The Pulse on Gender Equity in Seattle & Beyond


Launch of diversity survey for Seattle startups

SeattleMartha BurwellComment

Before we begin: a note from Martha.  Friends, I'm sorry I haven't posted in far too long! It's been an exciting year and my projects have grown.  I am not abandoning my passion project EqualiSea.org, and have some exciting posts coming up.  Thanks for reading, and for your support. 

Seattle is a very special place. Whether you moved here for the tech scene, for the access to the outdoors, or for the coffee, you know it has it’s own je ne sais quoi that sets it apart from any place in the world.

The startup environment here is also unique. Last year, I began my own entrepreneurship adventure and launched a small consulting business, focusing on diversity and inclusion.

As I learned and grew, had countless conversations over coffee, and met with dozens of startup leaders, the seed of an idea began to take shape in my mind.

I had worked with startups in the past, and had done gender equity work as well, but always separately. I began to realize—those two worlds needed to collide. 

Image  by  Eric Ringsmith  is  licensed under   CC BY 2.0.

Image by Eric Ringsmith is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

“Fixing” gender inequity once it was already built into the way we run our businesses, though not impossible, is incredibly difficult. What if we prevented it from gaining a foothold in the first place? What if we worked with entrepreneurs to create businesses that were not only profitable, but also equitable? 

As I began to explore this concept, I looked around to see what already existed. 

The truth? Not much. 

Yes, there were trainings. There were consultants, and academic papers. But nearly all of the existing resources were designed for established businesses, and didn’t translate well to startups. Startups move extremely quickly. They pivot, they iterate, they grow in spurts. Teams are small, and overhead is low. They value innovation and fresh thinking; they have a different relationship with risk. Much of which clashed with the way traditional diversity and inclusion training worked.

Next, I looked around for data on inequities in the startup world. I found a few national pieces, and some interesting studies out of San Francisco. But none applied directly to the unique startup world that we have in Seattle. Like our natural environment, the startup ecosystem here is complex. Many of our startups exist on the fault lines of ideologies—the drive to do good, and the drive to profit. Just as much as the existence of our mountains depends on the crashing together of tectonic plates, the brilliance and innovation that emerges from Seattle startups depend on the discomfort and risk that this collision of ideologies brings. 

And, as the lack of research showed, those fault lines are often just as hidden as the ones that lie under our feet. 

I wasn’t content accepting that void of information, so I reached out to Christy Johnson of Artemis Connection, and Ruchika Tulshyan, author of The Diversity Advantage, to collaborate on a project that would help us understand diversity in the Seattle-specific startup scene. 

Today, we are thrilled to announce the launch of the first survey on gender and racial diversity in Seattle startups. We’ve included questions about both gender and race, to gain a more complete picture. 

Whether you are a CEO or a brand new hire, if you are employed by a Seattle-area startup of 250 employees or less, we would love to invite you to take our survey. Your individual responses are confidential - only aggregate information will be shared. The survey takes about 10-15 minutes. Click here to begin

Lastly, after taking the survey, please forward it to one or more people you know in the startup world, and invite your colleagues to participate.  If you do not work for a startup, please invite those from your network who do. 

Seattle is a leader, both socially and in the startup world, and we’re so glad to have you’re help on pursuing this next great adventure.  

Take the survey here.

How a Pakistani-American Girl Superhero is Saving Her World--And Ours.

Gender Equality Overall, SeattleMartha BurwellComment

Kamala Khan is a teenage Pakistani-American living in Jersey City, and she’s out to save the world. 

Until recently, Kamala Khan lived a perfectly normal life.  But everything changed when she suddenly acquired super powers, and weird things started happening in her neighborhood.  Now she has to battle villains, investigate the mysterious force that's poised to take over the earth, and figure out how to use her new powers.  All on top of dealing with the normal teenage stuff like overprotective parents, new feelings, and complex friendships.  Though her friends know her as Kamala, when she puts on her homemade superhero outfit (a modified shalwar kameez) you may call her Ms. Marvel.

