OWL Executive Director Bobbie Brinegar and Program Manager Brittany Reid attended Vital Voices’ 13th Annual Global Leadership Awards Tuesday night at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. The inspiring evening opened with Vital Voices President and CEO Alyse Nelson remarking on the importance of women in leadership, saying that women are working on issues that “are not just women’s issues, but THE issues impacting our shared futures.”
The honorees were remarkable women from around the world who are taking risks to break down barriers, empower women, and advance equality; their undertakings are nothing short of extraordinary.
The recipient of the Economic Empowerment Award was Dr. Victoria Kisyombe of Tanzania. Following the death of her husband, she had only a single cow. From that, she was able to sustain her family and ultimately founded SELFINA. The micro-finance organization has issued $16 million in credit, provided 25,000 leases to women, created 125,000 jobs, and impacted 200,000 people.
Vital Voices board member and fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg presented Priti Patkar of India with the Human Rights Award for her work with children of prostitutes. Her four 24-hour shelters provide meals, education, healthcare, and the opportunity to break the cycle of exploitation.
Melanne Verveer, director of Georgetown University’s Institute for Women, Peace, and Security, honored Claudia Paz y Paz with the Leadership in Public Life Award for her bravery as Guatemala’s first female attorney general. She has led efforts to curb the extreme violence, particularly against women, in her country.
Suaad Allami earned the Fern Holland Award, presented by co-host of CBS This Morning Norah O’Donnell, for establishing Women for Progress, the first legal clinic for women in Iraq, which counsels women in cases of divorce, custody, and gender-based violence.
Vital Voices founder Hillary Rodham Clinton presented the final award, and stressed the importance of “advancing rights, opportunities, and full participation of women and girls everywhere.” Razan Zaitouneh – who was abducted in December 2013 and whose whereabouts remain unknown – was given the Global Trailblazer Award for her courageous advocacy in Syria. There, she established the country’s first human rights information bank, documenting violations and making information available to the outside world.
OWL was honored to be part of an evening showcasing such courageous and innovative women. Their work is a powerful reminder of the importance, as Paz y Paz said, of “breaking the silence in demand of justice.”
Gracia currently provides management consulting services as President and Principal Consultant of G. M. Hillman & Associates, Inc. (formerly The Hillman Group, Inc.) She also serves as a Senior Fellow at Demos, a public policy organization working for an America where all have an equal say in democracy and an equal chance in economic prosperity. She contributes to Demos’s work to expand the freedom to vote for all of America’s citizens. Her previous writings include “Toward A More Perfect Union: The Congressional Black Caucus & Voting Rights” and “E-Voting and Democracy in America.”
Gracia’s previous work includes the following positions:
Chair, Vice Chair and Commissioner, U.S. Election Assistance Commission
Senior Coordinator for International Women’s Issues, U.S. Department of State
Nonprofit Executive Management:
President and CEO, WorldSpace Foundation
Executive Director, League of Women Voters of the U.S.
Interim Executive Director, Congressional Black Caucus Foundation
Executive Director, National Coalition on Black Voter Participation
Executive Advisor, Council on Foundations
Throughout her career, Gracia has worked with numerous federal, state and local public officials, and national and local nonprofit and business leaders. She has a vast working knowledge of and appreciation for the nuances of America’s diverse communities and the importance of inclusive partnerships and collaborations to solve problems and advance critical issues. Her global experience includes travel to several countries in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and Europe working with government officials and local NGOs. She served as an official representative of the U.S. government at conferences and meetings convened by the United Nations, Organization of American States, and Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, and negotiated program partnerships with UN agencies and indigenous groups. Gracia also served as co-chair of the 2005 World Conference on Cape Verde.
Gracia believes in engaged communities, is committed to voluntary service and has served in leadership positions as an officer and member of numerous nonprofit boards of directors and commissions. Her professional memberships include the National Association of Parliamentarians.
