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.
OWL’s executive director, Bobbie Brinegar, was among the guests at a reception hosted by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi in honor of first female Fed Chair, Janet Yellen on March 25th. “It was a privilege for OWL to be represented at the event,” said Brinegar.
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, MO.
“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 and way with words. And her humor. Her 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 strong 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, MO 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 (CASA) for abused and neglected children and has volunteered countless hours across 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 list for these programs is understood as 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 CEO’s 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 had 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 own 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 World Affairs Council, the Portland Symphony, Portland Art Museum, Emanuel Hospital, and the Harold Schnitzer Diabetes Health Center (OHSU).
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 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.
We at OWL have been especially excited about the attention which Maria Shriver and the Shriver Report have focused upon the status of American women with this week’s release of A Woman’s Nation Pushes Back From the Brink.
The discussion which Ms. Shriver has initiated continued today with a daylong conference at the Newseum, in Washington, DC.
Sponsored by The Atlantic, the event gathered key leaders together to ask, “Why are millions of working women, who are now the core of the American economy and the core of the American family, more economically vulnerable than ever before, and what can we as a nation do about it?”
OWL’s executive director, Bobbie Brinegar was among the attendees and thanked Ms. Shriver for her remarkable efforts.
OWL Executive Director Bobbie Brinegar with Maria Shriver
Bobbie Brinegar with Riverdale, Georgia mayor, Evelyn Wynn-Dixon
One in three American women live in, or on the brink of, poverty.
The average American woman earns 77 cents for each dollar the average American man makes.
Millions of American women are “one missed paycheck, one sick child, one broken down car away from losing it all.”
These are just some of the disturbing and disturbingly persistent facts about the status of American women shared in Maria Shriver’s The Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Pushes Back from the Brink, released this week in partnership with the Center for American Progress. The 400-page, comprehensive report also includes essays from Hillary Rodham Clinton, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Beyoncé, Eva Longoria, LeBron James, Jada Pinkett Smith, Anne-Marie Slaughter and Sheryl Sandberg.
It’s been 50 years since Shriver’s father, the late Sargent Shriver, led President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty. Speaking with David Gregory this Sunday on NBC’s Meet the Press, Maria Shriver lauded the successes of many of the programs her father helped to establish, including Head Start, Vista, Job Corps, and legal services for the poor. She also provided a frank look at the new face of poverty in America, noting that “Two thirds of all minimum wage workers are women and that 70% of those women don’t have one sick day.”
According to Shriver, addressing the issue of women in poverty isn’t just about women; it’s about a shift in thinking that ultimately elevates our nation as a whole. “What’s good for women, at the center of the economy, is also good for men. Men need flexible hours, men need sick days because they are going to be caring for parents as well. Men need all of these things that women need. These are smart family policies that we are talking about…What we’re saying is that government and businesses have not kept up; we need to modernize our relationships to women,” Shriver stated.
One thing that we at OWL particularly appreciate about Shriver’s message is its recognition that solving the critical issue of women in poverty will require a multi-dimensional, bipartisan approach. Shriver referenced the efforts of non-profits and programs at the state level. Stating that she had given a copy of the report to House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin), Shriver said, “I think it’s great that Marco Rubio and Paul Ryan and others are engaged in this debate right now. That’s what we want to do with this report …to ignite a conversation about low income people.”
As Shriver observed, addressing poverty is “not the purview of just Democrats. It’s not the purview of just female politicians and elected leaders; men have a lot to say about this as well… Women are at the center of our country. When women do well, men do well and the nation does well.”
Learn more about the Shriver Report and how to download your copy of A Woman’s Nation Pushes Back from the Brink by clicking here.
Watch Maria Shriver’s conversation with David Gregory on Meet the Press by clicking here.
Be inspired to join the conversation by clicking here to watch the Shriver Report’s promotional YouTube video.
By Janna Starr
Secretary, OWL National, and President, The Arc Oregon
The great Dr. Gunnar Dybwad, came to the United States in the 1930’s as a refugee from the Hitler regime in Germany. He went on to become a professor at Brandeis University and a leader in the U.S. disability rights movement. Dybwad spent more than half a century working to improve life for people with disabilities and traced the history of the disability rights movement in his 1999 book, Responding to the Challenge. In his later years, he traveled extensively, extolling the movement’s magnificent accomplishments. Dybwad systematically and scientifically observed that history shows a steady upward curve in the quality of life for people who experience disability. He had the charts and graphs to prove it, and he challenged all of us to accept and celebrate our successes. That positive attitude, the notion of taking the good with the good, somehow made the overall battle easier.
So, as we end 2013 and move into 2014 let’s take a lesson from the life of this great scholar and look at the successes – and the potential—of our voice, the voice of midlife and older women, as we work for equity and quality of life for midlife and older women everywhere.
First, let’s just get it out of the way and stipulate right up front that things could be a lot better. Nearly eight in ten seniors are currently living with at least one chronic health condition. About 20 percent have diabetes, and more than 70 percent have heart disease. No one wants to live alone in an inferior long-term care facility. The intricacies of insurance and Medicare remain a mystery for too many. The implementation of the Affordable Care Act has seen technological and policy challenges. Unemployment in our demographic remains high; and every government program we have is always at political risk.
