Five Women Who Transformed Media in 2012

women_Media“You cannot be what you cannot see,” is one of those adages that works in a lot of contexts, none more so than inspiring girls, young adults and women to believe that it’s possible to follow their dreams and reach their full potential. Here are our five favorite moments in 2012 where women and girls stepped into the media spotlight and inspired us.

5. Julia Bluhm changes the face of the magazine industry. 14-year-old Julia started an online petition calling for Seventeen magazine to print one unaltered photo spread per month – no airbrushing and a realistic portrayal of what girls actually look like. Julia and a group of teen girls delivered the 84,000 signatures they collected to Seventeen in New York City. After the petition was delivered, the editor-in-chief of the magazine pledged to feature pictures of real girls and models who are healthy.

4.The television show Scandal. ABC’s hit show about a crisis management team was developed by Shonda Rimes, one of the most successful black women in entertainment. The main character, a strong, smart business owner, is played by Kerry Washington, making Scandal the first primetime network drama that a black woman has starred in since 1974’s Get Christie Love.

3. Having it all – or not. For the third year in-a-row, The Atlantic lit a fuse and watched an article about women take off. In 2010, Hanna Rosin proclaimed it “The End of Men.” Last year, Kate Bolick wrote about “All the Single Ladies” (which is reportedly being adapted for television). And in 2012, Anne-Marie Slaughter said it’s time to stop fooling ourselves in “Why Women Still Can’t Have it All.” Between them, the articles have generated tens-of-thousands of comments, social media recommendations, and response blog posts. They’ve sparked new conversations about everything from marriage to children and work supports to glass ceilings. Whether you agree with the authors’ theses or not, it’s a new opportunity to have discussions about issues that impact specifically women.

2. Marissa Mayer becomes the head of Yahoo! In July, Mayer was named the president and CEO of Yahoo!, becoming the youngest CEO of a Fortune 500 company and one of the most powerful businesswomen in America. Her ascension to the top of Yahoo! followed closely by her announcement that she was pregnant further opened up conversations about working women, their families, and support systems that enable them to juggle their responsibilities.

1. Candy Crowley moderates a presidential debate. In October, CNN’s political correspondent and Sunday morning talk show host became the first woman in 20 years to moderate a presidential debate. She was given rave reviews and so was ABC’s Martha Raddatz, who helmed the vice presidential debate.

Who would you add to this list? Which women in the spotlight inspired you in 2012?

Five Policies That Impacted Women & Their Families in 2012

IMG_1244At The Women’s Foundation, we pay close attention to policies that affect women and their families throughout the year. Here are five that we’ve kept tabs on in 2012.

5. The Paycheck Fairness Act. In June, the Senate failed to move forward with legislation that would have helped ensure equal pay for both genders. The Paycheck Fairness Act would have required employers to demonstrate that gender does not play a role in salary differences between men and women performing the same work. The Senate fell eight votes short of advancing the bill, but – due to some political maneuvering – didn’t totally kill it. According to the Census Bureau, women’s median annual earnings are about 78 percent that of men’s. The gap is even greater for women of color.

4. 2012 Farm Bill. Food insecurity disproportionately impacts low-income women and children, who rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps. SNAP is part of the Farm Bill, which was up for renewal this year (it has to be renewed every five years). The bill expired in September and Congress was unable to pass a new version before the House adjourned last week. The future of the bill could be impacted before the end of the year by fiscal cliff negotiations or retroactive extensions. The biggest points of disagreement in the bill are farm subsidies and SNAP benefits. There are currently 47 million people enrolled in the food stamps program.

3. The 2012 Election. While the election itself is not a policy, the record number of women elected to Congress in 2012 will likely have a significant impact on future policy. In spite of the notable increase, women still only make up 17 percent of Congress – we have a long way to go. Higher political representation for women at the national, state and local levels increases the likelihood that laws and policies will reflect the needs and interests of women and children.

2. Affordable Care Act. In June, the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act, which will be an important tool in improving the health and economic security of low-income women and their children. Under the ACA, women will pay lower healthcare costs and can receive preventative care without co-pays. Medicaid coverage will also be expanded to cover more families who live above the poverty line but who are still economically insecure.

