April 30, 2012

Press Release: She Matters Report on Women and Girls Released

April 24, 2012
Contact:          Diane Ramsey
                        Executive Director, IWLC
                        Iowa Women’s Leadership Conference
                        319-263-2841 or dhramsey@rockwellcollins.com


IOWA CITY, IOWA – A newly-released report provides a comprehensive portrait of the achievements and challenges for Iowa’s female population—and the report’s publishers vow to work together to engage state leaders and other stakeholders in improving conditions for women and girls statewide.

“SHE MATTERS: 2012 Status of Women and Girls in Iowa” was developed by the Iowa Women’s Leadership Project, a public-private partnership of organizations focused on supporting Iowa’s girls and women.

“The measure of the status of women is an indicator of quality of life in a community,” says San Wong, Director of the Iowa Department of Human Rights, which oversees the state’s commission on women’s issues. “If women and girls do not have equal access to education, health care, and career growth, the lives of their children and families are affected, ultimately impacting our society as a whole.”

Among the 52-page report’s more troubling findings, Wong notes, are statistics such as these:
  • Nearly 14% of Iowa’s women live in poverty
  • 1 in 3 Iowa women do not have health insurance
  • Females comprise 58% of Iowa’s homeless and over 20% of the state’s offender population
However, Wong explains, not all statistics are discouraging:
  • 6 in 10 Iowa college students are women
  • Nearly equal numbers of Iowa women and men hold advanced degrees
  • A greater percentage of Iowa women than men are registered voters
  • 80% of Iowa women ages 16 to 64 are in the labor force
  • More than half of the state’s working women consider themselves the family’s “primary breadwinner”

Evolving from annual events sponsored by the Iowa Women’s Leadership Conference (IWLC), the Iowa Women’s Leadership Project formed in 2011 to collectively address the members’ common goals, and is chaired by IWLC Executive Director Diane Ramsey of Cedar Rapids.

“This report clearly shows that we have a great deal of work to do in ensuring that women and girls have equal opportunities to succeed,” Ramsey says. “We believe the Iowa Women’s Leadership Project provides the impetus and the data to influence state and corporate leaders, policymakers, educators and the nonprofit sector in helping us affect positive change. Our partnership has a permanent stake in the well-being of girls and women in Iowa, and we plan to continue our efforts on their behalf.”

“SHE MATTERS” will be the topic of a post-luncheon work session at IWLC’s April 25 “State of Change 2012” leadership conference at the Coralville Marriott Hotel and Convention Center. The conference is a sell-out, with 900 women from across the state registered to attend.

Terry Hernandez, Executive Director of the Chrysalis Foundation in Des Moines and the report’s author, summarizes the philosophy of the Iowa Women’s Leadership Project. “Women who have the education, employment, and assets to provide a meaningful and healthy life for themselves and their families are economically secure,” she says. “To meet this goal, women must be safe, be educated and employed, have access to health care and child care, and have equal opportunities for career and leadership advancement. Once these needs are met, women become independent, vital, and contributing citizens of Iowa. The Status report provides our roadmap. ”

Iowa Women’s Leadership Project partner organizations include:

IWLC (Iowa Women’s Leadership Conference)
NEXUS Executive Women’s Alliance
Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics, Iowa State University
Iowa Department of Human Rights
Iowa Women’s Foundation
Friends of the Iowa Commission on the Status of Women
Iowa Network for Women in Higher Education
Women’s Connection, Quad Cities and Muscatine
Women Aware, Sioux City
The Way Up Conference
Business and Professional Women/Iowa
Women’s Leadership Network, Dubuque
Des Moines Women Connected
Mapping Strategies

“SHE MATTERS: 2012 Status of Women and Girls in Iowa” is available on all partner organization websites, or by calling 319-263-2841.

Chrysalis (as part of the Iowa Women's Leadership Project) presents Report

This week Chrysalis Executive Director Terry Hernandez presented statistics from our new report, SHE MATTERS: 2012 Status of Women and Girls in Iowa, to over 900 women attending the Iowa Women’s Leadership Conference in Coralville.  She also had an opportunity to participate as a guest on “Talk of Iowa” on the Iowa Public Radio station as we shared some of the significant findings of this report, and over the weekend will present the report findings at the Iowa Business and Professional Women’s annual conference here in Des Moines.

