W2W Blog

Northern Michigan Goes to Camp Wellstone

By: Ashlea Walter and Phoebe Hopps

Ashlea Walter, Campaign Manager for Dan O’Neil, and Phoebe Hopps, leader of Women’s March Michigan, had the pleasure of attending Camp Wellstone for Grassroots Activism & Campaign Manager training April 23-25 in Dallas, Texas. An intensive political workshop, similar to political training and action groups such as Emily's List and Emerge, Camp Wellstone is officially nonpartisan though progressively minded.  

 

“We all do better, when we all do better.” These were some of the remarks at the opening session. They served a dual purpose. First, it’s a quote from the late progressive leader and senator Paul Wellstone. Second, they were principles for us to keep in mind throughout the weekend. It was made clear in those first few minutes: we were all in it together! 

 

The Wellstone theory is based on the Wellstone Triangle. The idea, from Senator Paul Wellstone, says that long-term progressive change is only possible when electoral politics, public policy, and grassroots organizing work together, strategically, while at the same time developing new leaders for the future.  All three groups working together are essential for SUCCESS. 

 

For Ashlea, it was an honor to attend the Campaign Management track. She returned to northern Michigan with a few things: new friends from all over the country who are tirelessly working to elect great candidates from underrepresented areas, an overflowing toolbox of resources, a heart filled with renewed hope, a brain challenged to think more deeply and critically about how we approach a new world of democratic representation in our country, and a belly full of great margaritas and Tex Mex food.

 

The biggest takeaway for Ashlea was that it's easy for individuals working in the bowels of a campaign to forget the big picture. She writes: 

 

“Yes, we are working 'round the clock to get our candidate elected to represent our values, but it's imperative we remember that the more important work we're doing when we contribute to the process of an individual campaign (staff, candidate or volunteer) is that we are building, deepening, and widening a progressive base of voters. Not just for THIS election cycle, but for, well, hopefully forever. 

 

“We need to work hard to energize our base, but we should spend more time and resources than we have been on the disenfranchised members of our community, the people who don't have a voice, who don't come out to vote because they don't feel that they and their opinion matter. It certainly does matter, and we're here to do the important work to make sure they get involved and get an amplified voice in our future. We're all in this together!”

 

Phoebe experienced life-changing training during the Grassroots Activist track. She writes: 

 

“It was incredible to dive deep into messaging and team building through the movement. Organizing a community is difficult, especially if you are coming from the outside. Successful movement building means nurturing and growing meaningful relationships with people in our communities. It means finding shared values and common concerns and working off these points to build trust and change. By developing these local relationships, you build a community that is organized and able to demand change by electing new leaders and holding them accountable.  Accountability is everything. 

 

“While we worked on messaging, team building, getting buy-in for volunteer program development and more, the biggest takeaway was in the composition of our group. We hailed from as far as Alaska, from all sorts of urban and rural communities, and the skills we developed were applicable across the board. It felt like we were being trained in the deep root and philosophy of organizing.” 

 

At the end of the weekend-long training, everyone gathered in the lobby of the college, arm-in-arm, and recited a quote from well-known activist Assata Shakur:  

 

“It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love each other and support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains!” 

 

Phoebe and Ashlea look forward to bringing these skills back to Northern Michigan, as we continue to build a progressive movement with incredible leaders. 

Why I'm Not an Activist 

By: Nadia Daniels-Moehle

In January I spoke at the 2018 Women’s March in Traverse City, I spoke from my heart and I spoke from my mind. The speech was born from inspiration after reading the collection of essays The Fire This Time, edited by Jesmyn Ward. While reading these stories I heard voices that turned emotions into thoughts and thoughts into words, so that is what I did with my speech. 

 

My speech was not so much a form of activism as it was a simple desire to express a deep down voice. A voice that wasn’t just mine, but a culmination of all the voices and stories I’ve listened to. Since I was young, people have called me an activist and even more so after my speech, but I wonder if I am. The Oxford English Dictionary defines an activist as, “A person who campaigns to bring about political or social change.” But what I’m doing isn’t campaigning, it’s life. It’s wanting what is just, it’s listening, and it’s using my privilege, the opportunities I’m given, to take action and to try to make the world better in any way I can.

