TIME politics

Exclusive: Read a 9-Year-Old’s Letter to Obama About Putting a Woman on U.S. Currency — and His Response

Image courtesy of Kim B., Sofia's mother Sofia, the girl who wrote to Obama asking him to put a woman on U.S. currency

"Why don’t women have coins or dollar bills with their faces on it?"

The little girl who asked Obama last year why there aren’t any women on U.S. bills has finally gotten a letter back from the President — and she’s invited to the annual White House Easter Egg Roll.

President Obama made waves last year when he mentioned he had received a letter from a little girl asking him to put some women on U.S. currency, which he called a “pretty good idea.” That letter was from Sofia, a Massachusetts girl who was just finishing third grade at the time.

“I was studying Ann Hutchinson, who stood up for women’s rights,” she says. “Almost everyone who chose a boy, on their poster they had pictures of different dollar bills or coins with their person on it. So I noticed, why don’t women have coins or dollar bills with their faces on it?”

Sofia, now 9, knew immediately what she had to do. “I just came home from school and said, ‘I need to write to the president.’” Sofia’s mother provided her letter exclusively to TIME:

Kim B. (Sofia's mother)
Image courtesy of Kim B., Sofia’s mother

For a while, Sofia didn’t hear anything back from the President. She says she “sort of forgot about it” until her dad showed her the President had mentioned her letter in a speech. “I was really excited about it, because I thought that maybe it would actually happen,” she says.

In the months since Sofia wrote to Obama, a campaign to put a woman on the $20 bill has gone viral. The W20 movement is hosting an online poll so the public can vote on which woman should replace Andrew Jackson. The group plans to petition Obama and the Treasury Secretary to make it happen. Almost 220,000 people have voted in the online poll so far. And Sofia, who is now in fourth grade, is a junior ambassador for the campaign.

MORE 10 Countries That Put Women on Cash Before the U.S.

Even though she’s a longtime fan of Ann Hutchinson, Sofia wants to see Rosa Parks on the $20. “What she did was really important,” she says. “If it wasn’t for her, we’d still be segregated today.” She got her whole class to vote in the online poll, and her third grade teacher got her class to vote as well.

Last month, Sofia finally got a personalized letter back from the President, along with an invitation to attend this year’s White House Easter Egg Roll. Here’s what President Obama wrote to her:

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Image courtesy of Kim B., Sofia’s mother

“The women you listed and drew make up an impressive group,” Obama wrote. “And I must say you’re pretty impressive, too.”

“I’ll keep working to make sure you grow up in a country where women have the same opportunities as men, and I hope you’ll stay involved in issues that matter to you,” he continued. “If you keep focusing in school and trying to help others whenever you can, there are no limits to what you can accomplish.”

Sofia wants to be a teacher or a scientist when she grows up — after a younger friend was diagnosed with cancer, she decided she wants to study cures. But she also has some advice for other kids her age who want to make a difference. “Write a letter to somebody important,” she says, “because something could happen and it could actually change.”

Read next: The Campaign to Get a Woman on the $20 Bill Is Picking Up Steam

TIME feminism

Pay Cheerleaders What They’re Worth

The Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders perform during the game between the Cowboys and Detroit Lions at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
Paul Moseley — MCT/Getty Images The Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders perform during the game between the Cowboys and Detroit Lions at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

Marina Adshade is a professor of economics at the Vancouver School of Economics a the University of British Columbia and the author of "Dollars and Sex: How Economics Influences Sex and Love." David Berri is a professor of economics at Southern Utah University. He is the lead author of "The Wages of Wins" and "Stumbling on Wins."

It's time to guarantee cheerleaders are properly compensated

How would you like it if there were beautiful women whose only job was to keep you entertained? Women who kept their bodies toned to your exact specifications; spent thousands of dollars on their hair, makeup and clothing so they always looked their best for you; and had invested in years of training to do complicated acrobatics designed to bring you joy. Now add to this fantasy that these women brought you hundreds of thousands of dollars in profits and you give them almost nothing in return. Sound like a fairy tale? It should be.

