Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Obstacles and Opportunities for Rural Latinas and Political Engagement

BY MÓNICA RAMÍREZ, WAPPP Oval Office Fellow 2015

Growing up in rural Ohio as the daughter and granddaughter of former migrant farmworkers, I had very limited exposure to Latino politicians. Given the national statistics, it cannot be surprising that I do not recall hearing about or meeting any Latino political representatives until I was in my late teens. Latinos in my community were not the ones who were making important policy and political decisions that impacted our families or our communities. We did not have representatives or spokespersons that assumed this role and children, like myself, did not have political role models of our same ethnicity to emulate. Even if we had believed that it was possible to become a political leader, we certainly did not know how to make it happen.

Today, the Latino population throughout the United States has ballooned, with significant growth occurring in rural communities around our nation. Sadly, despite the fact that the numbers are changing, there are still few Latino elected officials who can fight to ensure that there are good laws that address the priorities of Latino families and communities. While sizable in numbers, Latinos are still confronted with immeasurable obstacles when it comes to issues like immigration, education, economic stability and health. These issues are not unique to Latinos but they are matters that are impacting our community in significant ways.

Women also hold a minority of elected positions in the U.S. with a particularly low number of Latinas winning political positions. In fact, according to a report published by LatinasRepresent, a joint initiative of Political Parity and the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda, “25,000,000 Latinas live in the United States. Of the 8,236 seats in state and national political office, only 109 are held by Latinas.” Thus, there are not enough women, including Latinas, in positions of power to ensure that women’s rights are preserved and augmented, where needed.

The rapidly changing demographics within the United States require that more Latinas run and win elected positions at every level of government. To date, efforts have been made to reach Latinas living in urban centers within our nation through meetings and trainings hosted by LatinasRepresent and other groups. Similarly, it is important to gain deeper insight into the political reality of Latinas living in small communities in our nation, like the deep South and the Midwest, places that have seen huge growth in the Latino population but whose political power has not risen at commensurate rates.

Over the last couple of months I have had the opportunity to conduct research into the civic engagement of rural Latinas, a curiosity that was born of my own experience as a rural Latina. The purpose of this research has been to garner greater awareness about what women in these communities, from Texas, North Carolina, New Mexico, and other states, view as both opportunities to become civically engaged and to, perhaps, someday seek elected or appointed positions at the local, state or federal level.

The research and the focus groups that I have conducted with rural Latinas have highlighted concerns that women have about throwing their hat in the political ring. Among these, they raised valid concerns about securing the capital required for a campaign, the need for training to seek office and a concern related to the connections required to run a successful race, to name a few. Other women, like Diana Bustamente, a sitting Probate Judge in Doña County, New Mexico, provided important wisdom and insight that may assuage some of the concerns that participants expressed. “I... knew that my most valuable assets were my time, my team and, in the end, my two feet.” Bustamente, a former migrant farmworker and a first time elected official, had very little money to finance her campaign. Rather, she relied on a campaign manager, a team of volunteers, and one-on-one contact with her constituents, which her team gained by canvassing the entire county to seek support. While Bustamente had no prior political experience, she had been civically engaged for many years as a community leader and Executive Director of a local non-profit organization.

This study is important not just because of the Latino population boom or the recent focus on the gender gap in U.S. politics. It is vital because a representative democracy requires that men and women of every community, urban and rural, and people of every gender, ethnicity, religion, and socioeconomic background, be afforded the same opportunity to seek and hold political positions. In sum, it requires that our political leaders reflect our values and beliefs, along with a shared understanding of the lived experiences that have informed these ideals.

The forthcoming report will shed light on some of the unique issues, considerations and obstacles that confront rural Latinas, an emerging demographic whose political power remains largely untapped despite its limitless potential. It will also provide a brief glimpse at rural Latina elected officials, like Bustamente, who are blazing a path for the women and girls who will one day follow their lead and their example.

Mónica Ramírez has been a farmworker and immigrant rights activist for nearly two decades. She is a civil rights attorney, a skilled public speaker and an author. Mónica is also a nationally recognized subject matter expert on workplace sexual violence against farmworker and immigrant women. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in Communications from Loyola University Chicago, a Juris Doctor from The Ohio State University and a Masters in Public Administration from the Harvard Kennedy School. Mónica is currently a Women and Public Policy Fellow at the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda in Washington, D.C.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Iron Fist in a Velvet Glove: Gender/Professional Identity & Women's Negotiation Performance

Dr. Shira Mor, Assistant Professor at the Rotterdam School of Management in Erasmus University, presented her work on gender professional identity integration in today's HKS WAPPP Seminar. While introducing Dr. Mor, Professor Hannah Riley-Bowles noted that she "thinks about the practical at the individual level", meaning that her work aims to deliver insights that women can use in their individual lives. "My message is very positive, it's very rewarding to engage in this research", Dr. Mor commented.

