Saturday, November 25, 2017

womenonics

Austrian artist Gustav Klimt, motherhood, gender roles, gender equity, maternity benefits, Canadian Maternity Benefits, U.S. Maternity Benefits, maternity leave, competitive advantages, global economic growth, stalled women in the workforce, Who Decided Pregnancy Was a Disability, Bloomberg Report on Motherhood, Malcolm Gladwell, Outliers, Global Comparison of Parental Leave, Mary Cassatt, UN Report: Leave No One Behind: A Call to Action for Gender Equality and Economic Empowerment, Mr. Jim Yong Kim, Ms. Christine Legarde, the International Monetary Fund, Ms. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women, Mr. Michael Spence, 2001 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences

Austrian artist Gustav Klimt, motherhood, gender roles, gender equity, maternity benefits, Canadian Maternity Benefits, U.S. Maternity Benefits, maternity leave, competitive advantages, global economic growth, stalled women in the workforce, Who Decided Pregnancy Was a Disability, Bloomberg Report on Motherhood, Malcolm Gladwell, Outliers, Global Comparison of Parental Leave, Mary Cassatt, UN Report: Leave No One Behind: A Call to Action for Gender Equality and Economic Empowerment, Mr. Jim Yong Kim, Ms. Christine Legarde, the International Monetary Fund, Ms. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women, Mr. Michael Spence, 2001 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic SciencesI don’t think Austrian artist Gustav Klimt was thinking about the economy when he painted this serene picture of a mother and child.

He was capturing the beauty of motherhood and familial relationships. But do mothers have time to nurture this special relationship? Financial pressures and gender roles create attitudes and social behaviors that influence our family values. So when motherhood becomes a financial burden or a woman’s gender prevents her from contributing equally in the workforce, she is shortchanged. However, the problem is much larger. Wasted skills, lost intellectual capital and reduced participation in the workforce affect a country’s bottom line. Gender equality makes economic sense and championing family values creates global competitive advantages.

Snapshot of Canadian versus American Maternity Values

It’s no secret the United States continues seriously struggles with gender equality. We are in crisis mode and it shows in the workforce. Workplace demands are discriminatory because women struggle without systemic support systems vital for raising a healthy family.  For example, long-term studies prove that investing in women and maternity leave lowers infant mortality. It is an investment in a country’s economics. Women are more likely to breastfeed and the health benefits of this include a reduced risk of infectious diseases and better cognitive outcomes for the child.

Women who are given time to nurture their children and recover from childbirth establish a stronger relationship with their baby. Men play an equally important role in nurturing children and the family. They offer additional support and should also have the time to bond with the baby. Employers and governments need to provide networks that lay a strong foundation for future generation of workers. The economics are irrefutable: maternity and paternity leaves are a short-term investment that pays long term dividends.

But look at what’s happened in America. Women are waiting longer to have children because having a baby is a pay cut with further potential downside risks. Short maternity leaves mean higher childcare costs for families. Inflexible work environments force women to sacrifice job promotions, salary increases and a lost career track. An entire segment of a country’s qualified workforce – women – is grossly impacted and competitive advantages are lost.

http://www.npr.org/2016/10/06/495839588/countries-around-the-world-beat-the-u-s-on-paid-parental-leaveA 2017 Bloomberg Report shows the impact of a flat labor force in America. Progress has stalled over the last four decades since the late 80’s. On average, women in their twenties are waiting four more years longer to have children (up from 22 years to 26 years). Overall workforce participation starts to drop when women are in their 30’s and 40’s. It increases when they try to return in their 50’s and 60’s. I can’t tell you how many women I know that fall into this middle gap. They have experience and intellectual capital but their job prospects are pretty sparse. There is no precedent for the increased number of women forgoing their golden years and working into their 60’s and 70’s.

