It was not too long ago when I said I was ready to come back and work at the Women’s Center for the 2011 Fall semester. Time went by so quickly due to the fact that we had approximately 14 events this semester, including some of our big events like Walk a Mile in Her Shoes, Women’s Equity Quilt Dedication, and Starr Symposium in which I had the privilege of meeting Dolores Huerta whom I’ve always wanted to meet. The events were really fun because I got to learn a lot more and meet new people. This semester the Women’s Center was filled with new staff members whom I enjoyed working with and hope to see when we come back from winter break. I am truly excited and look forward to coming back in the spring to plan events such as the Vagina Monologues, Stalking Awareness Month, and our 40th Anniversary Gala. I hope to see everyone soon at our spring semester events! Happy Holidays everyone and congrats to the 2011 Fall Graduates!
Yesterday, the UMKC Women’s Center and Women’s Council hosted the Starr Symposium, an all day event featuring two keynote speakers – Gloria Steinem and Dolores Huerta – workshops to empower women, and entertainment by the Wild Women of Kansas City. There were several highlights during the day that focused on the theme “Age Becomes Us: Leading, Empowering and Building Capacity across the Generations,” but one of the most exciting moments was the spontaneous dance party that happened during lunch when Millie Nottingham, of the Wild Women, performed an electrifying rendition of “I Will Survive.” Check out the video to see Gloria Steinem, Dolores Huerta, and women from all over Kansas City get swept in by the music.
And if you enjoyed that come see her in person on November 5 for the STARR Symposium’s Age Becomes Us: Leading, Empowering, and Building Capacity across the Generations! Register here at www.umkc.edu/starr or by phone at 816-235-6222.
On Tuesday, March 22nd, I attended the Starr Community Conversation: Technology and Modern Families. This discussion was very interesting to me because it helped me understand that technology can be beneficial for balancing work/life if you know how to moderate yourself; as well as harmful if you overdo it. Although this conversation was open to all ages, it more importantly focused on how to best integrate the use of technology within families in our community.
Many women dream of that moment that they become mothers. For many women this is a happy time, as it should be. But for many working mothers, they are finding a work environment that can be somewhat hostile, unfair, and even sexist. But why is there so much discrimination towards mothers when it comes to careers? Why do people degrade something that is a natural part of some women’s lives?
Society tends to makes its own rules. I recently came across an article that addressed this issue; I cannot believe how unfair some people are towards working mothers. Joan Williams, a professor of law at the University of California said that according to a recent study, mothers are 79% less likely to be hired and 100% less likely to get promoted. Also the study found that mothers are assumed to be less competent than non-mothers. Who created this mess?
As I searched through people’s responses in the study I found one that struck me: “the economy needs people who will be there every day and not miss work because of a sick child.” Just because someone is a parent, it does not mean that they are going to miss work. People shouldn’t be so quick to make assumptions and to draw conclusions; furthermore, why are they so quick to make this assumption about a working mom, but not a dad. I remember my parents always were at work and received perfect attendance.
What is sad here is that not only do women have to consider how many children to have or when to have them when it comes to their careers, but whether or not to have children at all because apparently being a mother looks bad to employers. I believe being a parent should not hinder anybody in the job market.
We are in the new millennium and it surprises me that people are still discriminating for very foolish reasons. Many working mothers are very resilient and adaptable – they work, attend school, take care of their families, and still fit in some social life. That is impressive and it shows determination which is an important quality employers should be looking for. Working mothers need the support from society and employers who can see the benefits of hiring a working mom and not just the draw backs. We should eliminate the assumptions about working moms and the motherhood penalty, so that women can make choices about motherhood without worrying about the impact on their jobs.
When I signed my mom and I up to attend the Starr Community Conversations’ event, Work and Life: An Intergenerational Conversation, I didn’t think much about the fact that by having her attend with me, I was starting my own intergenerational conversation.
My mom and I started out the evening thinking that it would just be an interesting panel and some good topics; work/life balance was something that interested both of us. However, as the talk progressed, I realized that in addition to just wanting to enjoy the night with my mom, I had hoped that listening to these talks would help my mom find her own work/life balance, something I had seen her strive for my whole life.
One of the more poignant moments of the night for me, was when one of the audience members talked about how she felt a certain stigma for choosing to stay home. She commented how she thought feminism should be about choice but instead she felt that some women and men made her feel like she was contributing to preventing feminist progress by choosing to stay home. I have to say that while I was listening to her, I agreed with her thoughts about how feminism should be about choice. Her comments also made met think about how my mom had chosen to both stay at home with my brother and me and to work in the corporate world at different times in her life and I had hoped that she never had to feel any stigma about her choices.
The woman’s comment, and my own experience with my mother’s struggles to find a balance between work and home, got me to thinking about how not only was that lady right, that there is still stigma surrounding a woman choosing to quit her job to stay home with her family. But the panelists were also right: that we need to change how we think about work and that we should be more creative with it to allow for more flexibility.
