The week@work – Olympic stories, author salaries, “what a feminist looks like” & the July jobs report

This week@work the athletes who go to work every day to pursue an Olympic dream are in Rio, Forbes announced their list of top earning authors, President Obama penned an essay on “what a feminist looks like”, and the U.S. labor market grew by 255,000 positions.

The major story of the next two weeks will take place in Brazil as the athletes of the world gather to compete in the XXXI Olympics. Journalists covered two athletes who have travelled diverse paths to reach Rio 2016.

 Kianoosh Hashemzadeh introduced us to equestrian, Lauren Kieffer, ‘An American Rider Trying to Beat the Boys in Rio’, for The New Yorker

“There are two Olympic-level athletic endeavors in which men and women square off head to head: sailing and equestrian sports. Eventing, an equestrian sport in which horse and rider compete in three phases—dressage, cross-country, and stadium jumping—has been called the most dangerous competition in the Olympics. That danger has never deterred female riders: they have competed alongside men since the field became open to them, at the 1964 Games, in Tokyo. Women do well in the sport, but they have struggled to reach its uppermost echelon: the current top-ten list of the Fédération Équestre Internationale, the sport’s governing body, is made up of eight men and two women. There are, however, six women in the following ten spots—and sitting at No. 12, eager to crash the old guard, is the top female eventing athlete in the United States, twenty-nine-year-old Lauren Kieffer.”

lauren kieffer.jpg“No woman has ever won an individual gold medal in the sport, and, while Kieffer’s focus is to bring home a team medal, an individual victory would be particularly sweet. Women are contenders in eventing, but few have made it to the very top. As Kieffer told me, “Someone has to beat the boys.”

If you’ve seen the Visa commercial that has been running during the NBC Olympic coverage, you may recognize the name Yusra Mardini, a member of the refugee team competing at the Olympics.

mardini.JPG

Charly Wilder profiled her heroic story from her training facility in Berlin for The New York Times, ‘She Swam to Escape Syria. Now She’ll Swim in Rio’.

“Yusra Mardini, an Olympic swimmer, was an hour and a half into her first training session of the day, butterfly-kicking down the length of a pool with a yellow rubber duck balanced on her head.

Last August, Mardini and her sister Sarah fled war-torn Syria and embarked on a harrowing, monthlong journey through Lebanon, Turkey and Greece, up through the Balkans and Central Europe, to Germany, narrowly dodging capture and death. When their crammed dinghy broke down between Turkey and Greece, she and her sister, also a swimmer, jumped into the water and helped guide the boat to safety.

Mardini’s story came to public attention in March when she was identified by the International Olympic Committee as a candidate to compete on a new team of refugees, made up of athletes who are stateless or would otherwise be excluded from the Games. She was thrust into the spotlight, celebrated by the news media as a fresh-faced example of Germany’s so-called welcome culture — a story of uplift at the center of the global refugee crisis.”

Robert Kitson updated the story from Rio after the first day of Olympic competition, ‘Yusra Mardini delights with butterfly heat win for Refugee Olympic Team’

“For those minded to complain about minor irritations in Rio such as humidity in the aquatics centre or a few nibbling insects, the 18-year-old’s story should serve as a timely reminder of life’s more pressing issues.

The venue may have been far from full and her heat loaded with competitors entertaining nil hope of reaching the final but Mardini was the most popular of winners in a time of 1min 9.21sec, just over a second faster than her nearest heat rival. Afterwards she could scarcely contain her joy: “Everything was amazing. It was the only thing I ever wanted was to compete in the Olympics. I had a good feeling in the water. Competing with all these great champions is exciting. I’ve only been back swimming for two years so we’re only now getting back to my levels of before.”

The next story this week@work is for all of you commuting to work, considering a career change. Forbes announced their annual ranking of the world’s highest paid authors this week and new to the top ten was commuter, former journalist and ‘near broke’ novelist, Paula Hawkins.

Natalie Robehmed reported on ‘The World’s Highest-Paid Authors 2016: James Patterson, Jeff Kinney and J.K. Rowling Top Ranking’.

“These well-heeled wordsmiths earned a combined $269 million over the last 12 months, proving that the written word isn’t dead–although television and movie adaptations often help drive sales.

