Noteworthy Women

Encouraging and Empowering Remarkable Women

Author: lmachad2

Anne Hathaway on Paid Family Leave

On March 8, 2017, Anne Hathaway, UN Women’s Goodwill Ambassador, gave a remarkable speech calling to action for paid family leave at the UN Observance of International Women’s Day 2017.

Hathaway begins her speech by recalling childhood memories of her father asking her to point out which direction was North, as a symbol of how her father helped develop her sense of direction at an early age, and now she trusts her ability to “navigate space.” The reason why Hathaway includes this story is to highlight the importance fathers have on their children’s lives. She continues by speaking about her new role as a mother and explains her concerns with balancing her career and being a parent. She adds, “American women are currently entitled to 12 weeks unpaid leave. American men are entitled to nothing.” This presents a problem not only because mothers are expected to go back to their normal lives after 3 months of having a child, it also sets up an expectation for women to be the main caregivers of the household.

“If the practical reality of pregnancy is another mouth to feed in your home, and America is a country where most people are living paycheck to paycheck, how does 12 weeks unpaid leave economically work?”

Hathaway makes an important point here, and adds that for most families, it does not work. She explains that 25% of American women go back to work 2 weeks after giving birth because they can’t afford to take any more time than that. And those that can take the full 12 weeks often don’t because it can mean incurring a “motherhood penalty,” which means they will be perceived as less dedicated to their job and will hurt their ability to earn promotions. She then addresses that that in order to liberate women, we have to liberate men.

She highlights that the stereotype for women to take care of the home and family not only discriminates against women, but also undermines men’s ability to connect with the family and society. We know that when parents do not spend enough time with their children, it has significant effect on the children and the family’s life. It’s not about taking time off work, it’s about parents being able to choose their roles and establishing “new positive cycles of behavior.”

Hathaway’s opinion and call to action on paid parental leave is likely one that many Americans share, but don’t feel like they have a voice that is significant enough to make a difference. Luckily, we have leaders like Hathaway to speak on behalf of women and encourage positive changes to be made.

Many know Hathaway as an award-winning actress, but her role as a UN Women’s Goodwill Ambassador has transformed her into an empowering female who advocates for positive change. Her speech focuses on the importance of lightening the burden of mothers and making role parents have in the household more equal and less based on stereotypes. It is important for everyone to share this passion that Hathaway has in order to establish closer bonds within families and eliminate guilt women feel for taking time off work to be a mother. It is also necessary to eliminate the stubborn stereotype that women should be the primary caretaker of the home and allow men to embrace the beauty of fatherhood.

Showtime Sunday: Hidden Figures

For our second Showtime Sunday feature, we are highlighting the Oscar-nominated film Hidden Figures. Released on January 6, 2017, the film was number one at the box office during its first two weekends of release and has now grossed over $140 million. The film is based on a true story of three incredibly intelligent African-American women who worked at NASA in the 1950s. These women are Katherine G. Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer), and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe).

There is a reason why this film has been nominated for three Oscars, two Golden Globes, and won the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture. Additionally, the film still has an approval rating of 92% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 222 reviews. It is applauded for its intriguing story and phenomenal performances from actresses who bring the tensions of racism to light that have been unknown or forgotten for too long.

In this not-to-be-missed film, Katherine Johnson becomes the first African-American woman in the team to assist the Space Task Group of Al Harrison, surrounded by colleagues who are not particularly thrilled about her arrival. Not to mention, the building she works at has no bathrooms for people of color. After some time, Katherine becomes more acquainted with her colleagues and Harrison decides to abolish bathroom segregation after getting upset with Katherine that she is not at her desk since she has to walk to another building to use the bathroom. Despite this bathroom segregation abolishment, Katherine still faces segregation when she is forced to remove her name from reports that include the equation she creates to solve a complex mathematical equation, leading the space capsule to a safe re-entry.

