Social Justice and Equity
  • United States
    Is Rising Student Debt Harming the U.S. Economy?
    Higher education provides students many socioeconomic benefits and increases the global competitiveness of the United States, but mounting student loan debt has sparked a debate over federal lending policies.
  • United States
    Women Voters’ Pivotal Role in Electing the Next U.S. President
    The 2024 U.S. presidential election could be the first election clearly decided by women, in a landmark assertion of power by the majority.
  • Israel
    A Conversation With U.S. Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism Deborah Lipstadt
    Historian and now U.S. Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt discusses the increase in antisemitic incidents and rhetoric following the October 7, 2023 attack on Israel, contemporary sources of antisemitism, and the U.S. government’s responses to global antisemitism.
  • United States
    Congress Can Help Make Housing Affordable—It Just Has to Act
    The Barrister Apartments in downtown Cincinnati, slated to open early next year, are a housing policy success story. Financed with federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credits, it is the first investment in affordable housing in the city’s central business district in more than two decades.   The project involves rehabilitating two vacant office buildings into rental apartments for service workers making no more than 60 percent of the area median income. Not only will residents have shorter commutes to work — saving time and transportation costs and cutting down on emissions — they’ll also save on rent, freeing up money for other important priorities, such as food, education or a down payment on a home.  As important as the Barrister Apartments will be for downtown Cincinnati and the families who will live there, it unfortunately accounts for only a tiny portion of the estimated 270,000 affordable apartments needed to serve Ohio’s most vulnerable families.  Ohio, like the rest of the nation, is facing an affordable housing crisis. It is estimated that there is a housing production gap of 3.8 million units nationwide and that nearly half of all renter households are considered “cost burdened,” meaning they spend more than 30 percent of income on rent. The production of new housing is on the decline, with inflation, rising interest rates, supply chain difficulties and elevated construction costs among the factors slowing down the construction of badly needed housing. The lack of housing construction is impacting not just renters who are paying more and more for fewer and fewer available units, but also first-time homebuyers seeking to find a foothold in the real estate market.  The country needs a thoughtful, persistent and renewed commitment to affordable housing production programs. The good news is that there is considerable bipartisan support in Congress to act.   The first step should be to expand the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit. Since its creation in 1986, the housing credit has financed nearly all affordable rental housing built in this country —3.7 million units of affordable housing, serving more than 8 million low-income households. Homes financed with housing credits, like Cincinnati’s Barrister Apartments, are generally required to be affordable to families earning less than 60 percent of the area median family income; in reality, they often serve Americans who are even less well-off. And the tax credit requires these properties stay affordable to low-income families for at least 30 years.  In early May, a bipartisan coalition of senators and representatives introduced the Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act, with more than two dozen provisions to enhance and improve the housing credit. The bill would help to finance nearly 2 million additional affordable homes over the next decade, principally through provisions that would increase the supply of the credits while also making the credits easier to use alongside tax exempt bonds issued by states and municipalities. Congress temporarily increased the supply of the credits in 2018, but that legislative increase expired at the end of 2021. Without any action from Congress, much-needed affordable housing units that would have been built will not be, worsening the existing crisis.   Second, Congress should enact the Neighborhood Homes Investment Act, which would support the development and rehabilitation of single-family homes for homeownership in distressed urban and rural communities with low home values. In these communities, construction costs for new homes exceed the price at which the home can be sold, and existing homeowners struggle to find financing for home repairs. The proposed tax credit would mobilize private investment to fill the gap between development or rehabilitation costs and the value of the home.   This bill also has strong bipartisan support in both the House and the Senate. It holds promise for first-time homebuyers and community revitalization. This legislation is estimated to produce some 500,000 new homes over the next decade while simultaneously restoring vacant land to productive use, creating thousands of construction jobs, lifting the assets of all homeowners in the community and expanding the tax base for local governments.  Fixing the chronic shortage of affordable and available housing for low-income renters and first-time homebuyers requires immediate intervention and long-term commitment. If we fail to act, thousands more families, seniors, people with disabilities, formerly homeless veterans and low-wage workers across America will struggle to find a safe place to sleep at night. And countless families will be denied the opportunity to build wealth through homeownership.   Let’s work together as Republicans and Democrats to help build desperately needed housing across this country, so that families can attain an affordable home and build a pathway toward a more prosperous future.  
  • Renewing America
    Historical Perspectives on Anti-Muslim Prejudice in the United States and Lessons for Today
    Panelists discuss the history of anti-Muslim and anti-Arab prejudice in the United States, including how events such as the 1979 Iran hostage crisis and the 9/11 terrorist attacks shaped public perception, the effects of these biases on American Muslim and Arab communities, the role of technology in spreading hate speech, and the implications for U.S. democracy.
  • United States
    Antisemitism and Anti-Muslim Hate are Surging. Here's How to Curb the Worst American Tradition.
    As violence escalates in Israel’s struggle with Hamas, the potential for hate-based violence in the United States grows, too. American leaders need to step in to defuse tensions.
  • United States
    A California Bill Could Outlaw Caste Discrimination. Other States Should Follow Suit.
    California is set to become the first state to ban discrimination on the basis of caste, giving the United States a window of opportunity to be a leading example on the issue across the world.
  • Demonstrations and Protests
    How Women’s National Soccer Teams Are Advocating for Equality
    Women’s national soccer teams have engaged in widespread activism to reduce disparities in pay, bonuses, appearance fees, benefits, and working conditions. Still, there is more to be done to achieve equality.