On Tuesday, June 10, Small Business Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet spoke at an event hosted by the Center for American Progress and attended by OWL Executive Director Bobbie Brinegar. Mrs. Contreras-Sweet outlined her top priorities, which were to make the SBA more modern, more inclusive, and more market-savvy. On the subject of inclusion, she noted that the face of entrepreneurship in America is changing: more small businesses today belong to women, seniors, and other non-traditional groups, who often have more difficulty gaining access to expansion capital.
According to Mrs. Contreras-Sweet, more than a quarter of small businesses are now owned or led by women. She called the 20% growth in women-owned businesses over the past five years “remarkable.” She also noted that women entrepreneurs are considered underrepresented in only 83 out of 260 industry-sector categories.
OWL’s upcoming initiative will focus on this topic, since encore entrepreneurship is becoming an increasingly necessary means of economic sustainability for women over 40. As always, we will work with an extensive network of private and public resources to explore the existing challenges and resources unique to women tackling new careers. The topic will also be the subject of our 2015 Mother’s Day Report.
Statement on RAISE Act of 2014 by Bobbie Brinegar, OWL Executive Director
OWL applauds Senators Mark Begich and Patty Murray for taking the lead on this important and timely legislation. Working to ensure the economic security of the more than 70 million women over 40 is one of OWL’s core missions, and the RAISE Act is a positive step toward that goal.
The changes expand Social Security to more accurately reflect the realities of today’s workforce, one dominated by stagnating wages, the erosion of pensions and other economic factors.
An enhanced and strengthened Social Security program is of particular concern to women. Women tend to earn less than men and are less likely to receive pensions from employers. They are more likely to take time out of the workforce to care for family, including those with disabilities, which is another group that will receive enhanced benefits under the ACT. Surviving spouses – a sector where women are disproportionately represented – also will see improved benefits.
It is encouraging, after years of fighting just to maintain existing benefits, to see a measured approach to improving the nation’s most successful and popular insurance program. OWL looks forward to working with the Social Security community to seek passage of the RAISE Act.
In a story titled, “How the Underdog Won,” Fox Business profiles how OWL board member Carol Gardner built a $50 million business after the age of 50:
“At 52 years old, I was getting a divorce and I was in serious debt,” explains the former ad executive. “My divorce attorney said at the time, ‘Either get a therapist or get a dog,’ and I had always wanted an English bulldog, so I went looking and found Zelda. She was four months old and was the mirror image of me: she looked sad and wanted to be loved, and I needed the same.”
To read more about how Carol and Zelda built a greeting card empire, click here.
To mark the release of OWL’s 2014 Mother’s Day Report on long-term care, Keep Calm and Manage Your Future, a panel of six experts presented perspectives on the challenges of providing long-term supports and services (LTSS) at a briefing on Capitol Hill on May 8.
The briefing was moderated by Robin Strongin, President of Amplify Public Affairs and OWL board member. The group was welcomed by Kim Lipsky, Staff Director of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, who announced that Chairman Bill Nelson had entered the OWL Report into the Congressional Record.
Professor Donna Wagner, Ph.D., of New Mexico State University and President of the Association for Gerontology in Higher Education, was the primary author of the report. She highlighted the challenges faced by unpaid family caregivers, particularly the burdens on those in the lowest income group. The average unpaid caregivers spent 40% of their income on expenses related to care, and an average of 40 hours per week providing care. She emphasized the need for a social insurance program that would include LTSS. While Medicaid’s traditional bias toward funding nursing-home care over home- and community-based care has been somewhat balanced, it depends almost entirely upon each state to determine what the balance will be.
Dr. Diane Rowland of the Kaiser Family Foundation suggested that the emphasis should shift away from Medicaid – currently the only public insurance for long-term care – toward reforming Medicare. Medicare is already a publicly financed health insurance program, and more can be done to expand coverage of the services and supports needed to provide the necessary continuum of care. She argued that one should not have to become impoverished before receiving help with LTSS. In addition, she argued for mandating Medicaid to support home- and community-based services, and raising the minimum wage as a strategy for providing more and better qualified paid long-term care workers.