Patterson topped our list for the third straight year, earning $95 million pretax, while children’s author Jeff Kinney placed a distant second, earning $19.5 million.”

hawkins.jpgThe only newcomer to the ranking: Paula Hawkins. After “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” and “Gone Girl,” her novel “The Girl on the Train” is the latest literary phenomenon with a calculating female character to hit the bestseller list. It sold 11 million copies worldwide; a movie version hits theaters in October.”

President Barak Obama wrote an essay linking his upbringing by strong women, his role as a father of two girls, and the nomination of Hillary Clinton, to describe “This Is What a Feminist Looks Like” for Glamour magazine.

“In my lifetime we’ve gone from a job market that basically confined women to a handful of often poorly paid positions to a moment when women not only make up roughly half the workforce but are leading in every sector, from sports to space, from Hollywood to the Supreme Court. I’ve witnessed how women have won the freedom to make your own choices about how you’ll live your lives—about your bodies, your educations, your careers, your finances. Gone are the days when you needed a husband to get a credit card. In fact, more women than ever, married or single, are financially independent.

malia-sasha-obama.jpg…the most important people in my life have always been women. I was raised by a single mom, who spent much of her career working to empower women in developing countries. I watched as my grandmother, who helped raise me, worked her way up at a bank only to hit a glass ceiling.

So I’d like to think that I’ve been pretty aware of the unique challenges women face—it’s what has shaped my own feminism. But I also have to admit that when you’re the father of two daughters, you become even more aware of how gender stereotypes pervade our society. You see the subtle and not-so-subtle social cues transmitted through culture. You feel the enormous pressure girls are under to look and behave and even think a certain way.

…we need to break through these limitations.” 

Finally, this week@work, the U.S. Labor Department released the July 2016 jobs report. Jeff Cox covered the news for CNBC.

“Job creation crushed estimates in July as the economy added 255,000 positions, according to the Labor Department.

The headline unemployment rate held steady at 4.9 percent, though a more encompassing measure that includes those not actively looking for work and those working part-time for economic reasons moved up a notch to 9.7 percent. Though still mired near generational lows, the labor force participation rate ticked up one-tenth to 62.8 percent as those counted as not in the labor force decreased 184,000 to 94.3 million.

Hourly wages also moved higher, increasing by 8 cents or an annualized pace of 2.6 percent, while the average work week edged up to 34.5 hours.”

Photo credits: Lauren Kieffer – Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post, Yusra Mardini – Michael Sohn/AP, Paula Hawkins – The Daily Beast, President Obama – The Daily Mail

 

 

 

Thank you @PattyArquette

Actress Patricia Arquette took her moment in the spotlight last night to challenge her audience to address the major issue in the workplace today, equal pay and equal access for women.

It reminded me of another significant event, election night in November 2008 when Barak Obama was elected the 44th President of the United States. I was in Portland, Oregon for a meeting and the celebrations in the street went on into the early hours of the morning. Network anchors characterized this as a defining moment in US history when all could now aspire to be president. Really? I could not relate.

I live in a country where it took ten years between 1972 and 1982 for 35 states to ratify an Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution, three short of the 38 necessary. Since that time, the amendment has been brought before Congress with no action. An amendment that simply states:

“Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”

Which brings me to Patricia Arquette and her remarks accepting the Oscar for Best Actress in a Supporting Role.

“To every woman who gave birth, to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights. It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America.”

If you were on Twitter, the early comments were both supportive and critical. For those of you who believe all is well in the workplace, take a look at an article in The New York Times on Saturday, ‘In China’s Modern Economy, A Retro Push Against Women’. Quoting Angela Li’s supervisor after she was passed over for a promotion, “‘It’s good that you girls take your work seriously. But you should be focusing on finding a boyfriend, getting married, having a kid.’ Ms. Li quit. ‘I could compete in terms of ability, but not in terms of gender,’ she said.”

Some of the critics felt Ms. Arquette unfairly limited her remarks to working women with children. Lydia DePillis writing on The Washington Post ‘Wonkblog’ this morning documents the widening wage gap for working mothers. “There’s not so much a gender pay gap as there is a motherhood pay gap. And there’s new research all the time explaining why it persists…while the overall gender wage gap has been shrinking in the United States, the discrepancy for mothers has been growing, and it gets wider with every additional child.”

Thank you Ms. Arquette for reminding us that the workplace is not yet a level playing field. The time is long past for leaders in all sectors of the economy and government to revisit our policies and ensure equal access and equal pay for women.