We have done this report in partnership with the Iowa Women’s Leadership Project, a network of organizations from around the state with a vested interest in the success of women; Terry Hernandez researched and wrote the report, and Mary Ann Lee, Chrysalis Research Associate, provide a significant amount of reference material you’ll find in the report.

The partnership met roughly one year ago, called together to find ways we can work together to improve conditions for females in our state.  We believe this report will provide a starting point for our shared work, and an opportunity to benchmark progress (or not) in important areas for women and girls’ success.  The report will be updated annually, and next fall, our website will include an interactive tool to research a range of data concerning women and girls – this will be available to all interested organizations, corporations, decision-makers, and community members.

If you’d like to hear the Iowa Public Radio interview:  http://iowapublicradio.org/news/news_story.php?story=3660

Thank you for making this work possible!

An Event to Benefit the Chrysalis Foundation

7th Annual
Mother's Day Soiree
Please join us for another fun year of celebrating women!
Live music, complimentary food and beverages and many beautiful auction items from your favorite fashion designers.

Tickets are $25, all proceeds support chrysalis and its work on behalf of the girls and women in our community.

Tickets are available for purchase at aimee or available at the door the evening of the event.

Date: Friday, May 11
Time: 5:30 - 8 pm 
Location: aimee - East Village  

Kindly RSVP to aimeersvp@hotmail.com
by Tuesday, May 8

Questions? Please contact aimee by calling (515) 243-0045, or chrysalis, (515) 255-1853 

April 23, 2012

Healthy MEdia: Commission for Positive Images of Women and Girls, Elements of Healthy Media

Recognizing media’s role in influencing a child’s growth and development, the Healthy MEdia Commission for Positive Images of Women and Girls supports efforts to increase the number of female characters in the media and ensure that female roles, images, and portrayals are authentic, balanced, and healthy.

Using research from Girl Scouts of the USA, the American Psychological Association, the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in the Media, and experts in the field of media and youth development – including the voices of girls themselves – the Healthy MEdia Commission developed the following aspirational elements of healthy media. Healthy media could help to foster healthy development among girls, including social, emotional, and physical well-being.

The Healthy MEdia Commission offers these varying elements to help inform media content creators in the development of balanced, authentic depictions of women and girls. Therefore all forms of media, including television, film, print, radio, online content, video games, social networks, animation, advertising across all platforms, and consumer products such as toys, should strive to increase representations of:

Healthy Body Images
ü  Girls and women of varying body types, ages, races, and ethnicities
ü  Girls and women with disabilities
ü  Girls in age-appropriate attire and makeup
ü  Depictions of girls and women, whether real-life or animated characters, that are natural and celebrate the diversity of beauty
ü  Real-life and animated female characters, including nonhuman characters, that are not hyper sexualized

Active and Diverse Female Characters
ü  A diverse cast of female characters in empowered, active, and inspirational roles
ü  Girls and women in leading roles and as main characters
ü  Females in leadership and diverse roles, such as CEOs, scientists, or action heroes
ü  Girls and women who have confidence in their abilities and appearances and recognize and learn from the consequences of their actions

Equal and Healthy Relationships
ü  Equality and mutual respect between female and male characters, including respect for talents, intelligence, and overall personalities, not just appearance
ü  Positive and healthy interactions between children and trusted adults, such as between girls and their mothers
ü  Healthy peer-to-peer relationships between girls and their female or male friends and classmates

Increased Roles for Women and Girls
ü  Balanced representation and diversity of women on screen, including more female leads, supporting roles, narrators, and extras
ü  Greater balance of female executives, decision makers, and staff working behind the scenes

Thank you for making our work possible.  And please mark your calendar for these upcoming Chrysalis meetings and events:

Friday, April 27, 7:30 – 9 am: Chrysalis Roundtable on BULLYING – Metro Waste Authority Board Room
Friday, May 11, 5 – 8 pm:  Annual Mother’s Day Sioree – aimee boutique, East Village

April 20, 2012

Rekha Basu Reports on the Screening of Miss Representation

From the Des Moines Register, Written by Rekha Basu, April 20, 2012
The New York Times reported last Sunday on women so desperate to lose weight before their weddings that they’re going on feeding tubes for eight days at a time to avoid eating.
My husband was on a feeding tube before his death. The tubes deliver fluids to people too sick to chew or swallow food. They prolong life but replace some of its most sensual pleasures. What a subversion of life-saving technology to use it for streamlining a figure. And what a distortion of medical ethics for a doctor to participate.
Enhancements that once sounded extreme in their invasiveness, risk factors and costs have become normalized in pursuit of female bodily perfection and to forestall the inevitable signs of aging. Feeding tubes for weight are just the latest twist in the continuum of purging and starvation, Botox and facelifts, buttock implants and breast augmentations.

