candidate is in touch with voters’ concerns in order for the candidate to be successful. That is why we decided to write this book—to re-introduce Hillary to voters and show the many sides of Hillary, not only as a politician, but as a daughter, wife, mother, and now, grandmother.

We’re also concerned about the rise of extremists in the Republican Party and know that a Donald Trump presidency would be disastrous for this country. We wrote this book also to contrast Hillary’s vision for America with that of the Republicans, and argue that while Hillary wants to build the America of tomorrow, Trump and the Republicans want to bring our country backwards to the past. Like Hillary, we believe that America has always been great, but that the task of the next president of the United States is to make America whole. Trump’s divisive, hateful rhetoric will only fragment us further. What we need now is a leader who can bring people together and get things done for American families. We believe that leader, resoundingly, is Hillary.

I will be posting more news and tidbits from the book as we get closer to the official release date in early July. Don’t forget to subscribe to this blog (just scroll down to the bottom of this page and enter in your e-mail) so you’ll never miss an update about the book or anything I write about here!

Thanks for reading,
Brittany

Cover shot for marketing

Women Are Working More Than Ever – Inside The Home And Out

More than 73 million women participate in the U.S. workforce, making up more than half of the country’s working population. Women are increasingly their family’s breadwinner—more than 40% of working mothers are the sole or primary income earner in their household, a number that reflects both the rise in single motherhood as well as the fact that some women are out-earning their partners, despite the pay gap.

And gone are the days when control of the family’s finances fell primarily to men. As more women enter the workforce and bring home the family’s income, they are also taking on more responsibilities related to financial management—responsibilities that historically were considered in the “male” realm. Data from a national survey of American adults* conducted by my firm, Whitman Insight Strategies, indicates that women are just as likely as men to be responsible for a variety of financial responsibilities, including:

• Making monthly payments for utilities, phone, etc. (78% of men, 83% of women)
• Paying credit card bills (74% of men, 81% of women)
• General financial planning/budgeting (68% of men, 65% of women)
• Making mortgage or rent payments (59% of men, 59% of women)

The sample in this study included only women and men in “partnered” households, meaning people who are married, in a domestic partnership, or living with a significant other. We might infer from this data that men and women have achieved some sort of equality in their relationships, in that they are equally responsible for financial management in their households.

But while women and men may have achieved parity when it comes to financial obligations, with other household tasks, women shoulder much more responsibility than men. Women are much more likely than men to be responsible for buying groceries, cooking and preparing meals, household cleaning, and planning social activities:

• Buying groceries: (65% of men, 90% of women)
• Cooking/preparing meals: (48% of men, 85% of women)
• Household cleaning (48% of men, 88% of women)
• Planning social activities (26% of men, 57% of women)

Women are also performing more of the caregiving work—55% of partnered women say they are responsible for caring for loved ones, including children and elderly relatives, while only 39% of partnered men say the same.

But perhaps younger generations are creating more egalitarian households where women and men share in domestic labor? Wrong. Gender roles are remarkably similar across generations. The data from this survey shows that women of every generation—from Millennials to Baby Boomers—are much more likely than men to be responsible for the cooking, cleaning, social calendar keeping, and caregiving.

Responsibilities chart

To be sure, with some domestic tasks, younger men are doing more work than men of older generations do—62% of Millennial men say they’re responsible for household cleaning compared to 48% of Generation X and Baby Boomer men. But unfortunately, men taking on more responsibility does not help women very much—85% of Millennial women, 89% of Generation X women, and 90% of Baby Boomer women say they’re responsible for cleaning the house as well.

On other domestic tasks, including cooking, grocery shopping, and keeping the social calendar, there is virtually no difference across generations—women are about 30-40 points more likely to take on these responsibilities compared to men. It is among Generation X (ages 35-54) where we see the starkest gender differences in caring for loved ones—65% of women claim this responsibility, compared to just under half of Generation X men. Members of Generation X do more caregiving overall, perhaps not only for their own children, but to elderly parents or relatives as well.

So while women are taking on more responsibilities in the paid workforce, greater financial power does not translate to greater power or equality in the domestic sphere. And even though women are playing a bigger role in the management of their family’s money, these additional responsibilities are on top of the other household tasks for which women are also responsible. Rather than sharing household responsibilities with their partners, women are simply shouldering more obligations.

We cannot assume that these disparities will disappear in time, once younger, more egalitarian generations replace older Americans who are more rigid in their gender ideologies. The data from this survey give credence to the idea that gender roles are durable, and it will take more than time to change deeply held beliefs about what men and women should do with their time.