For decades, National Football League teams have skirted the issue of paying cheerleaders fair wages by acting as if cheerleaders were not their employees. This despite the fact that cheerleaders work 42 weeks a year, practice several times a week, attend corporate and charitable team events, are photographed for promotional media and paraphernalia, and, of course, entertain fans during games.

In court case after court case, teams have argued that because cheerleaders are independently contracted through third parties, the multi-billion dollar organizations whose business interests they promote are not obliged to pay them anything close to compensation required by state labor laws. And in court case after court case, judges have disagreed and ordered teams to pay their cheerleading squads millions of dollars in back wages.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers recently agreed to pay up to $825,000 to settle a lawsuit brought by cheerleaders who were paid just $100 a game. Prior to a lawsuit settled last September, the Oakland Raiders were paying their cheerleaders an hourly wage of just $5. Now, after the $1.25 million settlement, the Raiderettes can look forward to the same income as the team’s other minimum-wage employees.

In California, legislation proposed by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez in January would require professional sports teams to recognize cheerleaders as their employees and pay them at least the state-mandated minimum wage. Gonzales, herself a former collegiate-level cheer athlete, has said that it hardly seems fair to pay cheerleaders, with all their specialized training and the risk of physical injury, less than the staff selling beers in the stands.

So are cheerleaders only worth the minimum wage? Standard economic theory indicates that in free markets, workers are paid their value to their employers. Anything less is worker exploitation.

Eric Smallwood, senior vice president at Front Row Marketing, has estimated that the TV appearances of cheerleaders on game days alone are worth about $8.25 million to the NFL, or $317,000 per year for each team in the league. Cheerleaders also provide value by promoting ticket sales and promoting the NFL brand.

So why are they paid so little?

According to National Federation of State High School Associations there are almost 400,000 individuals participating in high-school level cheerleading in the United States. Opportunities for professional cheerleaders are limited, however, given that there are only 26 NFL teams that currently have cheerleading squads (the Buffalo Bills disbanded its squad after a lawsuit last year). This suggests that the supply of cheerleaders exceeds demand. Such a labor market hands bargaining power to the employers, allowing them to negotiate down wages.

You might be wondering why this isn’t a problem for other athletes, many of whom are well paid for their contribution to their teams despite the fact that they face fierce competition from other would-be players. Historically, this had been a problem, and the only reason we no longer hear about it is that those players fought for the fair wages they are paid today.

In the first half of the 20th century, many professional sports leagues used their bargaining power to limit the pay of athletes. In the latter half of the century, though, many restrictions on player wages were eliminated leading to significant increases in player pay. For this reason, the share of its revenue that Major League Baseball paid to its players increased from 17% in 1956 to 53% in 2012. Over the same period, the National Football League increased the share of its revenue paid to players from 32% to 52%. Even the English Football League has had to increase the share of its revenue it pays to players, up from 38% in 1958 to 76% in 2013.

Studies indicate that similar stories can be told today about student athletes at American colleges and universities.

Perhaps you think that cheerleaders aren’t really being exploited for the same reason that people in the past didn’t think players were being exploited: because these athletes really love to play their game. Or perhaps you think that cheerleaders should be willing to work for very little because there are other benefits to the job, such as access to other employment opportunities or even better marriage markets. So what difference does it make if sports teams exploit their workers?

Worker exploitation has nothing to do with how much someone likes their job, or how much that job improves a worker’s other prospects, or whether or not the job can help her fulfill other life goals. If the NFL genuinely wants to address the perception that it has no respect for women (who make up 45% of its fan base), one place to start would be to guarantee that the women who do the most to promote the brand are properly compensated.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME feminism

Shailene Woodley Still Adamant She’s Not a Feminist

"To me it’s still a label"

Shailene Woodley still doesn’t consider herself a feminist.