Not all woman are going to those lengths, but every woman who watches television or music videos, or reads fashion magazines gets The Memo. The one that says “Look sexier, skinnier, younger or risk being ugly, unloved and irrelevant.”
Even women who take pride in their accomplishments and had rejected the idea of going under the knife or getting injected with botulism admit, in a film called “Miss Representation,” to succumbing in order to stay viable as actresses.
The movie was screened at Drake University Tuesday night by the Chrysalis Foundation for Women and Drake’s Student Activists for Gender Equality (SAGE). It focused on the role of mass media in perpetrating unrealistic images of beauty and sex appeal and the sexism underlying them.
Commercials sell images, part of whose goal is to keep us feeling insecure about how we look so we’ll keep buying the products. It works at all age and income levels.
“It’s obscene, the spending,” said Sheila Brassel, the president of SAGE of how much even college women pay to primp themselves up. “If you’re struggling financially, the last thing you will cut as a college student is the specific salon brand shampoo you use.” For some, it’s nail care. Even spending on high school proms has hit $1,078 on average, according to USA Today.
Brassel’s organization tries to get students to look critically at those idealized images and persuade young women not to hang their sense of self-worth on male acceptance. But she says some women balk at the idea of feminism, fearing that to call themselves that will make them unattractive to men.

Some of the TV talking heads carrying on about how a woman looks, or should, or what she might have done to look that way, are themselves women. Actress Ashley Judd was recently provoked to fight back at the gossip and speculation surrounding her puffy face after she’d been on steroids for a sinus infection. The 44-year-old who appears on television’s “Missing” was being accused of having plastic surgery.
In the April 9 Daily Beast, Judd wrote, “This abnormal obsession with women’s faces and bodies has become so normal that we (I include myself at times — I absolutely fall for it still) have internalized patriarchy almost seamlessly. We are unable at times to identify ourselves as our own denigrating abusers, or as abusing other girls and women.”
Not that women are alone. Men can be especially hard on aging actresses and female politicians. When actress Demi Moore was hospitalized in January, two months after breaking up from her younger husband, Ashton Kutcher, a male commentator informed us her real problem was being 49.
For those of us who grew up in the women’s movement, these discussions bring a frustrating sense of déjà vu. Didn’t we learn to value ourselves beyond our looks and to support one another instead of competing and back-stabbing? And didn’t men get Our Memo — the one demanding equal treatment?
“I’m pissed off,” said a woman of my generation after the screening of “Miss Representation,” recalling the sense of possibilities when sports first opened up for girls and people were picketing for the Equal Rights Amendment.

Organizers of the film showing suggested actions for young women to take, from boycotting magazines, movies and TV shows that objectify and degrade women to campaigning for female candidates to “Stop talking about your weight (especially in front of young girls).”
Women’s activism needs to be rekindled at younger ages, in middle and high schools. Girls need to be taught to stand up for themselves and not hand their power over to men. And boys need to be shown alternative models of manhood.
No woman should be raised to believe that getting thin through a feeding tube is the way to start a good marriage. Nor should any man.

April 18, 2012

Chrysalis Partners to Screen Miss Representation

On April 17, 2012, Chrysalis, in partnership with Drake University's Student Activists for Gender Equality and Department of Culture and Society hosted the public for a special screening of the documentary film Miss Representation. As part of Chrysalis' community education efforts, we would like to share the information we provided at the screening with all of you.

Presented by Chrysalis in partnership with Drake University Department of Culture and Society and SAGE (Student Activists for Gender Equality)
April 17, 2012

An average teen spends more than 10 hours daily consuming media – more than sleeping or attending school.  Messages they receive from media teach them how to view themselves and others, particularly what it means to be a woman or a man.

Mainstream media (instruments used to communicate information, including television, magazines, books, movies, music, and the Internet) bombards children and adults with constant messages that women should be beautiful and sexy; men should be powerful and often violent.  These messages can have damaging effects on self-esteem, health, and relationships, limiting children’s ideas about what is possible for them in the world.