* Whitman Insight Strategies conducted an online survey among 1,347 American adults who indicated they were married, in a domestic partnership, or living together with a significant other. The survey fielded in March 2016. Please contact bstalsburg@whitmanstrategies.com for more information about the study. You can see other work here.

Why Hillary Clinton Is Not Enough To Increase Women’s Representation

For those who care about women’s representation in elected office, Hillary Clinton’s candidacy is a big deal. Our country has never been this close to electing a woman president, and the odds that she will triumph over Donald Trump or Ted Cruz are high.

Electing a woman president is truly a game-changer. As I have written elsewhere, one of the most powerful effects of a visible woman head of state is the role model effect it will have on women and girls’ ambitions. Seeing a woman occupy the highest position of power in America will do much to our collective psyche and expectations about gender and leadership.

But although electing a woman president would have resounding effects on women’s ambitions, it is not enough to fix the problem of women’s under-representation in elected office. The rate of women’s representation has stagnated at every level of public office; we will not simply see more women elected to public office “in time,” or at least, not in our lifetimes, without changing the political systems and structures themselves.

The impact of gender stereotypes, media bias, childcare responsibilities, and other obstacles women candidates face notwithstanding, on average, when women run for office, they win. That is—once they knock down the barriers that keep women from running in the first place, they tend to be just as successful as men. The real problem is that our current political institutions do not create enough opportunities for women to run, win, and serve.

New people tend to get elected when there is an open seat—when the elected officeholder retires or steps down, leaving the seat “open” to contest. Otherwise, the incumbency advantage is often insurmountable for a challenger, unless the incumbent is vulnerable for some reason. In congressional elections, the re-election rate for incumbents is about 95%. As volatile as the political world may seem, members of Congress enjoy a great deal of job security. And because the vast majority of incumbents are men, the effect of this advantage is that the status quo gets perpetuated over and over—with the same men winning their elections, and fewer women being able to break into the political world.

Simply put, in our current political system there are very few opportunities for women to run for office and be successful. Studies of women’s representation in other countries have shown that different electoral systems—like proportional representation—are much more favorable to the election of women. That is why of the top 20 countries for women’s representation, 19 of them have election systems based on proportional representation. Ranked Choice Voting, an elections system that is often used in conjunction with multi-member districts and allows voters to pick first, second, and third choice candidates, also helps women and people of color win seats in office. In California’s Bay Area, women and people of color hold 47 of the 52 elected offices filled using RCV.

In elections for the U.S. Congress, candidates run in single-member, winner-take-all districts, meaning only the winner—the candidate who gets the most votes—gets elected. But some state legislatures have multi-member districts, which means more than one candidate gets elected to serve a district. In many districts, one party dominates elections over and over, which leaves voters belonging to the opposing party completely unrepresented. In multi-member districts, members get elected according to their party’s vote share—for example, if one district has four seats, and 50% of the vote is for the Democrats and 50% for Republicans, two Democrats get elected and two Republicans get seats too. This scenario also allows for the emergence of third-party candidates, who actually have a chance of getting elected as well.

Multi-member districts create more opportunities for non-incumbents and non-traditional candidates to run for office and win election. Ten states in America currently use multi-member districts in at least one legislative chamber, and these states rank among the highest for women’s representation among state legislatures. Multi-member districts will also help reduce the advantages incumbents enjoy, and create more spaces for not only women, but people of color and third-party candidates, to get elected.

Hillary Clinton’s candidacy has already done much to inspire legions of women and encourage them to run for office. The path she has forged will certainly make it easier for other women to run and win their elections. But as important as her candidacy is to increasing women’s representation, it is not enough, and those of us committed to advancing women’s leadership need to look ahead to the real changes that need to be made in order to achieve gender parity. We need to begin a serious discussion about institutional reform to create more opportunities for women to run and win seats so that the possibility of parity in our lifetimes can be realized.

Young girl writes letter to Clinton: "You inspire me to be who I want to be."
Young girl writes letter to Clinton: “You inspire me to be who I want to be.”

Equal Pay Is Not Just A Women’s Issue, It’s A Family And Economic Issue Too

Today is Equal Pay Day, a day to spread awareness of the fact that in 2016, women still make 79 cents to a man’s dollar, a yearly gap of $10,762. Over the course of a woman’s lifetime, unequal pay costs her more than $400,000, and that’s only if she is white. For women of color, this gap is even higher. Paying a woman less simply because she’s a woman is unacceptable and it is imperative that as a country, we remedy these embarrassing statistics and recognize that equal pay affects everyone.