1. Resolving the “Fiscal Cliff.” This is still a work-in-progress… we hope. If there’s no compromise, experts say that the hundreds-of-billions-of-dollars in tax increases and spending cuts that will take place on January 1st will likely push the country into a recession. The impact on low-income women and children would be disproportionate and particularly devastating. The services and policies that could be affected include: the Earned Income Tax Credit, the child tax credit, Head Start and other child care programs, nutrition assistance and housing assistance. As negotiations continue, the President and Congress need to work together to keep the country from going over the cliff – and not at the expense of our most economically vulnerable families.

Top Blog Posts of 2012

An election, volunteering, a new logo, historic events, and opportunities to learn more about the needs and lives of women in our community. 2012 was a very busy year at Washington Area Women’s Foundation and much of it was captured on our blog. Here are our favorite blog posts of the year:

# 10: A Lot Left Unsaid at Presidential Debate Donna Wiedeman, executive assistant to the president of the Foundation, took the presidential candidates to task after the second debate when they failed to talk about Americans living in poverty and safety nets for low-income women and children.

#9: A New Look for The Women’s Foundation In this post, Foundation President Nicky Goren shared her excitement about unveiling our new logo and tagline, “Stand Together. So She Can Stand on Her Own.”

#8: The Women’s Foundation Supporters Volunteer on the MLK Day of Service Nearly 100 volunteers joined us as we helped A Wider Circle (a Foundation Grantee Partner) prepare donated items for families in poverty on the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service.

#7: International Women’s Day – Celebrating the Impact of Women on the World Our Development Associate, Juliet Boye, shared how her mother’s entrepreneurial spirit in Ghana inspires Juliet’s work at the Foundation.

#6: Low-Income Women & Their Families Can’t Afford a Gender Wage Gap In this post, Nicky shared why working to “close the gender wage gap is part of ensuring that every woman and girl has the opportunity to reach her full potential and help her family and community thrive.”

#5: Food Stamp Challenge Foundation staff and other community members took part in the Food Stamp Challenge, spending a week learning how difficult it is to live on a food stamp budget – $30 per week. They reflected on the challenge in a series of blog posts.

#4: Closing the Achievement Gap for Students Begins Before Kindergarten After being extremely disappointed to learn about new educational goals for students based on race, I wrote to encourage educators to work on closing the achievement gap early on, so students and school districts won’t have to play catch-up later on.

#3: When the Clock is Ticking, Support Networks Become Lifelines for Working Parents Vice President Jennifer Lockwood-Shabat wrote about support networks that make all the difference to moms trying to juggle work and family.

#2: Witness to Olympic History Nicky recalled fulfilling her lifelong dream of attending the Olympics and how exciting it was to witness women’s history at the 2012 Olympics in London.

#1: Walk in Their Shoes How does safe, reliable transportation impact low-income women and their families? Walk in the shoes of a single mom who showed us her shockingly long commute in this short video.

Closing Achievement Gap for Students Begins Before Kindergarten

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A growing number of states, including Virginia, are opting out of mandates set by the No Child Left Behind law and in the process creating new goals for students that are sparking great controversy. NPR reports that Virginia has set “new education goals that are higher for white and Asian kids than for blacks, Latinos and students with disabilities.”

According to Virginia’s board of education, the new standards are based on students’ previous test scores in reading and math. Historically, minority, disabled and impoverished students have scored lower than their white, Asian, and wealthier counterparts on standardized tests and thus will be held to a different standard. Proponents of the plan say it will give underperforming students a chance to catch up.  Critics argue that the practice will lower standards for minority students and won’t narrow the achievement gap.

Efforts to close the achievement gap need to happen long before students take their first test. According to researchers at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, 37 percent of children enter kindergarten without the skills necessary for learning. And once they get behind, it’s incredibly difficult for them to catch up. Research shows a correlation between quality early care and education (ECE) and high school completion. Some studies even track the benefits of ECE into adulthood.

Access to high-quality ECE for all children is an effective tool that Washington Area Women’s Foundation is using to help close the achievement gap and put our community’s youngest residents on a path to prosperity early in life. Nationwide, investments in ECE will help mitigate the need to lower the bar for some students in the future and make for a better prepared workforce in the long term.

To learn more about The Women’s Foundation’s investments, please visit our Early Care and Education Funders Collaborative pages by clicking here.