Latest from OWL

Monday September 15, 2014

Sneak Preview of Zelda’s Dogma on Voter Registration!

OWL is pleased to share this special preview of Zelda Wisdom’s dogma for National Voter Registration Day. It’s a great day to make sure your registration is up-to-date, and to reach out to friends to do the same. Speaking of voting—did you know that 22 million women eligible to vote in the last midterm election didn’t? OWL and the Sewall-Belmont House and Museum are working to engage those women this fall.  (Yes, we’ve written about this before. But we’re doing it again because, yes, it’s that important.)

Just a reminder: experts are predicting record-low turnout in November. That means anyone who does vote is serving as a virtual proxy for dozens of non-voters. It’s a legal version of ‘voting often.’  And even though we know one election won’t turn things around, won’t necessarily make national politics more functional or Congress as a whole more likable, unless a whole lot more of us get in the habit of voting, it most certainly will only get worse.

Posted by Pat Lewis at 03:17 PM

Friday September 05, 2014

Letter to the Editor: The New York Times

If you didn’t know any better, Sunday’s opinion piece “When Did We Get So Old?” would have you believe that the biggest issue facing aging boomers is whether or not to dye their hair.  With only the briefest of nods to financial issues, the author focuses instead on the ‘psychological quandary’ she says is causing her and her peers the ‘most unpleasantness’ –being the oldest in the room.

Really? This warrants how many column inches?  That we’re a very large, very self-important demographic that has discovered that aging is icky?
Meanwhile, the web is replete with alarming statistics about how unprepared boomers are for the more important aspects of aging. How we’re working well past ‘retirement’ age out of necessity, that we have no savings and have given no thought to long-term care—concepts particularly true for women and people of color.

But instead of taking advantage of some of media’s most valuable real estate to point out that these are societal and not just personal issues,  this piece instead chooses to perpetuate the myth that all boomers are awash in cash and retirement savings, and are ready to SoulCycle their way into their 90s.

Posted by Pat Lewis at 02:18 PM

Friday September 05, 2014

Letter to the Editor: Washington Post

Letter to the Editor Washington Post
September 3, 2014

John Delaney makes several excellent points in “The solution to fixing dysfunction in Congress”. One of the most critical aspects is low turnout, which is quickly becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. Faced with a dysfunctional Congress, people see little point in voting, which concentrates the voting power in an increasingly small set of hands – and the cycle continues. Any steps that we can take to enfranchise more voters, such as open primaries, can only strengthen our democracy.

Even women, who consistently register and vote in greater percentages than men (Post columnist Catherine Rampell wrote about this recently), are not exercising their power in midterm elections. In the 2010 midterms, 22 million women who could have voted didn’t; that’s why OWL, along with the Sewall-Belmont House & Museum, is launching an initiative this year to engage these women.  After all, the only way we as individuals can have an impact now is by participating in the process, even if the process itself is less than ideal.

Posted by Bobbie Brinegar at 02:01 PM

Wednesday September 03, 2014

OWL, Sewall-Belmont House & Museum, to Launch Campaign to Engage Missing 22 Million Women Voters

Women may consistently register and vote in higher percentages than men, but 22 million women who were eligible to vote sat out the November 2010 mid-term election.

That’s why OWL and the Sewall Belmont House & Museum are launching a campaign to encourage women to get to the polls. With experts predicting record-low turnout for the midterm elections, each additional vote carries more weight.  “The turn-out by women varies enormously,” said Celinda Lake, founder of Lake Research Partners. “In 2008, 66 percent of women voters turned out to vote; in 2010 46 percent turned out.”

It’s important because women tend to have a different perspective on politics. A bipartisan September 2012 survey by Lake and Republican pollster Kellyanne Conway found that regardless of political affiliation, 80 percent of women agreed on 80 percent of the issues. They also tended to support efforts to build consensus, solve problems and bring private and public interests together.

“Women feel the impact of decisions made by Congress more than men,” said OWL Executive Director Bobbie Brinegar. “We have the most to gain and the most to lose when elected officials don’t think we’re paying attention. Voting in November is the best way to make sure they know that we are.”

Page Harrington, Executive Director of the Sewall Belmont House & Museum, said the campaign is focused on reminding women of the importance of their continued participation. “History shows us that we can make progress – but only if we work for it. No one else is going to do this for us.”

Combine the ground-breaking research by UC San Diego that personal social media messages can motivate people to vote with the fact that 76 percent of all women use Facebook, and there is a cost-effective and efficient way to try and reach women who have otherwise not been engaged.