Meanwhile, Dorothy is dealing with her rejection to be promoted to supervisor by Mrs. Mitchell. Dorothy is particularly upset about this because she has the work and responsibility of a supervisor without the pay and respect of one. Later, when Dorothy finds out that there is an installation of an electronic computer that could replace her co-workers, she goes to the machine and starts it. Nonetheless, she is rebuked by a librarian when she is later found in the white-only section of the library. It is not until Dorothy’s success finding the book FORTRAN that Mrs. Mitchell finally shows some respect for her by addressing her as Mrs. Vaughan.

While Katherine and Dorothy are standing up for their rights, Mary is doing the same by convincing a judge at court to allow her to attend the night classes in an all-white school in order to obtain her engineering degree.

“I plan on being an engineer at NASA, but I can’t do that without taking them classes at that all-white high school, and I can’t change the color of my skin. So I have no choice, but to be the first, which I can’t do without you, sir. Your honor, out of all the cases you gon hear today, which one is gon matter hundred years from now? Which one is gon make you the first?” – Mary Jackson

And these are just some examples of how Katherine, Dorothy and Mary, also known as the “human computers,” used their brilliance, confidence, and poise to cross the lines of gender and race to accomplish something extraordinary for the human race. It is for these reasons that they are known as American heroes.

The only drawback to this film is that we had to wait until 2017 to see it. The story of these real remarkable women and their contribution to NASA was widely unknown, or even forgotten, until this film was released. And we can’t forget about all the other women who have made exceptional contributions to U.S. history and NASA.

 

Follow these wonderful actresses on Twitter:  Taraji P. Henson |  Octavia Spencer | Janelle Monáe

Read about Hidden Figures on IMdB

 

“Openness is our greatest human resource.” 

What is openness, anyway? According to Rebecca Walker, speaker, writer, blogger and activist, openness is the ability to let go of one’s preexisting ideologies in order to see the world in a new and different light. In her TEDx talk, she says it is about accepting a new reality that is different from the ideas you were raised with. She features this quote on her website and it is apparent that she lives by it every day.

Rebecca Walker, Photo David Fenton, 2003

If anyone knows about openness, it is Rebecca Walker. She identifies herself as Black White and Jewish, which is also the name of her autobiography that was published in 2000. When she was born, she took her father Mel Levanthal’s last name, but decided to change it to her mother’s when she was 15. Her mother, Alice Walker, is an African-American author and her father is a Jewish American lawyer. Her parents divorced when she was a young child, so she spent time alternating between her father’s home in the Bronx in New York City and her mother’s home in San Francisco, California. Every two years, Walker switched between living in a largely Jewish environment to a largely African-American environment, which she describes as being extremely difficult but she also must have learned a lot about accepting different people and their cultures.

Walker learned about feminism at a young age from her mother, a world renowned author who campaigned for women’s rights and set up organizations to aid women. Ironically however, Walker describes she often felt abandoned by own her feminist mother because her priorities were her own work and self-fulfillment. In her Daily Mail article, Walker says, “A good mother is attentive, sets boundaries and makes the world safe for her child. But my mother did none of those things.” Walker’s mother even believed that children enslave their mothers and was not happy when her daughter told her she would have a son.

When Walker got accepted into Yale University, her mother asked why she would want to be educated at a “male bastion.” Luckily, Walker did not let her mother’s opinions stop her from speaking out about her beliefs and fighting for what she knew was right. Her openness and passion for empowering women inspired her to co-found the Third Wave Foundation, a non-profit organization that encourages young women to get involved in activism and leadership roles. Her organization developed a campaign that registered over 20,000 new voters in the U.S. in its first year of existence.

In 1994, Walker was named one of the 50 future leaders in America. And last year, she was chosen as one of BBC’s 100 Women. Walker has written seven books, the most recent being Adé: A Love Story in 2013. She continues to speak about gender roles, identity politics, and stereotypes surrounding feminist beliefs. Her insights are particularly intriguing because she had to formulate her own view of feminism that was different than what her mother taught her as a child. Her ability to take a challenging life experience and turn it into an opportunity to inspire others is one reason why she is being recognized as a noteworthy woman.

Read more about Rebecca Walker’s story in this article she wrote on Daily Mail. All quotes are sourced from this article.  

Watch her TEDx video. 

Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

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