While Ms. Marvel is saving her world from villians, she’s also saving our real-life world a little at a time by busting down stereotypes and showing us that a hero can be a girl, a hero can be muslim, a hero can be real and imperfect and a little bit awkward. 

When the first Kamala Khan Ms. Marvel was released in October 2014, it was an instant best seller.  Since then, more episodes have been released, each of which has built on the initial popularity.

Part of this popularity can be attributed to the fact that Kamala takes on real topics that lots of people can relate to.  Topics like what consent and victim-blaming mean, what it’s like being a second-generation immigrant, and how tough it is to resist bacon (‘delicious, delicious infidel meat’).  

We see the exploration of unfamiliar gender roles, where men are allowed to have heart-to-heart conversations with each other, and Kamala is more often the one saving the guy, rather than the other way around.  We learn about Pakistani culture through Kamala’s interactions with her family and friends.  We even learn a little bit of a new language via Kamala's conversations and when Captain Marvel (aka Carol Danvers, the original blonde-haired, blue-eyed, big chested Ms. Marvel) appears in a dream-like state to Kamala and recites a poem by a 13th century Sufi poet—in Urdu.   But most of all, we see a teenage girl figuring out that despite all the pressure to try to be someone else, it’s best to just be herself— imperfections included.   

To find out more about how Ms. Marvel has been received, I went to Comics Dungeon, a Seattle comic store that has been a staple for comic lovers since 1992.  I had a chance to ask a few questions to Nicole Lamb, a long-time employee, comic insider, and author of the article series "Hardcore Lady Types," that explores female comic heroes. 

Me: What is your overall opinion of the new Ms. Marvel series with Kamala Khan? 

Nicole: Before the series came out I thought Marvel was forcing a new character and was skeptical how it would be executed. Since it's release it has shown that it's not only an excellent story and with great art, but exactly what the community of comic lovers has needed. This representation in both Kamala being a Pakistani Muslim American, but also a young woman navigating through high school, relationships and parental expectations, hits just what the mainstream industry had been missing.

How have comic readers responded?

They have responded positively, in a “must have more Kamala” kind of way… So there's an acknowledgement that this is hitting specific demographics, like families, women (of all ages), or any gender who like their superhero stories to be fun and endearing. It's a big demographic, it's just not all of it. Overall, Ms. Marvel stays at the top of our sales, near the likes of Saga.

What is one of the most interesting or important aspects of the new Ms. Marvel? 

The most exciting moment I've had with sharing Ms Marvel was when I went to a school in west Seattle to give a presentation about the history of comics. Towards the end I made mention of some of the recent series being released and said there's a Pakistani Muslim American superhero named Ms. Marvel and heard gasps in the crowd. That shock and awe shows me that Khamala's heritage is an important aspect and a sorely needed voice in our country. My hope is that this sets a precedent.  I'd like our future to be filled with great stories that won't create a shock because there will be so much diversity that whoever reads comics can see their reflection in the characters.

What would Kamala say about the current presidential elections?

I think she'd be frustrated that there is such immaturity on a presidential level and mad that there is a perpetual anti-Muslim rhetoric on one side. Perhaps though, on another side, she'd be hopeful there might be a President of integrity. 

What are your thoughts on how Marvel has handled gender and ethnicity in this new series? 

I think they asked the right people to be involved. Because of that, Kamala was able to have a strong voice and strength of character that is consistent throughout. I don't think you have to pair like with like though. For instance, having Brian Michael Bendis write Miles Morales Spider-man has worked even though he is white. If you get people who care about what they're doing and who they are writing (or drawing), you'll get good stories. 

What do you think the next big hit will be?

Nicole Lamb of Comics Dungeon  (Photo courtesy of Nicole Lamb)

Nicole Lamb of Comics Dungeon (Photo courtesy of Nicole Lamb)

My thoughts are to mainstream companies: you have to diversify your line, have characters of different genders, sexuality, religions, have different types of stories, dark and gritty, fun and light, have all-age tales. Try different things and see what sticks. I see the market as always changing and the demographics are shifting. Ultimately, if you tell a wide variety of stories you'll have a wider fanbase because one size doesn't fit all in comics. When Marvel put out Khamala Khan Ms. Marvel, they did something no one had done before and it was wildly successful.