 

My parents moved from Detroit and the suburbs outside of Detroit to the woods. They raised their children in a house full of books, and listened to their kids. Instead of teaching us to speak up, they listened. And so, our voices are valid not because they are loud, but because they are voices. Some people might call my family an activist family: we live an “alternative”, turned simple, turned intentional lifestyle; love nothing better than a good intellectual conversation; and we are politically aware and pretty involved. But my parents continually say that all they have done was “do what felt right” (after extensive research, of course). And doing what they feel is right has led them down many activist paths. 

 

Growing up I’ve watched my mom wrestle with anxiety and PTSD caused by her experiences growing up in the city of Detroit in the 70s and 80s. My mom’s activist actions were preluded by fear, her anxiety has led her to seek safety and control. Because of that she has a pretty innate need to fix things, this has led her to commit to many organizations and champion causes. Even though her work to make things better, safer, has led her to winning a Northern Michigan Environmental Action Council (NMEAC) Award, it has, more often than not, left her burnt out. Perhaps this is because the notion of activism is burdened by a need to make lasting (permanent) change. But there is nothing permanent about change. 

 

I come from a long line of women, workers and worriers. We want to make the world better. And the worries that follow us around, while often hindering us, also goad us to work. My mom and her mom (who was just nominated for a NMEAC as well) have walked before me and my sister, they pass their experience on, and by doing so they make things a little easier. My sister has a mantra she repeats to herself, to gain confidence, and remind herself of her connection to women. She says, “my name is,” then, “and I come from a long line of worriers and warriors.” 

 

The women who have walked before me have listened, to people, to culture, and to children. Growing up being listened to has also facilitated my voice being heard. And because my voice has been heard people have given me opportunities, to work, to speak. To be blunt, my activism was handed to me, but then, I chose it. This privilege often leaves me feeling conflicted: I want to speak for everyone, I want to save everything, but I also just want to be a kid. And if my voice is listened to, I want to use it, and I want to speak of things, of others, who are not listened to. I would like to use my voice to help people learn to listen.  

 

I think that each one of us has the potential to shape the culture around us, to make history (her-story, their-story) just by living our lives. If we were able to support each other in our acts, no matter how large or small, perhaps we could see that life is its own kind activism, one that we all share. In the words of poet and librarian Audre Lorde, “we learn more and more to cherish our feelings, and to respect those hidden sources of our power from where true knowledge and therefore lasting action comes.” And this is perhaps why I don’t see myself as a “capital A” activist, because supporting life, wanting to better the world, and to facilitate the future are what women have done for ages. Except now, instead of just listening, I can also use my voice.

 

Women’s shoulders know the weight of the world, putting each other on our shoulders is just part of living. The people who have walked before me have given me their shoulders to sit on, because of them the stars are closer, because of them my hopes have become attainable. I am now tall and strong enough to lift someone else on my shoulders, I can listen to their voice way up there, listen to the future speak. Now is always the time to lift the future, to listen, to let the stories of humanity seep into us and flourish.

 

Supportive parents are a large part of my story. They knew that if I knew the value of my voice, I could also know the value of my story. They wanted my sister and me to feel the freedom of expressing our stories through our creativity. So they did what any responsible parents would do: let us draw on the walls, everything from abstract drawings done by four-year-olds to philosophical quotes. And while most of the walls are painted over now, the wisdom and creativity will always be there, under the surface, creating a foundation. One quote (I can remember exactly where it was) has sustained me through adolescence and recently in coming to the realization that we are always in a perpetual state of change. Eric Hoffer, autodidact and philosopher, said, “In a time of drastic change it is the learners who inherit the future. The learned usually find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists.” 

Born at the turn of the century Nadia Daniels-Moehle, a life-long lover of the arts, has grown up in the woods of Northern Michigan. In 2010, together with her family, she founded The Books For Walls Project which supports literacy, libraries, and book love. When not reading she is either writing, painting, studying the humanities, or thinking philosophical thoughts. 

Reading scores in Michigan schools and our lawmakers' solution:

Hold back third graders 

By: Nancy Flanagan

Perhaps you’ve seen an article in the Detroit News or Free Press—or Bridge Magazine. The Sky is Falling! Michigan Students are Failing Even More Than Before! Other States are Pulling Ahead!

