Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Climbing the Ladder: Gender and Careers in Public Service with Amy E. Smith

Much of the research on gender inequality in senior management positions focuses on the private sector and why women don’t ascend to these positions. What are we missing by not considering the public sector or the characteristics of women who do reach the upper echelons? This week’s WAPPP seminar feature Amy E. Smith, Associate Professor of Public Policy and Public Affairs at the McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies at University of Massachusetts Boston. Professor Smith presented findings from her research collaboration’s work on Climbing the Ladder: Gender and Careers in Public Service.

Background and Motivation

Social equality and representation are important values in the public sector. We believe both that public sector jobs should be equally accessible to everyone and that those who work in the public sector should look like the people they serve across a variety of demographic characteristics. If bureaucrats reflect the diversity of the populations they serve, the logic goes, a variety of interests will be represented in the decision-making process. Representation also has symbolic power – citizens are more likely to feel that they have been heard, are more likely to cooperate with government, and are more likely to feel that the government is accessible if government officials look like them.

However, there is still a significant lack of gender diversity in leadership positions. There have been a number of reasons posited for this discrepancy, including male advantages in accessing, accumulating, and invoking human and social capital, divergences between our gender stereotypes and conceptions of what leaders should be, and familial expectations and work-life conflict. However, as noted, these mechanisms explain why women don’t make it to senior leadership roles, rather than illuminating what helps women achieve these positions. We have limited information about career paths into public sector leadership for both men and women. Once we have this information, we may be better able to design workplace policies to promote gender equality.

Research Findings

Professor Smith’s research focuses on two key questions: what do career paths look like for those who have achieved high-level leadership positions in public sector organizations? And how do men and women who are in these positions express their qualifications?

This research focuses on U.S. federal regulatory organizations, like the FDA and SEC, partially because these organizations have broad power and because there are a significant proportion of women in high-ranking positions. At the time of this study, 36% of senior leadership roles in these organizations were filled by women, compared to 18% of Congressional seats, and 15% of corporate boards. Professor Smith and her collaborators selected the 12 major federal regulatory agencies and identified all top-level leaders for the period from 1983 to 2013, a sample of 89 individuals. Of these 89, they were able to collect career path data for 83 individuals, 61 men and 22 women. The researchers established complete career histories for each person from the time they graduated from college to 2013. For each year, the researchers coded whether the individual worked for a federal agency, a private sector organization, and law firm, or “other,” including nonprofit organizations or other levels of government.

Descriptively, the women in the sample tended to spend less time in each organization, worked at fewer organizations overall, had fewer children, tended to work in newer and larger regulatory organizations, and tended to work for organizations that were responsible for implementing more legislation and engaging in more rulemaking.

Professor Smith and her colleagues looked at career patterns using a sequence analysis of the career histories to generate clusters with similar characteristics. Women in the sample clustered into three career patterns. The first group, which Professor Smith calls “public servants,” was characterized by work in federal agencies and the “other” category of nonprofit and government work. The second group was the “sector hoppers,” characterized by movement back and forth between private sector organizations and federal regulatory agencies. The third group, the attorneys, all worked in law firms at some point in their careers.

For men in the sample, Professor Smith identified four career paths. The “movers,” the largest group, showed a pattern of moving between organizational types. The “sector hoppers,” by contrast, moved only between private sector and federal regulatory organizations. The third group, the “public sector attorneys,” worked predominantly in federal agencies, as compared to the “private sector attorneys” who tended to practice in law firms. The key takeaway from the career pattern analysis is that men, more so than women, seem to develop their career paths by moving across sectors and organizations.

The second key research question asks: how do men and women establish and express legitimacy for leadership positions? Many of the characteristics we associate with leaders are incompatible with our stereotypes about women – where leaders are decisive and aggressive, we expect women to be kind and collaborative. As such, women may engage in extra efforts to signal an appropriate leadership identity. Professor Smith and her collaborators collected the Senate confirmation hearing transcripts for 67 of the 83 individuals in the sample and examined both their self-narratives – the stories each individual told about themselves and their qualifications – as well as their interactions with committee members. While coding the transcripts is still a work in progress, Professor Smith has identified three key mechanisms for claiming legitimacy: proving, selling, and challenging.