Last year, Woodley told TIME she was against the use of the term as “I love men, and I think the idea of ‘raise women to power, take the men away from the power’ is never going to work out because you need balance…My biggest thing is really sisterhood more than feminism.” Promoting her latest film Insurgent, 23-year-old Woodley posed for NYLON’s April cover and elaborated on her evolving thoughts on feminism:

“The reason why I don’t like to say that I am a feminist or I am not a feminist is because to me it’s still a label. I do not want to be defined by one thing. Why do we have to have that label to divide us? We should all be able to embrace one another regardless of our belief system and regardless of the labels that we have put upon ourselves.”

MORE: Shailene Woodley on Why She’s Not a Feminist

She also objects to the media scrutiny of everything she says. “I mean, if we spent as much energy focusing on the genocide that’s going on right now in parts of Africa as we spent on that one article, think about what we could accomplish,” she said, although it was not immediately clear from NYLON’s excerpt to which article she was referring. “Change is not going to come from focusing on the small things that actors say.”

[NYLON]

 

TIME feminism

Muslim Women Are Fighting To Redefine Islam as a Religion of Equality

Woman reading the Koran.
Getty Images Woman reading the Koran.

Carla Power is the author of If The Oceans Were Ink: An Unlikely Friendship and a Journey to the Heart of the Quran.

Tired of being told their religion dictates subservience to men, Muslim women are reclaiming Islam for themselves

Anyone learning about Islam from the headlines alone might think it was a faith powered by violence, inflexible laws, and sexism. In Nigeria, the extremists of Boko Haram kidnap schoolgirls to use as sex slaves and suicide bombers. A manifesto distributed by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) allows girls to marry at age nine and states that women should work outside the house only in “exceptional circumstances.” It’s not only extremist movements that treat women as second-class citizens, but also Western allies in the fight against them. Whether it’s Saudi Arabia, where women are banned from driving, or Egypt, where a husband can divorce his spouse without grounds or going to court, options denied to his wife, most Muslim countries run on the premise that men have a God-given authority over women.

But Muslim women are fighting back. While despotic governments and extremists battle for power, Islamic scholars, community activists, and ordinary Muslims are waging a peaceful jihad on male authority, demanding what they say are God- given rights to gender equality and justice.

From Cambridge to Cairo to Jakarta, women are going back to Islam’s classical texts and questioning the way men have read them for centuries. In the Middle East, activists are contesting outdated family laws based on Islamic jurisprudence, which give men the power in marriages, divorces, and custody issues. In Europe and the United States, women are chipping away at the customs that have had a chilling effect on women praying in mosques or holding leadership positions. This winter, the first women-only mosque opened in Los Angeles.

These efforts are localized and diverse. But all are part of the multi-faceted struggle in today’s Islamic world between fundamentalist rigidity and a pluralist, inclusive faith. “We represent hope, hope for the future, and for what it means to be Muslim today,” said Zainah Anwar, director of the global Muslim women’s organization Musawah—Arabic for ‘equality’—at a recent conference in London. “Do we want to choose ISIS? Or do we want to choose musawah?”

Anwar was addressing a packed auditorium at the University of London’s School of Oriental and Asiatic Studies for the release of a powerful new weapon for Islamic gender warriors: a book examining how a single verse in the Quran became the basis for laws across the Islamic world asserting Muslim men’s authority—and even superiority—over women. In Men in Charge?, scholars tackle what Musawah has dubbed “the DNA of patriarchy” in Islamic law and custom: the thirty-fourth verse in the fourth chapter of the Quran, among the most hotly debated in the Islamic scripture. The English translations of the verse vary, but one popular one conveys the mainstream takeaway: “Men are in charge of women, because Allah hath made the one of them to excel the other, and because they spend their property [for the support of women.]”

