Tag: It takes a woman

It Takes A Woman: Reclaiming Moral Leadership

This past week, news broke of a sweeping criminal conspiracy in the world of college admissions. Through an organization called “The Key”, William Singer committed widespread fraud by falsifying his clients’ test scores and applications in order to gain admission to elite universities across the country.  Singer bribed SAT proctors to correct student’s answers to achieve a desired score. He bribed college officials to falsely claim that they were recruiting a student. He called these avenues to admission the “side door”–the front door being ordinary, regular admission, and the backdoor being buying admission through mega-donations.

Needless to say, Singer’s services were not cheap. Ranging from $15,000 to more than a million dollars, his fraud was only available to those children who already had every conceivable advantage in applying to college. Their parents were CEOs, partners in major law firms, fashion designers, and famous actors. They had attended private high schools and had private tutors. They could afford to pay full tuition at any university they might choose to attend. Yet their parents felt compelled to use the “side door” in order to guarantee that their child was admitted to Ivy League schools and prestigious universities.

This story is deeply troubling, as it reflects the sort of moral decay that has become commonplace among the rich and well-connected. It reflects a prevailing mindset of “me first”. So what if my child, who has never played soccer, will be fraudulently taking the roster position of someone who practiced every day for 12 years–me first. My daughter wants to go to Yale, and if bribing the soccer coach is what it takes to get in, that’s what it takes.

Perhaps more insidious than Singer’s “side door” of outright bribery is the “back door” that is completely legal: the use of money and legacy at a university to attain admission for one’s child. Universities thrive on the donations of their alumni, but their swelling endowment often comes with an understood price: admitting the children of those alumni when the time comes. Unlike Affirmative Action, which then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions tried to outlaw just last year, this practice of “legacy admissions” has gone completely unchallenged as a means of circumventing the supposedly meritocratic process of college admissions. The fact that Sessions and other lawmakers would seek to challenge Affirmative Action, which seeks to diversify the ranks of elite college and universities by giving special consideration to the under-privileged, while allowing legacy admissions to continue unabated belies their supposed intention to create a level playing field for college applicants.

Both the ‘side door’ and ‘back door’ to elite colleges exist as a means for wealthy parents to intervene in the college process to increase, or guarantee, the likelihood of their child’s admission. Again, this “Me first” mentality is all too familiar in our society, from the Oval Office to the home. As a society, we have been groomed to view someone’s success as a result of their upstanding character, when studies show that the exact opposite is often true. Recent studies have shown that there exists a “dark triad” of personality traits—narcissism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism—that are mostly highly correlated with success. These traits are not only tolerated but deliberately sought out by some corporations, as they employ the sort of thinking that prioritizes personal success at the expense of others.

Nonetheless, we would do well to foreclose those ‘side doors’ and ‘back doors’ in our society that allow the less qualified and more privileged among us to rise to positions of power. The more that our society resembles a meritocracy, the more that those who rise to power will reflect those values, and the more they can encourage others to set their sights on success by modeling their behavior.

Reorienting our ideas of leadership and the qualities that make one a leader is a responsibility that may fall to women. The past few decades have seen an enormous spike in women rising to leadership roles, and the sunlight of our presence in positions of power has already proved a very effective disinfectant. The cultural phenomenon of the #metoo movement demonstrated how sexual predators had been allowed not just to linger, but to thrive, despite multiple accusations of misconduct. Further, a new wave of congresswomen like Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez has ushered in much-needed conversations on issues like climate change and income inequality. It is painfully clear that women’s moral clarity is long overdue in the public sphere; now, as we continue to expand our influence, we would do well to reward the behaviors of ethical, moral leadership, rather than those of the “dark triad” that disguise a naked desire for personal gain. Then, and only then, can women effectively reorient the moral compass of the nation to point in a direction that is more reliably ethical.

© Carmen Schaye

It Takes a Woman: Learning To Lead On the School Board

Though almost anyone can run for office, there is certain knowledge and skill that makes someone an ethical, responsible politician. The most surefire way to gain that skillset is through hands-on experience. The question is, how does one gain sufficient experience to lead before taking office? Obviously, there is no easy answer or pathway: some deeply qualified candidates never win a single election, while the sitting President won his election despite having no experience as an elected official.

The most reliable means of building a strong political career is through fostering one’s connection to a community. There is a reason that many politicians begin on the local level before expanding to state or federal office; at the local level, a politician can approach issues with personal experience on the issues at hand, and credibly offer solutions to improve them.

There is perhaps no elected office more intimately connected to a community than that of a school board member. While mayors and city council members interact with a diverse range of issues and policy areas, school board members are specifically tasked with providing for the future of the community through the oversight of its schools, and thereby its children. As such, a school board member is entrusted with the responsibility to maximize a city’s resources to ensure that it provides children with the tools necessary for a gainful career and healthy adult life. Furthermore, the members of a community who the school board interacts with most frequently are not the students themselves, but the students’ parents. Needless to say, parents are extremely passionate about their children’s education. To that end, the school board must work in concert with the parents in a community to hear their concerns and implement solutions wherever possible.

School board members are truly on the frontlines of problem-solving, working towards the shared future of a community. A school board’s actions can influence student’s academic achievement, and school board members make decisions that impact future generations by setting policy and allocating resources necessary for student academic achievement.  The board member sets priorities and can hold the district accountable for meeting student expectations.

For all of the above reasons, a school board is a great place to start a career in public service as an elected official, particularly as a woman. Nationwide, 44% of school  board members are women. Far removed from the grandstanding surrounding national politics, school board elections deal with the concrete problems facing a community. They demand that candidates propose solutions to problems, and their success or failure in office rests on their ability to achieve those solutions, or at minimum, to improve the performance of the schools. This sort of solution-oriented strategies, rather than soaring rhetoric or shallow fearmongering, is the foundation for a sustainable career as an elected official.