When nominees read their personal statements in front of the committee, they are engaging in proving:  by narrating their experiences and talking about their personal histories, nominees create a unique identity and position themselves as leaders. Female nominees in the examined transcripts tended to be backward-looking in their proving, discussing their past experiences and establishing themselves as public servants. By contrast, male nominees tend to be a bit more forward-looking in their proving. It may be that male nominees were already considered qualified, and therefore felt more comfortable discussing their future plans for the organization rather than discussing their past experiences.

Selling is characterized by a third party talking about the nominee, largely through introductions and endorsements. Selling behaviors directed toward female nominees tended to list and repeat the nominee’s past experience to lend her credibility and gain approval from the committee. Interestingly, for male nominees there was very little selling. Male nominees’ prior qualifications appear to be almost assumed, whereas female nominees’ qualifications must be reiterated to truly sink in.

Finally, challenging provides the greatest opportunity to observe nominees’ interactions with committee members. Questions directed at female nominees focused repeatedly on technical expertise and management challenges associated with leading the agency. Male nominees generally did not get these sorts of questions, as if, Professor Smith emphasized, these competencies appear to be assumed. Instead, male nominees were often asked forward-looking questions about how to handle emerging issues, and many were asked non-questions.

Considering the two research questions together, we see that both men and women are accumulating social and human capital, but that women tend to accumulate social capital through strong ties and dense networks and human capital that is narrow and specialized, as evidenced by the “public servant” career pattern. Men tended to show more weak ties, sparse networks, and more varied human capital. While both men and women engage in narrative identity work to express their qualifications, women face a gendered twist. Their senior leadership roles and the experiences that got them there violate gendered expectations of what a leader looks like. However, these women’s expression of their qualifications seems to fall back in line with female stereotypes, as they look backwards and repeat their relevant experiences to prove their legitimacy.

Directions for Future Research

These early results are an exciting starting point for more research in this area. Now that we know something about career patterns and claiming legitimacy, qualitative follow-up work may illuminate why career patterns differ based on gender and what other factors have influenced pivotal career choices.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Estimating Income Inequality from Binned Incomes with Paul von Hippel

Starting this year, many employers will be required to report to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) their employees’ pay by sex, race, and ethnicity within 12 specified pay bins. This reporting will help the EEOC improve enforcement of pay discrimination laws and may provide some insight into the persistence of wage gaps. This week’s WAPPP seminar featured Paul von Hippel, Assistant Professor of Public Affairs at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, University of Texas at Austin. While many methods have been used to analyze binned incomes, little work has been done to evaluate these methods. Professor von Hippel described three statistical methods for analyzing binned data and their relative accuracy in estimating underlying income differences.

According to Professor von Hippel, there are some misunderstandings about the limitations of binned date. The general impression is that because pay bins can be $10,000-$15,000 wide, it is impossible to estimate pay differences that are smaller than the bin width. While it is difficult to accurately measure the difference in individual pay within one pay band, it is possible to discern average or median pay differences with much greater precision. Even with a bin width of $10,000, it is possible to estimate pay differences within $1,500. Despite the assumption to the contrary, bin width is actually not an obstacle to this sort of analysis.

Depending upon the desired estimate, be it average income, median income, or an index of inequality like the Gini coefficient, certain types of statistical analysis will be more precise than others. Using Census data of binned incomes and statistics on underlying non-binned income, Professor von Hippel described three statistical methods to see how close each method comes, using the binned data, to estimating the underlying non-binned data.

Robust Pareto Midpoint Estimator (RPME): This method, the simplest, sets each household income to the midpoint of its bin. While it is not the most sophisticated method, it works about as well as more complex analyses, particularly if the bins aren’t too wide. As the number of bins increases, the estimates get better and better. The only “trouble spot” with this type of analysis is the top income bin, which doesn’t have an upper bound. To solve this issue, this method estimates a Pareto distribution that fits the top two income bins and plugs in the mean of that distribution for households within those bins. There are some issues with the traditional formula when there are a large number of high-income households, but using a harmonic mean tends to resolve this difficulty. This method is very quick and can run on thousands of employers within a minute or so. The downside of this method is that it’s unrealistic to assume that every household within a given pay bin has the same pay value, and the analysis may lose something by treating each household the same.

Multi-Model Generalized Beta Estimator (MGBE): This method involves fitting continuous distributions to the given income distribution. In looking at county-level Census data, Professor von Hippel set each of 10 different continuous distributions to the income distribution for a county, took the distribution that best fit that county’s data, and then used those distributions to estimate average income, median income, and the Gini coefficient. One positive aspect of this approach is that it treats incomes as continuous, not discrete. However, on the negative side, even the best-fitting distribution may not fit that well. This is particularly true if income is bimodal.

