AT&T Gives $1 Million to Girls Who Code

    At a small graduation ceremony last week, AT&T made a million-dollar contribution to the nonprofit Girls Who Code. Here's why more tech companies should do the same.

    On a Thursday in late August, inside a windowless, concrete edifice in downtown Manhattan, twenty high-school girls and their families were gathered at the graduation ceremony for AT&T’s Girls Who Code Summer Immersion Program, in which they tackled a college-semester’s worth of computer science in seven weeks.

    “Eighty percent of teen girls list shopping as one of their hobbies,” announced a girl at the front of the room, as she and her friends pitched Fit Me, an app that can be used as a clothing-size calculator. (It also doubles as a closet organizer straight out of Clueless.) The audience cheered her on as other girls ran up to the front to pitch their creations, offering information about their demographics, profitability, and user experience.

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    Scare Tactics

    Duggar Mom Makes Transphobic Calls

    The “19 Kids and Counting” star and religious conservative is fear-mongering to block an ordinance that would allow transgendered individuals to use gender-specific bathrooms.

    Michelle Duggar, the proud mama on TLC’s 19 Kids and Counting and prominent member of the Baptist church, is using her celebrity to foster transphobia.

    On Monday, Dugger narrated a robocall to local voters in Fayetteville, Arkansas protesting an anti-discrimination bill that would allow transgender individuals to use bathrooms and other gender-specific facilities as they feel comfortable.

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    Junk Science: PMS Ruins Your Marriage

    A recent paper said PMS can drive spouses apart. But that paper is based on bad science and flat-out lies.

    Here’s the scapegoat unhappy spouses have been waiting for: According to a paper out last week by Michael R. Gillings, premenstrual syndrome (PMS) can ruin a marriage. Gillings claims that PMSing women—in infertile couples in particular—may use feelings of “animosity” as well as risk-seeking and competitive behaviors to leave their husbands and find someone new. I’m sorry to say, but the evidence in favor of this hypothesis is thinner than Always Infinity menstrual pads.

    The first problem with Gillings’ paper is that it does not define PMS symptoms, and in fact, regularly confuses PMS and premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), by citing papers on PMDD while making claims about PMS. PMDD is a serious disorder, which affects 5 to 8 percent of women, compared to PMS affecting around 80 percent. PMS, broadly speaking—that is, any negative change in any physical, behavioral, or psychological factors during the premenstrual phase—is frequent for people who have ovulatory menstrual cycles. You tend to need ovulation to get a rise in progesterone in the second half of your cycle, and you need the rise in progesterone to get the decline in progesterone that leads to a number of these symptoms. The severity doesn’t seem to increase with progesterone in within-population comparisons, but cultural and population-specific differences in PMS symptomology and incidence suggest ties to cultural context and environment. Many papers have demonstrated that there is a full spectrum of PMS symptoms from minor, to distressing, to completely impeding normal function. And there’s a hefty literature suggesting at least some of this variation is related to one’s sensitivity to hormones, influenced by both genetic and environmental factors.

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    Kangaroo Courts

    Is UMass Biased Against Male Students?

    Two new lawsuits say the University of Massachusetts at Amherst is overzealous in its prosecution and punishment of male students in Title IX assault hearings.

    The University of Massachusetts at Amherst was one of the first of 55 institutes of higher education declared to be under investigation for Title IX violations over the way it handled sexual violence and assault. As a result, its ability to protect victims has been under intense scrutiny. However, two lawsuits against the university filed by male students who were expelled for misconduct—one for sexual, the other physical—alleged that the school struggles just as much to deliver justice for the accused. 

    Although the two complaints were filed completely separately—months apart by different lawyers—and both deal with different kinds of abuse charges, the school's alleged treatment of the accused students appears strikingly similar. Both lawsuits allege that the school violated Title IX in its dealings with male students. Both allege that UMass denied accused male students the right to present key testimony or ask essential questions at their disciplinary panels. Both tell stories of male students who were already presumed guilty by university administrators.

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    ‘Teen Mom’ Effect?

    Unwed Women Are Having Fewer Babies

    Hear that, family values warriors? The upward trend in the birth rate for unmarried mothers has reversed—dropping 14 percent, according to a new CDC report.

    In recent years, the Internet has nearly buckled under the weight of think pieces dedicated to explaining the rise of the unmarried mother. And for good reason. The birth rate to unmarried mothers has, with a few pauses, steadily climbed since the 1940s.