I’ve worked on the issue of equal pay throughout my career as a pollster and communications strategist. One consistent finding is that while in theory Americans widely support the concept of equal pay for equal work, there has not been as much energy around actually doing something about the issue. In my opinion, one barrier to raising the salience of the issue is in its framing. Until recently, equal pay was understood as a women’s issue, often falling under the category of gender equality or women’s rights issues. But in fact, equal pay is an economic issue that affects the security of American families everywhere.

Numerous studies have shown that equal pay for women would significantly boost the American economy—in one year, the U.S. would have produced $447.6 billion more income, and the poverty rate for working women would be cut in half. The income women bring in is also increasingly critical to the financial security of family units, and when women make less that means less money for groceries, gas, rent, college tuition and other things families need. When women are held back, families—who make up the backbone of our country– are held back too.

This morning I attended a Roundtable on Pay Equality, hosted by Glassdoor, featuring Hillary Clinton, Tracy Sturdivant of Make It Work, and other leaders across the business, political, and cultural spheres. The panel participants highlighted the work that needs to be done to ensure equal pay for equal work everywhere. The first item on the agenda is passing the Paycheck Fairness Act, a law that will help prevent retaliation against employees who inquire about wage practices or disclose their own pay. This law will also increase transparency and make wage data available, so that employees have the information and tools they need to advocate for equal pay.

One obstacle to making change through policy that Hillary Clinton pointed out is that we need better language and messaging to talk about this issue and dispel myths about why the wage gap exists. And as Tracy Sturdivant reminded us, we also need to talk about equal pay in tandem with other issues that will elevate women and families, like paid family leave and affordable childcare. Finally, we need to continue to reframe equal pay not as an issue that only affects women, but one that affects families and therefore our country.

Panelist Lori Nishiura Mackenzie, director of Stanford’s Clayman Institute for Gender Research, left the audience with a piece of advice that really resonated with me. She said that we cannot wait for legislative changes to happen, and that we need to work within our own companies and organizations to ensure we have policies and procedures that are fair and equal for all employees. Women in senior leadership positions need to mentor younger women and advocate for their advancement in companies. For those of us involved in performance reviews, we need to take a good look within and ask ourselves how we are evaluating employees and be honest about any implicit biases or assumptions we might be inserting into our reviews. We need to challenge our colleagues to do the same. The discussion was an important reminder to me and to others who are in positions of power in their own organizations that we have the responsibility to tear down the patriarchy from the inside as well.

Hillary Clinton and other panelists discuss equal pay at Glassdoor's Roundtable on Pay Equality
Hillary Clinton and other panelists discuss equal pay at Glassdoor’s Roundtable on Pay Equality

Sexual Harassment At Work- Why Women Stay Silent

I once managed an account that was the largest and most prestigious that my firm had ever won. When I got the assignment, I was so excited for the opportunities this account would bring, so long as I managed the project well. The project was challenging, for sure, and involved a much higher level of project and client management than most other engagements. Still, I was ready and willing to prove that not only could I handle this, I could kill it too.

And kill it I did. I convinced the client to budget millions of dollars for research, an amount that at the time was unheard of at my company. To kick off the project, we took a week-long trip to meet in-person with various stakeholders. I felt a little anxious about the trip, because it involved a ton of client management, and so much was at stake. I had interacted with our client contact a number of times, but spending a week together is very different than making small talk before meetings. Still, I felt confident I could make a good impression and show the client how well we could handle the project.

About a month before we were set to leave, I received an e-mail from our client contact asking which hotel my colleague and I had booked. We went back-and-forth on e-mail because the hotel we had chosen appeared sold out, so I suggested some alternative hotels close by. My client then replied, over work e-mail: “If those are sold out too, I guess I’ll just have to stay in your room.”

I remember I was traveling for another client at the time and was sitting in a hotel lobby when I received that e-mail. I audibly gasped, my body tensed up, and for a good two minutes I sat frozen in my seat. I couldn’t believe he had sent an e-mail like that, and so brazenly to boot. What was to stop me from forwarding what is clearly a sexually suggestive e-mail to my boss or his boss? Well that’s the thing—he knew I wouldn’t do anything about that e-mail, because speaking up would be career suicide. While this client did not have direct power or authority over me in the same way a direct boss or supervisor would, his influence over me and our firm was enormous.