Spline CDF Estimator: This method uses nonparametric bin smoothing to spread incomes evenly across bins. A simple step function works nicely, but the method works even better if the bins are divided recursively or a cubic spline is fit to smooth over the step function to model the distribution of incomes. Professor von Hippel credits David Hunter and McKalie Drown for their work on this method, which combines the best aspects of the other two methods: the Spline CDF Estimator models income as continuous and perfectly reproduces bin counts.

Of these three techniques, the Spline CDF Estimator is the most accurate. Between the other two, RPME works about as well as MGBE for some estimates and is much faster, particularly when estimating average income. However, it is not as accurate for median income, and estimating inequality indices is even more difficult. There are still some inaccuracies with these methods, particularly when trying to estimate trends in inequality over time, but this analysis is good news for researchers studying wage gaps. With the binned data soon to be available from the EEOC, it will be possible to estimate income differences much more precisely than the bins would seem to indicate – and with good data comes good policy! RPME and MGBE are available in both Stata and in R’s inequality package, and the Spline CDF Estimator is available in R’s binsmooth package.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Linking Non-Cognitive Skills and Educational Achievement to Girls in Developing Societies: The Case of Ghana with Sally Nuamah

Sixty-two million girls are school-aged but not in school. We know that girls’ education has positive impacts, not just for girls themselves but for their communities: educating girls is associated with decreased mortality and incidence HIV/AIDS and with increased economic growth. Non-cognitive skills – attitudes, attributes, and personal skills apart from aptitude that individuals can draw on to achieve success – can have important impacts on improving educational outcomes. “Grit” is the paradigm example: perseverance towards one’s goals may be just as important to academic achievement as aptitude. While there is evidence that non-cognitive skills shape academic achievement, it is less clear how these skills are transmitted, and in particular what role schools play in transmitting these skills. Further, much of the research on non-cognitive skills has been done on elite male students in a U.S. context, which may not be entirely generalizable to other settings.

Our first WAPPP seminar of the spring semester featured Sally Nuamah, WAPPP Fellow and Joint Postdoctoral Fellow, University Center for Human Values and Center for Study of Democratic Politics, Woodrow Wilson School, Princeton University.  Dr. Nuamah presented the results of a study on non-cognitive skills and educational achievement focusing on 37 girls in Ghana striving to be the first in their families to go to college. Dr. Nuamah’s research focused on three key questions: What challenges do girls face? What does it take for them to achieve? And how do schools contribute to their achievement?

The girls in the study faced three levels of obstacles to educational achievement: their low socioeconomic status, under-resourced school, and particular gendered challenges, including risk of pregnancy that led many students to drop out of school. Schools have an important role to play in mediating the negative effects of this sociocultural environment. Dr. Nuamah found that the school in her study facilitated “achievement-oriented identities,” positive beliefs about students’ own abilities to succeed and to translate those beliefs into realizable actions. The school emphasized both self-efficacy – impressing upon students that they have the ability to overcome challenges – and strategy – helping students to create, implement, and monitor plans to overcome challenges. This achievement-oriented identity was particularly affirmed at the school leadership level, in after-school programs, and in the religion and morality curriculum.

School leadership: At the time of the study, the school had its first female headmistress. She initially perceived the female students to be timid and took policy steps to change that. Every year, the school held a speech competition at which only male students had delivered the keynote. This year, the headmistress required that a female student give the keynote. This small change had a big impact – the girl chosen to deliver the speech said that it increased her confidence, and “I feel like there’s nothing I can’t do.”

After-school: There is a great deal of research on the benefits of after-school groups: in particular, these groups create social support systems among peer groups. In Dr. Nuamah’s descriptive survey, girls reported an additional 2-5 more hours of housework per day than their male peers, with schedules that allowed for only 4-5 hours of sleep per night. Discipline and time management are critical for these girls, and these values are reinforced in their peer groups.

Curriculum: Dr. Nuamah emphasized the importance of religious and moral education in the Ghanaian context. Formal education in Ghana was historically closely tied to Christian missionaries, and schools’ practices reflect this history, including morning worship and daily prayer. In particular, rhetoric about achievement remains entwined with religion. Students are told to believe in themselves and their God-given gifts. This appeal to faith, even for students who aren’t particularly religious, engenders greater confidence in their ability to overcome challenges like the cost of education.