  • Women and Foreign Policy Program
    Reporting on Gender and Politics
    Ann Norris, senior fellow for women and foreign policy at CFR, discusses the societal, economic, and security benefits of advancing gender parity. This webinar is moderated by Carla Anne Robbins, senior fellow at CFR and former deputy editorial page editor at the New York Times. TRANSCRIPT FASKIANOS: Thank you. Welcome to the Council on Foreign Relations Local Journalists Webinar Series. I’m Irina Faskianos, vice president for the National Program and Outreach here at CFR. CFR is an independent and nonpartisan membership organization, think tank, publisher, and educational institution focusing on U.S. foreign policy. CFR is also the publisher of Foreign Affairs magazine. And, as always, CFR takes no institutional positions on matters of policy. This webinar is part of CFR’s Local Journalists Initiative, created to help you draw connections between the local issues you cover and national and international dynamics. Our program aims to put you in touch with CFR resources and expertise on international issues and provides a forum for sharing best practices. Thank you for being with us today. The webinar is on the record. The video and transcript will be posted on our website after the fact at We are pleased to have Ann Norris and host Carla Anne Robbins with us to discuss reporting on gender and politics. Ann Norris is a senior fellow for women in foreign policy at CFR. She has over two decades of experience working on gender equality issues at the federal, state, and local level. Ms. Norris previously served as senior advisor to the State Department’s ambassador-at-large for global women’s issues. Carla Anne Robbins is a senior fellow at CFR. She is a faculty director of the Master of International Affairs Program and clinical professor of national security studies at Baruch College’s Marxe School of Public and International Affairs. Previously she was deputy editorial page editor at the New York Times, and chief diplomatic correspondent at the Wall Street Journal. Ann, Carla, thank you very much. Carla, I'm going to turn it over to you to begin the conversation. ROBBINS: Thanks so much, Irina. And thanks Ann for being here. And thanks, everybody, for joining us. I have a huge amount of respect for the work that you guys do. I miss daily journalism. And so this is always great fun. So Ann and I are going to chat up here. Please throw questions up as they occur to you. And we are going to require you to ask questions later. That's the price of joining us. So, Ann, among the many things you’ve done, you were consultant to the Office of the Mayor of the City of Los Angeles on something called the Change Initiative, which is described, I gather, as an international city network focused on achieving gender equality through the pursuit of inclusive city policies and programs. And knowing that these are local journalists, I felt we might start just with a little bit of a level-set about how we're doing in the United States. And then, a comparison with how the rest of the world is doing. Because we tend to sort of think we're better at everything, and I suspect that on issues of gender equality and parity we're probably not as great as a lot of other countries. And some of that is cultural and some of that is public policy. And we probably want to talk about public policy as well as anything else today. So I looked up, at least on the federal level, in Congress it's a record number of women. Twenty-nine percent of the total number are women right now. Twenty-five women senators, which is tying the number in the 116th Congress. And women are 153 of the nonvoting members total of Congress. And so, you know, this is a 59 percent increase from the ninety-six women who were serving in the 112th Congress a decade ago. But it's not great, when you consider that we are the majority—yay—in the country, and in the world. So, you know, how do we compare with—you know, with power, political power, that women have in another countries? And why is it that we're still such a small percentage? NORRIS: Thank you very much for that. So I want to kind of start. I spent all of my time in Congress and then at the State Department always looking outward, and spending a great deal of time analyzing what other countries were failing to get right, and traveling around the world, and going up to the U.N. and saying: You all should do this so much better. And then really came to realize how far short we fail to measure up here in the United States. One issue where we really fall short is on child marriage. I went to conferences all over saying everyone should pass laws to end child marriage around the world. We do not have a federal law against child marriage in the United States. In my home state of California, there is no minimum marriage age. So somebody could arguably go before a judge with parents and make the case for a ten-year-old to be married here. So it's kind of an extreme illustration, but it's bad. And there are hundreds if not thousands of young people who get married here in the United States every single year. And there are cases of abuse, and forced marriages, and the whole litany of things that you can imagine. So we're not doing great here. And on some things, we are. And, yes, the numbers are getting better, as you noted, in Congress. But I think that what we often fail to really focus on is making sure that women's perspectives are heard, that women have voices. Yes, you can have women in the room. And I think that's what happens too often, is that people step back and say, well, there were four or five women there. Well, was the agenda focused on issues that are important to women? Were women given a platform to speak? Were people tasked with, you know, following that meeting, saying: Did you listen to what they said and how are you going to change that? To kind of use an illustration from the Los Angeles example that you mentioned, I did a project for the city of L.A. And they decided to work with a number of countries around the world about making sure that all their policies and programming were gender inclusive. And L.A. had set up a big sports program for lower-income kids. And there was one two blocks away. I live in Venice, and there was a big sign for it. And only boys signed up for the program. Like they—and it took somebody looking and realizing that it was overwhelmingly boys—it was a free program—to step back and say, oh my gosh, what do we need to do to say—to get the girls here? To convince parents that this is safe, that this is an inclusive environment, that they're welcome here? And it's funny, now I drive by a big sign every day that says, “girls play here,” now linked to the program. But it's—you can't kind of just say it. You have to think it, and live it, and constantly question it, and make sure. And it's going to take a long time to get where we need to go on these issues, so. ROBBINS: So that was something that Los Angeles is doing. Are there other places in the United States that you're aware of that have made progress of more than just bringing women and girls into the room, but actually rethinking—whether it's giving access to education, or access to health care, or access to things like sports, which is so fundamental for people developing self-confidence? NORRIS: I know that Boston has been a leader in this space. And I know—I haven't looked at it in a bit. I'm