For centuries, male jurists have cited 4:34 as the reason men have control over their wives and the female members of their family. When a wife doesn’t want to have sex, but feels she should submit to her husband, this sense of duty derives from the concept of qiwamah—male authority—derived from Verse 4:34. When a Nigerian wife reluctantly has to agree to her husband taking a second or third wife, this is qiwamah in action, notes the book. The concept of qiwamah “is one of the most flagrant misconceptions to have shaped the Muslim mind over the centuries,” Moroccan Islamic scholar Asma Lamrabet writes. “It assumes that the Quran has definitively decreed the absolute authority of the husband over his wife, and for some, the authority of men over all women.”

While the overall message of the Quran is unchanging, say Muslim reformers, new generations must find their own readings of the sacred texts. As it stands, Islamic fiqh, or jurisprudence, was largely forged during the medieval period, when women’s roles and the concept of marriage and male authority were very different. Why, they ask, should the way that 10th-century Baghdadi men read the Quran dictate the rights of a 21st-century woman? To the reactionaries who charge that these reformers are deviating from Islam, Islamic feminists point out that there is a difference between Islamic jurisprudence—a man-made legal scaffolding developed for the specific conditions of medieval Muslim life—and the divine law itself, which is eternal, unchanging and calls for justice. It’s not the Quran they question, but how particular interpretations of it have hardened into truth. “The problem has never been with the text, but with the context,” legal anthropologist Ziba Mir-Hosseini told the Musawah seminar.

For activists battling for reform of discriminatory laws, there’s hope—at least on paper. In 2004, Morocco redrafted its family law code to state that husbands are no longer the heads of the household and marriage is a matter of “mutual consent” between husband and wife. But even ten years on, “the results are very weak, because of the mentality here,” Lamrabet conceeded. She once addressed a group of male religious scholars about equality in the Quran. “It was like an inquisition,” she recalled wryly. “Everybody was standing up, and saying, Qiwamah [male authority] is here to demonstrate that there is no musawah [equality] in our religion!”

Not as it’s practiced in most places now. But the mood at Musawah is optimistic. At the United Nations, Musawah’s Anwar reminded the Commission on the Status of Women that Muslim women don’t need to choose between Islam and equal rights; while 4:34 is invoked by sexists, there are many more passages calling for justice, and a sound Quranic tradition saying that all humans are equal as God’s creations. In London, Anwar asked the crowd of Muslim women a fundamental question: “If we are equal before the eyes of God, why not before the eyes of men?”

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME China

Five Feminists Remain Jailed in China for Activities the Government Supports

India China Activists Detained
Altaf Qadri—AP Indian women's rights activists wearing masks of five women's rights activists formally detained in China after Women's Day crackdown, hold placards with their names, to express their solidarity and demand their immediate release, in New Delhi, India, Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The line between dissidence and social activism grows ever murkier

It was supposed to be a celebration. This year marks two decades since the world came together in Beijing for the Fourth World Conference on Women. Participants in that event — including keynote speaker Hillary Clinton — set an ambitious global blueprint for gender equality and women’s rights. It was a landmark moment for the women’s movement, and a point of pride for China as it stepped, gingerly, toward post-Mao reforms.

But as meetings to mark the “Beijing+20” anniversary close Friday in New York, things are looking bleak. In the run up to International Women’s Day and the Beijing+20-themed conclave, China detained 10 women for planning activities to celebrate the occasion. Five of those women — Wu Rongrong, Wei Tingting, Wang Man, Zheng Churan and Li Tingting — are still in detention. Their lawyers worry they will be charged with “picking quarrels and creating a disturbance,” an Orwellian turn of phrase used to jail government critics.

The ruling Communist Party has long taken aggressive measures to silence opposition voices, censoring the Internet, banning books, and jailing dissidents. For much of the past decade, though, the line between “dissident” and “critical voice” — that is between prison and the freedom to live your life — was, with exceptions, relatively clear: Do not openly oppose one-party rule. Avoid the “three T’s” (Tibet, Taiwan and Tiananmen). Don’t take to the street.

