Power-up Your Policymaking

How to turn your passion into action from boosting your local engagement or running for office

“This woman’s place is in the House-the House of Representatives”-Bella Abzug

It’s no new news that although we comprise a little over half the human population, women are severely underrepresented in both politics and business. Although great strides have been made and new fissures and cracks appear every day in that storied glass ceiling, for the busy everyday woman, moving from awareness to engagement can seem daunting. Continue reading

One Tough Mother: How Single Mothers are Defining the Homebuying Process

June is National Homeownership Month. This article is part of an ongoing series focusing on aspects of women’s homeownership.

“Despite the stereotypes that insist women care more about marriage than men do, it may actually be the single life that women embrace more than men,” says Professor Bella DePaulo, social scientist, author, and expert on elective single life, going on to say that unmarried women may be likelier than men to create a lifestyle around singledom.
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Beyond Abuse: Finding Our Voice on World Elder Abuse Awareness Day

It started with a phone call from Capital One Financial Corporation on January 14th, 2016. “Ms. Patno, are you the sole owner of Desiree Patno Enterprises, Inc.?”

That simple call was how I found out that my husband’s accountant had been dispersing my unsigned business checks illegally, with some going into her personal accounts and several others paying her bills directly.

I was (and still am) angry that not only my trust was betrayed, but after years of hard work and developing a reputation as a successful businesswoman in the housing and real estate sector, I was, to put it quite simply, duped.

How could this happen to me? And if this could happen to me, in my mid-fifties, plugged into and engaged fully in my businesses, what happens to women older than me, with fewer resources at their fingertips and perhaps cognitive issues?

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Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU)s Could Help Women Meet Housing Goals

California has the highest poverty rate in the nation and we have an extreme shortage of affordable hosing. Single mothers are at a disadvantage of chosing to work an additional job to be able to afford housing for her family and still provide adequate supervision.

ADUs are small dwelling units on an existing residential property. Recent state policies, passed in 2016, have made it easier for homeowners in L.A. County to construct these additional dwelling units whether they are detached from the home or attached with a separate entrance, or even a garage conversion.

The advantages to having an ADU on your property are numerous: whether for extra rental income, a home office, or as a guest house. If done properly (up to code, enhancing rather than detracting from the aesthetic of your property), ADUs can add value to not only your residence but your life: turning unused space into a value generator.

However, the impact of building an ADU can have for an existing woman homeowner or single mother renter could be even more profound.

For a Home-Based Business

As highlighted in our 2018 Women in the Housing Ecosystem Report, Volume I that focuses on The State of Women’s Homeownership, aside from viewing a home as a secure sanctuary, women seek homeownership as a stable location to build a home-based business. An ADU provides extra space to grow that business, a safe-space to meet clients without having them directly enter into your living space and a location close enough to be super-convenient but separate enough to provide a distraction-free workspace.

An Additional Revenue Stream

There are more working mothers heading up families with children, or single-working mothers as well as women taking care of aging parents. An ADU can provide an additional revenue stream, allowing a woman to better care for children and aging adults without relying on a second income. On a side note, the homeowner could play it forward to help provide a more homebased living arrangement to single mothers. Who knows, maybe their kids would be a perfect playdate or their mother create some mommy time! There is social impact that also offsets financial impact.

Converting a Property to Rent-Controlled Status  

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors just approved their own new rules and several cities are in the process or already have their own specifc rules for dwellings. Adding an ADU might trigger rent stabilization because it is no longer considered a single-family residence, even if you are living in the same residence.

Before building an ADU, make sure to check any guidelines or restrictions put out by your city and county. Know your options, do your homework and this includes not only detached and attached additions, but pre-fab units as well.

The Fight for Women at Art Basel

With a busy schedule you’d need a guidebook to navigate, I never have enough time in the day to connect with everyone I want to. Oftentimes, by the time I remember that I wanted to call a colleague with a quick thought, it’s two in the morning and my puppies are crying for me to come to bed. Once in a while, though, I see something that is riveting.

I recently attended Art Basel 2017 and was deeply impacted by the connections I formed and the beautiful artwork abounding throughout Miami Beach. I had a cathartic experience when my eyes settled on the work of Italian artist El Gato Chimney. My excitement must have been obvious as I was captivated by the color and images in his work.

The painting I fixated on depicts a swan with a community of burning birdhouses on its back. Held down by ropes, and bleeding from its battle, the resolute swan won’t succumb to its restraints and fights to gain its flight and freedom. A different painting similarly portrays a bird with smoking birdhouses on its back, the difference being that this bird and its houses are already airborne.