In a society where media is the most persuasive force shaping cultural norms, the collective message that young women and men receive is that a woman’s value and power lie in her youth, beauty, and sexuality – not her intelligence or capacity as a leader.

In its continuing role to educate the public, Chrysalis presents MISS REPRESENTATION, the acclaimed documentary released in 2011 by writer, director, and producer Jennifer Siebel Newsom.  It uncovers a glaring reality facing each of us, every day – how mainstream media contributes to the under-representation of women in influential positions in America.

1.        Boycott magazines, movies, or television shows that objectify and degrade women.
2.       Participate in a female candidate’s political campaign.
3.       Watch media with children and discuss how girls or women are portrayed and the impact this has.
4.      Avoid complimenting a woman or girl on looks (pretty, thin, sexy, “hot”) and compliment how smart, skilled, or clever she is, or what a great leader she is.

Here are a few other ideas adapted from about-face.org.  About-Face equips women and girls with tools to understand and resist harmful media messages that affect self-esteem and body image.

1. Stop talking about your weight (especially in front of young girls).
Young girls listen to the way women talk about themselves, and about each other, to learn the language of womanhood.  Young women can only learn to love or even accept their bodies if they see women who love and accept their own.  Every criticism we use – about ourselves or about other women - leaves an impression on the people around us, encouraging the quest for perfection.  Differentiate between weight and health, and start talking about health.
2. Make a list of women you admire.
Think about the most important attributes a woman you admire has – is appearance one of them?  What would you like a young woman to most admire in you?  In herself?
3. Question the motives of the fashion industry.
Remember - the main objective of the fashion, cosmetic, diet, fitness, and plastic surgery industries is to make money, not to make you the best person you can possibly be. 
4. Stop weighing yourself.
The emphasis to be thin is ever-present in our society, but this focus is completely arbitrary.  Spend a day, week, or month without getting on the scale – and when you do, don’t let the number be a measure of your self-esteem.
5. Concentrate on things you do well.
It is true that if you are feeling good about your life, you are much less critical of how you look.  You aren’t changing, but your perception is!  If you’ve had a bad day and don’t want to be distressed, stay away from the mirror.
6. Get physical for fun.
Your body needs fuel and function – that’s real food and exercise!  Take walks, dance in your living room, garden, golf… try to get moving for your heart, not to decrease the size of your waist.  You may lose weight and you may not, but your body will be stronger, and your stress will be lower.
7. Value your dollars.
How much do you spend on fashion, hair, and cosmetics?  How much on specific eating regimens?  The money you spend should reflect the person you are, not the person society wants you to be.
8. Voice your opinion.
Every size and type of business is interested in your input.  Letters, e-mails, and phone calls really make a difference.  If you disagree with the way a company treats women, or if you believe a company shows a lack of respect for girls and women in any way, write a letter explaining why, and stop purchasing the product.
9. Be a role model.
Every culture and generation has its own rules and expectations for women, and there are always women who have taken risks to grow, learn, and succeed.  Wouldn’t you like to break a mold or two?  And remember – girls and women are watching you.
10. Break the barriers.
Author Sara Tisdale wrote, “We must all choose between battles: One battle is against the cultural ideal, and the other is against ourselves.”  Stop defining yourself by what popular culture dictates.  Develop your own style and uniqueness – by accepting yourself and demonstrating it, you help break the barriers.

April 9, 2012

Physical Appearance and the Workplace

Women benefit more than their male counterparts from being considered good-looking by their employers.

This is one of the challenges women face in the work world, according to a new study by Daniel Hamermesh and Jeff Biddle, Beauty and the Labor Market.

Attractive employees are asked fewer questions at job interviews, are more likely to be promoted, and earn typically 10% more than “average” or unattractive peers, the study further notes.  More than 7 in 10 hiring managers say beauty is an asset to women in the workforce, compared to 63% of managers who believe attractiveness enhances men’s careers.

In the 1970s, women focused on their achievements, not their looks.  The challenge now is that beauty is not even discussed in the workplace, says Dr. Vivian Diller, therapist and author of Face It: What Women Really Feel As Their Looks Change.  “We need to accept that it’s a fact and talk about it openly.  Those who are clever or quick-witted are also more likely to get jobs.  Do we devalue them because they are funny?”