All of these carefully placed articles with their incendiary headlines spring from the same source: Education Trust Midwest. News outlets across the state (most of which are operating with far fewer actual journalists) rely on ETM for ‘free’ and ‘bipartisan’ education content, and this spring, ETM’s burning issue is our declining test scores and why we should support Michigan’s new ‘Third Grade Retention’ law.

In conjunction with this spate of op-eds and articles, ETM has released a 40-page report, which includes a few pages of cherry-picked standardized testing data, three examples of schools where scores went up (they’d been given extra resources by Steelcase in programs sponsored by—you guessed it—ETM), and a list of vague recommendations like “more robust implementation and improvement systems, guided by sustained and visionary leadership.” The report was written by out-of-state policy analysts and researchers and guided by a panel (named in early pages of the report) of prominent business leaders. There’s nary a Michigan teacher, school leader, school board member or parent mentioned.

And yet, it’s produced alarming headlines across the state.

The testing data--although scary-looking and presented in the worst possible context--reveal precisely two things. First, Michigan has repeatedly changed its statewide assessments, and the data on which the report is based comes from the first incarnations of a test that was widely understood, by teachers giving it, as likely to be immediately replaced by a different test. Therefore, everyone did worse on the test, a common result when taking a new, unfamiliar test—especially a test that appeared to be short-lived.

Second, kids in high-functioning, well-heeled school districts did better than kids in poor, under-resourced schools. This is also common. In fact, what standardized tests repeatedly tell us is that students in districts with intact families and adequate income do better than students without these things.

However—the fact that test scores went down across the state, nearly unanimously, was reason enough for Education Trust Midwest to declare that the $80 million (which is not much, spread over 500+ districts) the legislature grudgingly gave schools to improve reading instruction was being wasted, and our not-so-hot schools were getting worse by the day.

Therefore, in order to have ‘accountability,’ ETM says, Michigan schools needed to vigorously enforce the new law which specifies that 3rd graders who are not reading at ‘grade level’ (to be determined by the next statewide assessment, whatever that looks like) will be retained. There are loopholes—savvy parents with attorneys will quickly access these—but struggling readers whose parents are not on top of the new law will repeat the third grade. Including students coping with English as a second language.

What will retention of large numbers of children do? There are schools in high-poverty districts where more than half of the children are not ‘passing’ the 3rd grade reading test. Remember, the cut score—the difference between passing and failing—is not science; it’s set by the State Board of Education. In Flint, the pass rate dropped from over 40% down to about 10%-- will 90% of the children Flint repeat the 3rd grade?

There’s plenty of research on retention. It’s expensive—repeating a grade means the district must shell out at least $8000--$10,000 to add an additional year to a child’s K-12 career, and more if that child is accessing special education services. 

More important, retention doesn’t work. It doesn’t improve chances for academic success, even in early grades, and often sets a pattern of failure and disinterest in learning. It increases the likelihood of dropping out of school—and of aggression while in school. The infamous school-to-prison pipeline is populated with teenagers who were retained in early grades.

So why is our legislature, assisted by non-profits like Education Trust Midwest, jumping on the ‘Failing Schools’ bandwagon, using misconstrued numbers and unfair, unworkable solutions?

Good question. One we should be asking our current legislators and all candidates for public office in Michigan.

 

Nancy Flanagan is an education writer and consultant focusing on teacher leadership. She spent 30 years in a K-12 music classroom in Hartland, Michigan and was named Michigan Teacher of the Year in 1993. 

Civility and Kindness Can Outweigh Privilege

By: Marilyn Jaquish

 

Recently I learned a lesson about privilege in our society: it isn’t just about color or social standing or even education. The heavy weight of economic privilege bears down on many us. A person doesn't have to be wealthy to enjoy the privilege of a nice home, vehicle or even vacations. Many of us take our privilege for granted. I recently was confronted with acknowledging my own sense of privilege. Of course I had already wrestled with my own status: I am a middle class, retired college instructor with sound investments. I am privileged.  I have a nice home, a newer car, travel opportunities, the ability to buy most things I want. But recently I was confronted with someone's lack of economic privilege, and I felt very humbled and a little guilty.

