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Combating The Gender Wage Gap

Contrary to popular belief, much of what the news and media sources portray in the plight of American women is false. These faux facts have been repeated so often that it is easy to conform to these beliefs. When it comes to the 23 more cents that men make, over half of the American male population refer to it as “fake news.” No matter how many times economists attempt to refute the gender wage gap, the proof is always in the pudding:

Women earn 77 cents for every dollar a man earns – while doing the same work.  

No matter how you cut it, women’s earnings are typically behind those of men as it takes a woman almost 16 months to earn what a man earns in just 12 months.

Several factors contribute to the wage gap, the largest being occupational segregation and unconscious gender discrimination. Occupational segregation is rooted in stereotypes of “women’s work” vs. “men’s work”, unconsciously steering women into certain fields that often tend to pay less. And though gender discrimination in the workforce is illegal, it still happens right under our noses.

While the overall gender wage gap is an important representation of how women make less money in wages than men across the country, we must consider the specific influential factors. And when examining these factors, it is important to recognize that race and ethnicity also play a role in this economic inequity because: equal pay is crucial for all women. 

Black women typically make 61 cents for every dollar their white male counterpart makes. 

The larger pay gap that women of color experience is a grand example of intersectionality. As women, they face the same structural barriers and gender-based discrimination. As people of color, however, they face additional barriers that further their pay gap. This is because women of color frequently work in lower-paying jobs, work fewer hours, and experience more substantial caregiving burdens. For example, women of color are more likely to work in lower-level and lower-paying roles in comparison to white women, even with high levels of education. 

It is a common misconception that the differences in career opportunities and wages are a result of “women’s choices.” This statement only furthers the structural realities that limit women’s abilities to compete with men in the labor force. While one could argue that women of color choose to work in service-sector occupations, that are often lower-paying, it is hard to disregard the fact that women of color often enter the workforce with significantly different barriers than white women. 

While Black women have pushed the needle of diverse representation in fields like STEM and medical professions, they have also faced extensive occupational segregation that narrows their job options to those with lower pay. In contrast to the perceptions held about the work ethic and values of white women, Black women are subject to the unfair expectations and biased assumptions about their place in the workforce. Even as they do work to break the glass ceiling, Black women constantly face stereotypes and resistance in not seeming professional enough for the traditional, societal image of success. 

So how can we combat race and gender biases? What can we do to reform equal pay?

If there are an endless number of factors contributing to the pay gap for women of color across the country, there are just as many opportunities to change the status quo. It only takes a single person to start a shift in the culture of bias that allows the continuation of the wage gap. 

If you want to push for change in the workplace, advocating for change in your environment is the place to start. Speaking up in situations of injustice is an example of how white people can use their privilege as an ally in the workforce. And because national change starts at the local policy level, it is also important to support these changes that help ease the accessibility of things like paid leave and affordable child care for working women. 

As always, education is a necessary tool to better our understanding of the world around us. Researching the race and gender biases within the workforce allows for a better acknowledgment of Black women’s experiences.   

Unfortunately, the narrative of men’s societal contributions as doctors and soldiers but women through the supervision of the home and children is embedded into the very foundations of America. These stories of female ineptitude do not romanticize femininity, they only promote sexism and bigotry. American women are among the most informed and strong-willed human beings in the world. To continue the story of their manipulation into domestic roles is divorced from reality and demeaning. 

One could blame it on sexism and racism, which are both deeply rooted in our culture or the patriarchal mindset that places women in the backseat. But contrary to popular belief, working women of all races and ethnicities are superheroes and they most definitely deserve your support. 

— Rachael Bailey, Intern

This Lockdown is a Mental Health Crisis in the Making

During this unprecedented and peculiar time of COVID-19 and sheltering-in-place, I have seen more than a few people talking about settling into this space to read, meditate, sing, dance and remember how to find sacredness in the simplest of things. They talk about the world slowing down; humanity healing.

The kinds of practices that the so-called “positivity movement” suggest may not be helpful to everyone–at least not in the form we typically find them on Google or YouTube. Many of us need much more careful guidance.

I believe in much of this sentiment. It is important to uplift ourselves and each other during this difficult time. There is value in making the most of this unusual moment.

But, and as often happens in life, our obsession with staying positive–both individually and culturally–means that we do not create space for the complex, real, raw human experience. We fail to create the space for people to feel safe in speaking their struggles. This failure has the potential to silence and shame those who are suffering alone, inside their homes. This will make them feel that there is something wrong with them because of their inability to emotionally cope.

I believe we need to stop romanticizing this lockdown, because, quite simply, it is a mental health crisis in the making. Here are some things I would like us all to have in our minds during this time, so maybe we can hold space for both ourselves and each other in a more complete and loving way.

