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


Posts Tagged: Women Leaders

For Women’s History Month, we asked CWEALF staff and volunteers what inspires them. In case you missed it, check out our Facebook for the captions to go along with these pictures.

Who inspires YOU?

For Women’s History Month, we asked CWEALF staff and volunteers what inspires them. In case you missed it, check out our Facebook for the captions to go along with these pictures.

Who inspires YOU?

Don’t forget to attend tomorrow!

Don’t forget to attend tomorrow!


Did you read our recent post, Breaking Down Barriers to Women in Politics and become frustrated by the lack of ladies in politics? This absence is due to multiple systemic factors that make it more difficult for women to run for political office, such as implicit bias. Luckily, two upcoming events are targeted to assisting women interested in breaking down those barriers to be involved in politics.

On Wednesday March 12th, the Permanent Commission on the Status of Women (PCSW) is hosting Women’s Day at the Capitol entitled “Journalism & Gender: When Women Report on Politics and Public Policy.” The day will begin with networking at 9:30 followed by a welcome from constitutional officers.  Next, a panel of female political reporters will share their experiences in the field.  Lunch is provided after the panel, another opportunity for attendees to network with one another.

After PCSW’s program, participants have the opportunity to learn how to manage a political campaign or run for a political office.  Specifically, CT NOW is hosting an informational forum with Patti Russo, Executive Director of the Yale Women’s Campaign School at 1:45 in the North Lobby of the LOB. CT NOW is offering two full scholarships* to cover the cost of attending the annual summer session. The Yale Women’s Campaign School tuition costs $1,250 and runs from June 9-June 13, 2014. The informational forum will allow participants to learn more about the Yale Women’s Campaign School, how to apply for the scholarship, and ask questions.

*Please note: Eligible women for the full scholarships are pro-choice, pro-marriage equality and interested in holding office in Connecticut.

Written by Nikki Seymour. Nikki is a first year Master’s in Social Work (policy concentration) student at the University of Connecticut School of Social Work and a Research & Evaluation intern at CWEALF.


In recent years, several measures have been taken to advance gender equality in today’s workforce and political environment.  For Connecticut, the 2013 election became a historical turning point for women as many prevailed in highly contested political races within the state.   While this defining moment promises future success for female leaders, women still remain widely underrepresented in leadership roles.  Presently, women constitute only 14 percent of the state’s Congressional Delegation, 29 percent of the Connecticut General Assembly, and 25 percent of municipal governing bodies.  What’s striking about these statistics is that studies show that women tend to fare well against men in political campaigns. The existing disparity among female representation in politics can be attributed to a variety of societal factors that impact a woman’s decision to pursue a political seat.  Nonetheless, women are vital to the political arena as they provide a perspective unique to their male counterparts. 

Women face a range of barriers regarding their political involvement.  The most prevalent is the gender bias within American society, which urges women to take on more of a domestic identity than professional or community leader.  This implicit bias often shapes a woman’s political and occupational experience and work availability which ultimately impacts their success within the political arena.  These factors contribute to the common lack of political ambition among women and girls.   

Furthermore, while women fare well against men in political campaigns, women are often presented with obstacles during the campaign process.  These include bias within political party recruitment, securing fundraising sources, and fewer network connections within the “political pipeline.”  Studies show women are less likely to be considered during political party recruitment and endorsement.  Without party endorsement, candidates are frequently put at a disadvantage.  In addition, men and women candidates usually raise comparable campaign funds; however, women are more likely to have difficulty attracting funders from traditional sources.  These factors derive from the limited access women have to political networking.  With fewer women in politics than men, female candidates lack networking and mentoring opportunities.  This again disempowers women from seeking and obtaining political leadership positions.

Having more female leaders within Connecticut would not only encourage young women and girls to pursue non-traditional professions, it would also benefit the productivity and functionality of our governing bodies.   In fact, female political leaders are more likely to advocate for women’s rights and social justice issues and offer a different perspective in addressing public policy.  To learn more about how CWEALF works to promote women in policy and leadership, read our recap on the 3rd Annual Women’s Policy Day.