Richard Gelula of The National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care focused on the needs of persons with disabilities. Drawing on his long experience in the field (and the recent experiences of his 95-year-old mother), he emphasized the need to focus on quality of care, even more than the mere quantity of care available. He warned that the current move to put long-term care into managed care programs, where the focus is on a business model, is not likely to put consumer needs ahead of profit. (During the discussion period, Rep. Jan Schakowsky’s aide asked the audience to share experiences with managed care for Medicare programs, an issue currently facing Illinois, among other states.)
As Jessica Brill Ortiz of the Direct Care Alliance noted, “Direct care work is expected but not respected.” Her organization advocates on behalf of paid direct care workers, who are usually underpaid, with few or no benefits. They are likely to report for work even when ill or injured, and often have inadequate training for the complex work they perform. A common result is high turnover, which typically translates into poor quality care because of the lack of continuity. She recommended investing in this non-portable workforce by increasing the minimum wage, providing benefits, reforming immigration policies, expanding Medicaid, and improve training and supervision requirements. All these steps could help grow the middle class and enhance quality care.
Julie Maggioncalda of the Capitol Hill Village represented the Village Movement as one of the desirable pieces of a long-term care puzzle. Villages are membership organizations designed to help seniors remain in their communities by providing neighbor-to-neighbor assistance, along with referrals to professional services. There are currently 144 Villages in operation, with another 100 or so in formation. She provided examples of the ways in which her Village supports members, many of whom need few professional services, but some of whom develop substantial needs overnight. Julie trains volunteers to act as care navigators for very frail older adults who are at high risk of institutionalization.
Chris Dawe is the former Health Care Policy Advisor for the National Economic Council at the White House, where he coordinated the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). He pointed out the importance of the innovations included in ACA to improve the coordination between hospital care and home- and community-based care. He noted that the growing crisis in long-term care is a middle-class issue, with major economic impacts for all those involved. He suggested involving larger employers who are affected (economically) by employees who have heavy caregiving responsibilities. While he understands the need to work in coalitions, blending public and private solutions, he is not very optimistic. As he said, “There is no robust political imperative” for any real action yet.
To view a video of the briefing, please click here.
America stands at a critical juncture. As our population ages and lives longer, we are experiencing a fast-growing need for long-term care, services, and supports. With this increased need has come a growing recognition of what has been too long denied: America’s system of long-term care, services and supports is broken. What happens at the intersection of demographics and policy over the next decade will affect countless American families and help shape the national economy.
In our 2014 Mother’s Day Report, Long-Term Care, Managing Our Future, OWL takes an in-depth look at the issue of long-term care. The report highlights the urgent need to ensure quality care and protect consumers from the catastrophic long-term care costs that can devastate individuals and families. More than an overview, the report is a call to action, with important policy recommendations for lawmakers.
Mark your calendar for 11:00 a.m., Thursday, May 8, when OWL will release its annual Mother’s Day Report at a briefing on Capitol Hill in Room 188 of the Senate Russell Building.
This year’s topic is Long-Term Care: Managing Our Future - a critical issue. We’re observing the report’s release with a briefing on the Hill, lending OWL’s voice to the recent outcry for a long-term care system that works.
*Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL), Chair, Senate Special Committee on Aging (schedule allowing)
*Senator Tim Scott (R-SC), Member, Senate Special Committee on Aging
*Chris Dawe, former Health Care Policy Advisor, National Economic Council, the White House
*Donna Wagner, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, College of Health and Social Services, New Mexico State; President of the Association for Gerontology in Higher Education
*Diane Rowland, Executive Vice President, Kaiser Family Foundation
*Jessica E. Brill Ortiz, National Advocacy Director, Direct Care Alliance
*Julie Maggioncalda, Director of Volunteer and Social Services, Capitol Hill Village
Our facilitator will be Robin Strongin, President of Amplify Public Affairs and Founder of the award-winning Disruptive Women in Health Care blog.
We look forward to seeing you on the Hill on May 8!
OWL National’s Board President Margaret Hellie Huyck celebrates her 75th birthday this month. Below, she shares her reflections on the occasion.