To say that the stigma surrounding women choosing to stay home is widespread and that everyone thinks less of a woman who does that would be over-generalizing, but I do think that there is a lack of respect for women who do that. I know some feminists who believe it is counterproductive to the progression of women to choose to go back into the home. But shouldn’t feminism mean choice? My mom chose at different times in my childhood to stay home with us and to work, and I have to say, neither one made her any less amazing. I respect her for how far she was able to get in the corporate world and I respect her for choosing to stay at home.
I think that the conversation about women choosing to stay home ultimately leads to what the panelists referred to as “thinking creatively” about work. As a country we do need to change how we think about work/life balance and get creative about how we approach work so that women and men are able to enjoy flexibility that will allow them to succeed professionally but also personally. Maybe we do need to look at how other countries are trying to allow for more balance — Sweden comes to mind.
Attending the Starr event with my mom allowed me to see things that maybe I wouldn’t have picked up on otherwise, like how work/life balance means different things for everyone. My biggest struggle with work/life balance right now is finding enough time for school, work, and the rest of my life, but my mom has really been faced with hard choices about how she and my dad would be able to enjoy our family and to earn a living as well as enjoy their careers. Our perspectives are very different, but that is what makes an intergenerational conversation valuable: you are able to see issues in a different light than your own and if you are really lucky, you get a greater appreciation for someone else’s struggles.
Fast Tube by CasperWhen I heard about this event, I’ll admit, I really thought it was going to be a man-bashing extravaganza. I’d never read any feminist literature, other than a few blogs and articles. I’d never heard of any of the women speaking at Women, Girls, Ladies. And as far as my understanding of feminism went, it was pretty basic: men try to put women down, we shouldn’t let them; women make less money than men still, and women earned the right to vote later than we should have. I was pretty uneducated. I signed up far ahead of the event, to interview spectators and record the event on a camcorder; mostly because I thought it’d be fun to play with the camera.
Since working at the Women’s Center, I’ve learned about a whole world I never even thought existed. I had no idea about all of these incredible, strong women who spent their lives trying to let other women know they could be powerful too! The STARR Symposiumwas an amazing experience for me, and opened my eyes to things I had never even thought about. The speakers were all authors and journalists for women’s websites, and were absolutely brilliant. The four women in Women, Girls, Ladies, were Gloria Feldt; Courtney E. Martin; Deborah Siegel; and Kristal Brent Zook.
Let me say first, I was completely wrong about the man-bashing. A lot of the conversation was actually directed at how women and men could share responsibilities and make relationships work, to help women balance their lives better. The speakers’ speeches and accomplishments were what really stayed with me after the symposium.
Gloria Feldt had three children before she was 20. She only realized she wanted to work for her rights as a woman after her youngest child. She spent thirty years working with Planned Parenthood, and retired as the President of the organization in 2005. She has written several books, multiple articles, has a successful blog, Heartfeldt, and is now one of the most well known speakers for women. She has just released her latest book;No Excuses; 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power.Feldt has appeared on many television shows (The Daily Show, O’Reilly, Good Morning America, just to name a few), written commentary for many of America’s top newspapers and magazines, such as, Washington Post, The New York Times, and Elle, and has been named Glamour’s Woman of the Year, and been added to Vanity’s Top 200 Women Leaders, Legends, and Trailblazers.
Kristal Brent Zook came from a small family, raised by her mother and grandmother. She went on to overcome obstacles such as men objectifying her in her work place, a fear of losing the control in her life, and is now a successful author, speaker and professor, with a healthy and happy relationship. She has written 3 books, her most recent being I See Black People: The Rise and Fall of African American-Owned Television and Radio. She is a professor of journalism at Hofstra University right now, as well as an active contributor to Essence Magazine.
These women have all risen to the top and achieved of their dreams. They are fantastic women for the new generation of feminists to emulate, and would serve as wonderful role models. Watching and listening to their conversation, and speaking to them myself, I find myself entering a new stage of social and self-awareness.
I have learned that what most people (men and women included) strive for, to have that perfect balance of life and work, is a near impossible idea. Where does work end and life begin? Isn’t your work part of your life? I like Ms. Brent Zook’s idea, instead of balance, why not work-life negotiation? As a college student, and a person living on her own for the first time, I find it nearly impossible to balance my work and my school (my social life has become a happy memory as I wade through pre-med requisites) if I look at them as two separate entities. I see that I need to stop trying to spread myself so thinly. Feldt said it best, ‘No one will love you anymore, if you use yourself up.’ I see this as, if I don’t manage to do everyone’s job in the office, or do everyone’s part in a group project, I should be able to trust that it will get done; the world will not end if I choose to take five minutes to myself in my day. Sharing responsibilities and the power to do things can make everyone’s life a little bit easier; allowing one to focus on things that make them truly happy. The STARR Symposium was, to me, a great awakening of the calm, negotiable, and strong feminist I can be.