Nina Candels is a CWEALF social work intern from the University of Saint Joseph, who is specializing in policy and the Campaign for a Working Connecticut.



Carole Del Vecchio is a welder and a welding instructor in the Manufacturing Technology Center at Asnuntuck Community College (ACC). She is a woman who is passionate about welding (as an art form and as a trade) and teaching. But although Carole is both a technician and an artist with welding equipment, it wasn’t her first avocation.

Welding is Carole’s third career. Her earlier careers included working as an interpreter/translator in the Massachusetts Court system and running her own trucking company. Her love for heavy equipment began when she was a girl growing up in a family involved in the automotive business; she always loved fixing things.  At 18, she got to ride in a big rig; in her 20’s she learned to repair a transmission.

She recalls herself at 10 years old watching a woman on a Harley while at her family’s beach house in Old Lyme and how she wanted to be that woman. She knew she would get there; she just wasn’t clear then that her love for bikes would steer her to a lifelong love affair with bikes and a welding career.

Carole’s interest in restoring antique Harleys led her to ACC. She needed to learn to weld aluminum in order to be able to restore the bikes to their original condition. Carole enrolled at ACC as a student in 2007, graduated in 2009 and became a staff member upon graduation.

Carole is an inspired and inspiring teacher. She is an artist in metal, and she also loves her interactions with students of all ages, especially when she gets to experience their ‘aha!’ moments.  Carole appreciates the career awareness experiences that girls have by participating in CWEALF’s G2O Girls and STEM Expos and is an enthusiastic partner in our activities.

Carole explains, “Girls don’t know what they don’t know; Expos allow them to experience all kinds of different areas at ACC. Will they become welders? It’s clear that most of them won’t. But without that exposure, the idea of being a welder would NEVER occur to middle school girls.”

And perhaps without that mystery woman flying down that shore road, Carole may never have known to explore the field that became her passion.

To learn more about our Expos and other fun and enlightening G2O activities, visit our website at www.girlsopp.org.



Written by Lucy Brakoniecki. Lucy is the Research & Evaluation Director at CWEALF.


Ann Richards was a pistol, a real character, and the first woman governor of Texas (in her own right). She was a feminist Democrat from Texas, just like me, and my mom actually was involved with her campaign in the 1990s.

Ann Richards was born in Lakeview, Texas outside of Waco. Waco is where she met her future husband, David Richards, who she married at the age of 19, later enrolling in Baylor University. There, she graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in 1954. While her husband went to law school in Austin, she got her teaching certificate and taught government at a middle school.

She stopped working, but stayed involved by volunteering for political campaigns like those of Henry B. Gonzalez, Ralph Yarborough, and Sarah Weddington. Weddington was a lawyer who had been involved with the Supreme Court Roe v. Wade reproductive rights case. In 1974, Richards became her administrative assistant in the House.

She ran for office for the first time in 1976 against the incumbent Travis County commissioner and won, and was re-elected in 1980. In 1982, she was elected state treasurer, and was reelected in 1986. She was the first woman to be elected to a state office in 50 years in the Lone Star State.

Richards won the election for Texas governor in 1990 against all odds – many people didn’t even think a woman should be involved in politics at all, let alone in a leadership position like that. As governor, she appointed more women and minorities than any other Texas governor had. Having two daughters, she prided herself on helping to break down gender barriers for the women of Texas. During her term she also worked on insurance reform, created a program for prisoners who struggled with addictions, and made an ethics commission, among a number of things.

Richards was smart, and she was fierce. She didn’t take anything from anyone. She’s inspiring to me because she kept fighting for what she wanted and what she believed was right despite everything that was going on around her. I’ll always keep Ann Richards in mind as I strive for my own goals and try to adopt her attitude.

Photo by Kenneth C. Zirkel (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Written by Brittany Estes-Garcia. Brittany is a student at Arizona State University and is a volunteer with CWEALF.