“April is my birthday month, and this month I turn 75. I am not “75 years young”, even though some misguided folks will thus greet me. I was young, and then I became maturely middle-aged, and now I am definitely older. I have identified professionally as a gerontologist for over 50 years, and I am (finally) growing into my profession. I certainly understand many of the issues of growing older more complexly than I did when I wrote about them in my first book when I was 36; my wisdom then came more from listening and reading than from personal experience.
Growing older in a society that seems obsessed with youthfulness is challenging. Every day we must decide just what strategies we are willing (and able) to employ to appear or feel younger than our chronological age might suggest, or younger than we felt yesterday, or younger than someone we want to impress thinks we are. We have shared information on this site about tips for job seekers who need to present themselves as mature and capable, as well as current and open to learning. Virtually every magazine includes tips on remaining “youthful.” I read them, and respond selectively. I color my hair, to retain the continuity of my self-image with the first decades of my life. I swim and try to keep walking evenly, and take special classes on balance. I try to read and listen to those whose opinions differ from mine, in case I might modify my own beliefs.
Much of the advice I ignore. I know the research literature: older women like me are often more content, and happier than we were as young adults. We have learned from our ambitions, our anguish, our ecstasy, our rage, our boredom and our accomplishments how to be more strategic in deploying our energies. I dress for comfort and stability. I love with fewer expectations.
I also know, even better than when I was younger, how much good fortune in later life is grounded in earlier experiences. I work with OWL because we try to affect the social structure that has such long term impact: economic security achieved through equal pay, strengthening Social Security and pension schemes; and excellent, affordable health care for all.
April 8 is Equal Pay Day. OWL Executive Director Bobbie Brinegar was honored to be among those in attendance at the White House today when President Obama undertook two executive actions to help combat pay discrimination and strengthen enforcement of equal pay laws.
The press release from the White House follows:
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 8, 2014
FACT SHEET: Expanding Opportunity for All: Ensuring Equal Pay for Women and Promoting the Women’s Economic Agenda
When women succeed, our families succeed and America succeeds. President Obama believes that ensuring that women earn equal pay for equal work is essential to improving the economic security of our families and the growth of our middle class and our economy. Women compose nearly half of the American workforce – yet, according to the latest U.S. Census statistics, on average, full-time working women still earn 77 cents to every dollar earned by men.
The first piece of legislation that the President signed into law after taking office was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which empowers women to recover wages lost to discrimination by extending the time period in which an employee can file a claim. Yet a central challenge that remains to enforcing equal pay laws is that many women do not even know that they are underpaid, and therefore cannot take steps to ensure equal pay for equal work.
That’s why the President is taking two new executive actions to help combat pay discrimination and strengthen enforcement of equal pay laws:
· The President is signing an Executive Order prohibiting federal contractors from retaliating against employees who choose to discuss their compensation. The Executive Order does not compel workers to discuss pay, nor does it require employers to publish or otherwise disseminate pay data – but it does provide a critical tool to encourage pay transparency, so workers have a potential way of discovering violations of equal pay laws and are able to seek appropriate remedies.
· In addition, the President is signing a Presidential Memorandum instructing the Secretary of Labor to establish new regulations requiring federal contractors to submit to the Department of Labor summary data on compensation paid to their employees, including data by sex and race. The Department of Labor will use the data to encourage compliance with equal pay laws and to target enforcement more effectively by focusing efforts where there are discrepancies and reducing burdens on other employers.
This week, the Senate is considering the Paycheck Fairness Act, which the President believes Congress must pass to ensure the standards put forward by the executive order he will sign are applied to all employers covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act. The President is using the power of his pen to act where he can on this issue, and will continue to urge Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act to ensure all employers are held to the same high standard working women deserve.
Building on Progress
Since day one, President Obama has been laser-focused on ensuring women have the fundamental rights they deserve when it comes to earning a fair and equal wage.
For example, President Obama has fought for an increase in the national minimum wage, including signing an executive order that will raise the minimum wage to $10.10 for federal contract workers. Raising the national minimum wage would give millions of hard working Americans a raise and would especially benefit women:
· While women account for about half of the workforce, 55 percent of non-tipped workers benefiting from increasing the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour are women – and women are even more disproportionately represented in predominantly tipped occupations.