 

Every Thursday I attend Wigglers, a story time event at the Traverse City Public Library. As I left the library with my young grandson and was just buckling him into his car seat, a younger woman crossed the parking lot, walked toward me, and called out, “Can you help me?”  

 

Briefly, it crossed my mind that I didn’t want to deal with this. It was close to noon; the rain was heavy; I had lunch to prepare, and a four-year-old buckled in the back seat. I felt quite leery about being approached by a stranger. I replied, “ Well, I have my grandson in the car and I need to get him home for lunch.” I felt really lousy about the quiver of doubt in my head. I pride myself on being a humanitarian.

 

Desperately, she said, “I can’t start my car; I need a charge.” The rain and cold were numbing, and she was not warmly dressed. I wavered. My mother’s words echoed in my head. “Help anyone you can, when you can, Marilyn,” she had often said to me over the years.

 

I had no choice. “Sure. Do you want me to pull up next to your car?” I asked.  She motioned to a device that she had in her hand: a battery pack with cables “If I can just boost this from your car battery, I can start my car from it.”

 

I decided to pull my car next to hers so I could be close to Sammy. As I got out, I realized that I did not know how to pop the hood of my car. I looked and felt for a lever but it alluded me. Feeling quite foolish, I started digging in the glove box and said, “ I’ll have to get out the manual.” 

 

It began to dawn on me: I didn’t have to know how to open the hood of my car: a mechanic always did it for me. I paid people to do things like check my oil, change filters, and generally keep my car running. This woman’s car had duct tape in several strategic areas, holding bumpers, fenders, and parts I didn’t even know, in place.  Economic privilege, mine, was staring at me. 

 

 

As we worked together to get the hood up, I asked her if she was cold, could I loan her a sweatshirt. She said, “Oh, no, I’m used to it and besides I’m on my way to do my laundry and my sweatshirt has spaghetti sauce all over it.” Again that old economic privilege was staring me in the face.

 

She got the hood of my car open, found the battery, and realized that my almost two-year-old car was too new and chip-oriented to charge her battery pack. 

I asked, “Can I take you somewhere? Call someone?” She shrugged and said, I’ll have to ask someone else to help me.”

 

“Well, at least I can flag someone down. “ I walked across the parking lot and asked a man getting out of an older car if he could help us. He looked at me, white hair, good shoes, nice trench coat, and said, “What do you need?”

 

I turned and gestured to the woman and said, “She needs to charge her battery pack so she can use it to start her car.” He replied, “ Sure.”

 

As he walked back to his car, I turned to the woman and said, “I’m so sorry I couldn’t do the job for you.” She smiled and said, “ At least you tried. You stopped and tried.”

 

Sometimes that is enough: caring and kindness. 

Peaceful Protests Are Democracy in Action

By: Christie Minervini

 

Shortly after a date was set for the Women's March on Washington, I started making plans to attend. Despite my aversion to crowds, I felt driven to participate, and as I told my husband, “I need to be counted. I need to be a pinpoint in the aerial photos documenting the event.”

I didn't feel compelled to protest against our new president, but rather to demonstrate for issues that are important to me as a woman and mother. Reproductive rights and access to women's healthcare continue to be restricted; Roe v. Wade is in danger of being repealed with at least a couple of Supreme Court appointments in the balance. Women still do not earn the same as men for identical work; we continue to be sexually harassed and discriminated against; and we don't have equal representation in government or in the major corporations that are pulling its strings.

For me, the experience of marching was almost religious. Over a half million of us, wrapped in solidarity and support, came together for a common cause –  publicly demanding that those in power account for their actions and rectify the problems facing women, especially the poor and marginalized. At a time when more and more of us feel isolated, I had an overwhelming sense of purpose and belonging.

Eye contact, smiles, meaningful conversation and connection were happening all around me. I wore my pussy hat as a badge of honor, and being a tiny part of the massive horde of pink filled my heart with pride. Police officers stationed along our route seemed proud to be part of his historic event as well – they were actively engaged by taking photos for marchers, giving us encouragement, and updating us on other marches happening around the world. It was calm, peaceful and inspiring.