sorry. I know that Los Angeles was thinking about trying to include other cities. They've built in kind of a global network. London is in this network, Buenos Aires, Tokyo. So you get a really—Sierra Leone. So you get a really good perspective on the challenges people face. But, like, at the end of the day, a lot of the programs are really similar—a lot of the problems are really similar. I remember talking to the mayor's office in Freetown. And they said, well, you know, we set up a market for women to be able to work to sell their goods in the market, but they weren't coming. And the reality was, it was because they didn't have any childcare. Which is obviously a massive problem here. So they decided to build a daycare, kind of local education center, in the market so that women could come and have their children be there all day, and then they could have an opportunity to have a livelihood. And that's really not that different than what goes on here. I mean, I think that the top of the list childcare is a big, an enormous, one of the biggest challenges for working families with kids, so. ROBBINS: So you've made the distinction about having women in the room versus actually having policies that are inclusive. And this is an example of being aware of, yes, we want to encourage women to have access to the market, but without thinking about what that requires. I know that there are certainly countries in Europe—quite a few of them, actually. There are eighty-five countries around the world—I looked this up today, I do my homework—that have legislative requirements for having a certain amount of—a percentage of women in their legislature. So, you know, they've written that into law. Now, keep in mind, you know, some of these are, like, France, and Belgium, and Spain, and Portugal. But this doesn't guarantee democracy, because it’s also in law in Saudi Arabia. So let's not—let's not overstate this. That said, how much do those legislative requirements—you know, these are sort of hard requirements for gender presence—how much do those actually change policy once they—we know that there's a minimum number of women in the room when legislation is being written? NORRIS: I mean, I can speak to kind of personal experience on this. I mean, again, kind of what I mentioned before is I can't tell you how many times we've been in a room where somebody has said, well, we have gender equality. There's four women over there. But again, nobody asked them—(laughs)—to share. There was not a gender issue discussed. Nobody said—you know, if it was a situation about conflict. How are women being impacted? What are their access? What's their access to health resources, to psychosocial services? Like, you can't just have them there and think that that—I say this a lot. It's not just kind of a box-checking exercise. You have to change people's thinking and bring in different perspectives. So to answer your question, it's important, because you get the women at the table. But unless, kind of culturally, in whatever the organization is, there is a desire to hear those voices, to elevate those voices, to take them seriously, you know, I don't think you're going to—it doesn't immediately turn into some type of progress. I mean, when I was at the State Department, I can't tell you how many times I walked into a meeting and they're like, and now we're going hear from the women's office. Like, not everybody, but, you know, this was under a fairly progressive administration. And I got it all the time. I'm like, you know, it's not the women's office. We're talking about, you know, instances of sexual violence in conflict. Like, yes, you can set up a health-care center. But unless there's somebody there designed to treat the type of injuries these women are experiencing, it’s not going to help them. They're not going to go. They don't feel safe going there. They could be further victimized going there. I mean, it's complicated. And I think that's why we haven't gotten where we need to be, because it takes people there at the table. And, yes, you have the quotas, but those people change. I mean, I use this example a lot. I think when Secretary Clinton was at the State Department, people were thinking a lot about women because they knew that she was going to ask if she was at a table—if she was at the table and she was running a meeting. Somebody better have something to say about how they're thinking through how this challenges—the gender perspective of whatever crisis, you know, they were dealing with. So it's a mixed bag. It's important, because they're there, but it doesn't end there. It has to go beyond. ROBBINS: So if I'm reporting in my community here in the United States, it seems that there are similar challenges as there are in many of the countries that that you've looked at. I mean, you were talking about sexual violence. You were talking about access to health care. You know, what are—if I wanted to assess how well my city is doing, what programs should I be looking at? What statistics should I be looking at to have a sense—if you were—because you do this sort of work internationally, but it's easy to transfer. I would think it would be similar questions domestically. You know, what would you be looking at to say whether or not a government, a local government or a state government, was responsive to the needs of women? NORRIS: I mean, I think that it often starts with the mayor's office. Though if you're talking at the very local level, and the—you know, the city council members. I think the L.A. Board of Supervisors here in Los Angeles is all women. I think there are no men on that here. It's something that people are constantly talking and thinking about. And by no means are the problems solved. Like, I don't mean—it's not like we figured this out, and it's done. Like this is something that's going to take a very long time to change. I was—in that same conversation that I was having with the mayor's office in Freetown, I mean, I kind of stepped in it, you know, thinking about L.A. and all their thousands of people that they have working in the administration. I said, well, what's your—what's your infrastructure to make sure this happens here? And she said, the mayor says we're going to do it. So she walks around all day and says: This is a priority for me and I want to see results. And I want you constantly telling me what you're doing to achieve, you know, the goals that I have set. I think taking a look, I think, you'd probably—I think most cities probably aren't. I mean, they have a lot of problems that they're facing. But the reality is that cities and communities do better when you lift everybody up, at the end. You don't want 85 percent of the boys in the sports program and the girls—you know, I think this was largely designed as a program to kind of give kids an activity to do after school so they’re not, you know, either getting into some sort of trouble or not having, you know, a stimulating activity to do. I mean, it's better for entire communities when you do this type of work. And I mean, in some—you know, in sub-Saharan Africa, for example, when girls are out of school really bad things happen. It happens here too, like, don't—but you can go and read all sorts of horrible stories about violence associated with girls being out of school, and what types of things they do to make ends meet, et cetera, and the horrible consequences that that has. I think the largest