First, being safe and secure in your home is a privilege. Many people in our community are still working to make ends meet and are struggling to buy food. Some people cannot buy food because by the time their benefits come in people have stockpiled everything first.

Second, many of us, knowingly or unknowingly, are coping with childhood trauma. In effective trauma work, the last thing we ever want to do is unleash a tidal wave of old emotions all at one time. The already overloaded nervous system cannot handle it. To feel it all at once would be too much.

And that is exactly what is happening to many people right now.

Add to this that our health is under threat. Add to this that some of us are losing loved ones. Add to this that there are clearly other unknown political agendas at play. Add to this the fact that many people are under enormous financial pressure. Add to this that many people with children are now unable to access any personal space at all. Add to this that many people are unable to get out into nature and are being suffocated by four walls around the clock.

Many people are going to be feeling agitated, angry, depressed, anxious, and afraid. Many people will be feeling confused, trapped, and alone.

I want you to know that if you feel these things, regardless of your history, there is nothing wrong with you and it is not shameful. This situation is overwhelming. It is traumatic in and of its own right and re-traumatizing for those of with unhealthy histories.

We will learn much during this time. Some of us will learn to be quieter or to need less. Many of us will get precious hours with our loved ones that will be treasured and remembered forever. But most of us will also suffer. Some will end up in serious emotional crisis because of it. Not everyone will have access to the help they both need and deserve.

Let us understand that each of our experiences will differ greatly, and be equally valid. It is okay if you are enjoying your time away from work. It is okay if you feel completely panicked by your sudden loss of income. It is okay if you are enjoying singing along to old music whilst spring cleaning your home. It is okay if you feel all of these things or sit somewhere in between. It is okay if how you feel seems to swing back and forth from day to day or even moment to moment.

No one is failing. We are all doing our best.

So let us please hold one another softly in the harsh reality of this unprecedented moment. Because if we can do that above all else, humanity really will heal.

The Women’s Center of Greater Lansing is still serving the community in this time of uncertainty. Please feel free to reach out to us via email, Facebook, or phone call if you have any questions.

Melina Brann, Executive Director

8 Ways to Celebrate Thanksgiving Virtually

With coronavirus numbers on the rise across the state and country, your family may be preparing for a different Thanksgiving this year – no trip to grandma’s house, no overflowing dinners with extended family and friends.

If you’ll be celebrating virtually with loved ones who aren’t in your quarantine group, here’s how can you make it special.

Before

  1. Plan a shared experience. No matter the distance, you’ll feel close on the big day if you share the same rituals. Have a few family member come up with ideas for all five senses, and spread the word to everyone on the virtual guest list: For example, plan to light the same scent of candle or prepare the same fragrant dish, and create a shared playlist to use as background music.
  2. Create connection with meal prep. Thanksgiving meal may be the hardest time for you to be apart from family members who aren’t in your quarantine group, like grandparents. So focus on the steps that come before eating, which are easier to bond over from a distance: Schedule calls for family members to help you brainstorm the holiday menu and make a shopping list. Ask for a loved one’s favorite recipe, and video chat while you test it out.
  3. Send Thanksgiving care packages. Mail or drop off treats and supplies to help guests feel part of the fun. Since you can’t crowd around one table to split a pumpkin pie, maybe you can bake pumpkin muffins and drop them off on doorsteps, or make matching centerpieces for everyone to display on their holiday tables.

During

  1. During your Thanksgiving video chat, have members host “opening” and “closing ceremonies.” Children might want to kick things off with a song or prayer, and wrap up with a round of jokes or the latest Tik Tok dance. With old traditions on hold, the possibilities are endless.
  2. Try a new twist on a pot luck. Since you’ll all be dining as separate households, a traditional pot luck is out the window. But you can still ask every person to “bring” something to contribute – like a brief toast or favorite family photo to share virtually.
  3. Try a gratitude bowl. Have all the households in your extended family start this process before Thanksgiving. Each day, each person writes something they’re grateful for on a slip of paper and adds it to their household bowl. During your Thanksgiving virtual event, take turns reading aloud.

After

  1. Keep the fun going! Once your Thanksgiving Day “program” has ended, you can prop your device up somewhere central with video chat for any loved ones who want to stay connected, or send occasional text updates on the day’s events – from the big turkey reveal to lounging in comfy clothes while you digest.
  2. Make Thanksgiving resolutions. This can be part of your virtual get-together, or just a quiet conversation with members of your household to close out the day. What would you like to learn, try, or do more of by Thanksgiving next year? This is a nice way to remind us that we all have a lot to look forward to on the other side of this pandemic.

It’s hard on everyone to skip favorite holiday traditions. But as with so much else during the time of coronavirus, we can try new, quarantine-friendly ideas to fill in for what we’ll miss. It may even add new meaning to your holiday.