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From the Netherlands to Washington, D.C. -An NAWRB Intern’s Journey-

In 2016, Marissa de Swart, a young woman from the Netherlands, traveled to the United States to study at Chapman University in sunny Orange, California. Chapman is a distinguished private, non-profit university, and one of only 75 colleges to offer a Peace Studies program. She took two courses in Peace Studies during her time studying abroad, as well as noteworthy courses in leadership and mediation.

Students enrolled in the Peace Studies program address the underlying causes of present international conflict and seek thorough nonviolent solutions. “Peace is not simply the absence of war and the end of conflict,” states the program’s brochure. “Lasting, sustainable peace involves the pursuit of human rights, sustainable development, and social justice.”

This sentiment hearkens to the evocative words Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote in a cell at Birmingham City Jail in 1963: “True peace is not merely the absence of tension: it is the presence of justice.”

Women’s economic opportunity and growth is one human rights issue that requires attention in order to achieve gender equality, a necessary component of world peace. NAWRB is on the front lines of this issue—driving collaboration in the housing ecosystem for gender parity and women’s economic growth, and providing women with resources to secure their financial independence.

Wanting to get involved in the women’s movement, and apply the skills she learned in the classroom to the workforce, Marissa interned at NAWRB. She was pivotal in bridging our connections with the Netherland’s Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, and she continued this intermediary role when she returned home. Shortly after her internship, she secured an opportunity to work at the Dutch Embassy in Washington, D.C., where she currently resides.

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Life of a Female Veteran: U.S. Army Combat Veteran Erica Courtney (part 2 of 6)

Towards the end of my tour I had set out to earn my spurs, an old cavalry tradition which signifies you are a cut above. This consisted of three days of physical hazing, meeting with a board of senior leaders to answer anything and everything about Cavalry tradition, and employing skills needed to meet the mission. For example, it could be a scenario where I would use my land navigation skills and find certain points. Upon arrival, the scene was some kind of chaos and you had to act under pressure. Or, it could simply be finding the right terrain to watch convoys and their movement to report back to headquarters. This involved carrying heavy equipment such as packs, radios, water cans and more. Prior to the spur ride they broke us into teams. No one wanted me, the female, on their team. Most of the teams were tankers stationed about 20 minutes away from the airfield. We did not know each other. There were a few aviators in the mix. I was assigned and the sighs were heard from my group as if they were expecting to have to tote me around. In contrast, at the end of the three-day event, the rater who was with our group from the start was absolutely flabbergasted at my performance. I steered the guys in the right direction when they became lost (a skill I learned well as an enlisted soldier thanks to a former commander), carried the biggest guy’s rucksack on top of mine because he hurt his ankle and was always the first to get up when needed. The guys were slow to move and tired. It was, after all, 3 a.m. and they had been through days of physical and mental tests. Upon our return to the endpoint, the chain of command had been made aware of my efforts and I had it a bit easier from there. My team stopped looking at me as a female and began seeing me as a teammate, exactly as it should be.

I was awarded my spurs and wore them with pride! One slight issue, women were not allowed to wear pants with their dress uniform, they only had skirts. It was the year 2000 and spurs looked absolutely ridiculous on heels with a skirt. I broke the rules and had a Korean tailor make my uniform pants like the guys wear. This is a big no-no in the service. Uniforms are important and you must stick to the regulation. When I showed up to the ceremony in pants, no one cared. “Looking good lieutenant,” is all I got from my senior leaders. That was liberating. The symbolism here was powerful. Integration is never easy, but it gets easier for those who come after us. We were blazing the trail. I learned early on that if baseless hatred gets to you, they win. I learned to overcome discrimination by working hard, being physically and mentally tough, and setting the example. Eventually, the same guys who did not want me there were the same guys not wanting me to leave. Earned spurs in hand, I left having made it easier for the women behind me and left the unit a better place.