is—I haven’t looked at this recently—but the group with the highest rate of HIV—growing HIV rates was adolescent girls. So, I mean, it's—and PEPFAR and stuff worked a lot on that. But it's just—it's better for entire communities—on health, on economic outcomes, on education outcomes. So asking questions and making sure that this is a priority and it's something that people are thinking about. And they can start small. They can look at the sports programs, or they can look up the makeup of people who they're inviting to speak to the city council, even making sure that women's voices are heard. That's something that I did a lot at the State Department, was we would go around to embassies and say: If you have a local meeting with journalists, are you making sure that female journalists are coming to the meetings? Are you making time to make sure that prominent female activists, businesswomen, representatives in the communities are coming in and you're talking to them, and you're building relationships with them, and you're hearing them out so that you get a better picture of what's going on in your community? ROBBINS: How responsive were people to that, when you went around and asked that question? NORRIS: Sometimes great. Like I—oh, the ambassador from, I remember, Papua New Guinea, was just all over this, because when we were at the State Department, Papua New Guinea has a horrible violence problem with women. And he saw this as a way to really make inroads, working with our office. I mean, I cannot—every time I saw him, I was like, how many trips are you making back to the United States? But he would be in talking to the ambassador saying, this is what I'm hearing. How can you help me implement programs out of our embassy to work on violence strategies against women? And then in other—in other embassies, we'd walk into you could tell—I mean, I don't mean this disrespectfully. They all have a lot going on. You know that two days before we showed up, somebody would say, oh, God, put a list together of the four women we've talked to in the last—in the last two months, or whatever. I mean, there's supposed to always kind of be a gender person, but it was some poor, low-level person who was sweating, nervously. I mean, just—they hadn't held, you know, an economic forum, or brought prominent U.S. women business leaders in to talk to women in these communities. Those were the types of things we're always trying to push. Make connections. Build networks. Just talk about these things. And in doing that, if the U.S. embassy is doing it, or the mayor's office is doing it, or the governor or whoever, it starts to chip away at people who may not think this work is important, or may be totally opposed to doing this, to say, you know, why are they talking about it? Maybe there is something behind this. Maybe this is something we should be thinking about. I remember when President Obama did this giant civil society forum in Africa when he was president. And you can go back and watch the video. And it's a lot of—a lot of men in the room. And he decided to call on a young girl from the Maasai tribe who had gone to school. She'd gone to high school. And he stood her up, and he called her out, and he made this connection. And you could hear a pin drop in the room because it was like, why is this—I think she was fourteen. Why is this fourteen-year-old girl being given a platform by the president of the United States to talk about why girls’ education is important to her, when they're—I mean, I'm sure—I hope that a lot of them were supportive. But I mean, it was a big moment. And it's that kind of—it’s gestures, it’s policies, it’s conversations. It's just—it's a lot of work. ROBBINS: So this is soft power from the United States, but it's also soft power inside of countries. I mean, what do you think of the idea of legislated requirements? Because not—in Europe, not only is there—are there requirements for certain percentages of women. The European Parliament has now voted on that Women on Boards Directive, that 33 percent of all director posts must be occupied by quote, “the underrepresented sex” by the end of June of 2026. But France’s parliament, you know, voted in 2021 to introduce gender quotas on executive teams and leadership pipelines, which when you think about is probably more important than the number of women you have on boards, although they both seem incredibly important. This impulse to legislate these requirements is common all over the world, but not inside the United States. First of all, why do you think it's so accepted in so many countries? I mean, as I said, I looked at this list. Eight-five countries—Vietnam, as I said, not necessary democracies—that felt that they needed to put a hard requirement for a certain percentage of gender representation in their legislatures. So many countries are now adopting these requirements and on corporate boards for publicly traded companies, that they have to have a certain percentage of women. I don't hear much of a conversation about that in the United States. Do you? NORRIS: No. I mean, and in my long time in Congress I ran the global women's issues of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. So this type of stuff came up a lot. There's just this radioactive response to the concept of quotas. You know, we would play around with other words. Could we set a goal? How about, like, we just try to get to—(laughs)—like this concept of mandating equity, you know, just—there was no way to sell it. With that said, I think the private sectors is going to be the driving—they are the driving force here on this stuff. I think at some point, Congress, hopefully, setting quotas—you know, they'll either get pulled along and reluctantly do it, although I can't imagine these folks will do that. But I think that it's going to have to be driven by the private sector here in the United States, who then go in and say: Things got better. You know, our margins increased. We had better workforce, you know, satisfaction, whatever the issue is. I think that—I think that the—unfortunately, here in the U.S.—I don't think that the government—that the federal government is going to be the driver on this. I think they're going to kind of be pulled along reluctantly, and then maybe look up at some point and think: Oh, maybe that made sense. Interestingly, I—not to get too in the weeds—but I worked on a project for the Council on Foreign Relations, looking at this big U.N. initiative that that U.N. Women has really spearheaded. And normally, with all of these U.N.