Don’t Forget to Vote!

Do some research, pick up your favorite black pen, scribble in those bubbles and turn in that ballot—Election Day is November 3rd, and now more than ever, it’s crucial to amplify your voice and get your vote in.

Most are aware that the big seat that’s up for grabs next Tuesday is that of the president, but there are many more that you’re able to vote for that can make a significant difference. State and federal representative seats, a senate seat, state supreme court seats, country commissioner seats and more are all up for the taking. There are also new proposals as well. All of this being said, voting can feel overwhelming for those who are still deciding who they are voting for, or want to know more about the candidates in general. However, there are amazing resources out there that give you a comprehensive, unbiased look at each candidate, like Ballotpedia, that can help you make an informed decision.

Already voted? Great! As a citizen of the United States, you have done a major part in fulfilling your duties as a citizen. If you haven’t voted yet, that’s okay too. The most important part is to have a plan, and we’ve highlighted some important parts in solidifying yours.

The first step is making sure you’re registered to vote. You can check if you are here, and if you’re not yet, it’s not too late! Though the deadline has passed to register online, you can register in person at your city clerk’s office up until 8 p.m. on Election Day

If you are already registered to vote, it’s important to decide whether you plan on going to your designated polling site on Election Day (between the hours of 7 a.m. and 8 p.m.) or if you plan on voting by mail. The former is a bit more straightforward, but the latter is still very doable, secure, and safe!

You can request your absentee ballot online here. It’s important to know that the request must be received by your city clerk no later than 5 p.m. the Friday before Election Day, so make sure to do this as soon as possible. Once your request is received, you should get your absentee ballot in the mail fairly quickly. After you fill it out, you can mail it back to your city clerk’s office, or drop it off at your ballot drop box location (this way is probably more efficient, as there have been severe USPS delays). 

At the end of the day on November 3rd, all that matters is that you got your vote in. Vote for those who are disenfranchised. Vote for immigrants. Vote for everyone who can’t vote, for whatever reason that may be. Many things are at stake, from the quality of our lives to the empathy of our government. What we vote for now affects the futures of our children, parents, friends, and both selfishly and importantly— ourselves.

— Autumn Miller, Undergraduate Intern

Caring for Your Mental and Physical Well-Being as the Weather Gets Colder

As we approach mid October, the weather here in Michigan is starting to get colder as the days go on. Brisk breezes fill the air and dark skies start rolling in earlier.

While this all sounds cozy in theory (it’s a great excuse to wrap up in a blanket all day), the ushering in of the late fall and winter months often takes a toll on the mental and physical well-being of many people. The whole situation becomes even more isolating than in normal years when you factor COVID-19 into this. That being said, it’s especially important now more than ever to take care of your health, and there are many ways to show the snow and crunchy leaves who’s the real boss. 


Find a therapist

Therapy is essential to an overall healthy self. Whether it be the need to work through past trauma, learn healthy coping mechanisms to help combat your anxiety, or just talk through the way you’re feeling, therapy is a great tool to keep your mental health in check. It’s more accessible than ever now, being that online therapy sessions are on the rise (which means you can essentially do this one from your bed). If money is tight right now, check out the “counseling” tab on our website! Other therapists offer therapy on a sliding-scale basis, making it affordable as well. You can find some of the best online therapy programs here.

You can also join our weekly Social Group by signing up here.


Explore that hobby you’ve been wanting to try

Have you always wanted to learn how to play the guitar? Dying to try calligraphy? Wanting to create the most aesthetically-pleasing bullet journal? The colder months are the perfect time to dive head-first into all of the hobbies you’ve been putting aside. Being highly encouraged to stay at home and stay indoors, it can be easy to let your mind wander to darker places. Hobbies are a great way to put your focus and energy into something productive and positive while also giving you a fantastic opportunity to find something new that you enjoy. If you’re unsure where to start, there are thousands of tutorial videos on YouTube that can guide you, depending on what you want to try. This is your sign to go ahead and bake that decorated focaccia you’ve had your eyes on since the beginning of quarantine!


Take the time to call your loved ones

Whether it be your best friend from college or your grandma who lives on the other side of the country, setting aside time to catch up with someone you care about can do wonders for your mental health. Simply hearing the voice of someone you love can send waves of oxytocin, the “love hormone,” through your body, giving you a jolt of comfort. Additionally, being social (at a distance, of course) can give you a sense of normalcy, too, which is always appreciated in tumultuous times like these.


Find a form of movement you truly enjoy

Truly healthy movement is one that promotes self-love, body positivity, and kindness— you don’t need to work up a sweat to reap in the endorphins that exercise gives you! Explore the kinds of movement that intrigue you and feel good on that particular day. Maybe taking a nature walk while listening to your favorite podcast sounds nice, or maybe a morning YouTube yoga-flow session in your bedroom will do the trick. Being in touch with how your muscles move and learning what your body enjoys doing can be a great way to clear the head and work out some pent-up tension.


