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O: Open Flexible Work

Is It Too Cold To Lean In? Women In STEM

Co-written by Katherine Ullman.

It’s been a rough couple of weeks for women in STEM.

Most shockingly, Adria Richards, former developer evangelist at SendGrid, was fired after she publicly reported two men (one of whom was also fired) for making lewd jokes in earshot at a PyCon Conference. Richards has since received nasty messages for speaking out—including some that threatened her safety—in what is now referred to across the web as Donglegate (the jokes that began this incident were about dongles and forking; you get the idea).

Likewise, women game developers were shocked at an after party for a separate tech conference—this time the GDC in San Francisco—when they found that the party hosts had hired scantily clad women dancers to sashay on stage.

Shame On Those Queen Bees?

Co-written by Katherine Ullman.

An essay this month in The Wall Street Journal recycled a tired trope: “queen bees” in the office are making the lives of other women a living hell.

We’ve heard this before. Powerful women are just grown up high-school “mean girls” chipping away at the self-confidence of the women who work with and for them.

Suggesting that these women are at once “encircling” their prey and protecting their “perches,” author Peggy Drexler paints two incompatible pictures of the infamous “queen bees.” In one, queen bees cause the workplace to be unfriendly to women, by using surreptitious childish tactics to keep women down. In the other, these women’s bad behavior results from workplaces shaped by gender bias.

Those are two very different pictures, and we politely ask that she stick with one.

Caregiving in the Face of Hostility

Photo: I am holding my son, then a baby, at my parents’ home in New Hampshire in 2004. At the time, my parents, grandparents and youngest sibling lived in the same three-bedroom townhouse. Growing up, I always lived with extended family or family members stayed with us for extended periods of time. -Elisa

Any day now, my baby sister, who is actually 28-years-old, will have a baby of her own and stay with me. She will be a single mother and I am her only family in the area.

She and the baby will be the 6th and 7th household members in my three-bedroom house here in the San Francisco Bay Area. Depending on your cultural background, this is a given – she is familia after all – or you will look at me as if I have three heads. What do your parents / husband / kids say about this? What the heck is she going to do? — as if single parenthood is the worst thing to befall on anyone.

A Snake?! Lawmaker Sexually Harasses Teen at a Hearing

“I am usually a very shy person, and now I am more outgoing. I was able to teach those children about certain things like snakes that we have and the turtles that we have. … I want to do something toward that, working with children when I get older.”

These inspiring words come from a high school student, who recently testified to fund the Connecticut State Science Center. Aren’t these all things we want for young women? Positive teenage experiences, overcoming shyness, gaining confidence, finding a passion—this girl has got it all, and not only that, but she took the brave step of sharing her experience and participating in the political system so that other teens could have the same opportunities.

Here’s how State Representative Ernest Hewitt replied: “If you’re bashful, I’ve got a snake sitting under my desk here.”

Crafting Successful Influence Strategies: The Big Four

Developing a strong influence strategy requires thinking through four critical elements:

  1. A clear sense of the decision(s) that need to get made;
  2. An understanding of who makes these decision(s);
  3. An informed hypothesis about how the decision(s) will get made; and
  4. An understanding of how the organization can influence the decision-making process and a game plan for making that happen.

First, organizations need a clear sense of the decision(s) they want individuals, lawmakers, or other entities to make. Perhaps this is a behavior change, such as a person deciding to wear a seat belt or a bike helmet. Or a policy change that outlaws texting and driving. Or even a business decision, such as a company opting to offer transit benefits to employees. Or a series of decisions, such as becoming a more sustainable company.

Here are some questions that can help identify these decisions:

Want Influence? Eliminate Blind Spots

Organizations working to make the world a better place have strong ambitions. They want to reduce gun violence in the wake of Sandy Hook, get Americans off the couch and active, and keep children safe from climate change. These groups need to wield influence to succeed—not in a Machiavellian way but in a public interest way. Yet often, they can’t articulate exactly how this influence will happen. It is a missing link in their plans to create change. When there is no clear idea for how influence will happen, it often doesn’t. Social change remains elusive.

Charting influence is a tricky proposition. It is made trickier when organizations don’t approach planning with a clear idea of what the possibilities are for cultivating and using influence effectively. Rather than clarity, they have blind spots in their change strategies and these blind spots can undermine even the most worthy campaigns. Spitfire Strategies has developed a short guide to help nonprofits and foundations navigate a trail of influence by identifying—and eliminating—blind spots before they sabotage change strategies.

Twelve Weeks and Twenty Years: Happy Birthday, Family and Medical Leave Act!

On FMLA’s 20th birthday, America should celebrate this critical piece of legislation, which gave millions of workers the right to job-protected, unpaid leave. But we must also recognize how much farther we have to go in creating a workplace that takes into account the caregiving needs of the 21st century workforce.

First, the celebration: Thanks to the FMLA, millions of workers have been able to take time off from work without risking their jobs to care for a new child, for their own illness, or to care for family members who were sick. Ninety-one percent of employers report that complying with the FMLA has had either positive or neutral effects on their businesses. The positive business impacts noted by employers include reductions in employee absences, reductions in turnover, and improved morale. Eighty-five percent of employers report that complying with the FMLA is very easy, somewhat easy, or has no noticeable effect on their businesses.

Women Don’t Negotiate Because They’re Not Idiots

If I hear once more that the reason for the wage gap is that women don’t negotiate, I may just blow a gasket.

Linda Babcock herself, the author of the studies that gave rise to the “women don’t ask” industry, has shown that women don’t negotiate for a very simple reason: they sense—correctly—that it will hurt them if they do.

Babcock and her colleagues found that women don’t negotiate their initial salaries as much as men. No doubt you’ve heard that. This finding has received a wild amount of coverage in the press.

What you probably haven’t heard is what happens when women do negotiate. Often they end up worse off than if they’d kept their mouths shut.

Your Guide to Avoiding Election Day Snafus

IT’S HERE! Election Day is today (November 6th!) and it’s time to get out there and vote! It can be enough of a challenge just getting to the polls today, but it’s so important. Make sure that you have everything you need this election day to make your voting experience go smoothly.

Find out:

  • What’s on your ballot
  • How to find your polling location
  • How to do election day voter registration
  • Tips on breastfeeding at the polls
  • Election day activities for kids

…and more, in this handy guide to avoiding election day snafus:

Check your ballot: Plug in your address and you can preview your ballot before you get to the polls. Click here to check it out:

Check your registration: Visit to find out if you’re registered to vote.

The 34th Anniversary of The Pregnancy Discrimination Act: It’s Time To Make Good On The Law’s Promise of Equal Opportunity

Thirty-four years ago this week, Congress enacted the Pregnancy Discrimination Act  (PDA) to remedy a long history of discrimination against pregnant workers and promote equal opportunity.  The PDA opened workplace doors, making clear that employers could not fire, fail to hire or otherwise penalize pregnant women just for being pregnant.  The law also requires employers to treat pregnant workers as well as other employees “similar in their ability or inability to work.”

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