-type activities, it's a bunch of government officials, and civil society, and U.N. officials sitting in a room and talking to each other about what they think they can achieve, which is great. And it's achieved a lot. Like, but this time, it's called the Generation Equality Forum. And it has problems, and I'm hopeful that something—you know, I think important things will come out of it. But this time, they invited the private sector to come and set goals. You know, companies—not only companies, but philanthropy. Companies came and made commitments to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars, saying that we're going—you know, we're part of this Generation Equality Forum. And we're going to work on workforce development in Africa. And they—the companies, their commitments were highlighted at the same level that the government’s were. And some of them were incredibly progressive. And that kind of—then that pushes other countries to say—other companies to say, I want to do that too. I mean, it works the same with governments. You would kind of watch them kind of want to one-up each other. To say, well, you say you're going to do—you're going to have a—you're going to implement a quota system, and you're going to have 50 percent women representation in government. And then you'd have another country come in and say: I want to do that one step further. And now you have the private sector in there too, and civil society in there doing it too. So I think there is a growing sense outside U.S. government that this is kind of a collective effort. And if we are going to make the progress we need to see, we have to do this together. And to kind of step all the way back. I mean, the reality is—despite, kind of, this good-news story with different actors stepping forward and prioritizing it—the trend globally is backsliding. COVID really dealt a huge blow to women around the world. The U.N. chief Antonio Guterres recently said that if we don't make real changes, it's going to take 300 years for us to get—to reach gender parity. I mean, I'm not sure that is—I don't know how they came up with that calculation, but the metric is not getting better. It is getting worse. Maternal health—maternal mortality is rising in Europe, in the United States. I mean, you just see worse outcomes kind of across the board, women in the workforce, women's health outcomes. So it's going to take everybody working together to kind of pull. But the problems are massive. ROBBINS: So you mentioned metrics. And I'm—I mean, can’t spend all the years I did at the Wall Street Journal and not like metrics. So maternal mortality rates, infant mortality rates. We talked about other ones, which is women's representation in elected office. You know, what other metrics would you use to judge a country to see whether or not—or a country, a city, a county, a state, whatever—to see whether or not it's making progress, quote, for “gender equality,” on women's issues? NORRIS: I personally think that the percentage of girls in school is critically important. And this is something where the United States messes up too, in my opinion. You know, there's this big—there'd been a big focus after the Millennium Development Goals on getting kids in primary school. And the U.S. pulled way back—rightfully so, I think—and said: We're going to put all of our money into primary school and we're going to really focus. And there's been varying degrees of success. I'm not at all suggesting that we've won that—solved that problem. There's still plenty of kids who can’t read and write. But there's this kind of sense that, oh, we got them through fifth or sixth grade, good luck to you then. And there's no follow through. The U.S. doesn't fund secondary education for—except in some conflict situations, which I think probably involves funding UNICEF. But they don't—they don't fund secondary school. So you have—you have girls who, you know, maybe stay in school until fifth or sixth grade. And then have a full range of horrible possibilities. In many cases either getting married younger, because their families can't afford to feed them. You know, getting engaged in jobs that aren't good for them, or anyone for that matter. Then health outcomes. As I mentioned, the HIV rates, earlier children. If you have children earlier, than you end up with less healthy children. Kind of—it just creates this snowball of kind of horrible outcomes oftentimes. And the—I wrote this down—the reality is that, I think, 30—it’s in the thirties—36 percent of girls in sub-Saharan Africa are graduating from lower secondary school, not even going all the way through twelfth grade. So you kind of have this enormous pool of untapped potential, that I think that if you really kind of stepped in you could change the trajectory of not only their lives, but lives in their communities. You know, health, economic outcomes, security outcomes. I mean, that's the one thing we haven't really talked about. Countries where there are greater levels of gender equity, where women feel empowered, where they have some agency, where there is—there are laws that protect them to some extent—so I realize a law doesn't necessarily mean you're going to get protected—but those countries are overall less likely to resort to conflict internally or externally. I mean, the issues kind of—you know, you lose this population, you know, at a young age, and it's really hard to bring that back. So, you know, I would—girls’ education would be the area that I would really kind of look at to say: Is this country prioritizing and, you know, really investing in its youth, and its girls, as equal agents for, you know, the success of our country? ROBBINS: As someone who is now having—is now in the education business, I celebrate that. But let me pose a contrarian question here, which is—I just looked this up. In the 2021-2022 academic year in the United States, 60 percent of all college students were women. NORRIS: Yes. ROBBINS: So if women are—I certainly know where I teach, that women are—in my graduate program, are a large majority of the students. And I have a majority-minority program, and all of that. But we got a lot of women. Yay. But women still earn significantly less money than men. And they are still underrepresented politically. And we still have this maternal mortality problem, and all these other things. If there's such a higher percentage of women in higher education, why doesn't it flow from that? You know, if we're going to invest all this, why doesn't it flow from that even in developed society, in such a wealthy society as ours, that the good things don't follow? NORRIS: I mean, I think it's changing slowly. I think it's going to take time. I think—I mean, not that all women have children—but I see the childcare struggles, the lack of family leave. When I worked at the State Department, I think they have since changed this, I got zero days of paid maternity leave—zero. That was from the U.S. federal government. I had to go in the hole for two months, and then earn it all back using my vacation days. I mean, I think we just—we don't have a lot of policies that are—that are supportive of women. You have probably seen this menopause conversation now in the news a lot, and about how nobody has ever really talked about this or factored this in, and what it's costing the U.S. economy. So I think, as you noted, we're doing a phenomenal job getting women through school. They're graduating at higher rates than men. But yet, the policies down the road I think aren't there yet. I think, you know, as you noted, we're behind a lot of countries in pretty stunning ways. On supporting women and families, and whatever families look like. I mean, it's just not supportive, in a lot of ways, right now. ROBBINS: So I want to turn this over to our group of journalists, who I'm sure have many questions. And, guys, please join in, jump in, and raise your hand, or jump up and down or something, and we'll have you ask questions. Or you can write questions in, but we'd love to have you ask questions. And while you ponder that, I have another question, Ann. But I'm eager to have you share questions. So since I'm going to go—I'm into the existential now here. So my friend Tom Edsall, who's quite a good columnist in the New York Times, and I recommend him to you