Author: Holly Curtis

Unequal Pay = Unequal World

The pay gap is real. Women are paid less than men across societies, industries and functions. The pay gap is detrimental to human development and until it is eradicated we will not achieve gender equality. Women working full time in the United States typically are paid 79% of what men are paid. Furthermore, a recent study found that female graduates in the United Kingdom apply for jobs whose average salary is £2,000 lower than their male peers. When women are beginning their career on a lower salary than men, it becomes increasingly hard to make up the difference. Why does the pay gap exist? In some instances the pay gap can be accounted for by men’s and women’s choices. For example, more women than men go into teaching and teachers tend to be paid less than other professions. Furthermore, more men than women go into STEM and IT-related jobs, which are some of the highest paying. But it should be clear that these tendencies do not equate with women choosing to be paid less. Rather, …

A Men’s Issue

On Monday, December 7, Vital Voices hosted their annual Voices of Solidarity awards to honor five men “who have shown courage and compassion in advocating on behalf of women and girls in the United States and around the world.” The five honorees were Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, former peacekeeper and diplomat; Gary Barker, founder of Promundo and global leader in engaging men to prevent violence against women; Sadou Lemankreo, a police officer and human rights defender in Cameroon; John Prendergast, activist and author working to support women survivors of conflict in Africa; and Tom Wilson, chairman and CEO of The Allstate Corporation. The five honorees have impressive experience working to empower women and engage men to change their attitudes and behaviors towards women. They are rightly honored for their work and should be held as models for how men should act worldwide. But my thoughts on the event, and the issue of violence against women in general, can be summed up with six words from Cindy Dyer early in the night: “Violence against women is …

SDG 9: The road to equality

In order for girls to work and attend school at the same rate as boys, they need to physically get there first. Safe roads, transit systems and communication technologies are imperative to a healthy economy, but are disproportionately holding back girls and women from sustainable growth. Achieving goal number 9 of the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will enable women and girls to prosper politically, economically and socially. SDG 9 is to “build resilient infrastructure, promote sustainable industrialization and foster innovation.” Taken broadly, investments in infrastructure and advances in technology are critical to achieving sustainable development. Improvements to infrastructure will generate political, economic and social benefits for all, but women and girls will arguably benefit the most from these developments. Pave the way to a healthy life An efficient and well-connected transit system means more than paving roads and building train tracks. Reliable transit can save a mother’s life as she goes into labor. A paved, well-lit road can enable a young girl to safely ride her bike to and from school, or use the bathroom at …

Where are the women?

This week, as world leaders join together in New York City for the 70th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, there will be a serious lack in representation of women involved in the discussions. As highlighted in a recent article in the New York Times, most of the world failed to meet the goal, set in 1995, for at least a 30% representation of women in decision-making positions. Some success has been achieved – for example, the global average of women in national parliaments increased from 11.3% in 1995 to 22.1% in 2015. However the growth lost significant momentum in recent years as the average only rose 0.3 percentage points in 2014. Why have we stalled in progress? One thing is clear: There is no shortage of capable women. There is, however, a shortage of success in achieving goals related to gender equality, including those related to maternal health, child mortality and gender parity in education. Perhaps a higher share of women in leadership positions would have strengthened the focus on gender equality on a …

Soap Saves Lives

This week, Girls’ Globe joined nearly 90 other influential organizations in signing a letter to the United Nations that calls for hygiene to be addressed as an indicator in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The initiative, jointly led by the Global Public-Private Partnership for Handwashing (PPPHW), comes at a pivotal moment before the forthcoming SDGs are finalized. PPPHW is an organization that works across sectors, borders and oceans to promote handwashing with soap, among other hygiene practices, and supports and encourages individuals worldwide to learn more about the importance of hygiene.  PPPHW serves as a catalyst in the global handwashing conversation and has a robust resource center on all topics, including menstruation, child health and hygiene in schools. I recently spoke with Hanna Woodburn, Acting Secretariat Director at PPPHW on the importance of hygiene and its impact on women and girls. Why did PPPHW join with other organizations to write the letter? We co-wrote this letter with others in the water, sanitation, and hygiene, commonly referred to as “WASH” sector because we believe that all three components …

What Do The World’s Women Want?