That's not to say do a cookie cutter version of this. 

Find voices that are not being heard or written about and tell those stories, such as gay men, transfolk and people of color. I hear time and time again from our community, where are the brown superheros? People want to see themselves in stories, especially those where the characters are being strong and are victorious. 

In closing, I'll mention one of my favorite moments of Ms. Marvel, which takes place in the most recent episode.  The world is about to end, and Kamala's best friend Bruno finally tells her that he has feelings for her. Her response?  She gently says to him: "Being Ms. Marvel--it's filled up my heart and my life in a way that nothing else I've done ever has...I'm not ready to be anything else, to anyone else.  I need to give this everything I've got."  In essence, she's choosing personal development and growth over the attention of a boy.  

This seems like a small thing, but it's incredibly important.  Far too often, we see teenage girl characters in pop culture defining themselves mainly in relation to a boy or man.  It was refreshing to see a young female lead defining her worth through her own strength and individuality.  And the most important part: she defined it for herself.

Next, I hope she gets to battle some more of our real world villians—racism, sexism, perhaps Donald Trump?  Find out in the next volume, to be released on June 14th.  

This interview has been lightly edited. 

For more posts on gender and diversity, see the "It's All Connected" intersectionality series.  

Ruchika Tulshyan thinks it’s time to turn the tables.

Gender Equality Overall, SeattleMartha BurwellComment

For far too long we’ve been putting the work of achieving gender equality in the workplace on women.

I’ll admit it.  I’ve gone to more than one “how to negotiate” workshop. 

I can do power poses like no one’s business.  Strong eye contact, shoulders back, spine straight.  But also making sure to sit at a slight angle so I don’t look “too aggressive.” Staring at myself awkwardly in the mirror, I’ve practiced comebacks for common arguments as to why I should be paid less.  And I’ve even used cute phrases like “wiggle room” to soften the blow of –-gasp—a woman asking to be paid more!

But the truth is, I can do power poses for the rest of my life and I still won’t be paid the same as my male counterparts.  Because individuals can only get so far within a system that’s constantly pushing back on them.

As Ruchika Tulshyan writes in her new book, The Diversity Advantage: Fixing Gender Inequality in the Workplace, “too much of the existing narrative focuses on ‘fixing women’—getting more women to negotiate, assert, demand, be confident and ‘lean in’ to leadership.”

Author Ruchika Tulshyan   Photo by  Jama Abdirahman

Author Ruchika Tulshyan
Photo by Jama Abdirahman

Instead, if we take a closer look, we see that gender inequality is something that we unintentionally built right into the structures of our businesses.  With the example of negotiation, we know that we have social stigma against women asking for more money.  But we keep salaries secret, we keep requiring employees to negotiate, and we keep penalizing women for it. 

Perhaps we’re ready turn the tables, to evolve our workplaces so that they work for women, as well as men.  Because our old systems were designed for a different time, and a different workforce.  And frankly, we’ve outgrown them.

That doesn’t mean that we have to demolish our way of doing business altogether—but we do need to be open to a steady stream of renovations. 

The good news?  These investments will also benefit the business.

This is what Tulshyan calls “The Diversity Advantage.”  It’s the idea that “diversity isn’t just the right thing to do.  It’s also a financially savvy strategy in today’s hyper-competitive digital marketplace.”

Tulshyan’s 2015 ebook guides the reader through the many deeply-ingrained, but often unintentional, ways that businesses disadvantage women.  Being solution-oriented, it also offers a gold mine of ideas for correcting this, so that the companies may tap into the full potential of the talent of 50% of the population.

Last month, I had the chance to sit down with the Seattle author, and ask her a few questions about some of the themes in her book. 