· Women account for a higher concentration of workers in low-wage sectors of the labor force such as food preparation, sales and personal care workers.
· Raising the minimum wage would increase the average wage among the bottom quartile of female workers by 93 cents (from $8.78), compared to 60 cents (from $9.65) for the bottom quartile of male workers.
Women are the primary breadwinners in 40 percent of U.S. households but are bringing home 23 percent less than their male counterparts – which means less for families’ everyday needs, less for investments in our children’s futures, and, when added over a lifetime of work, substantially less for retirement. And the pay gap is significantly greater for women of color, with African-American women earning 64 cents and Latinas earning 56 cents for every dollar earned by a Caucasian man. That is why the Obama Administration is:
· Combating pay discrimination. The President made the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act the first bill he signed into law, which extended the time period in which claimants can bring pay discrimination claims and enabled countless victims of pay discrimination to seek redress where they otherwise could not.
· Created a National Equal Pay Task Force. In 2010, the President created the National Equal Pay Task Force to crack down on violations of equal pay laws. Under this Administration, the government has strengthened enforcement, recovered substantial monetary recoveries, and made critical investments in education and outreach for both employers and employees.
· Promoting the Paycheck Fairness Act. The President continues to call on Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, commonsense legislation that would give women additional tools to fight pay discrimination.
· Encouraging State Paid Leave Initiatives. In addition, the President’s Budget provides support for States that are considering establishing paid leave programs, as California, New Jersey and Rhode Island have done.
· Leveraging Technology to Close the Pay Gap. DOL, in conjunction with the Equal Pay Task Force, launched the “Equal Pay App Challenge” and invited software developers to create applications that provide greater access to pay data, deploy interactive tools for early career coaching or online mentoring, or disseminate data to help inform pay negotiations. The winning teams created tools that (1) provide easy access to U.S. wage estimates by city, state and job title, empowering employees or applicants for employment with reliable and specific compensation information to support informed salary negotiations; and (2) supply users with current wage data and interview, resume and negotiation tools, as well as connect users to relevant social networks.
· Expanding the EITC for Childless Workers. The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is a proven tool to increase and reward work among low-income families with children. However, childless workers – including noncustodial parents – can receive only up to $500 and must be at least 25 years old, so the credit does little to encourage work, particularly during the crucial years at the beginning of a young person’s career. The President has proposed doubling the maximum credit to $1,000, raising the income eligibility standard so the credit is available to a full-time minimum wage worker, and lowering the age limit from 25 to 21. The proposed expansion would be fully paid for within his budget and would benefit 13.5 million workers, including 6.1 million women.
Bobbie Brinegar was among the guests at a reception hosted by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi in honor Janet Yellen, the Fed’s first female chair, on March 25th. “It was a privilege for OWL to be represented at the event,” said Brinegar, OWL’s executive director.
OWL National has announced the appointment of Peggy Wrightsman Parolin to its board of directors.
Wrightsman Parolin is the director of licensing acquisitions-editorial for Hallmark Cards. In her work, she has partnered with Disney, Warner Bros., Peanuts, Marvel, DreamWorks, Lucasfilms, The Simpsons, Garfield, and other clients to bring relevant, meaningful content to social expression products that evoke laughter, tears and memories, reminding millions what it means to be human.
But it wasn’t working with characters that first attracted Wrightsman Parolin to Hallmark; it was a question in an advertisement she encountered while teaching high school in St. Louis, Missouri.
“So you think you’re funny? Can you write like this…?” The answer turned out to be a resounding “yes”.
Wrightsman Parolin left her teaching career and accepted a position as a writer and editor at Hallmark where she became one of the original writers for Shoebox humor, one of the nation’s most recognized humor brands. Throughout her career at Hallmark, Parolin enjoyed titles such as director of humor, where she was responsible for strategic funniness; idea exchange leader, where she was challenged with maintaining a non-corporate environment for the criminally creative, and creative product director for both season and everyday greetings. Parolin found success by sharing what came naturally: her wit, wisdom, way with words, and quirky sense of humor.