The question that triggered her research was about what it means to integrate the feminine and the masculine side that all persons have within them. She recalled a description by Virginia Woolf of the two "important and resonant" powers inside us that are both, feminine and masculine, and mentioned that if integrated, could have incredibly creative outcomes. How to actually bridge these two identities is one of her main interests.

Virginia Woolf made it into the discussion
at the HKS WAPPP Seminar
Dr. Mor described a number of studies she has run to see the effect of gender/professional identity integration (GPII) on negotiation results for women. GPII refers to the degree to which any person feels like their gender identity fits in well with the professional role they perform, measured by self-reported responses to an eight item questionnaire. The questionnaire is administered most commonly to people whose gender is opposite to the dominant gender in their field, such as male nurses or female engineers. If a person reports that their gender identity interferes with their work or that they feel uncomfortable exhibiting certain gendered traits in a professional setting, they will score low on GPII. Conversely, people who see their gender identity as a professional resource will score high on GPII. Essentially, it is looking at how well people can integrate their feminine and male sides.

In the first study, Dr. Mor observed the results of a negotiations class exercise. Before the exercise began, the students were scored on GPII; female students tended to report lower GPII than males. The students conducted a simple negotiation simulation in which they would play either the buyer or the seller. After the negotiation, female students with high GPII achieved much better outcomes than female students with low GPII. In contrast, GPII had no effect on men's negotiation results.

Dr. Mor explains her methodology
In the second study, the research team brought in a group of women into a negotiation training environment and put them in a salary negotiation with a male actor who they believed to be a recruiter. The goal was to find out whether it was really GPII driving the effects or whether there were other personal traits that were producing the results. After the negotiations, high GPII women obtained higher starting salary offers regardless of other characteristics such as race. These negotiators tended to smile more frequently and have more open body postures than low GPII negotiators.

One of her next papers took this a step further and looked at whether GPII for women could be induced. Participants in the experiment were randomly assigned to one of three groups before the negotiation exercise. The first group was asked to list ways in which being female helped them professionally; the second listed ways in which being female negatively impacted them at work; the third was a control group who entered the negotiation without any prior activity. The research assistants who coded the responses found the negative experiences especially difficult to read, because they contained reports of a wide array of experiences like harassment, catcalling, among others.

The participants then answered the GPII questionnaire and conducted a negotiation. The study finds that participants who listed positive traits scored higher on GPII and obtained better outcomes from the negotiation. Commenting and referencing related research, professor Riley-Bowles mentioned GPII might not likely come from within but from an interaction with society. Also striking was the fact that results for those who listed negative aspects of their gender identity at work were very similar to the control group's, sadly suggesting that women's 'default' setting is to have low GPII. "It's sad to say that there is no real control condition", Dr. Mor said.

Dr. Mor is continuing this course of study to identify the struggles and challenges women face to hopefully be able to prescribe useful adaptive strategies to navigate around them. Follow her research to learn more.

Friday, September 25, 2015

How Gender Stereotypes Constrain Women in STEM

Out of the 196 people who have been Nobel laureates in Physics, how many would you guess are women? Maybe 10 or 20? Try two. How about for Chemistry? Out of the total 166 laureates, only four have been women. Keep in mind that this would be double-counting Marie Courie, who received a Nobel Prize in both. This is just one indicator of the degree of diversity in the science fields. Why is this so and how is it a problem?

Corinne Moss-Racusin, Ph.D. has something to say about these questions, and she did, during this week's HKS WAPPP Seminar. She is currently conducting research on how gender stereotyping is a contributing cause to the under representation of women in STEM fields. Prior to her current work, research had shown that there are problems such as inequitable access to science resources for women, such as lab space, there was experimental evidence of bias in other fields, and there was anecdotal evidence of bias provided by STEM students. However, to provide more conclusive knowledge of the biases in the field, Moss-Racusin and her colleagues conducted experimental studies that provide insightful results.