The blog below is a guest post written by S. Sloane Simmons. Sloane is a member of the Chancellor’s Advisory Board to the Women’s Center and also co-owner of STUFF. Her article also appears on the the Starr Symposium Blog and will soon be posted on the STUFF website.
First, a few statistics: I am 45-years-old; I have been married to the same man for 24 years; I have one child; I own my home; I co-own a small business with my sister; I am Caucasian; I finished “some college” but did not obtain a degree; I am an active community volunteer and currently serve on several governing and advisory boards. I am happy.
I sat in a public auditorium the other evening and, after arriving late, tried to settle in after a long and varied day to absorb four women’s words. They all chose great stories to share and their answers during the Q&A were heartfelt and well received.
But I found myself making notes on paper – a questionnaire I had been handed upon arrival became my notebook – about what had brought me to that room. These women spoke eloquently and from many perspectives that were different from my own. In the end, the questionnaire was not fit to be turned in. This morning I re-visited my notes and noticed that my emotions ran to thankfulness to the woman who was older than me for forging a path, to hopefulness because the woman who was younger than me had much to teach me and I delight that the women who were right near my age were finding themselves coming into their own.
The symposium was an intergenerational conversation about work and life. It was presented by Women Girls Ladies in conjunction with the UMKC Women’s Center and the UMKC Women’s Council. I figured it would be worth my time, given that I was a woman, a girl, and a lady and I had a life and I worked. Perfect fit right?
It was more than perfect. My time in the auditorium reminded me that I had been raised by a woman – my mother – who is a raging feminist, and that I had been deeply molded by two women – my grandmothers – who would have never admitted to being feminists in any form. These women gave me their best and let me catch glimpses of their worst. What shakes me to my core is that I never think about being a feminist myself, because I really don’t have to very much. It is ingrained in me to believe that women can do anything and be anything. I have visual memories of the comics at the back of Ms. Magazine that reminded me as a teenager to make more of myself than the boys around me and to insist on more than 69-cents to their dollars earned. I have had a hand in raising a child whose biggest argument at school to date (including middle school!) is the one he waged about there not being “boy colors” or “girl colors” in art class when he was ribbed because pink was his favorite color and he used it without fear in his work.
The phrase, “been there, have the t-shirt” could not be truer about my feminism. My family has cycled through 2 generations of NARAL t-shirts, National Women’s Political Caucus t-shirts, Planned Parenthood t-shirts, and we have all treasured the posters, magnets and bumper stickers from the past. They remind us that “A woman’s place is in the house . . . and the senate”; that “war is not healthy for children and other living things” and a female newborn is a “baby woman.”
This week I am co-chairing an event for the American Civil Liberties Union in my hometown. It’s going to be a wondrous evening full of amazing art and talented people. The ACLU will always need funding to continue their work protecting all of our civil liberties. I don’t work in those trenches every day, but I am thankful for those that do. Every issue women face – every obstacle they overcome – was and is a civil liberties issue. It wasn’t very long ago that women couldn’t vote, that women couldn’t own property and that women had very little control over their bodies and its intended freedoms.
If you asked me if I was feminist, I wouldn’t deny it nor would I immediately embrace it. The true feminists to me are those women who changed the world as we know it in the 1970’s, not me. I can vote, own things and speak openly with my doctor. I just get to be me . . . a raging feminist.
Join the UMKC Women’s Center and Women’s Council for the 2009 Starr Symposium: “Bright Past, Brilliant Futures: Launching Women and Girls in Science and Technology” with Dr. Mae C. Jemison. Thursday, Oct. 1 Time: 7 p.m. Location: University Center, Pierson Auditorium Tickets are required and are free for students, $5 for non-students (tickets purchased online will also incur a $2 service charge per ticket). For more information or to reserve your tickets, visit http://www.umkc.edu/starr/2009_starr_symposium.asp
Are you a female UMKC undergraduate or high school 9th, 10th, or 11th grader majoring and/or interested in a career in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, or the health sciences? If so, apply now for an exciting new program at UMKC: the Starr Women Leaders Program! SWLP is a collaborative initiative of the UMKC Starr Symposium Committee, Women’s Council, Women’s Center, and Women & Gender Studies Program.
UMKC students who are accepted into the Starr Women Leaders Program will serve as e-mentors to a girl from the 9th, 10th, or 11th grade who is also interested in the possibility of studying a STEM or health science field after high school. You will also have the opportunity to meet Dr. Mae Jemison, the first African-American woman astronaut and a notable physician and engineer, at the Starr Symposium on October 1; as well as to participate in a series of events and activities that are designed to enhance your leadership skills. High school students in the program will receive mentoring, have the opportunity to visit campus on several occasions, and will also meet Dr. Jemison on October 1.
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