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empowering women, girls and their families to achieve equal opportunities in their personal and professional lives

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Posts Tagged: Employment

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Most people have several experiences with getting hired, promoted, or even fired from a job during their lifetime.  Because of this, various federal and state laws have been passed in order to protect employees from facing discrimination during routine employment procedures. Despite the seemingly broad reach of both state and federal legislation, there are certain categories of discrimination that are notoriously absent from protection. Sexual orientation and gender identity are two of them. Currently, in 29 states, it is perfectly legal to fire, refuse to hire, or promote someone on the basis of their actual or perceived sexual orientation. The same can be said about 33 states regarding gender identity protections- in those states, workplace discrimination on the grounds of gender identity are allowed by law. Connecticut is one of the few states that presently offers protection against discrimination based on both sexual orientation and gender identity.

There are numerous federal laws that, at present, protect employees from facing discrimination in the workplace. The most sweeping of these protections is Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. Further, federal laws currently exist that protect employees from discrimination on the basis of age, disability status, and genetic information.

The Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC) is the federal agency tasked with administering these laws, as well as adjudicating complaints made against employers. In addition to federal laws, 47 states have their own agencies tasked solely with adjudicating employment discrimination claims under relevant state law, as well as assisting and referring with claims made under federal law. In Connecticut, the state agency that handles discrimination claims is the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO). Anyone who feels that their rights have been violated at work; whether through hiring or termination procedures, harassment, retaliation, or denial of opportunities for advancement- can file a complaint with their appropriate state agency or the EEOC within 180 days from the date of the alleged discrimination.

Currently in Congress, there is a proposed measure to provide nation-wide protection against sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination, entitled the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). On November 4, 2013, ENDA cleared a major procedural hurdle in the U.S. Senate, garnering both Democratic and Republican support in order for it to pass the Senate three days later. Currently, the bill has been sent to the House of Representatives, where it will stay pending until the Speaker of the House decides to call it to the House floor for a vote. Unfortunately, it seems unlikely that this will happen during the 2014 legislative session. Despite this bleak outlook, there is an opportunity for President Obama to issue an executive order banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity for all federal contractors. This would represent a significant step towards achieving a discrimination-free workplace for all.

Photo by Jo Guldi, “Nurses at Work.” 6/3/2007. Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic

Kaitlyn Fydenkevez is a legal intern at CWEALF, and a second year law student at the University of Connecticut School of Law. You can read more from her at kaitlynfydenkevez.com/blog/.

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My last blog entry, “When Women Succeed, America Succeeds”, described the National House Democrats’ economic agenda for creating equal working conditions between men and women, as well as exploring different policies that take into account the situations that women uniquely face in the workforce.

One idea that was proposed is to expand the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which was passed in 1993 as a federal law that requires covered employers to give their employees unpaid time-off due to family or medical emergencies. The conditions of FMLA are very specific in that to be eligible, “an employee must have been at the business at least 12 months, and worked at least 1,250 hours over the past 12 months, and work at a location where the company employs 50 or more employees within 75 miles.” These restrictions cause approximately 40% of workers to not be able to access the law.

Other nations have taken steps to help individuals who need time off but cannot afford it, with a majority of countries in Europe and Asia providing 26 weeks of paid leave to new mothers. A way to expand FMLA for Connecticut would be to provide insurance for leave that falls under FMLA. States such as California and New Jersey, have already started this initiative. In these states, cash benefits for up to six weeks to care for a child, or sick family member, are provided by integrating the program into the states’ already existing temporary disability insurances. The programs are paid for by taking small deductions out of employees’ payrolls.

For years, CWEALF has supported FMLA and the tools to make it successful. In the last legislative session S.A. No. 13-13, An Act Establishing a Task Force to Study Family Medical Leave Insurance was passed, creating a task force comprised of individuals from different backgrounds to explore the positives and negatives of insurance given on a short-term basis to those unable to work due to pregnancy, caring for a sick family member, or having an injury unrelated to work. A report of the task force’s findings and recommendations will be submitted by October 1, 2014. CWEALF submitted strong testimony in favor of creating this Task Force, and will continue to support efforts to craft solutions to encourage the economic success of Connecticut families.

 

Written by Lisa Vickers. Currently a CWEALF intern, Lisa is majoring in History and Women’s Studies at the University of Connecticut – Storrs, and aspires to enter the field of women’s law.

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October is “College and Career Awareness Month” for Hartford schools this year, reports an article in the Hartford Courant.  The events of this month will include financial literacy workshops for parents and screenings of a related documentary.  All seniors will take the SAT on October 17 and all sophomores and juniors will take the PSAT.  Even elementary school children will be encouraged to start looking at colleges.  The goal of this awareness month is to get students to think about college and their futures earlier than their senior years of high school, as well as to more generally help them prepare for their futures.

It is great to help students consider and plan for their futures as early as possible, as well as to encourage students to go to college.  It is unclear from the article if these events will focus only on four-year colleges, but it is important that they also address training and education for middle-skill jobs.  These jobs do not require four-year degrees, but they still require some sort of certification or two-year degree.  Middle-skill jobs are often overlooked when stressing the importance of a four-year degree, but there are many middle-skill jobs available and they can even bring in a higher salary than some jobs occupied by four-year degree holders.  They still require some training and community colleges can be great resources for this.  The Connecticut Education and Legal Fund (CWEALF) supports the training of Connecticut residents in middle-skill jobs.