Afterwards, I was surprised by the number of people who simply didn't get the point. “Isn’t it wrong to protest the result of a lawful election?” was the question of confusion. Even our president, in his very first post-inauguration tweet, attacked “professional protesters” who came out after we “just had a very open and successful presidential election.” The administration, along with the media outlets that support it, were treating protesters like sore losers, paid operatives or even criminals.

This anti-protest mentality supposes that the only way to participate in politics is to cast a ballot. Well, the marchers did vote. Their candidate didn't win the election, but nonetheless, they felt obliged to continue fighting for justice and for the issues that are important to them moving forward. They wanted their voices heard, and like me, they wanted to be counted.

Following the event, an old high school friend who happens to be a conservative white male accusingly asked, “How have you specifically been oppressed, what specific rights have been taken away from you, and when exactly did it happen?” Like many people in a position of privilege, he doesn't think these issues are a problem because they don't affect him personally.

I explained that even if I did provide him with a list of specific rights that have been violated or taken away, it wouldn't matter. We still don't have an Equal Rights Amendment and any complaint I bring forward is completely null. The amendment would have ensured that “equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” Right now, in a country where “all men are created equal,” the Supreme Court is left with little legal recourse for sex discrimination claims.

So, even though I don't have equal rights under the law, as a U.S. Citizen, my first amendment right allows me to “peaceably... assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Peaceful assembly is as important a democratic institution as are elections. Marches promote positive social change and the advancement of human rights, encourage the development of an engaged and informed citizenry, and strengthen our representative democracy by allowing direct participation in public affairs.

Protests are also effective. They attach real faces and real voices to a cause. Everyone notices a protest – the politicians, the press, and the public. They have played a major role in abolishing slavery, preventing the exploitation of labor, ending wars, and extending rights to women and minorities.

Lastly, demonstrating is a powerful antidote for hopelessness and despair. The choice to demonstrate is the choice to take control of our body, our time, and our words – and in doing so, to reclaim the ability to see a future.

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg expressed it best: “The women's march... never have I seen such a demonstration both in the numbers and the rapport of the people in that crowd. There was no violence, it was orderly. So yes, we are not experiencing the best of times, but there is hope we will see a better day.”

Equal Representation Produces Better Results for All

By: Christie Minervini

 

Even though it's been nearly 100 years since the 19th Amendment guaranteed their right to vote, women are still greatly underrepresented in public office. Now, more than ever, we need equal representation – not just to more accurately reflect the electorate, but also to encourage better performance in our leadership.

Currently, women make up only 28% of the Michigan House of Representatives, and on the local level, they represent just 11 of 39 county commission seats. Antrim County is most fairly represented with 4 of 9 seats held by women, but Benzie County erases those gains with zero.

So, while the number of women in leadership remains limited, research shows that they may actually be more effective politicians than their male counterparts.

In a Pew Research Center survey of eight important leadership traits, women outperform men in five categories and tie in two. Americans rank women higher on honesty, intelligence, compassion, creativity, and outgoingness – by as much as 75 percent. And on qualities of hard work and ambition, men and women tie, according to the survey. The only quality in which men score higher than women is decisiveness, and here they are separated by only 11 percentage points.

Yet, when asked whether men or women make better leaders, the results contradict these other findings – only 6 percent of the 2,250 adults in the survey say that women make better political leaders than men.

The inconsistency uncovered in these findings is reflective of a wider paradox on the subject of gender and leadership. In an era when women have made huge advancements in higher education and workforce participation, relatively few have made it to the highest levels of political leadership.

Why not? Survey respondents cite gender discrimination, resistance to change, and a self-serving “old boys club” as reasons for the relative scarcity of women at the top. They also say that women’s family responsibilities and lack of experience hold them back from the upper ranks.

What they do not say is that women inherently lack what it takes to be leaders. 
Jennifer Lawless, a Brookings senior fellow who also directs the Women and Politics Institute at American University, argues that the real reason for low political participation among women is not because of lack of experience or family responsibilities, but rather that they are less likely to be encouraged to run and less likely to be considered as a potential candidate when a position becomes available.

