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Opinion: Are female leaders too cheerful for their own good?
rom first lady to senator to secretary of state, Hillary Clinton felt the Goldilocks Syndrome, says Sylvia Ann Hewlett.
June 19th, 2013
05:30 PM ET

Opinion: Are female leaders too cheerful for their own good?

Editor's note: Sylvia Ann Hewlett is an economist and the founding president and CEO of the Center for Talent Innovation, a Manhattan-based think tank. For the last nine years she's directed the Gender and Policy Program at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs. She's also co-director of the Women's Leadership Program at the Columbia Business School, and is the author of the forthcoming "Forget a Mentor, Find a Sponsor."

By Sylvia Ann Hewlett, Special to CNN

(CNN) - Early in Dara's career, she was told by a coach that "honey attracts more bees than vinegar," so she took pains to rein in her natural candor and soften her opinions. But when she started her present job as vice president at a national retailer, her boss told her she was too nice. "Where's the balance?" Dara muses. "Do they want me to be harder or softer? With men or with women? With my superiors or my subordinates? It's tricky to figure out."

Call it the Goldilocks Syndrome. That's the double bind women too often find themselves entangled in when they try to prove they have what it takes to be a leader. They're called out for being either too this or too that: too feminine or too masculine, too self-deprecating or too self-aggrandizing, too frumpy or too provocative, too bossy (read: bitch) or too circumspect (read: cream puff). They're never "just right."

In short, smart women face tough choices. Should they try to be perceived as competent or likeable? A recent study suggests cheerfulness could hold back female leaders, which is just the latest in a body of research exploring the behavioral barriers women encounter on the road to the top.

FULL STORY
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Filed under: Gender • What we think • Women
June 7th, 2013
09:25 AM ET

Former Navy SEAL comes out as transgender: 'I want some happiness'

By Chuck Hadad, Susan Chuan and Dana Ford, CNN

(CNN) - After years spent fighting in some of the world's worst wars, former U.S. Navy SEAL Kristin Beck says she knows what she wants.

"I want to have my life," she told CNN's "AC360" in an exclusive Thursday night.

"I fought for 20 years for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I want some happiness."

Beck recently came out as transgender.

She wrote about the experience in a book, "Warrior Princess: A U.S. Navy SEAL's Journey to Coming out Transgender."

Trapped in a man's body

It chronicles her life as a young boy and man, known then as Chris Beck.

Beck deployed 13 times, serving in places such as Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq. She earned a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart along the way.

Though she's felt trapped in the wrong body since grade school, Beck didn't come out until after she left the military in 2011.

Doing so earlier would have been too big a risk.

Transgender men and women are banned from service.

"That's a chance that if I took it, I might be dead today," she said.

"There's a lot of prejudice out there. There's been a lot of transgender people who are killed for prejudice, for hatred. When the book came out - some amazing support and some amazing praises - but also some pretty amazing bigotry and hatred."

Beck says she doesn't need people to love, or even like, her.

"But I don't want you to beat me up and kill me. You don't have to like me, I don't care. But please don't kill me."

FULL STORY

Filed under: Gender • How we look • Military
Moms are breadwinners in record 4 out of 10 households
Moms are the sole or primary breadwinner in four out of 10 households with children, but still 51% of Americans believe children are better off when a mom stays home with the kids.
May 29th, 2013
12:00 PM ET

Moms are breadwinners in record 4 out of 10 households

By Annalyn Kurtz @AnnalynKurtz, CNNMoney

(CNNMoney) - Moms are the sole or primary breadwinner in four out of 10 households with children, a record high according to an analysis of U.S. Census data by the Pew Research Center.

But that doesn't mean Americans approve.

Pew researchers surveyed about 1,000 Americans last month and found that 51% believe children are better off when a mom stays home with the kids and doesn't hold a job. Only about 8% say the same about fathers.
Half also said the increase in the number of women working for pay has made it harder for marriages to succeed. On the other hand, two thirds said it has made it easier for families to live more comfortably.

Curiously, 79% rejected the idea that women should return to their "traditional roles."

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Opinion: For strong daughters, stop with the sex stereotypes
Decades after the feminist movement, our culture still emphasizes girls' appearances, David M. Perry says.
May 28th, 2013
11:55 AM ET

Opinion: For strong daughters, stop with the sex stereotypes

Editor's note: David M. Perry is an associate professor of history at Dominican University in River Forest, Illinois. His blog is How Did We Get Into This Mess. Follow him on Twitter.

(CNN) - When the rocket scientist Yvonne Brill died in March, The New York Times celebrated her as the maker of a "mean beef stroganoff" and "the world's best mother." When my 4-year-old daughter, Ellie, a wildly creative and interesting girl, finished a year of preschool last week, her teachers gave her an award for being the best dressed.