Written by Sarah Trench. Sarah is a volunteer blogger for the Connecticut Women’s Education and Legal Fund (CWEALF).

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A recent New York Times article, based on a report published by the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development, discusses the positions of high school graduates who are not full-time students. According to a national survey, only 16 percent of people who graduated since 2009 have full-time jobs and 22 percent are working part-time.  Many graduates are pessimistic about their opportunities for future employment and financial success. 73 percent believe that more education could help them, but not many are sure that they will enroll in schools anytime soon.

This article does not clarify the types of further education and college degrees that these graduates believe they need.  The distinction appears to be between those who do and do not have bachelor’s degrees. This ignores consideration of a key sector of the workforce: middle-skill jobs. Middle-skill jobs need a higher level of education than high school but do not require a four-year degree.  Requirements can include associate’s degrees, apprenticeship programs, and vocational certificates.  Middle-skill jobs could likely be the right opportunity for the many high school graduates who are not looking to enroll in four-year institutions.

According to the National Skills Coalition, about half of all employment and job openings in the country are for middle-skill jobs and this trend remains the same in Connecticut.  Many of these jobs offer economic security and an opportunity for increases in wages.  The future growth of Connecticut’s economy depends on workers being able to meet the large demand for middle-skill jobs. The Connecticut Women’s Education and Legal Fund (CWEALF) fully supports the National Skills Coalition’s strong recommendations for Connecticut to encourage and invest in its residents’ training for middle-skill jobs. To learn more about CWEALF’s Campaign for a Working Connecticut (CWCT) please visit their website.

Written by Sarah Trench. Sarah is a volunteer blogger for the Connecticut Women’s Education and Legal Fund (CWEALF).

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I’ll admit that when I first came across this article, I wasn’t exactly blown away by its central theme. Why? Because I know that women can do math, and well. Some of the top academic performers I’ve met in high school and college have been extremely bright and motivated women. My encounters with these math and science superstars had long ago cemented my belief that women thrive just as well as men in challenging academic environments. The article does raise some interesting generalizations that I haven’t considered before. Along with the continued gender discrimination in many workplaces, women’s non-competitive attitudes to their careers have been located as a key hurdle in the development of their careers. Women are generally unwilling to participate in environments with an element of competition.

A recent study tested this trend by setting up a competition for both men and women with rewards for winners. Women were initially hesitant to enter the competition, but after incentives were announced for female participants, more women joined the competition and excelled. These results reflect the caution with which many females approach competitive jobs and promotions and necessitate engaging in active discourse about measures needed to be set up for women to get that competitive edge in the workforce.

STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields are a career domain that is currently saturated by white males, where a little feminine presence would be highly valued. This article is hardly the first to report on the consistent shortage of scientists, engineers and technologically-savvy employees in the United States, but it guides a discussion about the attractiveness of traditional non-STEM jobs and the resulting desertion of STEM fields. There are vacancies in STEM fields; an arena that has historically restricted marginalized populations from membership through strict adherence to the proper academic knowledge and training.  Here lie untapped career opportunities where qualified women can find opportunities to advance their careers and improve American innovation and competitiveness on a global scale.

However, this 2011 report published by the United States Department of Commerce reveals that while about 50% of the college-educated workforce is female, there still is a significant underrepresentation of women in STEM-related jobs.  Only 25% of STEM-jobs in this country are held by women. Another interesting statistic is that women in STEM fields earn about 33% more than their non-STEM counterparts. As a result, the earning gap between men and women is considerably smaller in STEM fields. The underrepresentation of women in these competitive yet high-earning jobs is a real cause for concern and more efforts are needed to develop and bolster their future involvement in these fields.

CWEALF is in the forefront of combating the crippling effects of self-efficacy in women attempting to close the achievement gap between the sexes in the workforce. CWEALF has organized numerous Expo events for middle- and high-school girls, where careers that utilize hard sciences and mathematics are showcased in an effort to start a dialogue about career possibilities at an earlier age. In attempting to mold future STEM-field employees by capturing their interest in core subjects earlier on in their educational careers, CWEALF, through these Expo events, seeks to empower female students to pursue fields that are currently male-dominated by asking the important questions.   

“Should I take algebra in 8th grade?”

“Will I be able to place into the advanced math courses in college without taking intermediate algebra in high school?

“What jobs will be available to me if I select this major in college?”

 The next Expo event will take place on March 30th at Gateway Community College in North Haven and aims to discuss with 9th and 10th grade girls the importance of high-school course selection to college major compatibility.

CWEALF is also involved in various training and technical assistance engagements throughout the state for teachers and educational support staff to identify tactics to recruit girls for higher math and science coursework. Our various staff members are actively involved with collaborative and initiatives in workplace development for the future of women, not only in STEM, but a variety of other technical and emerging fields. By sharing successful strategies and social goals, CWEALF is committed to providing students, teachers, and influential community members alike with information necessary to start talking about non-traditional career paths where women are likely to succeed. In doing so, CWEALF hopes to reduce women’s  self-defeating  attitudes that otherwise prevent them for moving forward in their professional lives.

Photos by CWEALF, 02/12/2012, Naugatuck Valley Community College Expo 

Written by Sariga Santhosh. Sariga is an intern at the Connecticut Women’s Education and Legal Fund who aspires to be a policy analyst one day.