“Political gatekeepers tend to recruit from their own networks, and those are men who tend to operate in pretty male-dominated networks,” says Lawless.

It is also a matter of negative self-perception and self-doubt among women. They think that they have to be twice as good to get half as far.

“Women are very likely to believe that when they run for office, they don’t do as well as men, (but) there’s no empirical evidence to support that,” says Lawless. “When women run, they actually perform just as well on Election Day, they’re able to raise just as much money, and generally speaking, their media coverage looks very much the same.”

Researchers Sarah Anzia at Stanford University and Christopher Berry at the University of Chicago confirm this notion, “If women perceive there to be sex discrimination in the electoral process, or if they underestimate their qualifications for office relative to men, then only the most qualified, politically ambitious females will emerge as candidates."

Their study also finds that "women who are elected to office will perform better, on average, than their male counterparts."

We know that districts served by women legislators are at a distinct advantage over those represented by men. U.S. congresswomen bring home roughly 9 percent more discretionary spending than congressmen, and as a result, districts that elect women to the House of Representatives receive, on average, about $49 million more each year. In addition, women are better policy makers – congresswomen sponsor more bills and obtain more co-sponsorships for legislation than their male colleagues.

So, in order to achieve more equal representation in government, women need to be persuaded to run and actually believe that they can win.

There's evidence of this among women at all political levels. Female members of Congress told National Public Radio that they needed an extra nudge (or three) before they finally decided to run for office. In a subsequent interview, women state lawmakers claimed that they had to be talked into running.

Another important element is that women in office effectively help attract more women to office. President Obama's Analytics Director Amelia Showalter found that electing a woman to a major office like governor or U.S. senator today is associated with a 2 to 3 percent increase in representation in state legislatures four years down the road.

It's possible that if more women campaigned, other women would react less negatively to campaigning, or they might be more likely to consider themselves qualified. One thing is for sure – once they're in office, there's little standing in their way.

By: Christie Minervini

 

On Saturday, August 12, 2017, a "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, Virginia turned violent. Far-right, white nationalist protesters not only carried their Nazi and racist flags and chanted "White lives matter" and "Jews will not replace us," but they also openly carried their weapons in order to intimidate those who don't share their views.


Ironically, it wasn't a gun that resulted in one loss of life and 19 injuries -- it was a car driven by a neo-Nazi that violently rammed into a group of counter-protesters. Our hearts ache for the families of Heather Heyer, 32, and the two police officers who were killed while monitoring the protest from a helicopter.

We believe that President Donald Trump has emboldened the rise of racism as a political force in our country. For example, shortly after the crash, he missed a perfect opportunity to act like a leader by speaking out against the white supremacist groups involved, and by condemning this blatant act of domestic terrorism. Instead, he blamed the unrest “on many sides” -- careful not to upset the racists among his base.

As a country, we are increasingly divided -- politically, economically and ethnically. Trump exploited these divisions in order to get elected, and since that time, has knowingly helped to exacerbate them. 

Former KKK leader David Duke expressed what we all were thinking when he tweeted in response to Trump's remarks, "I would recommend you take a good look in the mirror & remember it was White Americans who put you in the presidency, not radical leftists."  Our President is supposed to encourage political discourse and work within the political system in order to mediate our political differences, not accentuate them.

An August 14th editorial in the Los Angeles Times sums it up best, "We as a nation are at a dangerous place in our politics. With institutions questioned, delegitimized and, in the case of the federal government, eroded from within, we must recognize that the strength of a democratic society rests in its ability to forge common ground, to have common faith in each other and to isolate those who would seek to shred the national fabric. Given the gaspingly inadequate response by Trump, we must look elsewhere for leadership that can help navigate such rocky waters."

We don't yet know which path will lead our country toward racial healing and understanding, but we can be certain that it won't be cleared by our current President. It's in our hands now. 


Americans believe in respect, civility, justice, and equality.  We all must reaffirm these values at every turn and counter those who would incite the views expressed by the Alt-Right, including any in this current administration.  