A key part of OWL’s campaign will be enlisting a broad-based coalition to ask women, as they vote, to change their profile picture to a postage stamp with a flapper voting – and tag three friends to do the same. OWL intends to use its partnership with National Voter Registration Day, September 23, to share its initiative with the hundreds of other partner organizations and individuals.

“The women who won the right to vote used the social media of their day –writing and selling their own newspapers, chalking their messages on downtown streets, and giving ‘silent speeches’ in empty store windows” said Ann Lewis, former Director of Communications for President Bill Clinton. “Their courage and creativity won for us the most powerful tool to make change – voting. Now it’s up to us to use it!”

Posted by Pat Lewis at 04:14 PM

Tuesday August 26, 2014

Women’s Equality Day: We Challenge You

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has served as a real wake-up call about truly devastating illnesses.

And it’s also a wake-up call of how we as a nation tackle problems like ALS, or Alzheimer’s, or Parkinson’s- because this is where the government plays a vital, irreplaceable role.

And our irreplaceable role as citizens is to choose the people who determine the federal response.

Today, we celebrate Women’s Equality Day- the day the 19th amendment was approved in 1920.

What better way to celebrate this momentous day than by reaffirming our commitment to exercising the hard-fought right to vote in November?

Also- it’s way more comfortable than this...

Posted by Pat Lewis at 03:19 PM

Sunday August 17, 2014

Investing in Companies that Invest in Women

There’s a new kid on the block in the area of socially responsible investing.  The Pax Ellevate Global Women’s Index Fund (PXWEX) is the only mutual fund in the U.S. dedicated to investing in companies that have a significant proportion of women in senior leadership roles.

The fund is led by Sallie Krawcheck, a former Bank of America and Citigroup executive who is now an entrepreneur. 

sallie krawcheck“Companies with more women in senior management have higher returns on capital, lower volatility, greater client focus, increased innovation and greater long-term orientation…I can think of no better way to invest in women than to invest in those companies around the world that have distinguished themselves by both their business performance and their leadership in advancing women,” said Krawcheck.

Among the companies in the fund, 100% have at least one woman on their board of directors, and 97% have two or more women; also, 31% of board seats and 24% of executive management positions are held by women, compared to an 11% global average for each.

Pax Ellevate graphic


The fund seeks companies who have women as CEOs, CFOs, board members, and executive management, and who are signatories to the Women’s Empowerment Principles (a joint initiative of the UN Global Compact and UN Women).

The Pax Ellevate Fund is tied to the Pax Global Women’s Leadership Index, a customized index of the highest-rated companies in the world in advancing women’s leadership and that meet key environmental, social and governance standards.

Posted by Deborah Akel at 12:19 PM

Saturday August 16, 2014

OWL Quoted in Baltimore Sun Article on Funding Challenges for Women Entrepreneurs

When The Baltimore Sun reporter Danae King set out to write a story on the difficulties faced by women entrepreneurs in funding their businesses, she reached out to OWL.  Danae interviewed OWL’s Communications Director Pat Lewis, who is quoted in the August 16 article responding to the recent Harvard University study that showed “profound and consistent” gender bias among investors, who prefer pitches by male entrepreneurs over identical pitches by female entrepreneurs: 

“It’s the way [entrepreneurs] are portrayed,” said Pat Lewis, a spokeswoman for OWL, a national organization that advocates for women over age 40.

An underlying bias against women as entrepreneurs might exist, as entrepreneurs are often portrayed as white males, she said.

The lack of funding for women also could be related to the lack of female investors as studies show people are “more likely to give money to someone who looks like [them],” Lewis said.

Click here to read the entire article in The Baltimore Sun.

 

Posted by Deborah Akel at 12:18 PM

Friday August 15, 2014

You’re fed up— but will you keep taking it?

A recent NBC News/Wall St. Journal poll clearly shows Americans are fed up:

·  6 in 10 Americans are dissatisfied with the economy, and 71% blame our elected officials in Washington

·  Over 70% think the country is headed in the wrong direction

·  Nearly 80% are dissatisfied with our political system

·  Only 14% approve of the job Congress is doing

These sobering statistics aren’t new.  This is the 7th-straight NBC/WSJ poll (since 2011) in which Congress’s approval rating has been below 15%.

But instead of rallying to the booths on Election Day to express their frustration, an increasing number of Americans are opting out of their hard-earned right to vote.

A Gallup poll reported that 53% of Americans say they are less enthusiastic about voting than they were in previous elections.

Hazen Pingree voter apathy

And their apathy is showing.  According to a half-time midterm report by the Center for the Study of the American Electorate, of the 123 million people eligible to vote in statewide primaries so far, only 18 million have bothered to do so.  That’s only 14.6%, down by nearly a fifth from the last midterm election year (2010). And 15 of the 25 states with primaries have seen record-low turnout.

