By: Evan Karatzas, Founder of Proximity Lab
*Note from NHWF: Thank you to Evan Karatzas for his help in organizing and sponsoring our Entrepreneurs Foundation of NH Business (EFNH) roundtable with Josh Levs, for our #AllInNH tour. The connections made at this event allowed for critical engagement from a number of notable New Hampshire Businesses and nonprofits around family friendly workplaces and we couldn’t be more excited.
EFNH’s mission is to bring together entrepreneurs, company management, employees, and investors in philanthropy as a way to support New Hampshire’s quality of life and the health of our communities for the long term.
The New Hampshire Women’s Foundation is focused on promoting family-friendly workplaces. Mary Jo Brown and I organized this roundtable as a collaboration between EFNH and NHWF to help jump start the discussion with business leaders who are involved with shaping and influencing policies in their organizations. It was very well attended by execs and HR leaders from some leading NH businesses including Dyn, Bottomline, W.S. Badger, Scribe and others. Some incredibly bright people and a very thoughtful conversation about how businesses can honor employees as whole people and find creative ways to encourage a better work/life balance.
Josh was very engaging and shared his story and described his campaign to champion a national paid family leave policy that gives employees (men and women) the ability to take paid time off to care for family members who may be ill, support their family during and after child birth or to take time off for their own health and well-being. He’s a pragmatist and an entrepreneur himself who understands that most businesses can’t afford to offer employees extended periods of paid time off – his proposal centers around the use of the payroll tax to fund paid family leave without adding further financial burdens to businesses or employees. The proposal has strong bipartisan support, but the issue needs more visibility and public dialogue. Those who want more details about this topic and his proposal can visit http://joshlevs.com.
I left the session feeling inspired about how tuned in this group of NH business leaders are about the importance of treating employees with compassion and their commitment to fight pervasive gender stereotypes that limit the quality of life we all deserve. These EFNH-affiliated business exemplify leadership – they are incredible role models committed to helping other NH businesses improve the way they support their teams.
If anyone has questions or would like to discuss this further, don’t hesitate to reach out.
Twenty years ago, over 30,000 women gathered in Beijing. More than 180 countries, including the United States, signed the Platform for Action, committing their governments to work toward these goals. For the first time, countries reached a consensus that advancement of women and achievement of gender equality are matters of human rights and a condition for social justice. That event was a seminal moment. For many, dreams and ideas transformed from the impossible – to challenges – to achievements. Women on the periphery of activism rolled up their sleeves and marched boldly to the frontlines.
I speak from experience. If not for that event, I would not be the President of the NH Women’s Foundation; I would not have served as the speaker of the NH House of Representatives; I would not have been the President of the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Fourteen New Hampshire women who attended the NGO conference felt the call to bring the message home, and organized a local New Hampshire conference called “The Spirit of Beijing ’95.” The goals of the day-long conference held at the statehouse were:
- To further the work of the UN Platform for Action
- To examine issues facing NH women and showcase creative NH programs
- To empower women with information and new possibilities for their lives
- To provide networking opportunities and share successful strategies
- To foster action – personal, community-based, national and global
I am proud to say that our conference attracted over 700 participants. Through workshops we helped bring to NH the challenge and the inspiration to positively impact the social and economic condition of women in NH.
Women who attended Beijing and our follow-up conference have stepped forward for elected offices, built NGOs, and they shared their inspiration with others. In fact, Barbara Zeckhausen, one of the Fourteen, was inspired to organize the NH Women’s Fund, one of our mother organizations! Attendees became more engaged in their communities and empowered other women around them.
Now let’s look at what has changed over the years.
In 1971 approximately 5% of state legislators in the US were women.
1992 has been called the “Year of the Woman” because of the dramatic increase in the number of women elected to congress that year (four new women to the US Senate, for a total of 6; 24 new women to the House—as many as had been elected during the whole of the 1980’s) It was in the 1992 election that the collective number of women in state legislatures first reached 20%.
Twenty years later, women have made tremendous progress around the world and in the Granite State. In 2008, Hillary Clinton made 18 million cracks in the glass ceiling, becoming the first woman in the US ever to win a state presidential primary, and paving the way for New Hampshire to elect the first all-female delegation to Congress in our nation’s history. In the 2013-14 session women occupied two of the three corner offices in the state house – the speaker and the governor.