A few years ago at my son's preschool camp award ceremony, I sat silently as well-meaning counselors called each child forward. Girls: best hair, best clothes, best friend, best helper and best artist. Boys: best runner, best climber, best builder and best thrower. My son won best soccer player. In general, girls received awards for their personalities and appearance and boys for their actions and physical attributes.

It was similar at my daughter's ceremony, where the teacher told us that all the children were so excited to see what award they would receive; it had obviously been built up as a big deal. The gender disparity was subtle but present.

Read David M. Perry's full column
Girl Rising
May 16th, 2013
09:00 AM ET

Amanpour to girls: It's time to power the world

Editor's note: Christiane Amanpour is anchor of CNN's "Amanpour." This open letter to the girls of the world is part of the "Girl Rising" project. CNN Films' "Girl Rising" documents extraordinary girls and the power of education to change the world. Watch it June 16 on CNN.

By Christiane Amanpour, CNN

(CNN) - Dear Girls of the World,

There are more than 7 billion people in the world. Half of them are women and girls.

Just imagine the whole world rising, as it will, when all women and girls are empowered.

It has to start with education. All the number crunchers have it right on this one: education = empowerment, from here in the United States to Uruguay and Ulan Bator.

The United Nations, the World Bank and any organization you can think of say that an educated girl is a girl who can get a job, become a breadwinner and raise herself, her family, her village, her community and eventually her whole country. All the stories and statistics show that a healthy society is one whose women are healthy and productive.

Look at what women and girls are achieving for Rwanda, 19 years after the genocide there. The country leads the way in Africa in every way: education, health, the economy, the environment and in elected politics, powered by the force of its women. It is an amazing story. In contrast, the Arab world, which is so rich in natural resources such as oil and gas, is way behind in all development indicators, because half their populations, their women, are denied basic rights. It's why the Arab Spring must liberate and fully empower women, for the good of those countries.

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Cherie Blair: I want to see women achieve full equality before I die
Cherie Blair attends the worldwide premier of Larry Crowne at the Westfield Shopping Center in London on June 6, 2011.
April 22nd, 2013
12:54 PM ET

Cherie Blair: I want to see women achieve full equality before I die

Leading Women connects you to extraordinary women of our time - remarkable professionals who have made it to the top in all areas of business, the arts, sport, culture, science and more.
By Catriona Davies, for CNN

London, England (CNN) - Cherie Blair, the UK's former first lady, is a leading barrister who holds the senior advocate status of Queen's Counsel. In 2008, she founded the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, where she devotes herself to supporting female entrepreneurs in Africa, South Asia & the Middle East.

She spoke with CNN's Leading Women team about her commitment to eradicating injustice for women, her rise from a working-class family and how she balances her charity work with her professional life.

CNN: What achievement are you most proud of?

Cherie Blair: Like every mother, it's my children, that's the first thing that makes me really proud. For my own part, it would be when I became a Queen's Counsel in 1995. I was the 76th woman ever to become a Queen's Counsel, so it was still a pretty rare thing.

Read: Blair, Gates, Amanpour: Things I wish I'd known at 15

CNN: What cause are you most passionate about?

CB: The thing I want to see before I die is women achieving full equality in the world. I'm very passionate about injustice against women and there's too much of it in the world. In so many parts of the world, women are not regarded as worthy or equal to men. In parts of the world women are bought and sold. We think that's just in the developing world, but women are bought and sold in our country, too.

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We'd watch these ladies on late night
April 10th, 2013
01:54 PM ET

Once more, with feeling: Where are the women in late-night TV?

By Breeanna Hare, CNN

(CNN) - With Jimmy Fallon's takeover of "The Tonight Show" destined for 2014, there's the tiniest glimmer of hope that NBC will do something different with the vacated seat on "Late Night."

For once, maybe we'll see something fresh, something other than the established white-guy-in-a-suit-sitting-behind-the-desk tradition that's held on since the show debuted in 1982.

Longtime TV critic Ken Tucker indulged in the wishful thinking, asking on Grantland if he "may really spit in the wind and suggest that maybe, finally, for the love of God and Totie Fields, maybe it's time (once again) to give a woman a chance behind the desk?" Rather than traditional stand-up comics, Tucker hoped to see Paget Brewster, Julie Klausner, or, hope against hope, Amy Poehler, even.

But none of those women was among those named in the gossip surrounding the proceedings - and the one woman who was, ever so tentatively, mentioned by the New York Post's Page Six, Tina Fey, was said to be "too busy" for the nightly grind.

That left Seth Meyers - Fey, Poehler and Fallon's "Saturday Night Live" co-star - carrying the bulk of the speculation that he'd move to "Late Night," along with rumors that Alec Baldwin might be in talks to join the post-prime-time lineup. It's thereby signaled another round of the now time-honored question, "Where the (bleep) are the ladies in late night?"