guys, which is—I’m just looking to chat. It’s just explaining how to ask a question. I had hoped—hope springs eternal. He said that this sort of definition of—and the headline of this column was, How You Feel About Gender Roles Can Tell Us How You’ll Vote. But he said that competing ideas about the roles of men and women at home and at work shape our political life. They do not set men against women as much as produce two opposing coalition, each made up of both men and women. He quoted Nicholas Winter, who's a political scientist at the University of Virginia, who argues that, quote, “the politics of gender divide supporters of gender egalitarianism and feminism, both male and female, from gender traditionalist and antifeminist of both sexes.” And that basically, the definition of, quote, “women's issues,” or “women's rights issues” are not universal, even in the perception of American politics. So what you and I might think of as, you know, basic rights for women that should be promoted in public policy, are not necessarily accepted across the political spectrum. NORRIS: Yeah. No, I mean, we ran into this a lot when we would talk about paid maternal leave, for example. It was, well, you're not entitled to that. The U.S. federal government shouldn't be paying for people to have maternal leave. There are clearly people who think we should have programs like the Nordic countries do, but you often—you often run into that. Again, to quotas. We don't need quotas. If the women are qualified, they should work their way up and figure it out that way. You know, and I think that when—I think it's a mix of—I think it's a mix of both. I don't think it needs—you know, it gets kind of—I’m going to get in trouble here. But it's not—(laughs)—it's not always this kind of radical feminist agenda that people think, you know, people who work on gender are trying to push. It's very much more including women's voices and perspectives and trying to reach consensus on issues that are important to them. And it's not—I mean, there's obviously plenty of women who are antichoice. And I mean, that's a whole nother thing. But yeah, there is—I think we do a disservice when we kind of suggest that it's some homogenous kind of radically progressive view of women's issues. I think that it's—I think it should be framed more and women’s voices and being supportive to entire communities, of which women are 50 percent. Like, you know, that's what we've been missing. And I worked for Barbara Boxer. I’m going to get in trouble. I mean, it's a—I think, on a lot of these issues, there is a productive conversation to be had. And I think that it is tough when people come to it with a preconceived notion of what it means, I think. And then we do nothing, because people are afraid to even have the conversation. But it really is about making sure that the girls come to the sports program, and feel welcome there, and safe there, and that there's a bathroom that has lights on, and that their parents know—feel comfortable that they're going to have protections when they're dropping them off there and picking them up an hour later. It just—it runs the entire gamut of issues, from that to reproductive health. So I think every community could find something to work on. You know, Barcelona in this project that I worked on realized a few things that their transportation routes were only really running to where men went to work. And so, they ended up building in extra stops kind of shorter stops for shorter commutes, so that women could use—women would be more inclined to use public transportation. They built lighting into parks and safer bathrooms that weren't, you know, down the road behind the corner, where nobody wanted to go. The U.K. really challenged countries to—companies to make sure that if they had women working at night, that women had—and, I mean, this applies to men too. And I think this is something that we could really think about here. That workspaces were safe at night for their female employees, and that they had safe travel home. And it became kind of a big thing where countries wanted—companies wanted to say: I've done this. Like, I'm a safe space for women to work here. So, I mean, I don't think issues like that are actually controversial, making sure that, you know, the back door is locked, and there's lighting, and women feel safe at work, you know, in the evening. So, anyway, it's—there's a lot to do. ROBBINS: So Mike Sasso from Bloomberg in Atlanta. Mike, do you want to ask your question? Q: Hi. Can you hear me? ROBBINS: Absolutely. Q: OK. Yeah, I put it in the chat. I just finished not long ago Richard Reeves’ book, Of Boys and Men. And makes the case that a lot of the gender pay disparity does relate to women dropping out of the labor force. And that absent that gap, there would be no disparity. You probably also have seen some data that women who are single women, who don't have children, actually out-earn men who are single and don't have children. So it does—I mean, these are—it seems like maybe there needs to be a rethink in just kind of these gender pay disparity, you know, discussions. NORRIS: Yeah. I mean, I've seen it. I've seen—I don't want to overgeneralize too, but I haven't—I've been guilty of it, saying—and knowing that men are earning more in the same job, and maybe not speaking up. I realized that doesn't fix the problem but, again, like, that's part of what the city of L.A. was doing, was setting up an office to say: Are we paying people equally? Are, you know, making—when you have an administration of thousands of employees, I mean, you need somebody to just sit down and say: Who's doing what job? And are they being paid equally for it? And are they prioritizing this? And are we being held accountable? That was the other thing, too. There's a—you kind of build in a reporting-up structure to say: We looked at this. You know, everybody is being paid equally and we're satisfied here. But it's—I think oftentimes either women don't raise it, it goes unnoticed, people aren't really thinking about it. It kind of happens over time. And the woman's salary is never elevated to the level where the man's is. But it's tough. But it's a very real thing, obviously. But it gets back to this, like, thinking about it, prioritizing about it, and accountability on these issues. And I think having corporations report how many women are on boards, and what their salaries look like, and that they’re equitable, kind of will hopefully push this down to a much more local level where, you know, people aren't—you know, are working in more kind of blue-collar jobs too. ROBBINS: And also, I mean, fundamentally changing a policy that women are not penalized for taking time off for how much however much time you need to take off, that seems to be a sort of a pretty fundamental, given the data that Mike has. And, you know, it's interesting that the companies more and more have corporate, you know, sustainability, very focused on green issues in in there. And that's because their consumers have demanded this. Haven't seen as strong a consumer movement saying: Why don't—you know, why don't you, as a company, have childcare for women? Have better maternal leave programs? The same way that they're demanding better climate policies. And one wonders if that's—until that those are things that the consumers demand of companies from which they buy things, whether that's not going to happen. Which is—I don't