The chart below comparing American maternity benefits to Canadian benefits leaves a sour taste. Can you blame women for opting out? As mentioned in Who Decided Pregnancy Was a Disability?, the United States maternity leave is one of the lowest in the world, ranking alongside New Guinea and some of the South Pacific Islands. At the bottom of more than 193 other countries around the world, America’s family values are shockingly low. It also calls into question its status as a so-called “developed country.”

http://www.npr.org/2016/10/06/495839588/countries-around-the-world-beat-the-u-s-on-paid-parental-leave

Maternity Leave: Best and Worst Countries

This is the perfect time to introduce Malcolm Gladwell and his book Outliers: The Story of Success. Gladwell examines the performance of people in various sports, academia, and business fields, identifying why they are successful. Time and again, the greatest common indicators are culture and environment. It’s not a stretch to see that these same success factors also apply to how countries perform when it comes to championing women.

While you can’t actually see the culture of countries in the chart below, the environmental support for motherhood is apparent. And, don’t go jumping up and down! There is NO national legislation that protects maternity leave in the United States. The chart is a best case scenario for companies that choose to provide maternity leave. While more companies are seeing it as a competitive advantage in the marketplace, smaller companies with less than 75 employees don’t need to offer anything. This is significant point because small business is the backbone of America with just under half of the U.S. gross domestic product coming from this segment.

http://www.npr.org/2016/10/06/495839588/countries-around-the-world-beat-the-u-s-on-paid-parental-leaveHere is what you can’t see in the chart that’s worth sharing. Sweden provides 16-month parental leaves that can be shared between two parents! Australia provides 33 weeks for each parent, and then another 33 weeks to be split by them in whatever way they choose. I also noticed the most competitive countries have paid paternity leave for dads. Too many countries don’t include dads in the economics of the family. Why couldn’t this picture by American painter Mary Cassatt show a father hugging a daughter? This helps to explain why European women are more likely to work, particularly in countries like the U.K. and France because paternity leave is supported.

How to Get to Economic Growth

Austrian artist Gustav Klimt, motherhood, gender roles, gender equity, maternity benefits, Canadian Maternity Benefits, U.S. Maternity Benefits, maternity leave, competitive advantages, global economic growth, stalled women in the workforce, Who Decided Pregnancy Was a Disability, Bloomberg Report on Motherhood, Malcolm Gladwell, Outliers, Global Comparison of Parental Leave, Mary Cassatt, UN Report: Leave No One Behind: A Call to Action for Gender Equality and Economic Empowerment, Mr. Jim Yong Kim, Ms. Christine Legarde, the International Monetary Fund, Ms. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women, Mr. Michael Spence, 2001 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences

So where do we go from here? A United Nations Report, Leave No One Behind: A Call to Action for Gender Equality and Economic Empowerment, found that countries who remove discriminatory laws and accelerate women’s economic empowerment realize greater sustained economic growth. There are dozens of charts and reports that correlate gender equality to faster economic growth, higher income per capita and improved human development. These gains are even greater in countries like Germany, Korea, Italy and Singapore where women’s participation rates are low. In more developed countries like England, New Zealand and Latin American countries, improved maternity leaves helped create better income distribution while reducing poverty rates.

In the UN Report, more than 943 gender-differentiated laws documented in over 170 economies help to identify opportunities for economic improvements and competitiveness. Two thoughts on this: that’s a lot of gender bias embedded in our culture and environment, and why aren’t we listening to all this great advice! Call me crazy but there’s some serious high level thinking that went into the UN Report.

Some of the authors include people like Mr. Jim Yong Kim (President of the World Bank), Ms. Christine Legarde (Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund), Ms. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka (United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women) and Mr. Michael Spence (Economist and recipient of the 2001 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences).

Without watering the report down too much, the UN Report says countries must do these things to increase their competitive advantage:

  • Economies need to harness women in the workforce to grow (i.e. U.S. could grow the economy by 5% if they did this according to Bloomberg’s Report);
  • Women need to have babies to sustain workforce’s and grow economies;
  • Women need to be healthy enough to remain in the workforce and given time to emotionally bond and physically heal from childbirth;
  • Women need support systems to return to work and to be productive.  This means childcare, positive role models to change existing discriminatory norms and guaranteed legal protections;
  • Countries need to recognize and reduce unpaid work in the home by encouraging and valuing paternity leaves; and…
  • Women need a collective stronger voice that will ensure their visibility and representation in the government policy making and improved public sector practices.