In conversations with students who had graduated, those seeking to go to college perfectly encapsulated the achievement-oriented identity—having faith and taking positive steps to achieve their goals. One student who had been accepted to university but couldn’t afford the fees voiced her anxiety, but said worrying wouldn’t solve her problem. She just had to pray to God… and she had applied for several scholarships.

Dr. Nuamah’s work highlights how school context can contribute to female students’ achievement, and particularly how schools can help girls grapple with gender-specific challenges, rather than assuming that the sole impediment to achievement is poverty. We look forward to learning more about this exciting area of research!

Monday, December 5, 2016

On Her Account: Can Strengthening Women’s Financial Control Boost Female Labor Supply? With Simone Schaner

As financial inclusion and FinTech have taken on greater prominence, governments must grapple with how to best enable women’s economic empowerment. This week’s WAPPP seminar featured Simone Schaner, Assistant Professor of Economics at Dartmouth, as she presented the results of a randomized controlled trial to assess how financial inclusion coupled with targeted benefit payments impact women's labor force participation and economic welfare in India.

Professor Schaner began with a central question: Why aren’t women in emerging economies participating in the labor force? Female labor force participation has been basically stagnant despite sustained economic growth in India. However, 34% of rural non-working women say that they would like to work, and employing these women would increase female labor force participation by 80%. What is keeping them out of the formal labor force?

When we think about labor force participation, we often think about demand-side constraints – are there jobs available for those who want them? However, in this case supply-side constraints may be especially important. Women face strong gender norms and limited household bargaining power that curtails their ability to participate in the labor force. Economists think of these social constraints within a utility model: individuals may experience a utility loss if they violate a gendered behavioral norm that is upheld by the community. In the Indian context, if a woman works, it may signal that her husband has failed as a breadwinner. Even if women want to participate in the labor force, this threat of utility loss may keep them out. Data from the World Values Survey demonstrates that female labor force participation correlates with men’s and women’s attitudes toward female work. Where both men and women are supportive of working women, we see greater female labor force participation; as the gap between male and female attitude increases, female labor force participation decreases.

This particular research project focuses on poor, married couples in India who are potential beneficiaries of the public workfare program NREGS. The community exhibits strong norms against female work and mobility—only 38% of women report having gone to village market by themselves in last year. NREGS guarantees every rural Indian household 100 days of paid work at a fixed minimum wage facilitated by the local government. When these women participate in the NREGS workfare program, their wages are paid into their husbands via bank transfers. This study investigates whether strengthening women’s control of NREGS wages can increase female participation in the NREGS program and in the labor force more broadly.

STUDY DESIGN

Women in the field experiment were divided into five groups with two “flavors” of financial inclusion.  In the “Accounts Basic” group, the study team opened low-cost, no-frills bank accounts at community banking kiosks. After their paperwork was processed, the women in this group were taken back to the kiosks to demonstrate deposits and withdrawals. In the “Accounts Plus” group, the women also received a group-based training session that emphasized what a bank account is and what can be done with it (receiving benefits transfers like NREGS, the importance of saving, and how money kept in a bank account is safe). In two additional groups “Accounts Basic Linking” and “Accounts Plus Linking,” the women received the same services described above, but their accounts were configured such that their NREGS wages were paid directly into their accounts, rather than their husbands’. The fifth group, a control, received no financial inclusion services or training. This design allowed the research team to examine how control over NREGS wages impacts female labor force participation while holding financial inclusion (including access to banking services) constant.

MAIN RESULTS

Initial survey data revealed that women in the study had opened accounts, but rarely used them. In the Accounts Basic group, 17% of women had been to the bank in the last six months, compared to 10% in the control group. While this figure was somewhat higher in the Accounts Plus and the Accounts Plus Linking groups, these accounts were only used occasionally. However, this intervention had a major impact on women’s bank balances. For women who received NREGS payments, they received an average of $61 – 26% of a woman’s non-NREGS average annual income. While it’s not clear that this additional income is sufficient to change household bargaining power, the intervention certainly increased women’s control of assets. Women in the Accounts Plus Linking group also increased their labor force participation – they did more work in the NREGS program and also did more work in the private market.

