Category Archives: legal

Can writing save the world?

When I was a pre-teen (I guess they’re called ‘tweens’ now) I learned about the Peace Corps. I immediately knew that was what I wanted to do when I grew up. My mom encouraged me to write to the Peace Corps and find out how I could join when I graduated from high school. The rejection letter landed in the mailbox with a thud. Apparently times had changed from my mom’s memory of the Peace Corps. They no longer accepted eager, fresh, bright high school grads but were looking for college graduates with at least a B.A.  Determined not to put a damper on my dreams, my mom bought me the book “The Peace Corps and More: 175 Ways to Work, Study, and Travel at Home and Abroad.” I read that book cover to cover–highlighting, dog-earing, and flagging the pages.  Attending university, however, won out in the end and I enrolled in Clark University in Worcester, Mass.  I quickly declared my major in International Development and Social Change and began working towards a to-be-determined career in “Saving the World.”

From 13 to 30, I have always thought my career would involve working directly with people–helping people, having a direct impact on someone’s life.  International Development led me to the legal field which led me back to my restlessness which led me to sailing which led me back to saving the world which led me to law school applications.  Along the way I started writing for sailing magazines and discovered that not only do I have a burning desire to save the world, but I also really like to write.  Working in a small civil rights and employment law firm highlighted glaring inadequacies in the legal profession and my potential role in that field.  Law school admission deferred, I’m embarking on a writing career.

This has been a hard decision and took many months to accept, so, naturally, I still have lingering doubts.  Fundamentally, I am faced with the 13-year-old version of myself: can I save the world through my writing?  Librarians, writers, readers, Barbara Ehrenreich, Barbara Kingsolver, Michael Pollan and English majors will all respond with a resounding YES! But how will the asylum seekers currently being held in detention centers in the US respond? How will the newly-underemployed fishermen in Louisiana respond? How will the woman facing continued sexual discrimination at her job respond?  As I start writing full-time, hidden away with my computer as my co-worker, I am cognizant that I need to combine my two worlds, or that 13-year-old girl in me will start to get very moody.

My first article!

Betty Dukes takes on Wal-Mart

Nine years ago Betty Dukes filed a lawsuit against Wal-Mart alleging gender stereotyping and discrimination.  According to a Business Week article, experts hired by the Plaintiffs’ attorneys provided evidence that, across the US, women were paid less than men and in every job category. They also found that it took women longer to reach management positions than men. http://www.businessweek.com/news/2010-04-27/wal-mart-workers-can-sue-as-group-in-gender-bias-case-over-pay.html CNN also cites that the lawsuit alleges that “…women make up more than 70 percent of Wal-Mart‘s hourly work force but in the past decade made up less than one-third of its store management.”  http://www.cnn.com/2010/CRIME/04/26/walmart.suit/index.html

The 9th Cir. Court of Appeals just certified the case as a class action lawsuit, allowing more than 1 million women to join.

Emily at http://ourdescent.wordpress.com/2007/02/07/largest-sex-discrimination-case-in-us-history/

has posted a great chart which obviously outlines the pay disparity at issue.

HipHopWired has a brief synopsis of the news: http://hiphopwired.com/2010/04/27/wal-mart-facing-billion-dollar-gender-bias-lawsuit/

Male-female income disparity, the gender earnings gap and the gender pay gap are all terms used to describe what women across the U.S. know every time they get their paycheck: men get paid more than women. For the same job.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics News Release dated April 15, 2010 cites

“Women who usually worked full time had median earnings of $665 per week, or 78.8 percent of the $844 median for men.”
Of course, not only is there a gender gap, but there is also a large difference in earnings based on race and ethnicity. The same News Release cites
“median earnings for black men working at fulltime jobs were $635 per week, 73.1 percent of the median for white men ($869). .. black women’s median earnings ($584) were 86.1 percent of those for white women ($678). …median earnings of Hispanics who worked full time ($554) were lower than those of blacks ($610), whites ($772), and Asians ($859).”

http://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/wkyeng.pdf

I’ve been reading news articles that women from the Civil Rights generation, from the 1960s, are worried that young women today think that we have reached gender equality and that upon graduation from high school, tech. school, and college, they will have the same opportunities as their male counterparts. The same opportunities? Maybe. The same rewards? Not yet.