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AWIS in Action! March 2013 - M3
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AWIS In Action!

 Advocacy & Public Policy Newsletter   ~   March 2013
In This Issue
M3 The Maddening Monthly Mention

* Hypocrisy of Compassion *

Earlier this month, a prominent member of the Republican Party unexpectedly renounced his position on gay marriage and has instead come out in support of it. Or rather, Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) now supports marriage for same-sex couples. For my part, I am glad. But while I am happy to now have two Republican members of Congress who favor this position, I am frustrated by his motivation. Portman has a son who is gay. And so, because someone he loves is directly impacted by this legislation, he now looks at this issue through a different lens. Le sigh.

Most members of Congress have not struggled out of poverty. By this line of reasoning, it is not surprising that many of them lack empathy towards the poor. Cutting social safety nets is less of a worry because they may not personally know any mothers who will lose access to SNAP, a program which provides nutrition assistance to women, infants, and children. Being in a higher socio-economic bracket, they may not be as aware that they know victims of domestic violence, which may explain why
it took so long to finally pass the newest version of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). And chances are, most of their friends haven’t been facing foreclosure since the housing economy collapsed, but I’m guessing they probably had some buddies on Wall Street which is why they were more eager to help them out. Many of the more obstinate members of Congress, who don’t believe we still have a problem as a nation when it comes to advancing and retaining women, may not have a woman in their family who has faced a hostile work environment.

As a nation we encourage girls and women to go into science, only to find they often face a chilly climate where they are undervalued, underappreciated,  discriminated against, and often worse. I have a new reason to want to see more women and girls in STEM. Eventually some of them will have brothers, fathers, and grandfathers in positions of power. Whether in academia, industry, or Congress, imagine the reaction of a research university president when he discovers his daughter, a PI at another institution, is having to pump breast milk in the bathroom because there are no other places in her building fit to accommodate this oh-so-unnatural activity. Imagine the reaction of a member of Congress whose granddaughter has a boss that is making unwanted sexual advances and she doesn’t know to whom she can safely appeal at her university without damaging her own career prospects. Imagine the CEO whose sister has been told she can only take two weeks off for maternity leave if she doesn’t want to lose her top position because her small firm has less than 50 employees and doesn’t qualify under FMLA. Perhaps this happens all the time and I am naïve in hoping that Senator Portman is the rule rather than the exception. But I remain optimistic that there is a critical mass, a tipping point where if we get enough women making their way up the pipeline, becoming empowered and advancing, the obstacles they face will not go unnoticed by the men in their lives with the power to do something about it. Otherwise, that would truly be an outrage.
 
In This Issue
   
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