MECHANISMS

One possible mechanism for this shift is that the intervention increased a woman’s effective NREGS wages – while the official wage didn’t change, their increased control over their wages may have made NREGS work more attractive. However, if this were the case, we wouldn’t expect to see an increase in private sector work as well; NREGS work would have been more attractive at the expense of private sector work paid in cash. Similarly, when women’s bargaining power increases, economic models say that they will consume in terms of consumption and leisure, so we wouldn’t see the increase in both NREGS work and private labor. However, this standard model completely ignores the importance of norms – specifically here, the male preference that their wives don’t work. If men hold these preferences and yet women’s bargaining power increases, then we would expect to see this across-the-board increase in female labor force participation. Indeed, these effects are stronger for women who were constrained (not working) before the study began.

CONCLUSIONS

Strengthening women’s control over government workfare benefits increases participation in workfare and increases work on the private market. There is some evidence of increased female mobility and no evidence of male backlash in terms of reduced decision-making power, gender-based violence, or negatively impacted mental health. The broader implication of this study is that the impacts of female empowerment on female labor force participation may vary depending upon the extent to which men and women internalize gender norms and social constraints. The study team is planning a richer data collection to come, and we look forward to hearing additional results!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The History of the "Mommy Track" with Elizabeth Singer More

In the age of Lean In, we continually interrogate the differences between men and women’s experiences at work. Do these differences arise from gender discrimination, or do working women simply have different work/family preferences than their male colleagues? These questions have a long history, and the debate over sameness and difference can help to illuminate the relationship between feminism, women, and work. This week’s WAPPP seminar feature Elizabeth Singer More, WAPPP Fellow and Associate Director of Open Circle Jewish Learning at Hebrew College. A historian of women, work, and the family, Professor More discussed the history of the “mommy track,” tracing in particular the controversy over Felice Schwartz’s 1989 Harvard Business Review article “Management Women and the New Facts of Life.”

The issue of sameness versus difference was a significant dispute for feminists in the 1970s and 1980s, and was thrown into sharp relief in the case of EEOC v. Sears Roebuck & Co. The case was brought on behalf of women who were denied commission sales jobs based on management’s assumptions about women’s preferences, personalities, and skills. Both sides in the case called experts, who alternately described the disparity between male and female employees as the result of discrimination or of women’s voluntary cultural patterns. Some women, one side argued, were “like” management men; that is, they were willing to work long hours, travel, and sacrifice time with their families in order to advance. Other women were different than their male colleagues. They wanted to work but also wanted to have children and were willing to sacrifice advancement at work to take time off and raise their families. The case went on in this vein, with one side presenting “natural” dichotomies between men and women, such as women being more concerned with nurturing and men with work, while the other maintained that women’s historical labor market behavior was established just as much by lack of opportunity as by a different set of preferences. These arguments emphasized the economic consequences of the sameness/difference question for working women.

Against this backdrop, Schwartz published her article, “Management Women and the New Facts of Life.” Schwartz was the founder of the nonprofit Catalyst Institute, which in the 1970s had worked to help housewives enter the workforce. By the 1980s, the Institute regularly advised corporations on attracting, retaining, and advancing female professionals. Schwartz saw this article as part of the same project. Addressed to executives, the article laid out a business case for hiring women, but encouraged executives to identify female employees early on as “career-primary” or “career-and-family.” “Career-primary” women should be given the same opportunities as any male employee, but these women would have to remain “single or at least childless.” If they did choose to have children, they would have to be “satisfied to have others raise them.” These women, Schwartz said, would cost corporations more to employ.

“Career-and-family” women would be relegated to the derisively-labeled “mommy track.” Corporations, Schwartz’s argument went, could better retain women in whom they had invested training if these women could be permitted to balance work and family. Women who took long maternity leaves should be encouraged to return to work; corporations should provide flex time, part-time, and job-sharing options; and companies should assist with day care. In exchange for these supports, women on the mommy track would have to accept that their ascension up the corporate ladder had halted, or at least paused. Schwartz argued that this arrangement would help women and employers – women would be able to maintain professional and family lives, and employers would accrue talented middle managers who were grateful to be where they were.

Schwartz argued that not all women have the same desires. Some want to put their careers first, and so the automatic association of women with babies is unjustified. However, by drawing on the language of sameness and of difference, Schwartz angered both sides. Painting women as ambitious non-caregivers or as complacent nurturers – combined with the assertion that management women are more costly to employ than men – caused an uproar. The Harvard Business Review printed 22 pages of letters in response to her 14 page article, most of them critical. Schwartz’s critics argued that she was incorrect in the facts or that the facts she cited were entirely unsubstantiated and that her article reinforced stereotypes that hindered women in their professional lives and men in their family lives. In trying to reconcile opposing feminist philosophies, she pleased only male executives, who loved the article.