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Filed under: Gender • How we live • Pop culture • Women
April 8th, 2013
11:50 AM ET

Streep: Thatcher paved the way for women

(CNN) - In 2011, Meryl Streep gives her thoughts on Margaret Thatcher's legacy after portraying her in "The Iron Lady."

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Observers chime in on same-sex marriage hearings
March 27th, 2013
05:48 PM ET

Observers chime in on same-sex marriage hearings

By Moni Basu, CNN

(CNN) – Two days of arguments on gay marriage at the Supreme Court ended Wednesday. The justices heard both sides in two separate cases: California's voter-approved Proposition 8, which bans same-sex marriage, and the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage on a federal level as being only between a man and a woman.

It could be months before the court makes a ruling. CNN spoke with a few people who were inside the nation's highest court Wednesday or were monitoring the hearings closely from the outside. Tell us what you think in the comments below.

Jeffrey Toobin, CNN legal analyst: "I think DOMA is in trouble, and I think it's in trouble because Anthony Kennedy was repeatedly concerned that the Defense of Marriage Act violates states rights. Anthony Kennedy, who as we all know is the swing vote on this court, is someone who is concerned about gay rights, although he said very little, I think nothing, about the issue of whether the Defense of Marriage Act violated gay people's constitutional rights. He was clearly very concerned that the Defense of Marriage Act was invading the province of the states to define marriage. That's a state function, usually. And that would certainly be suggesting that he was going to strike down the law. Certainly the other liberals, the four Democratic appointees, looked like they were going to vote it down."

Edith "Edie" Windsor, plaintiff who challenged DOMA: "I am today an out lesbian, OK, who just sued the United States of America, which is kind of overwhelming for me. I think it's gonna be good."

Jonathan Turley, law professor, George Washington University: "You're seeing sort of a sticker shock with the justices, that they were worried about handing down a major ruling either recognizing same-sex marriage or the right of equality, or rejecting it."

Chad Hollowe, supporter of same-sex marriage: "It's pretty clear that some justices like (Antonin) Scalia are going to vote against it no matter what. Scalia was engaged in a long back and forth about how exactly did this become unconstitutional all of a sudden. Was this unconstitutional when the constitution was created - when the 14th amendment was passed? Was it unconstitutional 10 days ago - when did this happen? His line of questioning made it pretty clear he was dead set against it, which shouldn't be surprising, given Scalia's history."

Eric Delk, who attended court arguments Wednesday: "Well, I think that the conservative justices feel that Prop 8 is valid, but I think some of the more liberal justices know it needs to be altered. Because the people decided something different from what the courts decided and opinions have changed since the Prop 8 vote. And I think in California, if they had a vote now, they would probably allow same-sex marriage."

Mary Ann Piet, social worker: "I'm here today because I'm a social worker, and I've seen a lot of people suffer over the years. And I'm concerned about not getting people their human rights, their dignity as people. And this will give dignity and human rights to people. I have members of my family that are gay, and I see them suffer internally."

Also on this blog: A time line of gay rights in America

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Filed under: Discrimination • Gender • Relationships • Sexual orientation • Who we are
March 25th, 2013
09:00 AM ET

The county where no one's gay

By John D. Sutter, CNN

Editor's note: John D. Sutter is a human rights and social change columnist for CNN Opinion. E-mail him at CTL@CNN.com or follow him on Twitter (@jdsutter), Facebook or Google+. This column contains language that may offend some readers.

Franklin County, Mississippi (CNN) - Statistically speaking, Franklin County should be straighter than John Wayne eating Chick-fil-A. The middle-of-nowhere rectangle in southwest Mississippi - known for its pine forests, hog hunting and an infamous hate crime - is home to exactly zero same-sex couples, according to an analysis of census data.

In other words: It's a place where gays don't exist.

At least not on paper.

Before I visited Franklin County, I figured there must be gay people living in Straight County USA. But I didn't expect anyone to be open about it - and with good reason. As part of this op-ed project, I recently ranked the Hospitality State as one of the least hospitable for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, based on its lack of legal protections. In addition to allowing gays and lesbians to be fired because of who they are, Mississippi is also gracious enough to let landlords evict gay residents.

Those are great incentives for a gay person to become invisible. And being invisible, of course, could mean avoiding census workers.

I drove to this place of rolling hills and misty valleys with a few questions on my mind: Can there really be such a thing as an all-straight county? If so, what is it like to be someone who never has met a gay person? Do you just watch "Glee" and figure it out?

If there are gay people in Franklin County, what keeps them hidden?

I spent a few days searching for answers before I realized I was making the wrong assumptions: It's not that gay people here (or anywhere really) want to be in the closet, necessarily. It's the rest of the world that pushes them in and shuts the door.

FULL STORY
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