Thursday, February 24, 2011

Congressman George Miller Meets with Graduates

By: Guest Blogger, Theresa McMenomy, Microenterprise Fellow

Friday, February 18, 2011

Non-Profits not Necessary?

By: Guest Blogger, Gabriel Germanow, Women’s Initiative Fellow

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Latinos in a Digital Divide

By: Guest Blogger, J. Lopez

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Beware of Immigration Scams

By: Elizabeth De Renzy, Researcher & Data Analyst

Monday, February 7, 2011

Empowerment: Getting Women Working in a Women’s America

By Guest Blogger, Matt Borden

It's no secret that those of us here tonight have had our differences over the last two years. The debates have been contentious; we have fought fiercely for our beliefs. And that's a good thing. That's what a robust democracy demands. That's what helps set us apart as a nation.

President Obama uttered these lines introducing his third State of the Union Address. Women stood with the president as he made his way down the center aisle. The 112th congress sat down in a new seating arrangement, democrat next to republican, with hope to restore civility on the hill and to display respect for representative Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona.

17 women form a record 17% of the Senate. At a record 17.47%, 76 of the 435 members of Congress are women. Currently 3 of the 9 Supreme Court justices are women in large part due to recent appointments. 7 was the record for most women serving as state governors at 14% until Sarah Palin resigned, leaving 6 current women governors at 12%.

The president’s speech follows a fierce two years of vibrant and at times aggressive political opposition. Obama mentioned winning the future as a nation, hopefully an economically secure future that women are becoming more a part of everyday. But how, you ask, can our future look so good if right now things are looking so bad? That has to do with the very thread of our liberal society.

By liberal I don’t mean elitist, blue-state democrats. On the contrary, I mean to include anyone who supports a legitimate democracy. The ideas that make up classic liberalism are so obvious and accepted today that we hardly stop to think carefully about them or what it means to live in a liberal society.

The fact that the United States is a liberal society is made evident by the value we place on material goods. This is why I was able to count no fewer than 200 different cereal options during my last trip to the supermarket. That we are a liberal society is why more women are now graduating from college than men are. Individualism, competition, the right to property, small government, and private business, these values are all a part of classic liberalism.

Liberalism is the American ideology because as a culture, the United States has formed its social conventions upon these founding principles. The way we think about ourselves in relation to others, status, what we conceive of as progress or achievement and how we work for it, the status quo, indeed our whole worldview is largely shaped by liberal values.

So you might be thinking, what does any of this have to do with a secure future for women? Loads. I’m talking about entitlement, enfranchisement, and empowerment. Aminur Rahman of the International Development Research Centre in Ottawa, Canada studies the social impact of microcredit on women in the Third World. He makes a fundamental distinction between entitlement, enfranchisement, and empowerment.

As Rahman explains in his book, Women and Microcredit in Rural Bangladesh, entitlement is one’s prerogative; it is their right to having something, be it a material good or a right or a freedom. Enfranchisement describes one’s ability to participate in decisions about their own entitlement. Empowerment is about action; it is the power one evokes by acting on their rights or freedoms. These three E’s can be thought of as steps in a staircase because reaching a higher step necessitates the successful achievement of an earlier step.

These three E’s are useful for thinking about how women are laying claim to their rightful position in American public culture. In fact just to think that women are deserving of equal status is testimony to the entitlement women now hold. Suffrage, or the civil right to vote, is also known as “political franchise.” Congress voted to pass the Nineteenth Amendment to our Constitution granting women’s suffrage in 1920. Women became legally entitled to the same rights as men that year. But this is not to say that men and women have nothing left to strive for.
It is a fact that women doing the same work at the same job are paid less than men.

There exist large gaps between the sexes in metrics measuring income, wealth, and business ownership. If the government distribution amongst the sexes weren’t skewed enough, reports suggest only 13% of partners at Goldman Sachs (Wall Street’s elite) are women. These contrasts suggest real equality is not a historical event but a significant goal America is still working towards. The good news is that gaps in economic and political achievement are narrowing steadily. The beauty of our liberal nation is that real equality can be achieved in a foreseeable future.

Women’s Initiative works to empower women by helping them realize that they have the power to build assets, be safe, and achieve prosperity. Woman leadership and self-employment are not about politics or ideology but about taking ownership and making equality an active process with lasting results, starting with business. These positive changes in business translate as social empowerment in every other part of women’s lives. Women can make a big impact in winning the future by working for themselves. Business and competition care not about sex or gender but about merit because as our president said tonight, it is what our democracy demands.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Microenterprise: An exciting idea for job creation

Liz Hamburg, president of Upstart Ventures and a supporter of Women's Initiative in New York, just posted about microenterprise and job creation on her Huffington Post blog. Check it out here:

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

OpEd urges Gov. Brown to stimulate homegrown business

Claudia Viek, CEO of the California Association for Micro Enterprise Opportunity, has a great opinion piece in today's San Francisco Chronicle making the case for microenterprise development and job creation. Check out her insightful piece here: