July 30, 2012

The Importance of the Mentoring Relationship

A recent highly-comprehensive study conducted by Communities In Schools and the National Dropout Prevention Center at Clemson University (Dropout Risk Factors) identified a variety of predictive risk factors for dropping out.

The report states that while there is no single risk factor that causes dropping out, each additional risk factor an individual faces increases the likelihood of dropping out. Some of the risk factors that are controllable, as cited by the study, are:
×          teen parenthood;
×          substance abuse;
×          criminal behaviors;
×          lack of self-esteem;
×          poor school performance/grade retention;
×          absenteeism;
×          discipline problems at school;
×          low educational expectations/lack of plans for education beyond high school; and
×          lack of interaction with extracurricular activities.

Mentoring by a caring adult over a prolonged period of time has been shown to be effective in combating these risk factors.  Research by the National Mentoring Partnership has proven results in myriad ways:

Support for education
×          Mentors help keep students in school.
×          Students who meet regularly with their mentors are 52% less likely than their peers to skip a day of school and 37% less likely to skip a class.
×          Mentors can improve their mentees’ academic skills.

Support with day-to-day living
×          Mentors help improve a young person’s self-esteem.
×          Mentors provide support for trying new behaviors.
×          Youth who meet regularly with their mentors are 46% less likely than their peers to start using illegal drugs and 27% less likely to start drinking.
×          About 40% of a teenager's waking hours are spent without companionship or supervision; mentors provide teens with a valuable place to spend free time.
×          Mentors teach young people how to relate well to all kinds of people and help them strengthen communication skills.

Support in the workplace
×          Mentors help young people set career goals and start taking steps to realize them.
×          Mentors can use their personal contacts to help young people meet industry professionals, find internships and locate job possibilities.
×          Mentors introduce young people to professional resources and organizations they may not know about.
×          Mentors can help their mentees learn how to seek and keep jobs.

For a second year, Chrysalis After-School participants have been invited to a day-long workshop at FBL Insurance, Inc. in West Des Moines to provide a tremendous mentoring opportunity through its women’s leadership network.

On Tuesday, August 7, over 50 girls will be hosted from 9:30 am to 3 pm for a day of leadership education, career information, tours, special activities, and healthy meals.  “Become a Model for Success” is the theme that dozens of women employees will share with girls to help them understand the workplace, plan for future education, and learn about life in a corporate career.

This is an example of a very special type of mentoring that you might think about for girls in your life, or girls involved in Chrysalis After-School programs.  We’ll be happy to help you plan for an opportunity to learn more about the value of mentoring.

July 24, 2012

Changing Workplace Gender Definitions

Last week, the Los Angeles Times reported an interesting statistic about job growth: 80% of the 2.6 million new jobs created over the past ten years are filled by men.

As you may expect, this reflects the increase in male-dominated manufacturing jobs, but it also is the result of the loss of many government jobs, which are held most often by women.  But surprisingly, men are obtaining a greater share of the jobs that have been more commonly held by women, such as retail sales:

Three years ago, women made up a majority of the payrolls in the retail trade, just as they have throughout most of the last three decades for which data are available.  But since the sector hit bottom in December 2009, men have landed more than 440,000 retail jobs while women have lost 49,500 positions.
Men now account for 51% of the 14.75 million retail jobs in the country.

The number of men employed in financial services (such as real estate and banking), hospitality, and healthcare have also increased, although women still outnumber men in each of these sectors.  This may not be beneficial for men or women, as these positions typically pay less or provide fewer benefits.  Career advancement, as well, may be limited in some of these job types.

During the recession, unemployment hit men first – 2009 was the peak year for number of unemployed males in the country.  For women, the unemployment peak was a full year later.  Both women and men have looked for alternative careers and jobs in other sectors; many have returned to school or college to retrain in a different field.

But the difference in hiring between genders, if it continues, may set back the many gains women have made in the workplace over the past years:

"It's hard to know whether some employers place a priority on men going back to work," said Joan Entmacher of the National Women's Law Center. Of particular concern, she said: Opportunities for women in higher-paying fields such as manufacturing are shrinking.

Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, said men may have an edge because they tend to have a longer work history. But he also suspects some employers will "take a male applicant more seriously even though men and women are equally qualified."

Although gender discrimination is tough to prove, more men than women filed “unfair hiring based on gender” complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission last year - the first time this has happened in over a decade.  It’s possible that this is due to more men applying for positions in what were previously women-dominated fields, or simply more men looking to be hired.

Whatever the case, gender definitions are changing throughout the workplace, as more women and men are taking positions simply to be employed.  And whether women can obtain more of the new jobs being created is unknown.

What helps?  Chrysalis does, by funding organizations that help women become successful and employed:

×          Dress for Success provides professional attire and career support to disadvantaged women seeking employment.
×          We Learn Independence for Tomorrow (WeLIFT) delivers support, resources, and employment assistance to unemployed and low-income residents of Warren County.

In addition to these 2012 grant partners, Chrysalis has funded many other organizations and programs that train women to open and sustain a business or to gain personal and career skills to prepare them for successful employment.

July 16, 2012

Women in Sports: Perspectives on the Olympics

If, like me, you’ve recently watched the United States Olympic trials, you’ve enjoyed seeing the “best of the best” in physicality, strength, and power.  It’s been particularly exciting to see the women (including young women) competitors including Iowa’s hurdler Lolo Jones, and gymnast Gabby Douglas who is following in the shoes of Shawn Johnson.  (For your information, both Lolo Jones and Shawn Johnson have been guest speakers at our year-end Chrysalis After-School celebration – very inspirational!).

For the first time, the 2012 United States Olympic team will have more women than men: there are to be 269 women and 261 men on the team.  And for your information, the oldest American athlete is a woman – equestrian rider Karen O’Connor at 54 – and the youngest is 15-year-old swimmer Katie Ledecky.

As tough as it is to become an Olympian, the financial costs are becoming increasingly prohibitive.  The United States is one of a select few countries that does not provide funding for Olympians, leaving athletes to rely on the US Olympic Committee for support.  The majority of the $170 million in annual funding supports athletes in the “popular” sports, leaving competitors in "lesser-popular" sports without much, if any financial assistance.

In an interview with CNN, Alan Ashley, Head of Sports Performance for the US Olympic Committee, noted that the division of this funding is determined by how many medals a particular sport has won, and whether or not that sport has a good chance this year.  Funding also supports training camps, coaching, and competition entries for prospective Olympians.

According to CNN, only 50% of American track and field athletes ranked in the nation’s top 10 in their event earn more than $15,000 from the sport, and those not highly ranked fare much worse.  Most athletes look to private donors, sponsorship opportunities, and grants to fund their participation, and if they don’t excel quickly, they lose an opportunity to win cash prizes.  In 2012, gold medalists win a $25,000 bonus, silver medalists receive $15,000, and bronze winners are awarded $10,000.

The Women’s Sports Foundation, created in 1974 by tennis icon Billie Jean King, is the only charitable organization providing grants to women athletes.  Figure skaters Michelle Kwan and Kristi Yamaguchi, skier Picabo Street, and gymnast Kerri Strug are among the recipients who received direct financial assistance to support coaching, specialized training, equipment, uniforms, or travel.  The Foundation also moves the women’s sports movement ahead in other ways:

·  working with media to increase positive coverage of women athlete’s and women’s sports
·  helping shape the public’s attitude about women athletes and sports for women
·  advising on women’s sports issues and other concerns
·  advocating for athletes’ commercial rights and purse and salary equity
·  marketing and promoting female athletes to corporate partners and the public
·  operating a Speaker Service to enhance women’s athletics and sports

In the coming year, Chrysalis will incorporate the Foundation’s “GO GIRL GO!” curriculum for school-age girls into the Chrysalis After-School program’s GIRLSTRONG! Program, which includes healthy lifestyle, nutrition, fitness, and wellness education to program participants.  Through community partners and facilitator training, The Chrysalis GIRLSTRONG! curriculum ensures that adolescent girls learn and adopt knowledge and behaviors that will keep them healthy and resilient – prepared to become confident and contributing women.

To hear the reasons why this program is so important:  http://vimeo.com/38229299