Much of the challenge exists today because Millennial women have always mingled beauty and the workplace, the report continues.  Not only has this generation grown up in a world that exploits women’s looks, but these practices are encouraged by “prominent” business women.  In a career guidance article in Cosmopolitan magazine, Ivanka Trump urges women to “emit sex appeal on the job,” and “evoke sensuality by talking about ‘passion’ for a project.”

The downside to this practice is that beauty fades with age, and if a woman believes her looks define her, this can become a challenge to her success  in the workplace.  In fact, the American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery reports that among all age groups, women ages 18 to 24 are the most likely to consider plastic surgery for themselves.  Women under age 34 account for 20% of all Botox procedures and chemical peels, neither of which is covered by insurance.

And unfortunately, appearance is not federally protected, so a plaintiff seeking legal assistance must sue under a protected characteristic such as race, sex, or religion.  Even if the case gets to court, plaintiffs are likely to lose, notes University of Texas sociologist Samantha Kwan, citing her analysis of more than 200 federal cases.  Why?  Because employers can make a case for “occupational qualification,” meaning that consumer demand (for attractive sales persons, etc.) necessitates the choice of more attractive workers in an endeavor for a more profitable business.

What’s the recommendation?  More often than not, it’s the wisdom we gain with age, and the knowledge that there are other qualities we have that require attention.  Even as women we need higher self-esteem.

To learn more about how the quest for beauty has created challenges for girls and women of all ages, plan to join us as we host a screening of MISS REPRESENTATION, a 90-minute documentary exploring how the media has failed to present images of women in power and leadership positions.  The film explores how the media message is that a woman’s value is in her youth, beauty, and sexuality, not her leadership capacity.

Chrysalis is co-hosting the film presentation on Tuesday, April 17 at 7 pm at the Bulldog Theater on the Drake University campus.
(We will be showing the film to Chrysalis After-School participants at 4 pm in the same location.)  We’ve invited Drake University Sociology Professor Laurie Linhart to facilitate a brief discussion following the film, to explore how we can gain a new perspective,
and take action, to mitigate the overpowering messages of our media.

There is no charge, so please invite your friends and family.  We’ll be happy to see you.

To learn more about MISS REPRESENTATION and to watch a preview:  http://vimeo.com/18985647

April 2, 2012

Human Trafficking the Focus at First Chrysalis Roundtable Event

3/30/12: This morning, Chrysalis held its first Community Roundtable from 7:30-9 am, on the topic of human trafficking.  We were happy to have 34 attendees who heard an informal presentation from Lieutenant Joe Gonzalez of the Des Moines Police Department, and Vivian Van Vleet of the US District Attorney’s Office.

In addition to sharing information on the situation in Iowa and state resources, they provided us comprehensive information on the definition, identification, and investigation of trafficking.  We learned about the various types of trafficking, and how complex and deep the networks can be.

Under United States law, once a person has been held in servitude, a person’s status as a trafficking victim supersedes all other smuggling or immigration questions and affords them legal protections and social services.

Here are characteristics of trafficking:
1.        Is not voluntary; one cannot consent to being trafficked or enslaved
2.       Entails forced exploitation of a person for labor or services
3.       Need not entail the physical movement of a person
4.      Can occur domestically, where citizens are held captive in their own country
5.       Is a crime against the right of each person to be free from involuntary servitude

There is a difference between trafficking and smuggling – smuggling is always international in nature, ends after the border crossing, and typically involves a fee.  Smuggling is a crime against a nation’s sovereignty.

I’ve attached the handout Chrysalis prepared for today’s event, which includes information on various types of trafficking.  Although I thought I understood the motives and types of trafficking, I learned about another type today that is occurring in rural Iowa.  Widowers – traveling to Mexico to meet and bring a young woman back to Iowa “to marry.”  Once they are here, the man does not marry (so the woman does not gain legal status through marriage) and uses the woman for sex and domestic services.  Many women are isolated by their captor, who keeps them without access to phone or internet.

A psychologist from one of our grantee partners, Youth Emergency Shelter and Services (YESS), reported that the shelter regularly sees young women who have run away from a trafficking situation (often as young as 11 or 12 years old) and have been prostituted.  The psychologist noted that although the girl may want to leave the captive situation, she is often bonded to her captor either by love, pregnancy, or threats of violence.

A major piece of our work at Chrysalis is to keep our community informed about what is happening with girls and women here in Central Iowa, and to educate others on how to recognize, respond, and report on traumas such as trafficking.  It’s about engaging our community in the being an important part of the solution.