However, since coming to power in 2012, Xi Jinping’s regime has taken an even harder line, jailing those who speak out on matters not related to party control or the three T’s. (See, for example, the case of Professor Ilham Tohti, or jailed lawyer Xu Zhiyong.) There are new no-go areas, including the politics of Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, and calls for government transparency that do not originate from the government itself. Until this month, if you kept a low profile and did not plan protests, you could speak publicly on issues like gender equality and LGBT rights.

Now, advocates fear that too has changed. The women arrested in Beijing this month were not advocating for the overthrow of the Communist Party. In fact, they were, separately, and in their respective cities, simply planning to distribute pamphlets and raise awareness about issues the Chinese government supports: gender equality and combatting sexual harassment. These activists did not organize political rallies, but rather used performance art to challenge societal views.

Their arrest in coordinated raids ahead of International Women’s Day “suggests an escalation of Chinese government paranoia,” says Leta Hong Fincher, author of Leftover Women: The Resurgence of Gender Inequality in China. “I don’t see how they would have posed any threat to the government in any way — and they did not even carry out the activities. Even under Chinese law, I do not see what they are guilty of.”

That has other feminists worried. The five women are active on a variety of issues, including stopping sexual violence, ending street harassment and promoting gender equality and LGBT rights. Their detentions sent a broad cross section of people, including friends, acquaintances and allies, into hiding, terrified that the merest trifle might now see them caged.

That is not to say people are silent. Their ongoing detention has generated an unusual amount of public support from social groups, students and academics in China, as well as expressions of solidarity from nearly every corner of the earth, and spawned a social-media campaign to #FreeTheFive. Some feminists have floated the idea of a boycott of Beijing+20 events, though there are no firm plans as yet. From the sidelines of the meeting in New York City, Charlotte Bunch, a professor of women’s and gender studies at Rutgers University, filmed herself reading a statement in support of the jailed women. “We expect more from China,” she says. “The world is watching and waiting for an end to this injustice.”

Waiting, indeed. Though U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power tweeted her support for the activists, foreign governments and U.N. agencies are, for the most part, staying quiet. Perhaps they don’t want to politicize the matter in the off chance they could still be released. Or perhaps, 20 years after the historic Beijing conference on women, the world no longer expects more.

TIME

This App Alerts You When You’re Near a Spot Where a Woman Made History

Like getting a text from the great women of the past

A girls activist organization is partnering with Google to put women’s history on the map– literally.

SPARK, a group that works with girls age 13-22 to challenge sexualization in the media, launched a mapping project through Google’s Field Trip app that sends you a notification whenever you’re near a location where a woman once made history.

“It connects women’s stories to specific landmarks, so that wherever you are in the world, you could get an alert on your phone saying ‘hey, did you know that a woman once did a really cool thing right nearby?” explains SPARK executive director Dana Edell. The project is focused on telling stories of women who have been left out of traditional history books.

The partnership with Google began after SPARK published a report last year finding that only 17% of Google Doodle subjects were women, and only 4.3% were of women of color. Within an hour, Edell says, she got a call from Google asking how they could help spread the word about women’s history. That’s when they started talking about launching Women on the Map through Google Field Trips, an app which monitors where you are on Google Maps and notifies you when you’re near something interesting.

Women on the Map launched March 3, just in time for Women’s History Month, with 119 stories of women in 28 countries, all written and researched by girls aged 13-22. The project is crowdsourced, so anyone can submit a 300-word story about a woman in history– and it doesn’t have to be Susan B. Anthony. In fact, SPARK encouraged the girls to focus on women in their communities who might not ordinarily make it into their high school history textbook. “We didn’t want to start with women who everyone had heard of,” Edell says. “We want the project to expand what it means to be part of history.” So far, 60% of the stories are about women of color.

