Tim Lehnert is a writer and editor who lives in Cranston, Rhode Island. His articles and essays have appeared in the Boston Globe, the Providence Journal, Rhode Island Monthly, the Boston Herald, the Christian Science Monitor, and elsewhere. He is the author of the book Rhode Island 101, and has published short fiction for kids and adults in a number of literary journals and magazines. He received an M.A. in Political Science from McGill University, and an M.A. in English from California State University, Northridge.
The 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup (WWC) will be held in France starting June 8. The month-long tournament is held every four years, and is the global marquee event for women’s soccer.
The U.S. team is favored to win the WWC, but the French, German, and English squads are also considered serious contenders. All 24 participating teams had to earn their spot in the WWC by playing in preliminary regional tournaments.
Visa has recently announced that it is making a “substantial investment” in the U.S. Women’s National Team. While the company is sponsoring both the U.S. women’s and men’s squads, it has pledged that at least half of the funds will be earmarked for the women’s side. This is significant, as typically the support from corporate and other sponsors for female athletics is dwarfed by the sponsorship dollars accorded male athletes. Visa is making a powerful statement in its commitment to equality in this area.
The 23-person field vying for the Democratic nomination for president includes six women: Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Kirsten Gillibrand, Tulsi Gabbard and Marianne Williamson. Two of them (Harris and Warren) are seen as having decent odds of taking the nomination, while Klobuchar is a potential dark horse.
But will these women be torpedoed by press coverage that holds them to a different standard than their male counterparts? The women’s advocacy organization UltraViolet Action says that is a very real danger, and decries the sexist coverage so far exhibited by the mainstream media.
Patrick Moynihan, President of The Haitian Project, a Rhode Island-based Catholic non-profit which educates poor Haitians, has publicly rejected a $100,000 donation offered by a representative of Robert Kraft, the billionaire owner of the New England Patriots.
In a May 8, 2019 Skype interview given to the GoLocalProv website, and reiterated in a Providence Journal opinion piece published several days later, Moynihan stated that because Kraft has refused to denounce the sex trade and apologize for his participation in it, it was improper for The Haitian Project to accept funds from the Patriots owner.
The Foundation for Gender Equality aims to foster opportunities and remove obstacles for women and girls facing inequity, and its latest initiative targets female survivors of violence and sexual abuse with a program that teaches them tech skills. The goal is to enable victims to go beyond simple survival to earning a living wage. The Westport, Connecticut-based non-profit, which was founded in 2016 by Richard and Jill Fitzburgh and Theresa Boylan, has partnered with Tech Up for Women to develop the “Give Back” program to achieve this goal.
The Social Science Research Council (SSRC) has awarded its first round of “Social Media and Democracy Research Grants.” The 12 projects provide “systematic scholarly access to privacy-protected Facebook data to study the platform’s impact on democracy worldwide.” The SSRC is an independent, international nonprofit led by Alondra Nelson, a Columbia University Professor of Sociology and inaugural Dean of Social Science for the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
Facebook data will be used by researchers to better understand the role of social media on politics and society, notably the spread of disinformation and fake news, and how social media users attach themselves to particular online narratives. Several of the projects analyze how social media has affected particular political events, including recent elections in Italy, Chile, and Germany, as well as public opinion in Taiwan. The projects also examine the relationship between Facebook and traditional news media, and delve into the complex question of what constitutes “fake news,” and how it can be distinguished from more fact-based reporting.
As medicine becomes more aware of the need to pay attention to gender as a critical variable in health care, more initiatives are launching to provide this gender-based attention. We wrote recently about the American Cancer Society establishing ResearcHERS to bring more women into the fundraising and research on cancer, and do more to address gender issues in treatment.
Now, as another example of medicine become more gender-aware, the Parkinson’s Foundation has created the Women and Parkinson’s Initiative to address long-standing gender disparities in Parkinson’s research and care. The initiative represents the first patient-centered action agenda to maximize quality of life for women with Parkinson’s disease (PD).
“The #MeToo movement has brought significant attention to the widespread nature of sexual misconduct, harassment and abuse,” says Karen Baker, Raliance managing partner and CEO of partner organization the NSVRC. “Now the conversation is shifting to prevention. We’re proud to support these ten innovative projects with concrete strategies that support survivors and make communities healthier and safer.”
Raliance, a Washington D.C.-based national partnership dedicated to “ending sexual violence in one generation,” recently awarded ten grants worth a total of $470,000 to organizations working to prevent sexual harassment, misconduct and abuse.
Increasing women’s participation in portfolio management and executive leadership is key not just to the financial world, but society as a whole. Investment professionals are charged with making major decisions on behalf of venture capital and private equity firms, as well as managing funds invested in by corporations, governments, pension funds, endowments, foundations and non-profits.
One organization heavily involved in correcting this problem is Girls Who Invest (GWI). GWI aims to increase the number of women in asset management and finance, fields where females are highly underrepresented. To help in its efforts to recruit more young women into the fund-management pipeline, GWI recently received $1.5 million in funding from the venture capital and private-equity firm Vista Equity Partners.
Micro-loans, in which poor people are provided small loans so that they can jump-start or grow an enterprise, are often associated with least developed countries, but, according to a new study, this model has proved highly effective when applied to poor American women over the last decade.
