Breaking Barriers with Aly Raisman

I’m on a quick trip to Boston to meet a bona fide champion: Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman. Of course, I’ll be taking you with me.

The six-time Olympic medalist has been on a book tour, sharing stories and inspiration fueled in part by the lessons learned as a leader in competitive sports, but also by another type of leadership.

This past January, Raisman became one of the many faces of the #MeToo moment when she delivered public testimony in a Michigan court against Larry Nassar, the US Gymnastics and US Olympic team doctor. Nassar had been abusing Raisman since she was 15 years old; she began her remarks by taking back the power that he had tried to take from the extraordinary young athletes who had been entrusted to his care:

Larry, you do realize now that we, this group of women you so heartlessly abused over such a long a period of time, are now a force and you are nothing. The tables have turned, Larry. We are here. We have our voices, and we are not going anywhere. And now, Larry, it’s your turn to listen to me.

I’ll be speaking with and listening to Raisman on the main stage at the Massachusetts Conference for Women at 6:35 pm ET this evening, so follow along on Twitter or on your favorite social feeds under the hashtag #MassWomen.

Tomorrow at the conference, I’ll be breaking down some more barriers with three extraordinary women: Kate Gulliver, who oversees the talent team at e-commerce site Wayfair; Sam Rapoport, the senior director of football development, National Football League; and Cecile Richards, a national leader for women’s rights and social and economic justice, perhaps best known as the former president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America and Planned Parenthood Action Fund.

While we won’t be talking politics or Colin Kaepernick, we will be getting their best advice on how women can break through barriers via courageous risk-taking, and how we can all be better allies to others.

Stay tuned.

On Point

When it comes to women, #NotAllCompanies A new report from Catalyst follows some 50 companies that have collectively outperformed their peers in advancing women in the workplace. The Inclusion in Action report shows that at these “Catalyst champion” companies, women hold 38.1% of manager roles compared to 33% globally and 27.7% of board seats compared to 22% at S&P 500 companies. Each company CEO takes a very specific pledge, more below. It’s a heady list: Companies include Target, Dow, Deloitte, McDonald’s, Morgan Stanley, Lockheed Martin. Now, to tackle that pay gap…Catalyst

Colin Kaepernick is still unemployed
Washington is the latest team to pass on the quarterback, despite an obvious need for seasoned talent. Head coach Jay Gruden offered a bit of word salad as to why they were “going in a different direction” than Kaepernick—they were looking for someone with a similar “conceptual awareness” to injured QB Colt McCoy—but commentator Conor Orr says that’s not surprising at this point. “It’s another example of Washington making a football decision at the top floor and forcing other people to address it in front of the media,” he says. But then he ticks through a list of excuses offered by other teams, and the reasons get pretty thin, pretty quickly.
Sports Illustrated

Charges of election fraud in North Carolina raises troubling questions
There are very serious allegations of tampering with absentee ballots, particularly in communities of color. Now, the state’s election board has refused to certify the results of North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District contest. One of the central figures in the allegations, Leslie McCrae Dowless, is a veteran political operative in Republican circles, and a convicted felon. The Charlotte Observers editorial board is calling for a new election. “It should be done with the support of N.C. statutes and without a whiff of partisan politics,” they say. But as Mother Jones points out, the same Republicans who have been worried about voter fraud should speak up. “The conservative activists who have most vocally pushed a narrative of rampant voter fraud in recent years are ignoring the unfolding drama in North Carolina.” 
Mother Jones

A resurgence in eugenics studies?
After an article titled “Defending Eugenics” was published in an Australian bioethics journal, Alana Lenten, a professor and president of an interdisciplinary group called The Australian Critical Race and Whiteness Studies Association (ACRAWSA) raised the alarm. While the piece in question tried to disassociate itself from the racist violence of the past, it did propose this: “[F]uture people would be better off if people with heritable traits that we value had a greater proportion of children.” Lenten has written an open letter and is asking for support.“ At a time when so-called ‘race realism’ is booming, despite being thoroughly debunked by the great majority of scientists, the scholarly community must take responsibility for the ideas it endorses,” she writes. “We seem to have entered a phase in academia and public life where debate for its own sake has trumped any commitment to the principle of protecting those most vulnerable and creating the conditions for a more just society for all.”
Media Diversified


The Woke Leader

A yellow brick road in Ghana
Ghanaian artist Serge Attukwei Clottey, an artist with a focus on public installations, has spent his career exploring the culture and history of his hometown of Accra from trade and migration to inequality and daily life struggles. His most ambitious project to date may also be the most poetic; he’s using pieces from a plastic water jug known as Kufuor gallon to create a literal “yellow brick road” in the dusty streets. The jug, which is yellow, appears frequently in his works. Now the winding golden pathways bring a poignant beauty to the streets and in aerial view. “For me, it signifies the history of migration—and home,” he says.

On deaf children and language
It’s a global question. Some 80% of the 32 million deaf children around the world lack access to education altogether, and in places where education is available, debates on whether to teach sign language continue to vex parents and teachers alike. Only 2% of deaf kids are taught in sign language, which experts say is a missed opportunity. Research indicates that teaching sign language activates the brain in important ways; some experts suggest teaching sign language to all children to get a similar benefit. Cochlear implants don’t bridge the gap, say experts, so kids who are not hearing well or communicating may be missing critical language skills at a key developmental time.

Why we don’t call the midwife
Quartz’s Annalisa Merelli makes an interesting case for midwives. In the U.K. and parts of Europe, they are responsible for up to three-quarters of deliveries, and have consistently better outcomes than doctor-led deliveries, which account for some 90% of births in the U.S. Why don’t Americans call the midwife more often? A century-long concerted campaign to medicalize birth was driven in part by money: Hospitals see birthing services as a reliable source of revenue. But she throws in an interesting twist: race. The medical field’s “expansion into childbirth was especially effective, partly because the midwives who were, until then, running childbirth were overwhelmingly African American and Native American,” easy targets for derision during Jim Crow times.


Why is it acceptable for women to be secretaries, librarians, and teachers, but totally unacceptable for them to be managers, administrators, doctors, lawyers, and Members of Congress? The unspoken assumption is that women are different. They do not have executive ability orderly minds, stability, leadership skills, and they are too emotional. It has been observed before, that society for a long time, discriminated against another minority, the blacks, on the same basis - that they were different and inferior. The happy little homemaker and the contented "old darkey" on the plantation were both produced by prejudice. As a black person, I am no stranger to race prejudice. But the truth is that in the political world I have been far oftener discriminated against because I am a woman than because I am black.
Shirley Chisholm

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