A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association asserts the wage gap between genders for physician researchers, with women earning an average salary of $167,669 and men an average of $200,433. Even accounting for other factors such as the percentage of women in higher and lower paid specialties, the results of this survey support a significant difference in salary between men and women in academic medicine.

This study raises points about some of the pros and cons facing women in the medical profession. Today, women comprise about 31% of physicians in the United States and about half of applicants and enrollments in medical schools. They are still far from equal within the medical world, however. The JAMA study points out that there are more women than men in the lowest-paying specializations and the opposite pattern among the highest-paying specializations. The Association of American Medical Colleges published a study showing a great disparity between men and women in leadership positions at medical schools. While the percentages of women in these positions have gradually increased over the last decade, they have done so slowly.

There is, at least, a move toward promoting women in leadership positions. The AAMC study also reports the various policies medical schools have adopted to give institutional support for women. The large percentage of women in the medical field is also a positive trend of women in the applied sciences. However, this also highlights the lack of women in other science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. Just by looking at the medical field, it is clear that women can be interested and excel in science-related subjects and careers. There may still be a long way to equality for women in the medical profession, but they have made significant gains and it is now time for women to make those gains in and enjoy the advantages of STEM careers. This starts with young girls engaging in STEM subjects while still in middle and high school. The Connecticut Women’s Education and Legal Fund (CWEALF) does this through its Girls and STEM Expos which are held at various colleges throughout the state. These expos expose girls to STEM via hands-on workshops to give them a glimpse of what STEM careers look like.

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


December 15th marked the beginning of an ambitious program called Women in Public Service Project. This is a partnership between the State Department and the Seven Sisters women’s colleges. This program is a new initiative focused on increasing the number of women in public service at the local, national, and international levels.

Considering our modern society is facing complex challenges that have long term consequences, the Women in Public Service Project (WPSP) wants to offer pertinent and practical solutions not only for the present, but for the future. These solutions can be addressed by an active and consistent participation “of women in public service and political leadership to forge global solutions to improve governance, expand civil rights, and combat corruption.”

WPS envisions that by 2050, political and civic leadership will be at least 50% female. These are their goals:

1.    Challenge the world community to identify, create, and advance a new generation of women committed to public service;

2.    Bring together thought leaders, educators, and public servants from around the world, as well as members of the private and non-profit sectors, who wish to take up this challenge;

3.    Identify and address the obstacles that prevent more women from committing to a life of public service and political leadership;

4.    Explore creative solutions that will increase the number of young women who aspire and are empowered to pursue a career in public service; and

5.    Make recommendations for implementing those solutions at all levels of political involvement around the world

Among the speakers that took the stage were the Secretary of State Hillary R. Clinton and IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde. Ironically, the main subject of the discussions was failure. However, failure was seen from a positive stand point. Clinton’s Presidential Run was presented as an example because it brought success in the long run since Ms. Clinton was named Secretary of State. IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde praised Clinton, saying “It’s quite rare to see someone take that risk. It should inspire greatly.”

Another remarkable woman that spoke at the Women in Public Service (WPS) event was Kathleen Sebelius, U.S. Secretary of Health & Human Services. During the discussions she made a valid point that “The willingness to fail is necessary to succeed.” She also emphasized on the importance of taking risks when opportunity comes along.

One of the ways WPS aims to increase the number of women in political and civil leadership is by creating an online mentoring program that will connect women from around the world that have experience in the public sector to young women (future leaders) who they will mentor. This program brings awareness to the importance of increasing access to opportunities and resources. It will be very interesting to follow this initiative in the upcoming year.