We started with one of the most-publicized effects of gender inequality in the workplace—the gender pay gap.

The book states “one of the biggest obstacles to resolving the gender pay gap is denial.”  Yet there is so much evidence on the systemic gender pay gap. Why are people still in denial? 

Right now, a lot of businesses are still run by middle-aged, or older, white men.  And from their point of view, they see that there are more women in the workforce than there were previously.  Which is true, but the problem is that they are concentrated in lower-level jobs.  The higher up you get in leadership, the fewer women there are.  And many leaders don’t look hard enough to see this, or don’t question why, and decide to prioritize other things.  

They also may tend to think that the lack of women in leadership roles is a result of individual choices.  But in reality, this has been disproved time and again.

Or, they assume that they themselves are not sexist, and no one they work with is sexist, so they jump to the conclusion that they’re not doing anything wrong.  They may not understand the implicit biases that we all hold. 

So it really comes down to a lack of knowledge and understanding about the actual situation.  They need to understand that it is a priority that impacts the performance of the entire business.

The book demonstrates how pay secrecy is harmful to reaching pay equality, advocating instead for more pay transparency.  Right now, in Washington state legislature, we have a bill being considered that would make it illegal for employers to punish their employees for discussing wages.  Would this new law be enough?

This is a first step, but it’s not enough. 

We are very uncomfortable talking about money in this culture.  In fact, we’d rather talk about relationships and sex at work than talk about money! 

Until we have a cultural shift in which it becomes less of a taboo to discuss salaries, we’re still not going to see a lot of pay transparency.  Businesses can address this by slowly phasing in transparency, or at the very least taking a comprehensive look at how they are currently paying their employees. 

When it comes to supporting parents, the book states “the most impactful solutions are initiatives and policies that benefit both genders such as paid leave, flexibility, and child care support.”  Why is that the case?

It’s been well documented that creating benefits that are only for women actually harms women, because it treats them like a special population.  So the businesses will start to discriminate against them because they now come with additional expenses.  So instead, those benefits should be for all employees. 

Another reason has to do with millennials, who will soon be the largest demographic in the workforce. Both male and female millennials have shown time and again that they value those types of benefits, demonstrating that businesses must provide them if they want to be able to attract and retain talent.

Lastly, in order to truly make change, we need a cultural shift about who’s doing the caretaking and the homemaking.  Right now, women still shoulder most of that work, and it is a big burden.   We must culturally start allowing, or requiring, men to take on some of that burden.  So making these types of policies accessible to men helps achieve that.

Sponsorship is something the book advocates highly for.  What is sponsorship and how can it be implemented successfully? 

First of all, sponsorship is very different from mentorship. A mentor is generally someone who you meet with occasionally and get guidance from. A sponsor, in contrast, is someone who is in a more senior position that works with you to strategically advance your career, using his or her own reputation and connections to help you move forward.

However, a sponsor may not understand the nuances of gender.   And as more sponsors will be male, simply because there are so many more men in top leadership positions in business, it’s important that we consider gender training with sponsorships. 

For example, in many companies, networking and relationship building among leadership still occurs after hours over dinner and drinks.  This is part of what’s considered the “old boys club.”  But, if a (typically younger) female protégée is invited by her (typically older) male sponsor to these events, it is often perceived very negatively, and it can actually harm her career.  To avoid these types of situations, it’s recommended to create a more formal sponsorship program that includes guidelines and training around gender.  Formal programs also help create accountability by having points at which other leaders check in to see if the sponsor is successfully helping the protégée meet her career advancement goals.    

There are quite a few countries in Europe, and several in Asia, as well as India, that have legally mandated gender quotas for corporate boards.  In the book, it states that quotas do have some effect, but that there are other ways to get more women on boards that are more effective.  What are the recommendations?

Quotas have their ups and down.  On the one hand, they are useful in that they provide accountability.   It’s too easy for a company, without quotas, to say “we tried it and it didn’t work.” A quota requires that they keep trying.  Facebook is a surprising example.  They have only 2 women on their board, and no women of color.  This seems odd, because the most rapidly growing segments of their market are overseas, and they could clearly use diverse leadership to help understand those markets.  Facebook does not utilize quotas.