But as much as we might like to dwell on the bad, if we look a little closer, we cannot deny that the history of the world proves, unequivocally, the value and significance of older citizens. There is archeological evidence, for example, of prehistoric senior care, when Egyptian Pharaohs were buried with walking sticks (canes), and Ancient Etruscans created dentures out of human and animal teeth. Arabic texts written in 1025 AD spoke of the importance of elders, and seniors were legally exempt from economic hardships in Iceland in the 13th Century. In the 1700’s, France held festivals to honor elders; and even the seeds of the modern U.S. long-term care system were planted back in the mid-1800′s, when fraternal, trade and religious groups in Europe and the U.S. began to open non-profit homes for seniors as alternatives to state-run institutions. In 1909, the term “geriatrics” was coined in Austria, and in 1933, the first lightweight, collapsible wheelchair was invented in the U.S. The U.S. Congress passed Social Security 1935 and Medicare and Medicaid in 1965. The first hospice opened in 1974; and today, we have the Administration on Aging, multiple local, state, and national services and powerful and vital voices both inside and outside of government.
Now we are faced with 2014, and we can be glad about many things. Congress has come together to pass a budget; the stock market is up; and maybe it’s just the season, but it seems there is just a bit more talk, everywhere we turn, about reconciliation and, “getting together.” We know we will be challenged in the New Year, and after, by what is still missing; but we can take a page from history and know that if we all work together, we will make sure midlife and older women are safe and secure as we age. So let’s face the New Year with the courage to accept our successes – to celebrate the reality beyond the headlines. Let’s just take the good with the good and move on together to make it all work.
OWL’s Hyde Park Illinois Chapter will start off the New Year with a program that examines a resolution that many of us have been putting off: to have “the conversation”—about our wishes for end of life—with family and friends, as well as our primary care physician.
It’s a subject that has been getting a great deal of attention lately. In a recent Chicago Tribune column, journalist Barbara Brotman wrote about how she was planning to have “the conversation” with her spouse and young adult children over the holidays. An AARP Bulletin included a blurb on “death and dining,” that provided a link to The Conversation Project’s Death Over Dinner website (Death over Dinner.org).
The Conversation Project was founded by Pulitzer Prize winning columnist Ellen Goodman. Describing the program in a recent interview on NPR’s Morning Edition, Ms. Goodman explained that the project stemmed from her own experience providing end of life care for her mother. She realized that there were critical issues and decisions that she and her mother had never addressed in conversation. She started The Conversation Project to encourage other families to discuss these issues before it is too late. In the NPR interview, Goodman stated, “we’ve learned that when people do have these conversations with the people they love, they experience less depression, less sorrow, less guilt afterwards. So, The Conversation Project is not only for people to express their wishes, but it’s for their survivors. It’s for their families.”
Talking is key and the Conversation Project’s website (www.theconversationproject.org) offers suggestions for planning a dinner at which to begin this important discussion. It also provides links to relevant articles and videos.
For a link to The Conversation Project’s Starter Kit, please click here.
To listen to the NPR interview with Ellen Goodman, please click here.
In a recent blog post for The Bipartisan Policy Center, BPC’s Matthew Weil noted that illness and disability may be keeping a disproportionate number of America’s seniors from the polls. According to Weil, 14% of non-voters recently surveyed cited illness and disability as preventing their participation in the 2012 presidential election. This percentage rose to 42% among non-voting respondents over the age of 65.
Weil goes on to observe that, “we also learn from the data that simply having any disability makes it less likely an American will be registered to vote in the first place compared to those not having a disability (69.2% to 71.5%) and less likely that they will participate (56.8% to 62.5%). ...States and local jurisdictions have many ways to assist voters with disabilities, from accessible voting machines and polling places, curbside voting options, web-interfaces for completing absentee ballots, among others. Now that policymakers know who isn’t voting but can be assisted, they must incorporate available, workable solutions into the process to reduce the number of Americans who report that disability and illness keeps them away from the polls in 2014.”
OWL-National Executive Director Bobbie Brinegar was one of a select group of leaders in aging advocacy invited to meet with Democratic Senators on Capitol Hill this week. At a meeting convened by the Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee on Wednesday, November 6, Brinegar continued to advocate for a bipartisan approach to addressing the concerns of mid-life and older women.
Senator Mark Begich (D-AK), Committee Chairman, stated that their “discussion showcased the critical importance of the work we do to provide services for our nation’s seniors,” and expressed confidence that, “there are responsible ways to cut the budget without hurting our seniors.”
In written remarks submitted to the committee, Brinegar, commented upon the results of a recent NBC News/Esquire Magazine poll that found the majority of the electorate occupy what was characterized as “a new American center…. bound by a surprising set of shared ideas.”
Brinegar remarked that she believed that the poll pointed to a critical juncture in American politics. She observed that, “we are increasingly a nation of shared purpose. In fact, it is apparent that the most destructive division is not within the American people: it is between the people and those whom they entrusted with the responsibilities of public office.”
Brinegar expressed optimism that members of Congress could come together to protect Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the OAA and other programs that are vital to the health and economic security of millions of midlife and older women. She observed that “Rep. Ribble, (R -Wisc.) and Rep. Mulvaney, (R-S.C. ) (had) earlier in the week expressed a willingness to consider a higher income cap as a means of addressing Social Security’s long-term viability—an option once considered anathema to conservatives. Perhaps this marks the beginning of a new era in which partisan hyperbole gives way to elevated discourse and a focus on coming up with reasonable solutions to people’s very real problems.”