“My sense of humor has helped me survive, has enabled me to see obstacles as building blocks as opposed to stumbling blocks. I grew up with an invisible ‘white picket fence’. Were we poor? I’m not sure. But it wasn’t until I was six that I discovered mildew was not a cologne and begging for groceries in small ‘mom and pop’ stores was not a commonplace childhood game.”
Humor, education and a desire to make a difference set a strong foundation for Wrightsman Parolin’s success.
During the few years she taught, Wrightsman Parolin initiated sports equality initiatives, assisted students in creating their first student-led publications, and earned recognition as “outstanding educator” in the St. Louis public schools.
An ardent supporter of education, Wrightsman Parolin holds advanced degrees in Marketing and Communication Studies, with undergraduate degrees in Spanish, Secondary Education, Social Psychology, English and Journalism-News Ed.
She remains active in her community, serving as the president of the Shade Tree Fund of Greater Kansas City, and is a past board member of the Kansas City Friends of Jung. She is a trained court-appointed special advocate for abused and neglected children and has volunteered for numerous organizations for the schools of her four children. She is a member of the Kansas City United Way Women’s Leadership Conference and the recipient of a lifetime achievement award by her high school alma mater.
The hardest thing to see is usually what’s missing.
With that in mind, take a moment to stop and consider what you probably didn’t see on the Sunday morning political talk shows yesterday.
The answer is women.
In fact, analysis by Media Matters shows that women represent a mere 25% of all guests on Sunday morning television news shows. When it comes to solo interview guests, women comprise only 15% of the total.
If the guest lists for these programs are an indication of whom ABC, CBS, CNN, FOX, and NBC recognize as power players, women aren’t faring too well. And, we certainly don’t seem to be rising in their esteem - women’s representation has increased a less-than-significant percentage point since 2008.
That’s why OWL was proud to join 23 other women’s organizations in asking the presidents or CEOs of the major networks to immediately address the disparity in representation on political talk shows.
The letter noted:
There are qualified women to speak on issues affecting all Americans, including national security, economic growth, climate change, education and many others. But when it comes to reproductive health, equal pay, and other subjects disproportionately affecting women, it becomes increasingly imperative that Sunday political talk shows reflect our democracy. This is particularly important since these shows frequently set the tone for how these topics are covered later in the week.
Starting next Sunday, start keeping score. And don’t be afraid to let the networks know you’re watching.
To read the letter in its entirety, please click here
To learn more about the underrepresentation of women on television news interview programs, please click here.
Carol Gardner, the creator of Zelda Wisdom, was elected to the OWL Board of Directors at its January 27 meeting.
The author of 13 books, Gardner has a life story that exemplifies both the OWL spirit and the resilience of women over 40. Gardner was 52, recently divorced, depressed, and in debt when the then-four-month-old Zelda, an English bulldog, came into her life. As Gardner tells it, her divorce attorney advised her to either get a therapist or get a dog. Choosing the latter made a world of difference in her life. It wasn’t long before Gardner leveraged her background in advertising and Zelda’s good looks to build a hugely successful greeting card business.
Gardner, who is adamant about “giving back,” currently serves on the boards of several other organizations, including the World Affairs Council, the Portland Symphony, the Portland Art Museum, Emanuel Hospital, and the Harold Schnitzer Diabetes Health Center.
OWL Board President Margaret Huyck welcomed Gardner to the board, saying: “Carol joins us at an exciting point in OWL’s history. We’re delighted to have her on our team.”
Washington, DC is not characterized by bipartisanship these days, but there’s been someone in town who has everyone united in their enthusiasm—and she has a special significance for those of us at OWL’s national headquarters.
The snowy owl was first spotted in DC on Wednesday night, just a few blocks from OWL’s office on K Street. Her unexpected appearance set Twitter abuzz and had people from both sides of the political aisle, er, flocking to have a look.
When the owl reappeared outside the offices of the Washington Post yesterday, OWL’s Executive Director Bobbie Brinegar was on the scene with camera in hand almost immediately. As Brinegar noted in an interview with the Washington City Paper, OWL has been considering a new mascot, and this head turner, whom she has named “Shulie”, seems just about perfect for the role.
Click here to read the Washington City Paper article.