Women’s Equality At Home and Abroad:

“It Rests With The Smiles of the Women"

By: Sondra Hardy

I was asked by my friend, Marliese Ammon, whose husband is the German Ambassador to Great Britain, to speak to Ambassador and High Commissioner wives in London this past May.  My topic was American Women: Politics and Philanthropy. Marliese knew my professional background in women and philanthropy and very personal involvement in Woman2Woman.  

 

While researching material for the presentation, I learned about a little known but extremely important and potentially powerful group of women called the W20. The group’s major goal is to empower women to reach their full economic development. Well, that caught my eye and I further discovered that just prior to my arrival in London, the women representing the W20 met at their third annual Summit in Berlin.  Few knew about it or the W20, not even the women in the audience who were from Turkey, where the first W20 Summit was held three years ago.

 

It was in Istanbul three years ago that the G20 (Group of Twenty) countries created the W20 to promote women’s economic empowerment as an integral part of the G20 process.  G20 is an international forum for the governments and central bank governors of 20 major economies.  It was organized as a result of the 2008 economic crisis with the goal of promoting international stability.  The countries involved represent 85 percent of global GDP, and this July the Summit will be held in Frankfurt, Germany.  I am deeply troubled and embarrassed that our president will be representing the US. When I was in London, the European, Asian, and African women I spoke with had only scorn for him and pity for me to have such a man head our nation.

 

There were officially 100 representatives from the G20 countries at the Berlin W20 Summit in May, including  German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of IMF.  One can only wonder what they thought about Ivanka Trump being the US representative.  Their feelings are well represented by their faces in photos from the Summit.

 

In 2015 when the first W20 Summit was held in Istanbul, Turkey’s then Prime Minister, Ahmet Dvutoglu was very receptive to the idea and said, “..the prosperity of a country can be best understood by the smiles of women from that country and it is very important to empower them in the economic growth process.” 

 

Going right along with the W20 goals, our Federal Reserve Chair, the first woman to head it, Janet Yellen (a holdover from the Obama administration) just prescribed an unusual remedy for our slow growth economy: harness the under-tapped pool of female talent.  She knows that, relative to other countries, women’s employment in the US is low.  Yellen claims that a recent study estimates that increasing the female participation rate to that of men would raise our gross domestic product by 5 percent.  So, supporting women in the workforce isn’t just a ‘women’s issue’ – it’s an economic issue.”  And we in the US have fallen behind Europe and Asia whose countries generally offer more paid leave and subsidized child care. 

 

One very important political aspect in all of this is seeing conservative women in the US approve Yellen’s remarks.  One, a former policy advisor to Energy Secretary Rick Perry, said she applauded Yellen’s decision to highlight challenges that women disproportionately face in the labor force.  And she says, “the result is a big disconnect between what working parents need and what is provided.” Don’t we wish conservative men felt the same way.

 

It is interesting to note that once we get around to talking about economic growth through more women’s participation, men listen.  Angela Merkel said, “When we invest in women, we invest in a powerful source of global development.” Sit up men and take notice.  But we know it won’t happen without equal wages, affordable and quality daycare, more women in science and technology and affordable and quality education for all.

 

The W20 2017 communiqué titled, “Putting Gender Equality at the Core of the G20”, outlines its recommendations and Chancellor Angela Merkel has promised to take the communiqué to the G20 this year and to “put it on the table.” But she says she will need help from other countries to enact anything and I asked the women present in my audience to do what they could to make this happen.  

 

Merkel has not notably been a speaker for women and even when asked at the May W20 Summit if she was a feminist, ducked the question.  She said if being a feminist meant being for equality, her answer was yes.  But nevertheless, her strong support of the Summit and her solid promise to present it to the G20 are very heartening.

 

One of this year’s focuses at the Summit is on women’s digital inclusion in each and every corner of the world through more girls and women in STEM programs and supporting women’s start-ups and tax incentives for businesses run by women. 

 

Specifically, the G20 Women’s Summit says, “When we invest in women, we invest in a powerful source of global development.”  The Summit organizers urged women from all the countries to get involved to back up W20’s claim for full economic empowerment of women and to make it heard and taken up by the G20 Heads of State and Government at their July Summit.

     

Let us all express our dedication to the W20 cause: “full access of women to labor markets and their financial and digital inclusion in each and every corner of the world.”  Big changes are coming and we women are bringing those changes about.

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