Congratulations, you are going to the 82nd Airborne Division. Wow, okay. I needed a tad of R&R as I was on alert the entire time in South Korea; for a year I was woken at all hours of the night and had five minutes to get dressed, throw on my gear, make it to the airfield and get my helicopter up and ready. No stress there. I went to Australia for a few weeks and became engaged to Chris, a fellow aviator I’d met years prior in flight school. It took nearly the whole two weeks to unwind. At the end of my stay, I became privy to the story of how he got the ring to present. Chris had ordered the ring to be delivered to Korea. Picture this, the FedEx truck pulls up to the gate, in the middle of nowhere, as the unit was on alert with an M1 Abrams tank pointed right at the entrance. Chris had told his First Sergeant (1SG) that if he ever saw a FedEx truck to do whatever he needed to do to get the ring. The 1SG saw the FedEx truck imminently leave and he began running down the road screaming at him to stop. The 1SG accomplished the mission, retrieving the ring and handing it safely off to Chris.

After my R&R, I was off to jump school. Talk about a sore body after two weeks of chilling. As an officer, you must be airborne qualified to be part of the 82nd Airborne Division. I thought it was strange; an aviator having to jump out of a perfectly good airplane? When was that going to happen? I learned that it happened a lot and it was an honor to be sitting next to colonels and privates alike. The Esprit de Corps at that unit was unlike anything I knew. We all had to go through crazy stuff together and it did not matter what you looked like or what your gender was. We are the all American unit. Welcome to jump school. Now do 10 pull-ups before you step over the line and begin your training.

I had the Cavalry brass insignia on my collar versus aviation and that got the attention of many. As usual, a few of the macho men types tried to break me, make me cry. Not happening. The majority of the men were cool, but I had come to expect a certain level of grief for being a cavalry officer, and a woman to boot. Some of the Navy Seals were the most supportive because they knew I could keep up; that was surprising to me. I thought they would be the hardest to win over. However, they are pretty secure in their own skin and appreciate hard work. It is tradition that the highest rank jumps out the door first. Lead from the front. Turns out, in my group, I was the highest ranking. I was what is called the chalk leader. You are standing by the door circling the drop zone and have to stare at the ground and throw any fear you may have out the window. Green light, go. No hesitation.

Scouts always lead from the front. Airborne! 

Each unit got easier as my reputation preceded me. Senior leaders wanted me in their Cavalry units. However, at a level above them, so did the Brigade Commander as she was a proficient staff officer who managed 2,500 personnel, $75 million in equipment and over $200 million budgets and contracts. This hurt and helped me. I wanted to fly more and was requested, but kept getting pigeon-holed into logistics and contracts. At each location, there is no way the boss would let me out of the logistics position because I kept the aircraft flying, the unit out of trouble and the soldiers ready. In protest for all my hard work, tactfully, I demanded to go to the Advanced Cavalry Course taught by armor officers. Women were not allowed. After six months of hounding, my boss finally gave in. I was signed up and was Cavalry through and through. I was excited to learn so I could be better equipped to lead my men.

Again, being a bit naïve, I walked into the class and was completely ignored. A young officer grabbed me by the collar, threw me up against the wall and said that I didn’t belong there. None of the other men did a thing. No worries. They did not know who they were dealing with. Instead of whining or stating my case, I understood how to fight fire with fire, how men respond. Physically.

Now, women would not do this, but if you impress men physically, you are in. I reached out to him, grabbed him by the collar, and pinned him on the ground in a position from which he was not getting up. Clearly he did not know that I was an MP and was often used as a demonstrator on how to take a man down despite size. Now I was ready. Physical prowess, check. Mental toughness and expertise was still ahead of me. I ended up teaching half my class how aeroscouts integrate with ground forces because I lived it in Korea. I understood Cavalry tactics more so than most thanks to that assignment. I graduated, got my certificate and moved on. Turns out I was the first female to ever graduate from that school. It was never my intent to be the first, but it kept happening.

September 11th, 2001. A day that changed the nation. I was working in my office with a long line outside my door and got a call that a plane hit one of the towers. Why were they calling me about this unfortunate accident? Little did I know, like the rest of the country, the gravity of the situation.

The second call, “You may want to take a look.” Two planes now each targeting the Towers. What? Okay, let’s turn the TV on. The rest is history.

I slept in my office for two nights straight as the base was locked down. No one knew how to handle something like this. Of course the 82nd Airborne Division was the first to get the call, they are America’s 911 force with the ability to deploy anywhere in the world within 18 hours. As the senior logistician for anything aviation, my world became very busy. Nothing moved in Afghanistan without air assets due to the terrain and scarce roads which were mostly controlled by the Taliban.

Then came my next assignment at the 10th Mountain Division where I was pushing guys out to Iraq, bringing them home and co-managing the effort in Afghanistan. While there, the pace was rapid keeping up with troop demands in the far reaching areas of the country. I had to work with locals, contractors and leaders in order to skillfully get supplies through Taliban strongholds. They were not used to taking orders from women but they were respectful.