But the news is not all good. In 2015 women in the 50 state legislatures make up only 24%. In the US Senate, 20 of 100; in the US House just 84 of 435 members, less than 20%. And in NH there are no women among the top six legislative leaders and no women serve on the Executive Council.
Since the “Year of the Woman” in 1992, gains have been modest. Not because women cannot win, but because they do not run. They do not run because they are less likely to be recruited, they are less likely to see themselves as qualified, they perceive the rigors of campaigning and fundraising as too difficult, and they have less freedom to balance work and family obligations with politics. The percentage of women in legislative office in 2015 is exactly the same as it was in 2009.
Now STOP and think about the talented women in your lives and in your communities – take the time to tell them how great they would be in the state legislature, on the city council, the school board or in Congress. Be a mentor to them. I believe we can double the percentage of women in office by 2020. WE HAVE THAT POWER.
In the process, we must engage and inspire a new generation of women. We need to get these young women engaged in policy making that will affect their own future. We can look to women like Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellin, General Motors CEO Mary Barra, human rights activists Gloria Steinem, Emma Watson or Malala Yousafzai; but we can also look to those around you right now.
It is incumbent upon all women who have in some way broken through the glass ceiling to be role models and to encourage and engage our young women. When I was speaker, I always tried to make myself available to gatherings of young women so that they could see, first hand, what women can achieve. You, too, have the power to engage young women. It is our responsibility to enhance the social, economic and political empowerment of women. It is our responsibility to do for them what our mothers and grandmothers did for us.
On August 26 each year, we celebrate the day, 95 years ago, when the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution was certified as law and American women were first given the right to vote.
It is critically important for women to exercise that right – to educate ourselves about candidates and where they stand on issues, and then to VOTE! Sadly, turnout at recent elections has been low. People are frustrated and think that their vote won’t make a difference anyway, but that is not true. When women fail to register or don’t show up at the polls, elections are decided by the minority who do. Here is an example of why YOUR VOTE MATTERS.
Earlier this month, the all-male Executive Council voted 3-2 to defund Planned Parenthood of Northern New England (PPNNE) health centers right here in New Hampshire. This decision could have devastating impacts on the nearly 13,000 Granite Staters who rely on PPNNE for their basic health care services including birth control, cancer screenings, and STI tests and treatment.
This is the second time in five years that the Executive Council has cut family planning funds, and it’s just one more sign that in New Hampshire—like much of the country—we seem to be losing ground on family planning issues. This is extremely concerning, because a woman’s ability to control her reproductive health is central to her ability to work outside the home and to achieve her full potential.
That the fate of healthcare for 13,000 New Hampshire women was in the hands of five male elected officials adds insult to injury. When it comes to setting policy, all-male or mostly-male groups of lawmakers shouldn’t be making decisions that affect women without women being a part of the conversation. We need to raise our voices loudly and to hold elected officials accountable.
In honor of Women’s Equality Day I hope that women will commit to vote – our foremothers fought for that right!! And be an educated voter.
And in honor of Women’s Equality Day I hope women will consider stepping up to run for office at every level, so the voices of women are fully engaged in the policy-making debate. When women run, women win!
“She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry” – and indeed she was! The NH Women’s Foundation was pleased to collaborate with the Music Hall in Portsmouth for a film showing in late May. This film was a documentary about the second wave of feminism. Sounds boring, you say. Not at all! It was thought provoking, passionate and sometimes humorous. The movie was powerful. Powerful for what this generation accomplished – the true changes they created. Powerful for the future – the real work today’s generation has left to do.
As I said leading up to the movie: Whether you took an active part in this cultural transformation or you flinch if someone suggests you are a feminist, you should see this film! If you’re a parent, you should bring both your daughters AND sons to this film as it tells the history of a courageous movement whose accomplishments have made the world a better place for all of us — the women and men who have come after them. In addition to that the audience is sure to leave inspired after hearing from our post-film panelists.
And 500 women, men and youth attended. As a shared experience there was palpable energy in the room. That’s why if you missed this opportunity, check out the after film panel discussion we organized:
And look for other chances to take your sister, son, friend, daughter, dad to see it.
We’re fortunate to have a great partnership with The Music Hall and look forward to other great opportunities to work with them. Below is an interview between Kait Smith at The Music Hall and myself about the value of collaborating with TMH.
TMH: Why is supporting the arts important to the NH Women’s Foundation?
TN: The arts portray the good and the bad of life in a way that draws the attention of people. Messaging through the arts aligns with one of the stated missions of the NH Women’s Foundation—that of education. Education of issues can take many forms, and utilizing the arts as a tool to reach an audience is an invaluable asset to achieving our goals.