This month, as we mark the 49th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, we must ask ourselves:  what can we do to bring about the change we want to see?

First, find out if you’re registered to vote, and confirm your voting location. You can register here.

Next, tell your representative to support H.R. 3899, the Voting Rights Amendment Act. This bipartisan legislation promises to restore some of the protections lost when the Supreme Court overturned a key section of the Voting Rights Act last year.

Finally, low turnout means individual votes carry more weight. So it’s even more important to exercise your right to vote.

woman voting

Read more:
America’s Fed Up by Mark Murray, NBC News

Major Spending On Elections Met With Total Apathy By Voters by Philip Elliott, AP 

Almost no one is voting in the 2014 elections. Not even in some of the hottest races. by Philip Bump, Washington Post

2014 Statewide Primaries Half-Time Report: National Turnout Trending Toward Record Low—15 Of 25 States Set New Low Turnout Records. Convenience Voting Has Not Helped.  Center for the Study of the American Electorate

Posted by Deborah Akel at 08:02 PM

Thursday August 14, 2014

Happy 79th Anniversary, Social Security!

When I started with OWL as an intern through the National Academy of Social Insurance, I had my questions about Social Security. I did not believe, like over 80% of my generation, that Social Security wouldn’t be there for me when I retired. Although, the pervasive scare-tactic messaging had skewed my idea of the program enough to make me wonder: When the time comes, will I be able to retire and live comfortably? How exactly will Social Security figure into that? During these turbulent times, these are some of the questions Americans ask each day, leaving many worried about their retirement security.

I learned that, in an era rife with uncertainty, one program has proven, for 79 years, its ability to weather the storms: Social Security. 

Since its passage in 1935, Social Security has provided insurance through the likes of poor housing markets, declining pensions, rising health care costs, and recession after recession.

In fact, Social Security is essential to the economic security of older Americans, particularly women. Two in three seniors get over half of their income from Social Security, and one in three get almost all of their income from Social Security. Social Security benefits keep a significant portion of women out of poverty- 37.5% in 2012. In 2012, 26.5% of women relied on Social Security for 90% or more of their income.

Though they account for a substantial amount of retired Americans’ income, benefits are still modest: the average monthly benefit is $1,230 per month. This number is even less for women. Last year, retired women workers received an average of $1,100 per month while retired male workers received an average of $1,400 per month.

And, in answer to the doubts of over 4 in 5 of my peers, we not only can afford to keep Social Security strong, but we want to. Social Security payments now account for 5% of the economy, and will increase to 6% when the baby boomer generation retires. Additionally, the program is efficient: less than a penny of every dollar is spent on administration. Americans are willing to pay to keep Social Security robust.

Still not sold on why everyone - from millennials to baby boomers and everyone in between - should care about this program? In honor of Social Security’s birthday each year, Social Security Works puts out its series of state reports, which are available online for all 50 states, Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands and the U.S. Virgin Islands. In addition to providing information about Social Security’s history, character and vitality, and compelling, real-life stories, each report includes statistics about the number of people who receive benefits, the types of benefits they receive and the total amount of funds flowing from these programs into every state, its congressional districts and counties. Click here to see how people in your state are benefiting from this crucial social insurance program.

OWL has been working on strengthening and protecting Social Security for over 34 years. As a guardian of this critical component of economic security, we have helped Americans of all ages continue to receive the benefits they have earned over a lifetime of hard work.

Posted by Brittany Reid at 02:20 PM

Tuesday August 05, 2014

OWL Executive Director One of New Founders of WomenAgainstAlzheimer’s (WA2) Network

TheWomenAgainstAlzheimer’s Network (WA2)  “harnesses the power and creative energy of women - the disease’s disproportionate victims, as patients and caregivers – to create a new approach to finding a cure and to build a movement that commits our nation to a bold and aggressive plan for the prevention and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.”

Their goals include:

*Challenging policymakers and the research community to move away from business as usual to collaborate, to innovate, and to forge ahead in new and previously unforeseen ways to reach for a cure.

*Marshalling an army of women advocates in Washington and state capitals, and throughout industry and the research community.

*Educating lawmakers and the general public about the prevalence of the disease, its particularly cruel burden on women, and the resulting costs to our society.

The statistics are sobering:

*3.2 million women have Alzheimer’s; women are diagnosed twice as often as men

*60-70 percent of the 15.5 million primary caregivers for Alzheimer’s patients are women

*Women leaving the workforce to care for a diagnosed family member lose, on average, more than $300,000 in earnings, pensions and Social Security benefits

And despite the enormous cost to the nation –  more than $200 billion is estimated to be spent this year – very little is spent on research. In 2013, the National Institutes for Health spent only $500 million on Alzheimer’s research. (That compares to more than $6 billion on cancer research.)