While there, I witnessed things most American’s will never have to. The land is littered with landmines left from the Russian invasion in the 1980s. I organized a food and clothing drive for local kids, and while I was distributing the items with a small team, attacks followed. You can’t really trust anyone in a time of conflict. Also, tall mountains made for some hairy flying. Most flight corridors were in between two tall mountains and there were men at eye level (about 7,000 feet) waiving to you with a radio in one hand and a rocket-propelled grenade launcher in the other. It was unnerving to say the least. I was able to determine very quickly that communications were terrible due to terrain and antiquated systems.

Because I worked in contracting, I was able to research state-of-the-art radio systems and pass my request up through the highest levels of leadership in country to get the $20 million in funding to equip all my aircrafts and increase effectiveness. This saved countless lives in the air and on the ground.

While on base, rocket attacks happened frequently. Rest was minimal and when it happened, my wooden shelter was right off the airfield with loud jets and helicopters flying non-stop. If you want to call it lucky, I had to leave earlier than the rest of my unit to bring the other half back from Iraq. It was a fast-moving train of events and you either kept up or got left behind. People forget that every time an aviator straps in their aircraft, things can and do go wrong whether it is training or war. When something catastrophic happens, there are investigations because the Army, manufacturers and family members want answers. I have had to investigate crashes and similar traffic accidents in Germany. It was hard to process, especially if I knew the people. Lest we forget.

What Working Women Give Up to Climb the Executive Ladder

Professional and high-achieving working women have to give up a lot to climb the executive ladder. What does it mean to sacrifice and what are those things that are sacrificed in the pursuit of the executive woman’s life?

According to definition.com, sacrifice is the “forfeiture of something highly valued for the sake of one considered to have a greater value or claim.” From this context, working women are giving up things they highly value for their careers in which they feel are of greater value. What are the things that are given up or forfeited? The biggest one is relationships: relationships with themselves, spouses, children and friends.

There is still great societal expectations, or perceived expectations women place on themselves, to be a great wife, mother and maintain the household. In order to do all of the above and work a demanding career, something is bound to be lost or sacrificed for what is believed to be the greater good to the family or individual.

 

Women and the Second Shift 
When the paid workday ends, the non-paid day begins and this can be taxing on an already jammed-packed day. According to salary.com’s “What’s a Working Mom Worth” 2016 survey, women spend an additional 59 hours per week working on the household. Part of the problem is that the husbands have not picked up a large enough portion of the traditional household responsibilities.

This rings true for even some of the highest-achieving executive women. Statistics from the National Parenting Association show that only 9 percent of their husbands take responsibility for meal preparation, 10 percent for the laundry and 5 percent for cleaning the house. When you throw children in the mix, it does not get better: only 9 percent take off work when the children are sick, 9 percent take the lead in helping with homework and a meager 3 percent help plan activities. With the expectations for women to be able to have it all, the balance can be more than overwhelming, and the fear of failure by asking for help compounds it all.

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sheCenterfold Gina Diez Barroso

NAWRB:What obstacles did you face while developing Centro, the first university in Mexico City that specializes in creative studies? How did you overcome them?

Gina Diez Barroso: The first obstacle was they didn’t believe that we needed a new university, and they didn’t believe creativity was important. We spoke from authorities and business people, to everybody involved in this. I had to get together a diverse group of people— creative thinkers, business people, academics—who were working not for me but for my vision and my passion. They were working with me. We also hired market analysts to do a study, and the study predicted that it wasn’t going to work and that I shouldn’t do it. When I was young, I never took no for an answer. I used to think this was a bad thing, but now I take it as a compliment.

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Women Veterans: The Challenges They Face & a Way Forward

Although not officially recognized as members of the armed forces until 1901, the involvement of women in the military dates back to the Revolutionary War.

Each year, the population of women veterans grows steadily due, in part, to the increasing number and proportion of women entering and leaving military service. Most women veterans possess those traits that are valued in military service and beyond: steady nerves, sound judgment, courage, tenacity, patriotism, and sacrifice. The question is, how much should we as a nation allow them to sacrifice once they leave the military? Do we adhere to what President Lincoln said so many years ago? With the words, “To care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan,” President Lincoln affirmed the government’s obligation to care for those who serve. Clearly he wasn’t expecting to add women to his speech but here we are, serving right beside our male brethren as a force multiplier adding value in ways never expected.

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