On the other hand, quotas are not enough.  There also has to be a cultural shift. 

Otherwise you may see something like what happened in Norway, in which the same few women are asked to be on 4, 5, or more boards, and most women still don’t have access.  Lastly, women are much more likely to stay on boards if there is a culture that makes them feel welcome in a leadership position. 

Here in the US, we are culturally quite far away from having legally mandated quotas. In fact, we have a Supreme Court case this year that will question whether affirmative action (which quotas fall under) is even constitutional.  Why is there such a difference between attitudes about quotas in the US, as compared to other countries?

We believe in the US that we have a meritocracy, where anyone who works hard enough will achieve success.  It’s the American Dream.  But that is simply not true for everyone.  That mindset ignores the systematic oppression that is present in our society, and fails to recognize that only some people can participate fully in our “meritocracy,” and those people happen to be mostly white men.  

We are uncomfortable with the fact that our belief in meritocracy may be an illusion, because it challenges the idea that those white men achieved success based solely on their own talent. 

The introduction to the book states “make no mistake: this is no feminist manifesto.  Sure, gender equality is a human rights issue. But engaging women in the workforce is primarily an economic issue.  Diverse leaders drive bottom-line growth and high-level innovation for global corporations.” 
After reading the book, I’d argue that it IS a feminist manifesto, as well as an economic argument.  So I’m curious why this disclaimer was included.

The book was also meant to appeal to men, so that phrase was included to emphasize that the book is first and foremost an economic argument. 

We must have men participate in this movement in order for it to be successful. There isn’t a case in history in which an oppressed group has overcome oppression without the participation of those in power. 

The only exceptions are when extreme violence was used.  In the case of gender equality, men are still largely in power, and they must participate as allies in order for us all to succeed.

Lastly, Ruchika noted that compared to other places she’s lived in (The UK, India and Singapore), in our Seattle culture, we tend to avoid tough topics like this.

But Seattle, we’ve got to talk about it.  And more than that, we’ve got to take responsibility and act on improving gender equality in the workplace.  If the ethical case doesn’t sway you, the business case can’t be ignored. 

You can purchase Ruchika’s book on Forbes.  A paper version will also be available soon. 

12 gift ideas for the feminist Seattleites in your life

SeattleMartha BurwellComment

Ahhhh the holidays.  What to get for the feminists in your life? Something practical? Something silly?  Something with a Hermione Granger quote on it? 

And if you don’t want to buy a material gift, what kids of experiences would they appreciate?  Or do you opt out all together, and just plan to make a special meal or host a get-together?

Here are a few ideas! I wasn’t endorsed by any of these brands, the choices are just based on my opinion of what I think are fun gifts. 

I always encourage you to shop from small, local business owners, or from the original author/artist/creator, when possible.  Avoiding big corporations that have a bad reputation for gender equity, like Amazon and Walmart, is always a plus.   

A membership to Town Hall Seattle

Town Hall "is like where your brain keeps getting to go when your body stops going to college." 
With "music, humanities, civic discourse, and world culture events,” Town Hall often hosts gender equity activists, authors, and organizers.  For example,  Alicia Garza of BlackLivesMatter, Kris Hermanns of Pride Foundation, and Anne-Marie Slaughter, author of "Unfinished Business: Women, Men, Work, Family" are a few of the feminist leaders they’ve recently hosted.

In fact, as I'm writing this I just returned home from an event at Town Hall featuring the amazing civil rights leader and feminist Kimberlé Crenshaw.

A feminist magazine subscription

Ms. Magazine has excellent journalism about the most pressing issues in gender equity in the US.  You can purchase their subscription here, which has 4 issues per year. 

Or you could go more local, and choose the Portland-Based Bitch Magazine, “a nonprofit, independent, feminist media organization dedicated to providing and encouraging an engaged, thoughtful feminist response to mainstream media and popular culture."