REST

In a world that always seems to be going, going, going, taking the time to rest is crucial for your overall health. Rest can mean different things for different people— for you, maybe that means not setting an alarm on Sunday morning, and for others, that may mean plopping down on the couch with a bowl of popcorn and your favorite television show. Productivity is important, but it’s not everything— burnout is very real, and setting aside time to simply exist and be can give you the recharge you didn’t know you needed. 

— Autumn Miller, Undergraduate Intern

Self-Care Activities

Let’s be honest; the world today is quite chaotic.

Self-care has never been more critical in an age when we have had to deal with a pandemic, raging wildfires, other environmental disasters, and political upheaval all across the globe.

It may seem that self-care sounds like a vague cliche. For example, when therapists recommend self-care to clients, it can often ring hollow.

What follows in this is a list of self-care activities. Working these activities into your everyday life is sure to impact your day-to-day life positively.

1. Self-Care Activities

Sometimes we do not realize the importance of self-care, but everyone takes part in caring for themselves somehow. The Seven Types of Self-Care Activity Sheet is a good starting place for people who have not thought much about self-care.

2. Self-Care Vision Board

A vision board is a visual representation of a concept or idea using images, illustrations, and words. The Self-Care Vision Board can help you lead you in the creation of a vision board.

The process of creating the vision board can be intuitive and fun, a self-care activity in itself. Once the vision board is made, the board can be stored in an area frequently visible to you, serving as a prime or reminder for self-care.

3. Personal Energy Audit

Time is a finite resource, and with so many of us living busy lives these days, there is often little time to spend replenishing our energy. Just like the other self-care tools, the Personal Energy Audit focuses on identifying where you are spending your energy.

The audit is done to assess areas where you may be losing energy without even realizing it. The audit is a checklist that breaks energy down into different categories where you then rate them.

Breaking energy down into these categories can help you find small ways throughout the day to conserve or improve their energy levels to live a happier and more productive life.

4. The Self-Care Wheel

This useful article considers the Self-Care Wheel as the perfect tool to assess burnout. It provides a structure for identifying and nourishing areas where you are either failing, surviving, or thriving.

Caring For Children During A Pandemic

Plain and simple, adjusting to the “new normal” that COVID has forced us to adapt to has been nothing less than difficult. Remembering to always have an extra face mask in the car, meticulously counting the seconds as we wash our hands, and deciding upon safe places to meet friends that allow proper distancing are only some of the recent dilemmas we’ve had to encounter for the first time, ever. One of the biggest changes, however, has been the shift to nearly all online schooling.

Before, parent’s wouldn’t have to actively worry about their kids during the day— they could simply send them off to school and entrust them with the school faculty and staff. Now, whether it be sharing a work-from-home space with your kids or having to find someone to watch them during the day while going off to work, there’s an added level of stress with a few extra humans in the house. However, just like all of the other predicaments COVID has handed us so far, there are many ways to combat it to create a happy home environment for all members of the family.

Seek out extra childcare help, if possible

There are several Facebook groups, like Lansing Area Childcare Connections, dedicated to connecting parents with babysitters in the area. If you have the means to do so and feel safe enough allowing another person into your home during these times, finding extra help to care for your kids during the day can lessen the stress of having to worry about helping them with their work on top of yours. Local high school and college students are also looking for this kind of work as either a side hustle or full-time gig, so there might be an abundance of child care workers seeking employment.

Work in separate rooms

If you, too, are working from home, it’s important to set up separate work areas for you and your kids. This creates a healthy physical boundary between both parties, ensuring that everyone has a dedicated space for them to focus on their work. Whether you have lengthy phone meetings with your colleagues every Monday and Wednesday afternoons or your kids are on a 7-hour-long Zoom call with the rest of their class, learning about the basics of addition and subtraction— concentration can be difficult for both you and your kids if you’re working in close quarters. Assigning designated work spaces for everyone is a productivity essential.

Develop a set household schedule

Creating separate schedules for both you and your kids, along with a general household schedule, makes working in the same house all day significantly more organized. Setting aside times for breakfast, snacks, “recess,” and even specific hours devoted to undistracted work are crucial to productivity. A schedule also serves as a reminder to your kids as to when they can and cannot distract you, too. 


Take things as they come, one day at a time

Though COVID has been around since early March, adapting to the changes it’s brought is still an immense learning curve— for everyone! Remember that neither you nor your kids are perfect, and that you’ll all learn how to work in a shared space once time goes on. Give both them and yourself a hefty dose of grace, and remember to be kind to yourself. 

— Autumn Miller, Undergraduate Intern

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