Dr. Moss-Racusin at the HKS WAPPP Seminar
Her team was the first to run an experimental study about bias in the STEM context. They asked faculty to evaluate identical applications for a research position at a lab and rate them on  their competence, comment on how likely they would be to mentor such an applicant, make a hiring decision, and provide a figure for the salary they would pay the applicant. One group was given applications belonging to a person named "John", and the other group assessed identical applications belonging to a "Jennifer". The study finds no effect of the faculty member's race, field of expertise, gender, or background on the outcome. In contrast, there is a strong effect related to the applicant's gender. "Jennifer" was receiving about $4,000 less in starting salary, was rated as less competent, and was less likely to get mentoring. In other words, women are facing a negative bias, and it comes from men as well as other women. Moss-Racusin explained that this is "likely because we are all equally exposed to the same cultural biases... they might be being enacted by well-meaning individuals, they’re still biased choices”, she concluded.

It seems that we are all equally biased.
Dr. Moss-Racusin's team ran a second experiment. They recruited a group of undergraduate students unfamiliar with the research in this field and presented them with two articles about bias against women in STEM. The articles only differed on the punchline: One said the research showed that there was a bias and the other concluded that there was not. The students' attitudes towards STEM were measured after reading the articles. The researchers found that students presented with evidence of bias reported increased awareness of it, less sense of belonging in a STEM field, and reduced STEM aspirations as compared to their counterparts in the other group. The same results applied for men and women. This means that awareness of the bias seems to deter students from adventuring into the STEM field. What is most worrying, given these results, is that women on average tend to report much higher awareness levels about bias than men. In the real world, their awareness may be deterring them from entering STEM career paths. This is bad news for all because STEM jobs tend to be better paid and there is a predicted shortage of workers for the coming decades.

Finally, Moss-Racusin's research moved into what Professor Hannah Riley-Bowles called "daring" territory for scholars: practice. Looking for a way to improve diversity trainings that have produced mixed results, she partnered with professional filmmakers to create twelve high-quality films that communicated the findings of the latest research on gender bias. She then measured the difference between individuals randomly assigned to view this material versus a control group who was exposed to similar videos but which did not touch on the topic. Her results show that whether it is a narrative film that shows the findings in a story-telling manner, or a documentary-style intellectual approach, there is an effect that the videos can have that increases awareness and reduces gender bias, and it can last at least six months. Worthy of note was that the 'intellectual' format seemed to have a bigger effect, especially when the test subjects were STEM faculty  members.

Why should we care? As was mentioned, a recent White House report predicts that we may need at least a million more STEM majors to respond to the economy's needs. There is a large potential available in the female workforce to supply this expertise, "gender parity really is in the interest of our national competitiveness", as Dr. Moss-Racusin puts it. And moreover, the problem is not fixing itself. Her research finds no cohort effects, which means it is not a generational issue. The under representation of women in this fields is not going away unless we work at it. Finally, research has shown that diverse teams produce better results, so if we do not diversify science, we all stand to lose. 

Check out the event's page to listen to the podcast of the talk and take a look at the presentation that Dr. Moss-Racusin kindly shared with us.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Reserving Time for Daddy: The Long and Short-Term Consequences of Fathers' Quotas

People often think economists only worry about inflation, interest rates, or fiscal policy, but did you ever think that economics researchers would be working on figuring out ways for couples to share child care and housework more equitably? Well, they do! In the latest edition of the HKS WAPPP Seminar, economist Ankita Patnaik, from Mathematica Policy Research, presented her work on the long term and short term effects of paternity leave on families. She is part of a group of up and coming scholars that, according to Professor Hannah Riley-Bowles, are producing research that reminds us that the topic of gender encompasses more than women; equality concerns everyone.

Patnaik began by providing an overview of encouraging trends that have emerged in recent decades. In some contexts, women have been catching up to men in the formal labor market, though pay gaps remain, and have closed gaps in realms like education. In contrast, 'care work', which includes unpaid tasks such as housework or child care in the home, is strongly characterized by sex-specialization and takes up more of women's time. In the typical household according to studies, women are assigned inflexible tasks that need to be performed regularly and at fixed times, like cooking dinner, for example. In contrast, men usually take on tasks that can be performed at any time and are not routine, like fixing various items or mowing the lawn.

These differences can hurt women at work and reduce their bargaining power within the household. They can result in lower priority assigned to women's activities outside the home. For example, researchers observe that women are more likely to quit their job in response to husband's long work hours and more likely to relocate to accommodate a partner's professional path.

Before Patnaik's research, studies had found a relationship between parental leave schemes that included a paternity leave provision and the number of men taking leave to perform childcare duties. They could not pinpoint a causal relationship though and the effect of fathers' leave on housework sharing was not clear. Her contribution provides answers to these questions by looking at a very special policy episode that happened in Canada in 2006.