TMH: Why does NHWF choose to partner with The Music Hall and what value does this partnership bring to the NHWF community?
TN: The Music Hall is a well known, well respected venue that guarantees built-in publicity for events. The venue also increases the credibility of a program, and therefore the program’s community partners, simply by its participation. The NHWF can attract a wider and, hopefully, larger audience for its programs by partnering with The Music Hall. Likewise, as a community partner, we can lend our community to the Music Hall.
President & CEO
My Turn: Presidential candidates: Are you all in on paid family leave?
By JOSH LEVS
For the Monitor
Sunday, June 21, 2015
(Published in print: Sunday, June 21, 2015)
There’s nothing Democratic or Republican, nothing left or right, about the idea that a newborn child should have a parent at home who does not have to worry about putting food on the table. But the United States remains the only nation on Earth with a developed economy that forces families into this situation. The countries with no mandatory paid maternity leave: the United States, Papua New Guinea, Suriname and a few tiny islands. Many countries also have mandatory paid paternity leave.
In digging into these issues for my new book, All In, I discovered something: There’s no good reason to oppose a national paid family leave law, which would act as an insurance system and not force employers to pay workers’ salaries during leave. Paid family leave is a win across the board: good for women, men and the cause of equality; a boon to businesses, and a necessity for children.
The fears that such programs hurt businesses have already been disproven in states that have them. In California, a study by the Center for Economic and Policy Research found that the vast majority of businesses say the state’s paid family leave law had minimal impact on operations and either boosted or didn’t affect productivity and profits. In New Jersey, a study of 18 diverse businesses found that six see the state’s program as neutral, while 12 felt it had a positive effect. Rhode Island now also has such a program. And Washington state passed a law to establish one but has not established a mechanism to carry it out.
By far, most Americans across the political spectrum support paid family leave. An exit poll during the last presidential election found that 86 percent of voters support creating a system of family and medical leave insurance – including 96 percent of Democrats, 87 percent of independents, and 73 percent of Republicans. A poll of likely 2016 voters found similar results.
A bill currently before Congress would create such a system. The FAMILY Act would collect funds through a very small payroll tax of 20 cents for each $100 a worker makes, up to an annual contribution cap of $237 per year, with equal contributions by employees and employers. When the worker needs time off to care for a family member, such as a new child or elderly parent, that worker could get some paid leave for up to 12 weeks. Workers could also use this time to recover from illness.
These programs are proven to help prevent people from dropping out of the workforce altogether. And companies that choose to offer more paid leave on their own reap rewards by attracting and retaining loyal, productive, happier workers. This includes small businesses, such as an 18-employee Boston organization I discuss in All In.
Paid family leave is also essential for pulling our work culture out of the “Mad Men” era. The lack of mandatory paid maternity leave and lack of paternity leave – only 14 percent of companies offer any, and the amount offered is decreasing – are symptomatic of a work culture designed for women to stay home and men to stay at work. (The thinking is: The woman should stay home, so who needs her salary? The man should keep working, so who needs paternity leave?)
The New York Times reported that in the Senate, numerous Republicans and Democrats provide their employees with paid family leave (on the public’s dime). But so far, most presidential candidates have not lined up behind a national policy. On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton is speaking out about paid family leave, suggesting she might no longer stand by something she said last year: that she did not believe a national policy was attainable now, politically. Lincoln Chafee supports a national program (he signed Rhode Island’s program into law as governor). Bernie Sanders talked about wanting to have “the resources to deal with paternity leave,” and announced he supports 12 weeks of paid family leave. There’s no sign yet of any Republican candidate expressing support for national paid family leave. And Bloomberg reported that several, as senators, voted against an amendment in March that expressed support for allowing use of a handful of paid sick days to care for family members.
Since All In published, I’ve heard from numerous nonpartisan groups wanting to align in the fight for paid family leave. A centerpiece of that effort begins today, with this opinion piece. The New Hampshire Women’s Foundation and I are collaborating to make this a key issue in the nation’s first presidential primary.
Our questions to the candidates include: Would you support a national law establishing paid family leave? Why or why not? If yes, how should it be structured? And what hard data and research do you cite in establishing your position?
Ultimately, the question boils down to: Are you “All In” for paid family leave?
Presidential races get ugly and divisive. But this issue unites Americans. Let’s hope our presidential candidates get the message.