Take for example, the career of Jackie Goldberg,  a 74-year-old former California assemblywoman , who this week is the frontrunner in a special election for a seat for the Los Angeles Unified School District on the board of education. Goldberg is running because she believes that there is a need for her experience and skills in this critical period of Charter School inundation in California school districts. As a former teacher, she knows firsthand the needs of the classroom and pathways to student success. Goldberg will now face whomever emerges as the second-place finisher–currently a dead heat between Graciela Ortiz and Heather Repenning–in a run-off election. While all of the contenders for the seat are uniquely qualified, Goldberg has the enviable position of a proven track record as a classroom teacher and school board member; Goldberg previously served on the school board from 1983 to 1991, fighting for increased autonomy for teachers and administrators within schools. After 1991, Goldberg went on to serve as an LA City Councilor and subsequently as a California Assemblywoman. While in the state assembly, she studied the budgets of school systems statewide, and authored legislation tailored towards optimizing school performance. Having served on a school board, she knew what sort of solutions would funnel resources to students and improve schools.

Democracy is a tricky business, and there will inevitably be politicians who seek to jump the line. As more women seek elected office, many are choosing to run for legislative positions and skipping school board. But building a strong foundation through community organizing and local action is the best way to ensure that when a politician arrives in office, they can achieve their policy proposals with a realistic and considered idea of how campaign proposals will translate to action and ultimately affect the communities involved. A school board is a fantastic place to build on-the-ground experience and a sense of what it means to lead.

It Takes a Woman: Universal Human Rights Declaration 1948

“Freedom makes a huge requirement of every human being. With freedom comes responsibility. For the person who is unwilling to grow up, the person who does not want to carry his own weight, this is a frightening prospect.” —Eleanor Roosevelt, American Delegate to the United Nations

This month marks the 70th Anniversary of the United Nations Human Rights Commission, which was established on December 10, 1948. The driving force behind the creation of the Commission was The former First Lady of the United States at that time, Eleanor Roosevelt. Throughout her career, Eleanor identified and codified the liberties in the 1948 Human Rights Declaration.

Eleanor Roosevelt began her life as a privileged woman with a remarkable humanistic sensitivity that drove her to a lifelong career in advocacy and social justice for populations in New York City tenements. Through her early commitment to volunteerism in the 1900s, with other New York socialites such as the Harriman’s, she began her career in civic leadership, through teaching English to immigrant families and working with refugees as one of the Founders of Junior League. Early in the 20th century, she married Franklin Delano Roosevelt who, as we know, would be elected the President of the United States in 1933. It was Eleanor who raised her husband’s consciousness and worked toward assisting Depression-era families.

The First Lady of the World

During the Great Depression, she turned her attention to the needs of the poor in the South. Through Eleanor’s influence, the Roosevelt era administration created many modern social programs, including groundbreaking legislation such as Social Security, WPA and immediate economic relief from the Great Depression. Her passion resulted in reforms in industry, agriculture, finance, labor, housing and welfare for families with dependent children. Eleanor changed the previously more traditional role of First Lady, first by joining her husband on the campaign trail, and then by becoming an advocate for Human Rights during and after World War II, so much so that she eventually became the first delegate to the United Nations from 1945-1952, and was known as the “First Lady of the World.”

After the death of her husband (1945), she was appointed by President Harry S. Truman as the First U.S delegate to the newly established United Nations and in 1946 Eleanor was selected to Chair and draft a Declaration for Human rights. The focus of the document was on refugee issues and on creating elements that might prevent another war. She became a forceful advocate for women and children.

In the past 70 years the Human Right Declaration has expanded exponentially and celebrates the following:
∙ 500 languages: UDHR holds the Guinness Book of World Records as the most translated document in the world, with translations ranging from Abkhaz to Zulu.
∙ 18 treaties and optional protocols advancing human rights have been agreed since 1948.
∙ 198 countries now allow women the right to vote, compared to 91 countries in 1948.
∙ 104 countries have now outlawed capital punishment, compared to only 9 in 1948.
∙ 57% of countries have a national human rights institution today.
∙ 111 countries have adopted freedom of information laws & policies, at least 15 of them in the past 4 years

CURRENT HUMAN RIGHTS ISSUES:
∙ Global multilateral frameworks for peace and human rights are increasingly under threat.
∙ Climate change: a threat to the right to life, food, water & housing.
∙ Right to work: emerging problems of automation and challenges of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
∙ Inequality: global, national, and urban inequalities regarding such factors like gender, socioeconomic status, race, and others.
∙ Women and gender: issues such as sexual assault, rape, exploitation, violence against women, and pay gaps.
∙ Freedom of Expression: complications in the internet age
∙ Migrants and refugees: growing global migrant crisis.
∙ Democracy: under threat around the world.

STILL EXPANDING:

The UDHR has also spawned many other important international treaties, including the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (179 states); the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (189); the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (196); and the United Nations Convention Against Torture (162).

The UDHR continues to inspire new treaties. One of the most recent, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, is also one of the most rapidly ratified, with 175 states signing onto it in its first decade, and the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, which entered into force in 2010, has so far been ratified by 58 nations. (THE UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS 70TH ANNIVERSARY)

Thank you, Eleanor T. Roosevelt, for your tireless work to the end of your life for the implementation of the Declaration of Human Rights.

“Do what you feel in your heart to be right—for you’ll be criticized anyway. You’ll be damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

We should all heed Eleanor’s words. We Know that It Takes A Woman to Make Change.

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