What do the world’s women want? Put simply: Control over their bodies Education Economic autonomy Access to health services To choose who and when to marry To choose if and when to have children This should not come as a surprise. These are fundamental rights that advocates for gender equality have been working towards for years. At a recent event hosted by the Foreign Policy Association, Francoise Girard, President of the International Women’s Health Coalition, outlined the demands, spoke about what over 600 women’s groups worldwide are doing to make these demands a reality and how large foreign investors need to realign their efforts. The International Women’s Health Coalition (IWHC) takes a three-pronged approach that combines global policy promotion, youth leadership/advocacy workshops and partnerships with local women’s organizations. Through partnerships with 80 grassroots countries, IWHC uses the local expertise to inform their global advocacy. Girard’s talk covered the state of the world as it relates to the Millennium Development Goals and how that has shaped the formation of the soon-to-come Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). But …

Arranged Marriages: Interview with Author, Mala Kumar

The Paths of Marriage is a must-read for anyone who has ever felt misunderstood. A detailed, quick-moving and relatable read, the novel takes the reader through the experiences of three generations of strong Indian and Indian-American women in India and the United States. Repeatedly, Mala Kumar will challenge you to question tradition, love and independence as you experience three unique upbringings in this modern tale. I had the opportunity to speak with Kumar. Below is an edited version of the interview: What was the inspiration for The Paths of Marriage? The Paths of Marriage is an amalgamation of fictitious events, real emotions and sentiments of my real-life family, and observations I have made through my career in international development.  The Paths of Marriage tells the story of three generations of women all growing up with very different struggles. Why did you look at the institution of marriage with such a broad perspective? Marriage is an institution that is practiced according to cultural norms and expectations. With The Paths of Marriage, I wanted to explore how …

Better By Half

What can a room full of New York City journalists, communications managers and public relations professionals do to improve maternal health in Malawi? This. Last Monday, I had the opportunity to attend Better By Half, a discussion among Melinda Gates, Barbara Bush and Katie Couric. This was an intimate gathering of women’s media, non-profit, entertainment and fashion representatives with the goal to form a united front in empowering women worldwide. The discussion touched on a variety of topics including education, maternal health and child marriage, all as they relate to the rights and health of women and girls around the world. I gained insight into programs working to empower women, but more importantly, I left with a feeling. A feeling that I am doing my part to support women and girls around the world. Awareness is key to increased justice for women and girls. I now feel even more confident   I am part of a greater movement  to educate and empower girls everywhere. Melinda Gates, co–founder of the Gates Foundation and new site Better By Half, framed …

World Prematurity Day: Something to Celebrate

Originally published on Huffington Post World Prematurity Day is a day to honor the mothers, grandmothers and young girls who have endured a premature birth. It is a day that gives a voice to the one million lives lost too soon in 2013. It is a day to support organizations working to eradicate preterm births. It is a day to celebrate. Every year, an estimated 15 million babies are born preterm. The rate of preterm births, or babies born before 37 weeks of gestation, is rising so rapidly that in 2013 it surpassed pneumonia as the leading cause of under-five mortality. Preterm birth is not a problem specific to one region, race, socioeconomic class, gender or sex. It is an issue that, if left unaddressed by all humans, will only continue to get worse. So why should we celebrate? To celebrate is to raise awareness, educate and understand. A baby born too soon is a tragedy for any woman to bear. It is only through increased awareness about family planning, political action, pre and post-natal …

Do you watch TV? You’re not getting the whole picture.

Let’s picture this: In family rated films, for every one speaking female character there are three male characters. Females are over two times as likely as males to be shown in sexually revealing attire (24.8% vs. 9.4%), thin (38.5% vs. 15.7%), and partially or fully naked (24.2% vs. 11.5%). There is virtually little or no difference in the sexualization of female characters between the ages of 13 and 39 years. These harsh statistics are not a thought experiment, rather the realities of the current global entertainment industry. On Monday, the Geena Davis Institute on Gender and Media hosted the 2nd Global Symposium on Gender in Media to discuss the underrepresentation of women in the industry. It was an honest, concise and transformative event that is sure to alter the way I consume media for the rest of my life. Academy Award winning actress, producer, writer, model, and athlete, Geena Davis, founded the Institute at Mount St. Mary’s College after spending time watching television with her young daughter and discovering the extent of gender imbalance in …