A recent study also finds that deaths attributed to Alzheimer’s are under-reported; it finds that Alzheimer’s disease may contribute to close to as many deaths in the United States as heart disease or cancer.

Other new founders include Maryann Bersani, Interim CEO and Senior Vice President of Public Policy, Assisted Living Federation of America, Dr. Tonia Vojtofsky, Founder and President, Cognitive Care Solutions and Dr. Kate Zhong, Senior Director of Clinical Research, Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health. WA2’s national summit is scheduled for September 16-17 in Washington, D.C.

Posted by Pat Lewis at 02:48 PM

Monday August 04, 2014

OWL Takes Part in First Roundtable Discussion on 2015 White House Conference on Aging

OWL was pleased to be part of this event, hosted by Cecilia Munoz, Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council. The conference will be a timely one—2015 is the 50th anniversary of Medicare, Medicaid and the Older Americans Act, as well as the 80th anniversary of Social Security.

“The 2015 White House Conference on Aging is an opportunity to look ahead to the issues that will help shape the landscape for older Americans for the next decade,” Ms. Munoz writes. “As we listen to aging leaders and older Americans, some of the common themes we hear include the following:

·      Retirement security is a vitally important issue. Financial security in retirement provides essential peace of mind for older Americans, but requires attention during our working lives to ensure that we are well prepared for retirement.
·      Long-term services and supports remain a priority. Older Americans overwhelmingly prefer to remain independent in the community as they age. They need supports to do so, including a caregiving network and well-supported workforce.
·      Healthy aging will be all the more important as baby boomers age. As medical advances progress, the opportunities for older Americans to maintain their health and vitality should progress as well.
·      Seniors, particularly the oldest older Americans, can be vulnerable to financial exploitation, abuse, and neglect. The Elder Justice Act was enacted as part of the Affordable Care Act, and we need to realize its vision of protecting seniors from scam artists and others seeking to take advantage of them.

We are delighted to announce that Nora Super will be leading this effort as the newly named Executive Director of the 2015 White House Conference on Aging. She brings both substantive expertise on the issues and the experience to help maximize our outreach and engagement with older Americans across the country. We also will launch WhiteHouseConferenceOnAging.gov as the official site for the conference this summer.

Read more from The White House.

Posted by Pat Lewis at 03:22 PM

Tuesday July 29, 2014

Medicare Trustees Report Brings Good News

Americans got good news in the 2014 Medicare Trustees Report released in late July.

Medicare’s financial status improved modestly, and the date the trust fund is projected to become insolvent is 2030, four years later than was projected in 2013.

Among several factors that contributed to the modest improvement: the Affordable Care Act helped to increase revenues as well as efficiency in Medicare, and healthcare costs for Medicare beneficiaries have grown at a slower pace in recent years. The Congressional Budget office estimated that Medicare spending for each beneficiary would be $1,000 lower in 2014 than was estimated in 2010 and $2,400 lower in 2019.  If nothing is done and the Medicare trust funds are exhausted in 2030, incoming payroll taxes and revenues could still pay 85% of benefits decreasing to 75% of benefits starting in 2045.

Currently, there are 52.3 million Medicare beneficiaries, of whom 43.5 million are 65 and older. Medicare is also a critical source of retirement security for 22.4 million women ages 65 and over, who tend to have lower incomes and more chronic conditions than older men.  More than half (56%) of all older Medicare beneficiaries are women; two out of three beneficiaries ages 85 and older are women.

The improvement in Medicare’s finances will provide more time for policy makers to come up with a plan to ensure its long-term solvency and allow for incremental changes rather than emergency measures.

Posted by Amy Shannon at 01:01 PM

Friday July 25, 2014

OWL Talks Business with Shark Tank’s Barbara Corcoran

If you’ve ever seen ABC’s Shark Tank, a reality show where Barbara Corcoran sits on a panel of successful venture capitalists hearing pitches from aspiring entrepreneurs, you’ll know exactly why this feisty businesswoman gives a whole new meaning to the term “loan shark.”

In fact, at this week’s Senate hearing on Women Entrepreneurship, hosted by the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, The Shark wasn’t the only one talking about loans. Everyone involved was emphasizing the challenge women face in accessing finance, from Small Business Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet to media mogul and entrepreneur Nely Galán to leaders from Women Impacting Public Policy (WIPP). When it comes to women reeling in venture capital funding, witness after witness proved that it is “enormously difficult to compete with men”. 