have an answer to that, but it is an interesting thought. Molly Newhard has a question. Molly, do you want to ask your question? I can ask Molly's question for her. We're seeing— Q: Sorry. I just got the prompt about unmuting. Hi, yeah, sorry. My name is Molly. I'm the editor-in-chief at the LCC, Lane Community College, Torch. And my question is about, like, regarding gender issues. We're seeing an increase in anti-trans rhetoric and anti-trans policy. And transphobia is deeply rooted in misogyny. So what's, like, a good way to cover these issues respectfully, while recognizing the underlying gender issues? And have you seen coverage of these issues that do respect that? Like, or do recognize that misogyny backbone of it? NORRIS: Let me—I will answer that. I wanted to just briefly go back to the climate issue, like, being a badge of honor. Actually, I think that—I actually hope that that's something that maybe comes out of Generation Equality and these other kind of similar initiatives, that it becomes a badge of pride for companies to have as a selling point, like, we—you know, not women first, but—(laughs)—that's where you get in trouble. But, you know, we wear it as a badge of pride that we’re focused on gender equity. And that includes the trans issues too. It kind of all falls under this umbrella. We’re not there. And I don't understand why it isn't something that more companies are talking about, and prioritizing, and kind of championing as a way, in particular, to reach out to youth, I think, who are—who are interested in these issues and, you know, want to believe that there is a level playing field for both men and women, especially as they're coming out of school and at these higher rates, et cetera. The trans—(laughs)—the trans stuff is hard. I mean, I think it gets—I mean, it just—it's just it’s so toxic right now. I think that there aren't enough thoughtful conversations going on about what this even means. I mean, I hear it. I hear it all the time. In Los Angeles, I live in a progressive area of Los Angeles, and everyone always asks me: Isn't it being shoved down your kids’ throats? I'm like, no. Like, it's not. You know, I think they're—but people are paying, and especially a lot of young people are paying, a horrible price for this. I mean, I think it gets back to—and I'm not an expert on this. I want to—I want to say—I want to say that outright. But, again, like getting more the nuance of the conversation and what we're really looking at with these issues. And not this—you know, there’s eight thousand conversations about drag events. Like, I don't know why that has become like the focal point of the conversation about trans issues. Like, that's so far away from, like, a first grader who's not feeling comfortable about who they are and wants to have a discussion about it. I don't know how that becomes a drag show. I mean, it's just—it's wild. And. I mean, to the community of journalists who are on this call, like, kind of—I think there's a—for every ridiculous drag story, I think there are thousands of stories. I know kids personally here who are dealing with this who are very young, and who fortunately have supportive communities around them. But to get to those real conversations, so that people understand that it isn't this, again, radical shove it down your throat, everybody has to accept one version of this agenda. And, again, this is not my area. But this just—I think that there are parallels with gender, that it's perceived as there are women's issues, because gender now very much includes all of these trans, LGBTQ issues. But, you know, having a more thoughtful conversation about what we really mean and highlighting stories. I mean, I think that's how we have been able to make, you know, progress in in the women's space is saying—you know, if you kind of talk about it in the abstract, people assume it's one thing. But when you say, but, no, look at this real person. And this is what happened to her. And this was her experience. And this is what we all could have done to make sure that these awful things didn't happen. You know, that that's my only—that's my two cents. Sorry. ROBBINS: Molly, as a longtime editor, I think it's an absolutely fabulous question. And I don't have a—have a definitive answer. But I think fact checking in the current political environment is absolutely essential. I mean, as what Ann was saying is people say, aren’t your kids’ getting this shoved down their throat? I mean, this is—this is a time for fact checking, when people say: This has been taught in the classroom. Well, you know, what's actually being taught in the classroom? I mean, this—stories on that, that you don't have to call people out and say liar, liar pants on fire—as much as I would love to do that, which is why I became an editorial writer. But you can respectfully fact check something in a news story, without it even being called fact checking, that says, they say this. This is what's actually happening. Because most people don't know what's actually happening. It's the same thing with the critical race theory charges. Somehow critical race theory is being—mostly people have no idea what critical race theory is—is being taught in kindergarten. And it's, you know, data is just a huge, huge you know, astringent for these things. Which is—some people, you're never going to change their mind. But I do think that's—I think that's really helpful. Sara Burnett, who, I gather, is with the AP. Sara, are you still hear and would you like to ask your question, or should I read it for you? I know people tend to get on deadline and— Q: Hi. It’s Sara. I am still here. I just had to unmute. I wanted to go back to the comment at the beginning about women and how much of the Congress they do or do not make up. And it's not just an issue in Congress, but elsewhere. I know we have a woman running for president this cycle, but even mayors’ offices, and city councils, and things. I'm curious where you see the biggest obstacles? If it's in women just not choosing to run for office? And if so, how we encourage more women to do so. Or, you know, over the years there's been a lot of talk about the barriers to getting elected, things like fundraising and things. But it feels like we've been addressing that for a while now. So I'm just wondering what you think it will take. NORRIS: I mean, people ask me all the time. Having worked in Congress, and I was there when it was friendly—relatively friendly. I can't—I imagine the hostile environment and picking apart of—this is my talking to other women, a lot of people in policy. Just kind of, I would never put myself out there to kind of be shredded apart and have my family's life shredded apart. And that they—I mean, between the fundraising, and the travel, it's a tough job. And kudos to the women who stepped forward to do this. I mean, I think we have to kind of fundamentally rethink elections and elected office, and what that means, and the way it's kind of open season on all of them, on both sides. I mean, it's—you watch the stuff that people think it's kind of open for discussion about people's lives, and it's just insane. So. I mean, yeah, building more supportive structures. I know that women in elected office have started. You know, there was a Women's Caucus in the Senate, that my boss Barbara Boxer was part of. And when those women got behind closed doors with other women on the other side of the aisle, I