Professor More points to an article by legal theorist Joan Williams, published the same month as Schwartz’s article, to further underscore the difficulty of reconciling feminism and market-based policymaking. Williams took issue with both sameness and difference feminism. She argued that sameness feminists don’t deal with how differences work to women’s disadvantage in a “gender-blind” system that is based on male life patterns. On the other hand, while difference feminism values women’s caregiving labor, in doing so it may perpetuate women’s economic marginalization. Williams called for the existing structures of work and family life to be totally rethought. The idea that women choose to become marginalized on the “mommy track” clouds the reality that all workers are stuck choosing between two unacceptable life patterns that we term stereotypically male or female. Where Schwartz was optimistic about negotiating on employers’ terms, Williams thought it was a feminist imperative to change the terms of work and family life.

Schwartz, for her part, was shocked and hurt by the critical reaction. Her article was dedicated to persuading corporations that it was in their own best interests to fight discrimination and institute family-friendly policies. However, her method for advocating these approaches was to argue that it was in business’s competitive advantage to be responsive to women’s needs. Whereas she had previously been forced to make an equality and justice argument – “Be fair and good to women and support us!” – she could now use a big-business logic in saying that if companies couldn’t attract, retain, and promote female talent, they would lose their competitive advantage and the bottom line would suffer. Where Schwartz saw a reasonable tradeoff for women – getting family-friendly working policies in exchange for pausing advancement – others saw institutionalized discrimination and a penalty for female workers for failing to conform to a male standard. Leaning heavily on a profit motive as an incentive to respond to women’s needs could also disadvantage women – in times of economic scarcity, female employees would lose their leverage and employers would have ready justification for firing women or favoring men.

In closing, Professor More emphasized that we cannot relinquish the justice and equality argument. We have to protect gains in equality even in times of economic weakness. As a WAPPP Fellow, Professor More will be completing her manuscript on the intellectual and political history of maternal employment in America from World War II through the mid-1990s. We look forward to hearing more from her and continuing these conversations!

Monday, November 7, 2016

Let’s go for human rights: VAMOS

By Margarita (Maggie) Salas

I am a lesbian feminist, a proud latina, a social activist, a university professor and, more recently, a Harvard graduate. I am a lot of things, but a politician was not one of them. I care deeply about inequality, I’ve dreamed about achieving equal rights for all in my country, I have fought for it with every bit of energy my soul could muster. I came to Harvard because I felt we were moving too slow on issues that were just too urgent to wait that long. I felt we needed to fight smarter, not harder, to achieve our rights. I needed a bigger lever, and as a social movement advocate, I would have never thought that a political party was the lever I was looking for.

Maggie Salas, HKS M/C MPA '16 and WAPPP Oval Office '16

The idea of starting a new political party in Costa Rica was born at WAPPP, at the Oval Office Program, during our friday sessions sitting around that breakfast table, listening to the stories of brave women who had taken a leap of faith in themselves and had run for office, learning the skills and insights needed, talking about our future. G.Reid once said: “A dream written down with a date becomes a goal, a goal broken down into steps becomes a plan and a plan backed by actions makes your dream come true”. Sure enough, as each friday session passed that idea went from being a whisper in the back of my head to a roaring urgency that ran through my veins. I started reaching out to my partners in crime back home. Was this unthinkable? Was I crazy? Nobody seemed to think so, and every phone call was met with excitement, energy and willingness. A spring break visit in March 2016 was our first meeting, a dozen determined individuals decided that we would run for congress in 2018.

We were eager, hopeful and over all committed to do the work needed to build a political party from scratch. Many of us came from social movements and brought with us a horizontal decision-making culture, where ideas are discussed first and potential candidates much, much later. We each started inviting other trustworthy people interested in the issues, and before we knew it our numbers doubled and tripled. The following months we met every weekend to discuss our agenda. We became best friends with google docs and wrote many pages together, detailing our proposals, working in break-out groups, coming together for long sessions, reviewing obsessively every proposal to make sure we knew where we agreed and where we didn’t. We learned a lot from each other those days, and agreed on a broad agenda that included compact sustainable cities, access to ALL human rights, modernization of our criminal and drug policies, better labour opportunities and secularization of the State, as well as a transition towards a parliamentary regime.