A good book.

There's nothing like snuggling up to a good book while learning about breaking down the patriarchy.  Here are a few ideas:

The Year of Yes by Shonda Rimes (November 2015). “The mega-talented creator of Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal and executive producer of How to Get Away With Murder chronicles how saying YES for one year changed her life―and how it can change yours, too.”

The Diversity Advantage, (October 2015) an eBook by Seattle author Ruchika Tulshyan is an thorough resource for anyone serious about A) managing a successful business B) gender equity or C) both.  She hyperlinks facts and figures so you can access the original sources easily.  It’s an excellent piece of scholarship that’s written in an easy-to-read style. 

The Sisters are Alright: Changing the Broken Narrative of Black Women in America. (July 2015) The author Tamara Winfrey Harris “exposes anti-Black-woman propaganda and shows how real Black women are pushing back against distorted cartoon versions of themselves.”

Borderlands / La Frontera: The New Mestiza by Gloria E. Anzaldúa (1999).  This classic book is just as relevant today as in 1999 when it was first published.  “Anzaldua, a Chicana native of Texas, explores in prose and poetry the murky, precarious existence of those living on the frontier between cultures and languages."

Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsberg (October 2015) chronicles the life of America’s most kickass feminist supreme court justice. Plus, there's pictures.

My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem, released October 2015, is the first book published in 20 years by this iconic feminist. 

Disgruntled by Asali Solomon (February 2015).  “A coming-of-age tale, a portrait of Philadelphia in the late eighties and early nineties, an examination of the impossible double-binds of race, "Disgruntled" is a novel about the desire to rise above the limitations of the narratives we're given and the painful struggle to craft fresh ones we can call our own.”

Under the Bus: How Working Women are Being Run over (April 2015) Lawyer Caroline Fredrickson offers "A forceful response to Sheryl Sandberg and Anne-Marie Slaughter, speaking for the majority of women who have been failed by their workplaces and the economy."

A coloring book! 

Coloring books are all the rage this year.  Bring out your inner child, and inner artist with “Color Her,” where you can “Mix and match fabulous female icons – from mythological to modern day.” 

Psssst....check out the "for the kiddos" section below for another great coloring book.  It's for grownups too!

A witty t-shirt

Feminist Apparel, a nonprofit, has fun shirts and a great mission: “We hold the idea that you can be a feminist if you simply believe and act on equality. Men, women, and people who say no to the gender binary are all welcome to the movement. That’s why we create t-shirts that range from XS-5XL, cover issues ranging from street harassment to gender stereotypes, and feature designs from our Feminist Creatives community that gives up and coming feminist designers an opportunity to share their work and get paid for it.”

Local Music

We have some pretty killer feminist bands in Seattle. Pick up a couple of albums or a ticket to a show as a gift.  In fact, get two tickets so you can go too! 

 Pony Time has a punk vibe, while TacoCat is upbeat and chill, like the song “Crimson Wave,” which is about Aunt Flo’s monthly visit. Chastity Belt is another local band that shares frontwoman Julia Shapiro with the band Childbirth.  In fact, ChildBirth is a 'supergroup,' borrowing members from all three previously mentioned bands. Finally The Julie Ruin features Kathleen Hanna of the iconic Bikini Kill, which was a 90s Riot Grrrl band based in Olympia.  (for more ideas, see this playlist).

Tickets to the Dixie Chicks concert

Speaking of kickass musicians, on July 8th 2016, the Dixie Chicks will be back, playing their blend of country and pop music at the Whiteriver Amphitheater South of Seattle.  This is the first US tour for the iconic trio in over 10 years.  Tickets available at http://www.livenation.com

A donation to a local organization

There are plenty of local organizations doing amazing work for gender equity.  Here are just a few ideas.   

Legal Voice, which I’ve written about previously, “pursues justice for all women and girls in the Northwest, through ground-breaking litigation, legislative advocacy, and legal rights education.” 