Dr. Ankita Patnaik, Mathematica Policy Research

The province of Quebec put into place a parental leave scheme called QPIP Reform, which made it easier to qualify, provided more compensation, and included a five-week 'daddy-only' provision for leave in addition the mother's. Families with babies born beginning on January 1st would be eligible. This allowed Patnaik to compare eligible families with those that just missed the date and would be governed by the old scheme, which only provided with maternity and shared leave. The results are very impressive.

The likelihood that fathers would take paternity leave went up by 53 percentage points, and their leaves became three weeks longer. "Norms play a critical role", she explained. Because this policy is aimed specifically for fathers, social norms become more accepting of men leaving work to take care of a child than when the policy was shared leave. After the quota, "dads are more likely to take their leave if their brother or their boss took it", she remarked. She calls her findings "the flypaper effect", because the quotas stick to the dad's when they are directed specifically to them. Labels matter!

What is even more impressive is that she found that these five weeks of leave can have effects that are much more long lasting than could have been expected. After five years, moms in Quebec were spending an hour longer at work on average, making about $5,000 Canadian dollars more, and more likely to be working full-time. Dads were spending more time doing 'carework' and their work hours and earnings were unaffected.

Ankita Patnaik will continue to work on this issue, her findings are key to any policy maker working on closing gender gaps.

Monday, September 14, 2015

What Works: Gender Equality by Design

Imagine the following situation: You are a young professional musician. And you are really good. Music is what makes your blood flow. Ever since you were a little girl, piano and violin lessons excited you rather than bored you. Today is a very important day for you: You're auditioning for a position in the National Symphony Orchestra. How would you feel if you knew that the minute you walked on stage, before even playing your instrument, your chances of being hired would decrease significantly?

Before research showed that having musicians audition behind a curtain, so the jury would not be able to tell their gender, increased the chance that a woman would be hired or promoted, and that these "blind" auditions alone could account for a third of the increase in the proportion of women musicians hired into top-tier American symphonies, female musicians would face just that scenario. The implicit biases of possibly well-meaning members of the jury would too often reduce women's chances to succeed in the audition.

Although we would all like to think we do not suffer from the same biases as the members of those juries, the opposite is likely true. During the first HKS Women and Public Policy Program seminar of the academic year, Professor Iris Bohnet explained that we are all biased in one way or another, "because seeing is believing". We observe patterns in the world, such as most kindergarten teachers being female, or most software engineers being male, so we come to expect people to fill those roles. Don't believe it? Take the test yourself.

Professor Bohnet is the Director of the HKS Women and Public Policy Program (WAPPP) and Co-chair of the Behavioral Insights Group at the Center for Public Leadership at HKS. During the seminar, she presented a preview of her forthcoming book “What Works: Gender Equality by Design”, in which she argues that we can use insights we learn from Behavioral Economics to close gender gaps caused by implicit biases.

Professor Iris Bohnet, Director of the HKS Women and Public Policy Program
These insights allow us to create “nudges", which are small actions designed to obtain the most desirable reactions from people, building on knowledge of how the -often irrational- human mind actually works. In the book, she talks about "nudges we can use to make the world a better place", because they can reframe the environments in which we work. Best of all, they are mostly cheap and can be introduced quickly.

Professor Bohnet described previous approaches to increasing diversity in the workforce, such as diversity, leadership, and negotiation training, and underscored that there is not enough evidence to prove that these interventions work. On the other hand, interventions like long-term capacity-building or mentoring have been found to be very promising. In a study that followed the career trajectories of women economics professors who were randomly assigned into a long term mentorship program, the professors in the program fared better than those in the control group.

She mentioned many other nudges to redesign the work environment, like putting up more images of female leaders -"what you see matters in what you think is possible for yourself"-, avoiding panel interviews, assessing job candidates on a pre-determined set of questions immediately after the interview, highlighting the increased presence of gender mixed corporate boards rather than their low proportion, and many more. Professor Bohnet is handing in the manuscript for the book next week, so look forward to reading more when it comes out!

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Boston to help you get that higher salary

From the Boston Globe, May 21, 2015

About 275 business leaders, most of them women, gathered at the Seaport Hotel Wednesday to broach a touchy subject: the fact that they earn less than men. It’s a timely topic, with the City of Boston in the midst of gathering gender-specific salary data from local companies. And the city used the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce event to announce yet another step toward closing the wage gap.

This fall, the city plans to hold the first of hundreds of free or low-cost salary negotiation workshops, aimed at teaching women — and men if they so desire — the best ways to boost their pay.