We held our constitutive assembly on September 25th, bringing together 100 enthusiasts that stamped their signatures and elected me as the party president. We planned our official press release for October but our secret was in the wind and we started receiving refugees from several political parties, young people who were disappointed by other initiatives who would always sideline the human rights agenda and felt thrilled that a new political party was in town and willing to call things by their names and open up participation.


October 19th will remain in my memory as one of the most exciting days of my life. We spent many days preparing our spokespeople and inviting the media. A week before, the story was leaked to one of the major radio newscasters, who woke me at 6:30 am to confirm whether the news were true. The cat was out of the bag and far from deterring media, this just stirred-up even more interest and we had a full house on October 19th. We were covered by several newspapers, radio and television channels during the whole week. Our facebook page exploded and garnered our first one thousand followers in roughly over 24 hours and 100 people signed up as volunteers on our web page.

We decided to call the party VAMOS, because it’s a call to action and our country needs to move. VAMOS means let’s go, and we want Costa Rica to go for full human rights, to go for sustainable cities, to go for a modernized State. Spanish is a beautiful language in which the verb contains the subject that it calls to action. VAMOS is conjugated in plural, because we don’t want to go alone, we want us, all of us to go together, towards the country we dream and deserve. VAMOS!

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Latinas Are Disproportionately Affected by the Gender Pay Gap Earning Almost Half

By: Lili Gil Valletta and Mónica Ramírez

As a result of increases in public consciousness produced by the efforts of activists over years and even decades, the gendered wage gap is a well-known phenomenon, and rising as a priority concern among women workers and allies. However, while much attention is given to the overall wage gap among women at large, the gap is significantly larger for the segment of women who - according to the U.S. Census - are contributing to over half of the overall U.S. population growth: Latinas.[1] Latinas earn 54 cents to the dollar earned by white non-Hispanic males, totaling over $1,000,000 in lost earnings by one Hispanic female over the course of a 40-year career. The average pay gap for all women is 80 cents to the dollar. These are $1,000,000- multiplied by the more than 26 million Latinas in the U.S. who fall short in their ability to save, invest, spend and build wealth. For immigrant and undocumented women, the pay gap is even wider. This problem is longstanding over many years. This is a concerning issue that has an impact on the U.S. economy at large.
Recent data analysis conducted by CulturIntel™, a proprietary methodology that utilizes advanced data extraction, machine learning and artificial intelligence techniques, highlights differences in the way women discuss career opportunities and pay across ethnic segments. Mining over 300,000 discussions by Hispanic women over the past twelve months across digital platforms, including blogs, topical sites, social media, message boards and other online platforms provides valuable quantitative understanding of a large-scale qualitative input.
Interestingly, Latinas were mostly focused on two primary topics: good pay and job availability. The topic of equal pay actually ranked last representing only 12% of the discussion, even though Latinas fare worse versus all other women in equal pay. This is not surprising considering that workplace norms may dissuade workers, including Latinas, from discussing topics, like equal pay. Conversely, 39% of the discussion by Latinas focused on just getting good pay versus 27% of all women and 35% on discussed job availability versus 25% of all women. This data may suggest that Latinas may face an even more fundamental upstream gap in their careers perceiving less job availability for them and good pay. A hypothesis may suggest then, that once they do overcome this hurdle of “getting the job” the issue of equal pay may not be a known factor or one that is readily discussed.
Source: CulturIntel™ (2016) a toolset of advanced data extraction, machine learning and artificial intelligence techniques analyzing 12 months of digital discussions about career and pay among women. Based on an analysis of 3,485,485 overall women’s discussions, including 301,485 identified Hispanic women. October 25, 2016.