Austrian artist Gustav Klimt, motherhood, gender roles, gender equity, maternity benefits, Canadian Maternity Benefits, U.S. Maternity Benefits, maternity leave, competitive advantages, global economic growth, stalled women in the workforce, Who Decided Pregnancy Was a Disability, Bloomberg Report on Motherhood, Malcolm Gladwell, Outliers, Global Comparison of Parental Leave, Mary Cassatt, UN Report: Leave No One Behind: A Call to Action for Gender Equality and Economic Empowerment, Mr. Jim Yong Kim, Ms. Christine Legarde, the International Monetary Fund, Ms. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women, Mr. Michael Spence, 2001 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic SciencesThe big question now is what businesses and countries will do with this knowledge.

I wonder if we need a fresh approach. Maybe we should be fighting for paternity leave and soliciting the assistance of men. This would create greater overall support for parental leave and securing equal rights. If we focus instead on parental leave – like many advances countries already do – we’ll bring a refreshingly twenty-first century way to approach gender equality!

At any rate, we need to build a more unified case for gender equality and those qualities that help mothers to bond with their children. When we champion the economics of motherhood the art of the family flourishes, alongside our shared humanity.

My mother grew up in Turkey in the 1950’s.  What I loved most about her was her flowing hair that reached down to her waist when she was a young girl.  She reminded me of a goddess from the old Hollywood movies.

I remember watching her apply her makeup in the mirror, praying that one day, I would be beautiful, like her. There is a photo of my mother that looks like a Botticelli Venus. It is how I want to remember her forever and ever.

When I think about my mother’s hair, I think about what it means to be woman. Lately, I have wanted to embrace my femininity. But what does that really mean? Often, as women, we veil our own true selves to appear a certain way to others. I find that we are all actors in some way in every situation.

We can’t be “too feminine” lest we not be taken seriously. We can’t be “too masculine” because that would make us threatening to both male and female. Women, in general, are programmed to please others, to nurture, to love, to give way. They are strong and resilient in the face of adversity, complex, intuitive and empathetic.

There was a time when the female image was revered and worshipped. Ancient cultures came from a matriarchal society, where the creative, holistic feminine right brain ruled, in contrast to the linear and analytical masculine left brain. Eventually, the matriarchal society of the goddess evolved to patriarchy.

In The Alphabet versus the Goddess, author Leonard Schlain contrasts the feminine right-brain teachings of Buddha and Jesus to the masculine thought process that evolved when the human brain began the act of writing. He asserts that one of the visible ways women lost their power was by having to cover their hair, or in some cases, cut their hair off once they were married because the hair was considered a thing of beauty.

Is a woman’s hair her power? It is her choice whether she wants to cut off her hair or cover it. Think about the story of Samson and Delilah. Samson’s power was in his hair. And when it was cut off, he lost his strength. But hair is symbolic of a deeper issue. The issue is our free will. A women’s right to choose how she wants to live her life, how she wants to appear to others, but most of all, how she perceives her identity stems from our free will.
On March 8, we celebrate International Women’s Day, a global day of recognition for the economic, political and social achievements of women; we celebrate our strength, courage and resilience. Women are critical for the advancement of peace and democracy in a world where inequalities continue to exist across every aspect of our lives.

How I ask, is this possible in the 21st century? Haven’t human beings evolved to a higher realm of consciousness?  How do we change this?

These questions fueled my fire of wanting to be part of a socially just and kind world. But what could I, one person, do, in the face of the hardships that so many women endure throughout the world?

Over the years, I have met numerous heroic women who are not afraid to do the work to create a world of parity for all.

One organization that welcomed me many years was the International Women Associates (IWA), a not for profit established in 1978 in the living room of a dashing woman with a Katherine Hepburn accent. Doe Thornburg. Doe Thornburg founded IWA to connect women who were either born or lived outside of the United States, or who traveled extensively as Americans and had diverse international backgrounds and cultures.
When I asked Doe what made her establish this group of women, her response was, “I wanted to start it on a spiritual basis, believing that everyone is a sacred person. You must understand that everyone is equally worthy of their highest self.”