Megan Costello , director of the city’s Office of Women’s Advancement and a panelist at the morning event, said later that she hears stories every day about women underselling themselves, worried about asking for too much “because that’s going to seem egotistical or presumptuous, all these attributes that women tend to see as negative.”

The panel, moderated by Victoria Budson , executive director of the Women and Public Policy Program at Harvard’s Kennedy School, also featured Cathy Minehan, dean of the Simmons College School of Management; Evelyn Murphy , former lieutenant governor and president of the WAGE Project; and Beth Williams , president of Roxbury Technology LLC, a manufacturer that rebuilds toner cartridges.

Williams told the group that after she agreed to be part of the citywide effort to close the wage gap, she examined her own payroll and found more men in supervisory positions. She subsequently promoted two women.

“If I could, I would hire all women,” she said, “but then I’d get in trouble on the other side.” — KATIE JOHNSTON

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

2015 Class Day Award Winners

The Women and Public Policy Program is pleased to announce the 2015 recipients of the Barbara Jordan Award for Women’s Leadership, the Holly Taylor Sargent Award for Women’s Advancement, and the Jane Mansbridge Research Award.

The Barbara Jordan Award for Women’s Leadership honors one graduating student at Harvard Kennedy School for their commitment to building community and serving as a role model for women aspiring to leaders. Barbara Jordan was a powerful politician, riveting orator, and dynamic leader. As the first black woman elected to the Texas Senate in 1966 and in the tradition of the Texas Senate, Barbara became “Governor for a Day”– the first black woman governor in the history of the United States. This year’s recipient, Phyllis Johnson, used leadership skills to bring together women from the African Diaspora to create a student group, African Diaspora Women at Harvard Kennedy School. Phyllis helped the organization gain formal recognition by advocating for its promotion of leadership, empowerment, and dialogue among the African Diaspora. This year the group hosted the first Harvard Women of the African Diaspora Summit, which brought together over 100 members of the Harvard community. Inside the classroom, Phyllis has enriched other students’ learning by sharing experiences from running her coffee company, B&D Imports. The business was recently recognized for its impact empowering women entrepreneurs in Africa and Latin America. Phyllis has incorporated the values of women’s leadership and empowerment into her work for the benefit of the Harvard Kennedy School community.

The Holly Taylor Sargent Award for Women's Advancement was established in 2005 by former Dean of the Kennedy School, Joseph S. Nye, Jr. and his wife Molly Nye to honor a student’s contribution to the advancement of opportunities, situation, and status of women. This year we are pleased to honor Rory Gerberg and MaryRose Mazzola for their joint work expanding awareness on gender issues across Harvard, particularly on campus sexual assault. Rory and MaryRose co-founded and led Harvard Students Demand Respect, a coalition of students across Harvard dedicated to eliminating sexual assault and harassment. One of their nominators wrote, “I have rarely seen such a strong partnership. Both contributed profoundly to Harvard Students Demand Respect and their different skill sets complement one another. I admire both women for their leadership, passion, and commitment. Most importantly, I admire them for taking a stand on a tough issue and not giving up in the face of harassment and discouragement.”

The Jane Mansbridge Research Award is presented to a student for the best research paper with an analysis of an organization or topic focused on gender and public policy. Jane Mansbridge, the Adams Professor of Public Leadership and Democratic Values at Harvard Kennedy School, is an affiliated faculty member of the Women and Public Policy Program. Professor Mansbridge has been instrumental in fostering, conducting, and promoting gender-related research. This year, a faculty selection committee reviewed the nominations and found two truly exceptional PAEs. First, “Of Monsters and Men: Addressing Rape Culture in U.S. News Reporting” by Susanne Schwarz under faculty adviser Dara Kay Cohen. Based on her findings, Susanne provided the Women’s Media Center with policy recommendations on building a media advocacy strategy to eradicated biased reporting on sexual violence and rape. The second PAE receiving the Jane Mansbridge Award is “Inclusive Security in Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations: An analysis of UNSCR 1325 as a tool to strengthen women’s participation” by Anne Martin Connell and Hannah Winnick under the faculty guidance of Hannah Riley Bowles. Anne and Hannah created policy recommendations for the International Civil Society Action Network to better support local Israeli and Palestinian UNSCR 1325 implementation efforts targeting gender inclusive negotiations.

The Women and Public Policy Program appreciates all of our honorees’ dedication to gender equality. Congratulations on a successful journey at HKS! We wish each of you the best in all of your future endeavors.