    But as a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows, the most recent upward trend, begun in 2002, seems to have reversed, in the steepest decline ever recorded, dropping 14 percent from its 2007 peak, to 44.8 per 1,000 women of childbearing age (15-44). The number of births to unwed mothers also dropped 7 percent, to approximately 1.6 million, from 2012 to 2013. Mostly women under 30 years old drove the declines. Hispanic and black women saw the biggest drops.

  • Workplace Parity

    Who’s the Boss?

    She’s not. And it’s still less likely that she wants to be.

    Twenty-four women are currently CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, up from 20 in 2013 (and only one in 1998). In keeping with these nominal gains is a slow progression in workplace gender preference. In 1953, Gallup showed that two-thirds of American adults would prefer a male boss if they had a choice in a new job (25 percent said it made no difference, and 5 percent said they would prefer a female boss). As of this past November, a plurality didn’t care, but to the rest, a male boss won over a female boss by 35 percent to 23 percent. Perhaps surprisingly, women are more likely to prefer a male boss: Half of men say they have no preference when it comes to their boss’ gender – but only 32 percent of women agree – and 40 percent of women say they prefer a male boss, compared to 29 percent of men. At the same time, Pew’s research data shows that women are less likely to want to be in charge, so there is little hope of major change – in reality or perception – anytime soon. If there is a sign of hope, it may be that the ambition gender gap is smallest among millennials. 

    Read it at Pew Research Center
  • Disparities

    Cinema’s Diversity Problem

    A new study shows just how much Hollywood lags behind when it comes to representing race and ethnicity.

    We already knew that different races and ethnicities were underrepresented in film. A new study from the Annenberg School for Communication reveals the size of the disparity. The study, which covers six years and 600 top-grossing films, found that barely a quarter of 3,932 speaking characters were from underrepresented racial and/or ethnic groups in 2013; about 5 percent of all speaking characters were Hispanic/Latino; and animated films represent the lowest percentage of characters from underrepresented racial/ethnic groups. Considering that young children are the likely viewers of animated films, this means they are being taught inequality at a very early age. Now that the data has been quantified for Hollywood, filmmakers should have no excuse to avoid addressing the issue.

    Read it at Annenberg School of Communication
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    When ‘Tantric’ Is Code for Rape

    A ‘tantric healer’ in northern India who forced himself on a teen girl has been castrated by his victim—and it appears he’s part of a subculture of sexual predators purporting to heal.

    It’s hard to believe that police would heap praise on a young woman accused of severing a man’s penis with a knife. It’s even harder to believe that such a thing would happen in India, a country with a deeply ingrained tradition of misogyny.

    Some necessary, sympathy-eliciting context: The unnamed girl, a 17-year-old from the northern state of Bihar, was defending herself against the unwanted sexual advances of Mahendra Mehta, a local “tantric healer” who diagnosed the teenager, recently stricken by a mystery ailment, as having been possessed by evil spirits. Besides dispensing crackpot cures and forcing himself on his patients, Mehta is the knife-wielding girl’s uncle. And he had, she claims, raped her before.

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    Culture War

    Oops: Ukrainian Star Takes Kremlin Award

    Street protests and clashes with police mark a Ukrainian singer’s performance after she accepts Russian culture award.

    In vain, Odessa, Ukraine’s “Pearl on the Black Sea,” tried to stay calm and celebrate the summer, but the stench of war reached the city’s graceful streets trimmed with old chestnut trees. Hate for everything pro-Russian traveled all the way from the frontline in eastern parts of Ukraine to the city’s center, sparking rallies and arguments amongst Odessits, as the locals are known. This time, the reason for the street fighting was a beautiful woman, a dark-haired diva and Eurovision competitor, Karolina Kuiek, known as Ani Lorak.

    Ukrainian nationalists have declared that not a single “Russian” pop star would ever perform again on Odessa’s soil, especially now, after a caravan of coffins with Ukrainian soldiers “killed in [a] war with Russia” arrived from the eastern regions of Luhansk and Donetsk, said Ukrainian nationalists.

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    Keeping Tradition

    The Despicable Persistence of the Dowry

    Washing machines, cars, money and jewelry: These are the costs to women’s families to marry them to 'suitable' men.

    NEW DELHI — This April, Guruswamy, a 52-year-old platform cleaner with the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation, had finally found a caste-appropriate match for his 16-year-old daughter Pankaja. But the week before the wedding, he was asked to send a colour television, washing machine and new motorcycle to the groom’s family in South India. After grueling 20-hour shifts cleaning cars and working on the Metro’s platforms through the summer, he has managed to make only enough for a washing machine.

    “It will be a while before I have enough to send everything by train,” he said. “I pray every day that they shouldn’t find someone else for their son to marry. No one else from the village in Chennai will marry her if this family rejects her.”