All day, I went back and forth in my head about how to respond to his e-mail. I wanted to write him back and say that I would hope we can act professionally toward each other during the course of this engagement, but I was afraid of the repercussions of possibly offending him. I considered telling my boss about the situation, but decided against that too—though I had no doubt that my boss would take the e-mail very seriously and sympathize with me, his response would most likely be to take me off the account, for my own “comfort.” There is no way our firm would walk away from this client because of one suggestive e-mail.

So I ended up telling no one at work and going on the trip. I had considered making up some excuse for backing out of the trip and sending another colleague in my place, but I didn’t want to lose the opportunity that this trip meant for my career. So, apprehensively, I went.

Throughout the first part of the trip, I made sure I was never alone with the client and talked at length about my partner at home to make clear that I was in a serious, committed relationship. He acted professionally, and I never felt that he made any advances toward me, which was such a relief. In fact, half way through the trip I questioned whether or not I had read too far into that e-mail in the first place.

But it turns out, I didn’t. On the last night of the trip, the client tried to kiss me in the elevator. My co-worker and I took him out to a lavish dinner that night, followed by drinks at a lounge. We had been out for hours, and both my client and my co-worker had imbibed heavily. I was so surprised my co-worker would get intoxicated around a client, but then I remembered that as a man, he can do things that I simply cannot do. The client was drunk too, and he and my co-worker bonded throughout the night and had a great time together. If anything, getting drunk probably elevated my co-worker’s standing with our client.

At the end of the night, my co-worker went back to his room and left my client and me alone. When we got into the elevator, he turned to me and said with a tipsy smile, “You know, it was really wonderful having you on this trip.” I agreed, and the next thing I know he starts to dive in for a kiss. I pretended to drop my purse to avert him, and it worked. Right then, the doors to the elevator had opened, and I rushed out, yelling a hasty good night at the client before I booked it to my hotel room.

Returning home, I was a nervous wreck that the client might sabotage me if he was offended by my rejection. He could easily make up some excuse for why he didn’t want to work with me or preferred to work with someone else and my firm would happily oblige him without question. But luckily, that didn’t happen. I continued to work with him, and our relationship remained professionally strong. Did I get queasy every time I had to go to his office for a meeting? YES. Did my heart race every time I saw his name in my inbox? YUP. Continuing to work with him was very uncomfortable, but the consequences of speaking up about his harassment were not ones I was willing to deal with either.

Some people might say that what my client did was not harassment because I didn’t tell him to stop or let him know his advances were unwelcome. All I can say is what I feel, and I did feel violated because of our relative positions and the immense power he had over me and my career. And I knew that as much as I may have been a valuable employee at my firm, I wasn’t worth the millions of dollars my firm would lose had we given up the account because of his behavior.

Much time has passed, but I still think about this experience, and I’m angry that the choices I had to deal with the situation were not choices at all. And unfortunately, I am not alone. A recent study showed that 1 in 3 women ages 18-34 have been sexually harassed at work. And like me, very few women report instances of harassment, citing fear of retaliation as the reason for staying silent.

Workplace sexual harassment exacts a significant toll not only on women, but on all of us. Employers pay for harassment through lower productivity, increased absenteeism, and job turnover. Women are a critical component of the economy, and when women succeed, our country succeeds. It is imperative that we recognize sexual harassment as not a women’s problem, but as an economic problem that affects everyone.

Voting For Mom: How Parenthood Affects Political Candidacy

As a graduate student at Rutgers University’s Women & Politics program, I conducted a lot of research on how being a parent (or being childless) works differently for male and female candidates. When I see I did “a lot of research,” I mean I wrote my entire dissertation on the subject and also published several academic articles and conference papers (links below). Here are some core insights from this research:

* Parental status matters in politics, though its effect on the candidacies of men and women is different. While for men, having children is most often an asset or additional credential, for women, motherhood most often functions as a liability.

* Compared to men, having children dampens women’s political ambition, as they are much more likely than men to weigh family considerations in their decision to run for office. Read my conference paper on political ambition and parental status here.

* Men are much more likely than women to use their children in their self-presentation–on the campaign trail, on their websites, and in advertisements. I wrote an article about it with my colleague and friend, Dr. Mona S. Kleinberg, that you can read here.

* Voters are most likely to penalize childless women compared to childless men as well as mothers and fathers. Childless women may be stereotyped as selfish, overly ambitious, and ill-equipped to deal with political issues that affect families and children. Voters also feel uncomfortable with mothers of young children running for office, thought their antipathy is not as strong as it is toward childless women. Read my article detailing the findings of this study here.