NARAL pro-choice Washington “is the leading grassroots pro-choice advocacy organization in Washington state, and we believe that every woman should be able to make personal decisions about the full range of reproductive health options.”

Mary’s Place, which I’ve also written about previously, “is a leading voice for homeless women, children, and families in emergency situations,” and can always use donations. 

Feminist Frequency, though not local, is “a video webseries that explores the representations of women in pop culture narratives. The video series was created by Anita Sarkeesian in 2009 and largely serves as an educational resource to encourage critical media literacy and provide resources for media makers to improve their works of fiction.”

 It goes without saying that all Planned Parenthood locations could use donations at the moment. 

The King County YWCA, whose mission is “eliminating racism, empowering women” is another great option. 

Refugee Women’s Alliance (ReWA) “is an award-winning, nationally recognized nonprofit that provides holistic services to help refugee and immigrant women and families thrive.”

The Women's Funding Alliance improves the lives of women and girls in Washington State. "We shine a spotlight on the most pressing issues and bring actionable solutions to philanthropy, community-based organizations, business and government."

A membership to the Good Men Project

Though of course anything on this list could be for feminists of any gender, a membership to the Good Men Project is particularly relevant for men.  The Good Men Project is “a diverse community of 21st century thought leaders who are actively participating in a conversation about the way men’s roles are changing in modern life—and the way those changes affect everyone.”  Though most of their content is free, a membership unlocks bonus content and other perks, plus it supports their work.



For the kiddos

"Ruby Rails" Skydive action figure, by GoldieBlox

"Ruby Rails" Skydive action figure, by GoldieBlox

The Dream Big Coloring Book features images of diverse women doing cool things and is fun for all ages and genders.

GoldieBlox, though controversial for initially not including girls of color in their ads, has now expanded with new characters, and just has really cool toys that teach kids to build things and use their imaginations.  Again, appropriate for any gender (though marketed to girls).  

Finally, Rad American Women from A-Z is a new take on learning the alphabet, featuring, you guessed it, cool women from American history. 

I encourage you shy away from ultra-gendered toys, even “career Barbie,” and to remember that all colors are for everyone.

For teens

Kamala Khan, the new Ms. Marvel

Kamala Khan, the new Ms. Marvel

There are some fun new comics that appeal to teens (and adults).  One is the *new* Ms. Marvel featuring Kamala Khan, the fourth publication of which was just released on November 24.  Make sure you get the one featuring Kamala Khan, not Carol Danvers, or you’ll be disappointed. 

Lumberjanes is also a keeper.  “Friendship to the max! Jo, April, Mal, Molly and Ripley are five best pals determined to have an awesome summer together...and they’re not gonna let any insane quest or an array of supernatural critters get in their way!” 

You can pick them up at Zanadu Comics in Seattle.   Ada’s Bookstore on Capitol Hill also carries Lumberjanes in case you can’t find it at Zanadu. 

Not into comics?  Here’s Ms. Magazine’s list of books for young feminists, for some more ideas.

Don’t buy anything at all!

Finally, consider not buying anything, and instead learning more about the idea that feminism (or any kind of anti-oppression movement) may not be as compatible with capitalism as we once thought.  I’m new to this idea myself, and I’ll be doing a mix of buying material gifts and experiences, and simply spending time with friends and family as a way of opting out of consumerism.  You could host your friends or family for a dinner, have a crafts or games night, or compose a thoughtful, handwritten letter to each person.  Sometimes those things are worth so much more than an item.

Whatever is your unique way to celebrate the holidays, I hope you have a fabulous time!

With peace and love,


Newsflash: PayScale Releases Big Data on Gender Pay Gap

Seattle, Gender Equality OverallMartha BurwellComment

From Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper, “Awkard Black Girl” to NBA Cheerleaders, people have been talking about the gender pay gap

Now, we’ve got some new numbers to arm ourselves with when your coworker says women get paid less because of their individual choices.   

Seattle-based PayScale.com just released a study on the gender pay gap, in which they drew from their large database of salary information to compile data from 1.4 million full-time employees in the U.S. 