mean, they had real meaningful conversations about the challenges they were facing, and how to come together on certain things. I have no idea if that continues to exist, you know, ten years later. But I think it's—Congress is not—it's probably worse, but it's not much different than a lot of places that aren't supportive for women who want to run and step forward and take on these jobs. ROBBINS: You know, we spent—and, Sara, please, you know, follow ups and all that. But we spent a lot of time talking after the Clinton campaign, the Hillary Clinton campaign, about whether we, quote, in the “mainstream media,” had applied a different standard to Hillary than we did—first of all, everyone refers to her by her first name—than to a male candidate. Which is an interesting question. Or was it that she was a Clinton. I mean, you know, how much of what, you know, the way the coverage unfolded had to do with she was a Clinton? How much it had to do with that she was the first woman? How much of it was just because she wasn't a great campaigner? You know, but there's a lot of, sort of, after-action reports going on about the coverage and how we dealt with it. But, you know, there's also—and not—people who cover politics don't pay an enormous amount attention to this. But there's also the same odd sort of double standard in the way women in business are covered. I don’t know if you guys remember when Marissa Mayer went to Yahoo, and, you know, she was pregnant. And then, you know, she had a nursery built next to her office, and there was all this coverage about, you know, how extravagant that was. But she also, like, went to work, like, a minute and a half after she had her kid. And it's just—the coverage is different of women than it is of men. And that's—and I do think that part of that does, you know, affect the way people perceive, you know, political players. I think we do—the way we translate people does have an impact on it. Now, you know, right now there are many worse voices out there than what we're doing in the, quote, “mainstream media.” But I do think that's something that we have to pay attention to. So that's my mea culpa for our coverage during the Clinton campaign. But we did endorse her when she ran against—in the primary. But that's another issue. (Laughs.) Bonnie Lord has raised her hand. Q: Hi. OK, good, you can hear me. My name is Bonnie Lord. I'm the managing editor of the Albion Pleiad at Albion College, Michigan. And I wanted to ask, like, a lot of what we've talked about today has been, like, international sort of issues. And I wanted to ask how—I guess, what you would think local journalists can do to create international change? What can we do to, like, start those conversations in our communities? NORRIS: I mean, that’s a new one for me. Sorry. I had to think about that for a second. But I do think—kind of to take it all the way back to the city of L.A. project that I worked on—a lot of the issues are the same. And I was guilty of this for a long time, thinking that, like, the problems that countries faced elsewhere were somehow unique to—I mean, unique to those areas, and didn't apply here. But, like, everybody's struggling in the same way. I think nobody has it figured out, all the way. I think, obviously, the Nordic countries have, although they’re back—they're taking a few steps back in certain areas. I think it's Sweden, just they had pushed everybody to adopt what you called a feminist foreign policy, and the new government just came in—I think it's Sweden; I'm sorry, I don't have it written down in front of me—but announced they're not doing that anymore. And, like, it was just this incredibly disheartening thing to all these advocates who have been pushing the United States and all these other countries to say, we're going to adopt—you're going to say that you have a gender lens and all your foreign policy decisions. But, I guess, what I always found worked was talking about what we did here, and maybe if there was a successful solution here kind of sharing that elsewhere, or building bridges with other journalists who were working on these types of issues or covering these issues overseas. And really—I mean, I would never have known what Sierra Leone did in that market if I hadn't talked to those folks. And that's something I use all the time. I think that could be applied down the street here in Los Angeles, and could probably change a lot of people's lives. You know, so I think viewing it all through a lens that a lot of the problems are a lot more similar than we think that they are, and sharing voices and success stories, and building connections, and not thinking that, like, somehow what we have in the U.S. is a lot different than what's going on overseas. It's all the same, to varying extents. ROBBINS: Bonnie, does that help? NORRIS: Does that help? I have never thought about local journalists working to push issues overseas. Q: I think it does. I mean, I guess my concern is more, like, I just want to hear perspectives. Because a lot of times we try to tie things to—local problems will have implications, like, nationally, or sometimes internationally. And if we can, like, make a note of that when it happens, it can make a stronger story. So I just wonder if you had any, like, comments on that? Or if you'd seen that and—seen some good examples of that. NORRIS: You know, it's—on legal cases, it's having women advocates in the courts. It's make—you know, if it's a violence case. I mean, I think, in the United States rape victims get treated pretty terribly, despite the fact that we should be a lot better on this stuff. I think that there's lots of stories of measures that women and men have implemented around the world to make experiences and to solve problems better through a gender lens. So maybe trying to seek those out. And to seek those out and incorporate those ideas into your stories, because I think there's a lot to be learned from what folks have accomplished elsewhere in solving problems here. Which, God forbid you ever tell Congress. But, you know, that's a whole nother thing. Why we're not party to international women's treaties, et cetera, et cetera. Like, there's not this sense of shared, collective challenges and problem-solving on these issues. ROBBINS: Thank you. And we can help you, at the Council, with information as well. And so with all our different websites. And comparisons always your friend, and it's everybody's friend. You know, what other people are doing to solve because of similar problems. So, Ann, thank you. I'm going to turn it back to Irina now and thank everybody for good questions. And, Irina, back to you. FASKIANOS: Thank you both, and thanks to all of you for your questions. We appreciate your joining us. We will send out a link to the webinar recording and transcript shortly. I want to highlight for you that Carla Anne Robbins is now the host of a podcast called The World Next Week. So you should all subscribe to that. And, as Carla said, we encourage you to visit,, and for the latest developments and analysis on international trends and how they're affecting the United States. And of course, we welcome your suggestions for future webinar topics. Please email us. You can send your email to local [email protected]. So, again, thank you to Ann Norris, Carla Robbins. And, to all of you, have a great rest of the day. ROBBINS: Thanks so much. Thanks, Ann. Thanks, Irina. NORRIS: Thank you. (END)