Today, IWA has nearly 500 members from 60 countries. They share their experiences and global understanding through programs that encourage cross-cultural exchanges and most of all, friendship. They share the mission of establishing universal human rights, especially for women and girls. Doe Thornburg remains a compelling visionary for women, forever an elegant and gifted speaker at 94.

IWA was the beginning of my initiation to what it means to be a global woman. Born in another country and raised in the United States since I was 6 years of age, I recall wanting to belong like my natural born friends. I was embarrassed to be a foreigner with olive skin (something I now cherish as a friendly elixir for the years on my face!) and my mother speaking to me in our language in front of my friends. On the school bus, obnoxious little boys would take my seat and call me Mexican, as though it was an expletive. I wanted to respond, “I am not Mexican. I am Turkish.” But that would have been even worse, since they had no concept of geography and would have called me a turkey! Children can be so cruel. Oh, how I embraced my Mexican friends, who never had an unkind word for me. I was an American citizen who still felt like an outsider living far from the beautiful Mediterranean coast that no longer held a spot for me either. I had no roots.

As I grew older, I met my first real international friends at university and immediately felt at home. My ugly duckling demeanor vanished along with my insecurity and baby fat, and I blossomed into a secure young woman; determined to surround myself with a myriad of cultures.

What began with my education in college congealed into a sense of family with the women from IWA. They confirmed my American-ness in a way that embraced patriotism and my Turkish roots. The IWA cultural programs opened channels of discourse about global injustices endured by women and girls. These injustices persist but thankfully many men and women are working together are making inroads.
Women are powerful but cannot do this alone. We need to educate men at an early age to support women if we are to ensure that children are raised to respect and honor one another’s sanctity. Otherwise, there will always be a wall between the two genders.

When we celebrate the collective potential of women, as the following examples do, women are powerful game-changers. There are many women and men who are doing the work, carving a manifesto of equality for all.

Nobel peace prize winner, Muhammad Yunus, reaffirms this in his in his book, Creating a World Without Poverty. Yunus promotes micro-financing as a powerful way to bridge the poverty gap for women who struggle to achieve economic and social parity. Giving loan money to people who had nothing, especially to women, translated into a repayment rate of over 98%. This value proposition is echoed in the Half the Sky Movement, where “Women comprise 70 percent of the world’s poorest people and own only 1 percent of the titled land.” Statistically, 80% of income earned by women goes back to the family, but only 30% of money earned by men is reinvested.

Laura Rose, CEO and cofounder of Greenheart International, emerged into my life serendipitously one spring evening as I was setting up an outdoor sign in front of my gallery. We became fast friends as she explained to me the work she and her husband, Emmanuel Kuntzleman, do with Greenheart, a not for profit supporting a variety of initiatives that connect people and planet to create global change.

Laura and Emmanuel are dedicated to raising environmental awareness, promoting cultural understanding and advocating for world peace. Since 1985, they have partnered with some 250 organizations in 97 countries, providing educational opportunities and scholarships that teach young people to become world leaders.

I think of the love chakra when I hear the words “green heart.” This is exactly what Laura told me when I asked about her inspiration and goals in life.

“The creation of Greenheart was an act of love, of our love for humanity and all of its enormous potential.   When we focus that potential to empower young people to not only enrich their own lives, but the lives of others, amazing acts of generosity and kindness occur. We accomplish this by helping to expose our communities, families and participants to the values of social justice and environmental sustainability, creating opportunities for self-reflection in which powerful shifts in perspective occur.”

We have gone far in the last one hundred years, yet there is still much work to do. International Women’s Day celebrates and honors the essence of that which is woman. We celebrate the grandeur of our mothers and grandmothers, and our daughters and granddaughters. We honor those women who do not have the opportunities of education or freedom to choose their lives and live it in peace and serenity.

Although International Women’s Day celebrates women, the day also recognizes empathy, compassion, and overwhelming love. By advocating for justice, opportunity and freedom, we celebrate all humankind.

Michael Ondaatje, in his novel The English Patient, wrote, “We die containing a richness of lovers and tribes, tastes we have swallowed, bodies we have plunged into and swum up as if rivers of wisdom, characters we have climbed into as if trees, fears we have hidden in as if caves….We are communal histories, communal books. We are not owned or monogamous in our taste or experience.”

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