The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that Latinas represent about 14.7 percent of the women in the U.S. workforce - an estimated 10.7 million workers - meaning that the harms of this gendered wage theft are distributed across millions of families, affecting their current wellbeing and future opportunities of both parents and children. Wage theft committed against women workers is a significant contributing factor toward the current scenario in which 42% of all Latinos earn poverty-level wages and Latino children are among the largest number of children in poverty in the U.S. by race or ethnicity. 
For the average full-time Latina worker, the wage gap costs more than $26,095 dollars every year. In some large states, the wage gap is even steeper. 
What are some of the factors that contribute to this problem? Some employers under value the contributions of Latina workers. Others may know their value, but may not believe that Latinas will stand up for their rights. Latinas also tend to be employed in some of the most dangerous and least compensated jobs in the nation, including agriculture and janitorial work.
The concentration of Latinas in low-wage, difficult or low-status work is indissoluble from the issue of immigration status. Immigrants are pulled by jobs at wages that workers with legal status would not accept, and are coerced to accept lower wages by the implied or even stated threat of arrest and removal
Recent data indicates that non-citizen Latina immigrants earn just 37 cents to the dollar earned by white, non-Hispanic male workers. Because immigrant workers are often unfamiliar with their rights and fear deportation or employer retaliation, the problem is more difficult to assess and, in reality, may very well be even worse than these estimates.
We also see that Latinas are attaining higher levels of education that qualify them for higher-wage work, but take home pay is still reduced by wage discrimination. This means that we have more educated Latinas who are earning the same as white, non-Hispanic male workers who have little to no higher education.
Some think that women need to "lean in" in order to truly reap the benefits of their hard work and labor. However, for Latina workers, the racialized, gendered pay gap would literally cause them to fall on their faces with no safety net if they lean in any more. Latinas cannot lean in any farther, and leaning in is counter to many cultural norms. Latina workers are already becoming more educated and qualified than other workers in some industries, yet they are not being compensated equivalently for their work, their skills, and their talents.
Others argue that Latinas need to do a better job bargaining for compensation and benefits. While it might be true that workers could benefit from being encouraged to become their own best advocates when negotiating salary packages, employers should have a floor that it uses for all of its employees irrespective of immutable characteristics like race and gender. Certainly, these guidelines must establish that a worker should not be paid at half of another workers pay when she offers similar expertise and experience to the same work or position. Business ethics should require employers to set a compensation baseline for all workers based on the desired qualifications, not the ethnicity or sex of the people that they aim to employ. Further, the easy excuse that the worker was not skilled at asking for more should not be an acceptable justification.
Latina workers are not asking for any favors. They are simply asking to be treated with fairness and to be compensated equally for all that they contribute to the workplace and our nation's economy.


[1] The terms Latina and Hispanic are used interchangeably in this article.


Lili Gil Valletta is an award-winning entrepreneur, World Economic Forum Young Global Leader and a regular TV contributor. She is the cofounder and CEO of CIEN+ (Formerly known as XL Alliance) a firm that helps organizations unlock the power of multicultural markets with research, creativity and purpose. She is also the creator of Dreamers Ventures, an alliance of investors and business experts that select, mentor and launch products created by Latinos to sell on Television- in partnership with HSN. Prior to launching her company, she had a 10-year career at Johnson & Johnson where she was one of the youngest executives, pioneered multicultural marketing initiatives and co-founded the Hispanic Employee Resource Group HOLA. In 2015 she launched CulturIntel™, a proprietary big data methodology that maps the consumer insights and their decision journey across cultural segments. CulturIntel™ has gained the recognition of news, academia and industry experts as a Game Changer of 2016 by MM&M, Top Innovator by PM260 and has been used by Fortune 100 companies and institutions like Harvard University to report unique insights. She is also the recipient of many industry awards including Top 40 Under 40 by PODER Magazine, LULAC Latina Achievement Award, New York's Top 25 Rising Latinos, ImpreMedia Outstanding Women, among others. She is a member of the Harvard Kennedy School Women’s Leadership Board, the YMCA USA Board of Directors and a mentor to the Stanford University Latino Entrepreneur Leaders Program.



Mónica Ramírez is a nationally recognized expert with more than two decades experience on the eradication of gender-based violence and the promotion of gender equity on behalf of Latinas, farmworker and immigrant women. Since 2003, she founded two ground breaking legal projects aimed at ending workplace sexual violence and other forms of gender discrimination against migrant farmworker and low-paid immigrant women for Florida Legal Services and the Southern Poverty Law Center. In addition, she created the award-winning Bandana Project. In 2012, she joined Centro de los Derechos del Migrante, Inc. as its Deputy Director, where she provided vision and leadership on CDM’s migrant women’s project, among other responsibilities. In 2015, she became the first Director of Gender Equity and Advocacy for the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda (NHLA), a coalition of 40 preeminent Latino organizations in the United States. In addition to her role at NHLA, she joined forces with the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA) as its Director of Gender Equality and Trabajadoras’ Empowerment to help further LCLAA’s work on the Trabajadoras (Latina workers) campaign. Mónica serves on the Board of Directors for the National Farmworker Women’s Alliance and the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health’s (NLIRH). She is a graduate of Loyola University Chicago, The Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law and Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.