The report used a proprietary algorithm to compare wages between women and men based on industry, marital status, whether they were parents, and other variables. This information was taken from survey results that full-time workers submitted over the last 2 years. 

Though much of the data confirmed what we already know, there were some interesting, if disheartening new statistics. 

" Lucie & ses parents-4 " by  Thomas Sauzedde  is  is   licensed under   CC BY 2.0.

For example, it’s known that being married and having children unfairly penalizes women in the workforce.  But did you also know that a family actually gives a career boost to men? The PayScale data shows that married men with children were the highest wage earners in the country ($67,900 for married men with children, $60,800 for those without children), while single mothers earn the lowest wages in the country.  Those that need the pay the most earn the least.


Yet strangely, the data also showed that men prioritize home and family responsibilities more often than women.  How could this be? We know that women still spend more working hours each year taking care of children and family obligations.  But remember, the PayScale data was based on survey responses.  The answer becomes clear in another piece of information: “The more often a woman tells us that she prioritizes home/family over work, the larger the controlled gender pay gap becomes, even when compared to men with similar characteristics who say they prioritize home/family over work with the same frequency.” 

Ah.  There it is.  Women cannot even say that they would prioritize their family if they had to, because they are penalized for it. 

Unsurprisingly, some of the industries with the highest gender pay gap were male dominated ones such as mining, oil and gas extraction, and forestry.  Yet even within female-dominated industries such as health care and social assistance (79% women), there still exists a large pay gap. This reflects how we devalue women’s work overall as a society, regardless of the industry.  Currently, the PayScale data showed a 24.3% “uncontrolled” pay gap, and a 1.7% “controlled” pay gap for healthcare.

1.7 percent! That doesn’t seem so bad, does it?  Let’s take a look at what that actually means.   PayScale offered two data sets for each item they examined.  One was “uncontrolled” in which they simply looked at all full-time wages, regardless of job level, experience, etc.  The other was “controlled” in which they only compared wages that had the same job level and experience.  It’s tempting to want to celebrate the smaller wage gap for the controlled data.  However, it does not communicate one very critical point: much of the wage gap exists because women are blocked from advancing into higher positions.  It also misses out on the fact that jobs of equal skill and education level are valued less if they are jobs traditionally held by women.  So the uncontrolled data shows what women’s wages are in a more complete sense.

Another finding new to me was the age at which worker’s pay plateaus.  From our first jobs, our wages continue to increase until we reach a certain age, when they flatten out or even drop.  According to PayScale, men can expect their wages to keep increasing until they are 50-55, while women, shockingly, can only expect their pay to rise until they are 35-40.  What does this say about how we value women as they age, compared to men? 

Finally, I wonder if the data includes the most marginalized industries, which are often female-dominated, and/or have a majority of people of color, such as housekeeping and home care.  Does the data include those pieces of the population?  Who don't have access to the PayScale survey, don't speak English, or don't use a computer?

However, the big data PayScale compiled is still telling. So what do we do with it?  How can we use it to make the pay gap smaller? 

It should be seen as a wake-up call.  We tend to think that we are somehow ‘past’ the gender pay gap.  That it’s a choice.  That women should just work harder or be more confident.  But this data shows that it’s much, much more than a personal journey.  It’s an enormous, ingrained bias that we all hold (women too!).  But even more so, it's our systems and the way our businesses and industries are defined. This data helps us understand the pay gap in our own industries.  So how about instead of changing the women, we upgrade the workplace?  Other developed countries are doing this with practical things like paid family leave (not just maternal leave), more time off, better benefits, and affordable childcare.  We could utilize 'unconscious bias training' and hiring techniques to diversify leadership roles. The U.S. is still lagging behind.  But if our labor laws aren’t changing fast enough, individual businesses can step up and implement change themselves.  Because it’s not just the right thing to do.  It’s also good for business

To view PayScale’s report, visit http://www.payscale.com/data-packages/gender-pay-gap

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