The Grameen Bank model was pioneered in Bangladesh during the 1970s and 80s, and aimed to reduce poverty through the provision of loans, financial training, and peer support to those unable to access traditional credit mechanisms. It turned out a that small amount of funds enabling the purchase of such basics as tools, seeds, and livestock enabled many to lift themselves out of the most desperate kinds of poverty.
National Girls and Women in Sports Day (NGWSD) is commemorated annually in the first week of February. According to its sponsor, the Women’s Sports Foundation (WSF), the day represents “a national observance celebrating the extraordinary achievements of girls and women in sports.”
The WNBA honored female athletes on February 6, and was one of many institutions noting the value of sport in fostering not just fitness and health in girls and women, but also self-confidence and leadership skills. “Lead Her Forward” was the 2019 NGWSD theme, and the Women’s Sports Foundation’s Deborah Antoine noted, “NGWSD is a great time to uplift these girls and women, along with the advocates using their platforms to inspire greatness in female athletes. We are also more committed than ever to protect Title IX, along with strong policies and safeguards for women in sports and all industries.”
Several marquee female athletes traveled to Capitol Hill to celebrate the day and advocate for women’s athletics. The contingent included WSF President and three-time Olympic bobsled medalist Elana Meyers Taylor, Paralympics swimming gold medalist Jessica Long, and World Rugby Hall of Famer Phaidra Knight.
The Capitol Hill visit focused on keeping Title IX strong, supporting a Senate bill to establish a commission on the state of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic movement, and advocating for more sports and fitness opportunities for girls and women at all levels.
In addition to pressing legislators to improve funding for and access to sports for girls and women, the athletes also had a little play time at the George Washington University campus. Star athletes led elementary, middle and high school girls in multi-sport clinics, including Olympic ice hockey medalist Meghan Duggan, 1984 Olympic hurdles gold medalist Benita Fitzgerald Mosley, Paralympic basketball and alpine skiing gold medalist Alana Nichols, and three-time U.S. National Champion climber Sasha DiGiulian. Following the clinics, WSF President Meyers Taylor led discussions on Title IX, and shared her thoughts on athletic and leadership opportunities for girls after graduation.
“Access to sports and all the benefits they provide is critical for girls and women. Sports teach girls leadership, teamwork and confidence,” said Meyers Taylor. “National Girls & Women in Sports Day is a great time to reconnect with the girls and women we serve and call for a national push to support girls and women in sports.”
The Women’s Sports Foundation partners with the National Women’s Law Center, George Washington University, Girls Inc. and the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness and Nutrition in promoting the nationwide day dedicated to women’s athletics. NGWSD began in 1987 to bring national attention to the promise of girls and women in sports, and has since evolved into an event to acknowledge the accomplishments of female athletes, the positive influence of sports participation, and the continuing struggle for equality for women in sports.
The WSF is a 501(c)(3), and since its formation in 1974 by tennis legend Billie Jean King has advocated and organized to promote equal access to sports and physical activity for girls and women. While only a small fraction of athletes will play professionally or in top-tier college programs, engaging in sports and fitness activities improves mental and physical health throughout a lifetime. The WSF has relationships with more than 1,000 of the world’s elite female athletes, and has impacted the lives of more than three-million youth, high school and collegiate student-athletes.
The mission of the Women’s Sports Foundation “is dedicated to creating leaders by ensuring all girls access to sports.” There is no better example of this than its founder Billie Jean King, one of the premier female tennis players in history, and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009. King was a pioneer on and off the court. She was a founding member of the Women’s Tennis Association, defeated Bobby Riggs in the 1973 “Battle of the Sexes” match (brilliantly captured in the eponymous 2017 movie with Emma Stone and Steve Carrel) and was designated one of Life Magazine’s “100 Most Important Americans of the 20th Century” in 1990. Exceptional on the court, King’s greatest legacy is no doubt the increased respect, visibility and compensation she gained for female tennis pros (and women athletes in general).
The WSF’s focus is not just on elite athletes, but also the benefits of sport for all girls and women. The WSF notes that it “distributes upwards of $10,000 per week from operating dollars to provide opportunities for socioeconomically underprivileged and inactive girls to participate in sports and physical activity.” The WSF has also been a powerful advocate for sports scholarships for women; scholarship money has increased from $100,000 in 1972 to over $1.8 billion across the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) today.
The WSF has fought for equal facilities and access to sports for girls and women, with major grant programs including GoGirlGo, which has gotten over one million girls physically active, and Sports 4 Life, which has targeted grass-roots sports opportunities for over 6,000 girls of color aged 11-18. The WSF has also given over 1,300 grants to champion athletes and teams to fund training and travel, and produced more than 40 studies on gender equity and sports.
Naturally, the WSF is a key supporter of “Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972,” the legislation that while perhaps not leveling the playing field, at least allowed access to it. The WSF works with NCAA leadership, the Office of Civil Rights, coaches, parents and media in maintaining support for the law, which bars gender discrimination in education programs or activities that receive Federal financial assistance. The law states, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”
Consequently, girls’ participation in K-12 and collegiate sports has dramatically increased since the 1970s. Still, the WSF notes that only one-quarter of girls get sufficient physical exercise, and there are persistent gender, socioeconomic and racial barriers to health and fitness. This is crucial, as in addition to obvious health benefits, physical activity improves body image over time, reducing depression, eating disorders, and other mental health difficulties. Sports are also key in developing discipline, teamwork, perseverance and leadership skills, valuable attributes on and off the field.