Given the egregious findings of the report Senator Cantwell released yesterday on behalf of the Committee, “enormously” is an understatement. The report stated that women receive only 4.4% of business loans, and that the U.S. government has never met its goal of allocating a mere 5% of federal contracts to women-led businesses.

SBA Administrator Contreras-Sweet outlined the support the SBA provides and spoke more broadly about the importance of uniting the public, private entities, and the government to help women succeed. Claiming that the SBA now stands for “Smart, Bold, and Accessible,” she said, “Many people don’t have a rich uncle to open the door; the SBA is going to be the Uncle Sam to open the door.” Just as venture capital firms don’t understand the economic advantage of funding women, women business owners are often unaware of their options for loan programs.

One thing is certain: this is both a pressing and nonpartisan issue. The hearing was held in the largest meeting room of the United States Senate, yet people were still packed like sardines, because they know just how critical women entrepreneurs are to the success of the U.S. economy. It is high time we break down the barriers inhibiting women-owned businesses.

In the face of complex structural barriers and frustrating gender bias women-owned businesses face, we asked Corcoran, “What do women 40+ most need to succeed in business?” Her answer was simple: “A partner. Everyone needs a partner. I have a partner. Someone to dream with, share your trials with.” When she testified later on, the charismatic Shark joked that she’d “never seen a real senator before.” Asked by Senator Cardin whether capital or technical assistance was more important, the cunning entrepreneur answered, “Capital. Entrepreneurs are just hard-headed enough to figure the rest out on their own.”

Posted by Brittany Reid at 11:47 AM

Thursday July 24, 2014

Know the Facts: Misconceptions About SSDI

There’s been a lot of news lately about the Social Security Disability Insurance Program, including accusations that it’s being abused, that claims are skyrocketing, and that it’s about to go bankrupt.

It’s important to know the facts, and the recent post from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities is an excellent summary of the critical role SSDI plays in millions of people’s lives, and what the real funding issues are.

First, SSDI payments go to people in need. The article points out that the typical beneficiary is in his or her late 50s and suffers from a severe mental, musculoskeletal, or other debilitating impairment.

Many are also poor. CBPP notes that poverty rates for disability insurance recipients are twice as high – even when taking those benefits into account. 

Overall, about one-fifth of all disabled-worker families are poor; without DI, nearly half would be.

And yes, the rolls have been growing – but the reasons are from well-known demographic factors: more people, more older people, more women in the workforce – and ironically enough, the rise in the Social Security full retirement age from 65 to 66. The recession also bumped up applications, since unemployment drives those up. But approval rates actually fall when unemployment is high. 

Finally, CBPP points out that the SSDI and Social Security may have challenges – but they are not about to go bankrupt.  “The DI trust fund is expected to be exhausted in 2016, the much larger Old-Age and Survivors Insurance (OASI) trust fund in 2035, and the combined funds in 2033 (if legislators shifted money from the retirement fund to the DI fund as needed to keep it solvent). Even after those dates, the programs could pay 75 to 80 percent of scheduled benefits; they would not go ‘bankrupt.’ DI’s 2016 depletion date is no surprise — the trustees projected it back in 1995.”

Expect more disinformation about SSDI to be broadcast in coming weeks as opponents of the program gear up to make unnecessary and damaging cuts.

Click here to read the whole piece.

Posted by Pat Lewis at 03:16 PM

Wednesday July 02, 2014

Commemorating the 50th Birthday of the Civil Rights Act

“We all should know that diversity makes for a rich tapestry, and we must understand that all the threads of the tapestry are equal in value no matter what their color.” —Maya Angelou

50 years ago today, Congress passed the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964, and created the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to enforce the Act. Today, the EEOC enforces a number of federal statutes protecting workers from discrimination, including:

•  the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, gender, or national origin;

•  the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 that prohibits employment discrimination against individuals 40 years of age or older;

•  the Equal Pay Act of 1963 that prohibits pay discrimination on the basis of gender;

•  the Civil Rights Act of 1991 that provides for monetary damages in case of intentional discrimination

•  Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 that prohibits gender discrimination in education programs

•  the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 that makes it illegal for employers to exclude pregnancy and childbirth from their sick leave and health benefits plans.

As we recognize the progress we’ve made as a nation in achieving equality for all, we also realize more needs to be done.  Despite federal anti-discrimination laws, age-based discrimination complaints have increased by 50% over the past several years, and women still earn only 77 cents for every dollar men earn.  OWL will continue its work on behalf of women 40+ in the areas of equality, economic security, and quality of life. 

Posted by Deborah Akel at 04:17 PM
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