For more information, take a look at the following:

Secretary of State Hillary R. Clinton - Remarks to the Women in Public Service Colloquium

Video of the event - Secretary Clinton Leads Speakers at the Women in Public Service Project and Colloquium

State Dept. Launches Women in Public Service Initiative

International Exchanges and the Women in Public Service Project


B. Perez


Throughout the twentieth century and well into the twenty-first century, many women have fought for the struggles of women, women’s equality and women’s rights. The Nobel Prize committee has rewarded three such women with a Nobel Peace Prize for “their nonviolent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights” as peacemakers. All three women represent oppressed women everywhere and their Nobel Prize awards signify that women should rise up against oppression and demand equality and peace.

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Leymah Gbowee of Liberia and Tawakkol Karmen of Yemen were all honored for their bravery, determination and tireless efforts working for women’s rights and peace. The three were greeted with a thunderous applause and ovation as they received their Nobel Prize diplomas and gold medals.

Mrs. Sirleaf, the first woman in modern African history to be elected a head of state, addressed the crowd with a heartfelt statement regarding a commitment to change and peace for war torn societies ravaged by conflict. She has shown courage to commit to democracy and the rule of law in the face of opposition and economic hardships.

Mrs. Sirleaf noted the historical achievement of three women winning the Nobel Peace Prize, but viewed it as step in moving towards universal peace.

"Today’s decoration of three women with the highest universal Peace Prize must not be a passing historic event. We must look upon this as a milestone in the inexorable march toward the achievement of genuine and lasting peace," she said.

Ms. Gbowee, the founder of the Ghana based Women, Peace and Security Network Africa has been a vigilant campaigner and fighter against rape and oppression. She has shown a lot of courage and conviction standing up to warlords and leading protestors demanding the disarmament of fighters who continue to oppress, rape and torture women. Gbowee has literally put her body and life on the line in the name of democracy and peace.

'We used our pains, broken bodies and scarred emotions to confront the injustices and terror of our nation,' said Gbowee, as she addressed the Nobel audience.

Ms. Gbowee believes that the Nobel Prize award is recognition of the struggles and oppression women face worldwide, not only in Africa and Yemen, and calls on continued opposition to injustice.

“There is no time to rest until our world achieves wholeness and balance, where all men and women are considered equal and free,” she added.

Ms. Karmen, a Yemeni journalist, activist and founder of the advocacy group Women Journalists Without Chains, has been a symbol of revolution and change. Karmen has helped draw attention to the Arab Springs uprising who are not only rebelling against dictators, but also the traditional conservative Muslim mindset that have rationally oppressed and marginalized women. In her address, Karmen cited the Torah, the Koran and the Bible and called for the West to continue to support the Arab uprisings and to continue to support democracy and freedom movements worldwide.

“The democratic world, which has told us a lot about the virtues of democracy and good governance, should not be indifferent to what is happening in Yemen and Syria, and happened before that in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, and happens in every Arab and non-Arab country aspiring for freedom,” she said.

All three women symbolize the courage, conviction and determination of women worldwide trying to create change through peaceful advocacy. All throughout recent history, there have been thousands of courageous women who have sacrificed and put their lives on the line to fight for freedom, democracy, peace, and oppression without recognition. The Nobel Prize committee’s recognition of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee, and Tawakkol Karman reinforces the importance of such struggles to create equal rights for everybody worldwide. All three have been exceptional advocates for peace and the furthering of women’s rights. Both Sirleaf and Gbowee have tirelessly fought against oppression and conflict in Africa and for the elimination of brutality and torture against women. Karmen has stood up and supported peaceful demonstrations against dictators and the conservative Muslims views of women. The Nobel Prize symbolizes that the traditional injustice, dictatorship, rape and torture cannot be tolerated in modern society. These awards are a significant step towards creating universal values of peace and equality without fear of brutality, oppression or intolerance. The future looks brighter and brighter. Although the world has a long way to go to creating universal freedom, peace and equality, the recognition of Sirleaf, Gbowee and Karmen will go a long way towards achieving that goal. The work of Sirleaf, Gbowee and Karmen will continue to move forward, as will the work of millions of women that they will inspire. This gives everybody hope that if each of us shows the same amount of courage and conviction, we can make the world a better place.


R. Singh