Anyone can submit a story– all you have to do is email a 300 word story about an important woman to Sparksummit@gmail.com, and describe how she influenced her community. And although she loves the partnership with Google, Edell hopes one day to host the project on a standalone app, so that the entries could be divided into artists, scientists, activists, and more. Right now, she says, she’s excited about getting the project off the ground “so that girls, boys and people of all ages can see that the world was created by more than just white men.”

TIME feminism

The Campaign to Get a Woman on the $20 Bill Is Picking Up Steam

W20 Elizabeth Cady Stanton on the $20

Andrew Jackson better watch his back

Andrew Jackson has been sitting pretty on the $20 bill for 87 years—and one group thinks it’s time he gave his spot to a woman.

W20’s campaign to get a woman on the $20 is picking up some serious internet traction.”I knew this would take off, but I didn’t know it would take off this fast,” says Susan Ades Stone, a journalist and editor who helped organize the campaign. “The response has been overwhelmingly enthusiastic.”

More than 72,000 people have voted in the online poll of 15 potential replacements for Jackson, including Susan B. Anthony, Betty Friedan, Shirley Chisholm, and Sojourner Truth (the full list is available here.) Ades says the competition has narrowed to a “very close race” but won’t say who’s in the lead.

On Wednesday, the New York Times published multiple pieces from different prominent women about who they’d like to see on the $20 bill. Gloria Steinem argued for Sojourner Truth, while Roxane Gay argued for Margaret Sanger.

“We stuck very closely to this rubric of evaluating every candidate by the breadth of their impact: how transformational was their contribution?” Ades explained. “And the other factor we asked people to consider were ‘what were the challenges these people faced?’”

The idea of getting a woman on the $20 started when Ades’ fellow organizer Barbara Ortiz Howard realized one day that her daughter had no everyday reminders of famous women in history. “Part of the mission, besides getting a woman on the $20 bill, is to educate as many people as possible about as many women as possible,” Ades says. “We want to see how many people we can reach.”

More: If Women Had Their Own Currency, Here’s What It Would Be Worth

While most people love the idea, the reaction hasn’t been universally positive. Some internet commenters argue that, because of Jackson’s abysmal treatment of Native Americans during his presidency, a Native American should replace him on the $20 bill. Ades said that female Cherokee chief Wilma Mankiller was in the original pool of 30 candidates, but when the ballot was narrowed to 15 candidates, she did not make the cut. Still, Ades says, “we’re listening,” and on Wednesday morning the group announced that Mankiller would be on the final ballot of four candidates.

Ultimately, the decision about whether to replace Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill is up to the Treasury Secretary, but Secretary Lew is unlikely to make a change without the President’s approval. But there’s hope: last year, when a little girl asked Obama why there weren’t any women on U.S. currency and provided a list of good candidates, he said adding a woman was a “pretty good idea.”

“We wanted this to be a grassroots movement, we wanted it to come from the people, and we wanted this to be a referendum,” Ades says. “It’s up to the President to decide what to do.”

TIME Family

I Don’t Want My Daughter To Hate Pink

xoJane.com is where women go to be their unabashed selves, and where their unabashed selves are applauded

I suddenly felt ashamed of putting a bow on my daughter’s head

xojane

“Good thing you put a bow on her head, so we know she’s a girl.”
A good friend sent me this text as a joke after seeing a photo of my daughter wearing a tiny silver headband with a bow on it.

This friend knows me incredibly well. She knows that most of my baby’s things are not specifically gendered. She knows our nursery is outer space themed: blue and gray with robots. She knows earlier that week she’d met us in the park where my one-month-old was rocking a Captain America onesie. (My daughter also has several Batman and Superman onesies — and Wonder Woman, obviously.)

But despite my friend knowing we’re just as likely to put our kid in a t-ball uniform as in a tutu, the joke bothered me. I suddenly felt ashamed of putting a bow on my daughter’s head. It was as if all my progressive, feminist street cred was choked out of me with the twist of a shiny ribbon. My gut reaction was to respond quickly (and truthfully), “This is the first time we’ve ever put a bow on her.”

I was about to hit send on this disclaimer text when I had an epiphany: I was feeling embarrassed because I put my daughter in something feminine, because feminine means frivolous and silly. This is NOT OK.

Society teaches us boy stuff is awesome and girl stuff sucks, even for girls.

It’s awesome when my little girl is dressed like Batman or a dinosaur, but why isn’t it just as awesome when she’s dressed like a ballerina? And how did I somehow fall into this way of thinking?

I grew up as a little girl who liked to climb trees while wearing frilly dresses. I’d say that is still a fair description of who I am today. I am feminine in so many stereotypical ways: I love shoes and make-up and getting my nails done is one of my favorite forms of “me time.” But these are things that I feel the need to justify. I find myself adding disclaimers and pointing out the ways in which I am not as traditionally femme: I’m a comedy writer. I know how to change a tire. I’m a lesbian.

But why can’t I just be a woman who kicks butt? Or better yet, a person who is a whole complex being, and as such has a blend of masculine and feminine qualities? To be human is to have a mix of traits and the faster we acknowledge that we aren’t cardboard cutouts predetermined by the way we urinate, the better off society will be.

Yet here I was ready to begin subtle coding on my one month old, apologizing for girlhood, womanhood, and femininity. “Cool girls” like boy stuff. “Cool girls” don’t wear bows. Girl stuff is silly.

Forget that. Femininity is not less than masculinity. It is a different kind of strength, but it is powerful and wonderful and deserves our respect. And that respect is way, way overdue. Why do we associate weakness with wearing lipstick? Didn’t lipstick-wearing women do the tough task of giving birth to and raising many of us? Weren’t suffragettes rocking high heels when they fought for, and won, our right to vote? Wasn’t Rosa Parks in a skirt when she became the catalyst for a civil rights movement? There is nothing fragile about feminine power.

Now, I’m not saying I’m suddenly going to cover my daughter in pink and bows. It grosses me out when people pretend like it’s shocking for a girl to be in blue or for a boy to snuggle his baby doll. Women are often still forced into femininity and trapped by it. We need the extra push and support when we do things that don’t fall in line with gender expectations. I love a woman who defies stereotypes and I hope my little girl has a thousand more women like Janelle Monae to look up to. Luckily, my wife, her mama, is one of those role models: a comic book illustrator working in the very male world of superheroes.

We don’t want our kid to feel confined by her sex, or societies expectations for gender roles. My wife and I have no idea at this point how she will identify later, but I want to make sure that as we present the world to our daughter it’s a world of “and,” not a world of “or.”

She is allowed to love sports AND fashion. She can spend her allowance at Game Stop AND Sephora. I don’t want her to grow up thinking that in order to be thought of as intelligent or treated as well as “one of the boys” she has to turn up her nose at anything “girl.” Or that girls who are smart and love to read can’t also want to be cheerleaders or love cute, fluffy things.

I want my child to grow up with no concept that any door could, or should, be closed to her. I want her to feel entitled to walk into any room and enjoy anything she wants to enjoy, but I am suddenly aware that needs to include pink rooms, too.

Amanda Deibert wrote this article for xoJane.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Toys

Here’s a LEGO Set of Female Supreme Court Justices

Maia Weinstock

But you can't buy it

Remember that feeling of looking in a toy store window to see an expensive toy you really want but will never get? Well, now there’s a LEGO set of female Supreme Court justices, but you can’t have it.

The set was the brainchild of Maia Weinstock, a deputy editor at MIT News (the news outlet of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology) whose hobby is making LEGO sets of famous scientists and thinkers in her free time.

“It’s important for kids to see examples of living people who are doing extraordinary things outside of Hollywood and sports,” Weinstock tells TIME, noting that she’s especially interested in highlighting female scientists in her LEGO sets.

Her set of the female justices—which she calls the Legal Justice League—are among her most popular. They feature sitting Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan and former Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, complete with personalized hairstyles and a courtroom setting.

“People don’t just want them for their kids, they want them for themselves,” she says. Weinstock tried to submit the set to the Lego Ideas contest, but could not enter them because the company has a policy against sets that have any kind of political theme. And she can’t make more since she doesn’t have the bandwidth to accommodate so many requests, and many of the pieces involved are extremely rare.

For now, the highest court in the land is also the hardest LEGO set to find.

H/T National Law Journal

TIME Business

How To Talk About Gender Bias at Work

meeting
Getty Images

Even the most well-intentioned men have misconceptions about women at work

You may want to sit down for this one. A recent study shows that fewer large companies are run by woman than by men with the name John. In fact, among CEOs of S&P 1500 firms, for each woman, there are four men with the name John, Robert, William, or James.

So in the name of closing the gender gap, and International Women’s Day, this week’s TL;DR has a special theme. We’ll discuss:

  • The biggest mistakes well-intentioned men make without realizing — and how to fix them
  • The surprising path women take to become CEOs and why it takes 50% longer than men
  • Why the way we’re discussing gender bias is actually bad and what we should do differently

1. Women at Work: A Guide for Men

Author: Joanne Lipman

TL;DR: Even the most well-intentioned men have misconceptions about women at work. For instance:

  • It’s not a compliment. Former BAE systems CEO Linda Hudson says: “I hate being referred to as ‘that very accomplished woman leader.’ Why not just say ‘accomplished leader’? Why does it always have to be qualified?” It seems innocent, but research shows that reminding women of stereotypes undermines confidence and performance.
  • It’s not hand-holding. Georgetown Professor Deborah Tannen found that men consider strong leaders to be those who hire good people and get out of the way. Female leaders are more likely to collaborate, treating others as equals and checking in frequently. The result? For many men, the hands-on approach feels like a lack of trust. Resentment often follows.
  • It’s not a question. A man may declare: “We need a meeting tomorrow morning!” Whereas a woman might ask: “Do you think we need a meeting tomorrow morning?” Don’t get it twisted, both are saying: let’s meet immediately.

2. How Female CEOs Actually Get to the Top

Authors: Sarah Dillard & Vanessa Lipschitz

TL;DR: The Fortune 500 only has 24 female CEOs. So what did they have that others didn’t?

It’s not an Ivy League degree. That’s only true for two of the 24 women.

The answer is tough to hear, especially in today’s world where we swap jobs every few years.

It’s about consistency. Data shows that these 24 female leaders spent a median of 23 years at a company before becoming CEO.

In fact, over 20% took jobs right out of school at the companies they now run. For instance:

  • Mary Barra started out as a college co-op student before becoming CEO of General Motors
  • Kathleen Mazzarella began as a customer service representative at Graybar before becoming CEO 30 years later.

For men, however, the median is 15 years. Meaning, a woman’s climb to the top is over 50% longer. So how should we deal with the imbalance and biases at play? That bring us to…

3. When Talking About Bias Backfires

Authors: Adam Grant & Sheryl Sandberg

TL;DR: New research shows that making people aware of gender bias makes them discriminate more, not less. Why? Because stereotyping seems more socially acceptable once we realize it’s common.

So if awareness makes it worse, how do we make it better? The solution isn’t to stop pointing out stereotypes. It’s to go a step further.

Wharton professor Adam Grant’s study illustrates how:

  • In his classes, he presented data on female underrepresentation in major leadership roles. He thought raising awareness would prompt action. But in the next five months, there was no change in the percentage of female MBA students who applied for campus leadership positions.
  • The following year, he shared the same data but added one sentence: “I don’t ever want to see this happen again.” During the next five months, there was a 65 percent increase in female MBA students who sought out leadership roles.

Bottom line: raising awareness isn’t enough. We should explicitly disapprove of leadership imbalance if we ever hope to improve it.

This article originally appeared on Every Vowel.

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