Category Archives: Press

Honolulu Star-Advertiser: Improve campus sex-assault policies

By Ronja Steinbach  |  June 6, 2021. |  The Honolulu Star-Advertiser

On Sept. 29, 2020, I received an email from the University of Hawaii-Manoa (UHM) Department of Public Safety informing me of a sexual assault on campus. The assault took place at a residence hall across from where I lived during my freshman year.

What happened was not an isolated incident. It is the tip of a very large, very underreported iceberg. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office on Women’s Health, a staggering 20% of female college students will experience sexual assault. I wish that I was more surprised by the pervasiveness of sexual assault, but it is a reality that too many of us have accepted. I am currently a rising junior and I am the co-president of the American Association of University Women at UHM club and I want to change those statistics.

In colleges, sexual assault and harassment falls under Title IX, a federal law that prohibits discrimination based on gender. On June 23, 2021, we will be celebrating the 49th anniversary of this law, which was part of the Educational Amendments of 1972. It was principally authored and sponsored by Patsy Mink, the first Asian-American congresswoman, who was born in Hawaii.

As we approach the anniversary and the 2022 legislative session, it is important that we critically examine its efficacy and advocate for necessary changes in it implementation, especially at the University of Hawaii.

Title IX protections for sexual assault victims have long been inadequate. Cases are largely underreported and campus climate surveys from the UH system show alarming trends; from 2017 to 2019, there were statistically significant increases in the incidences of sexual harassment (5.7% to 8%) and dating and domestic violence (10.6% to 12.1%).

Furthermore, changes implemented by the U.S. Department of Education under Betsy DeVos and the former Trump administration undermined the objectives of the law with new rules that favored the perpetrators. One of the most problematic changes allows for the cross-examination of the person reporting the sexual assault. Many students fear reporting incidences and the prospect of being cross-examined further deters survivors from coming forward.

Other rules and guidelines continue to be problematic. One semester is around four months long, yet a case that is brought to the Title IX office has up to 90 days — around three months — to be investigated. A survivor may have a sexual assault case looming over them for nearly an entire semester. Academic performance may decline so the student may experience the setback of an entire semester. There is no question, 90 days is too long. An investigation should be thorough, but considering the severity of the situation, it should be completed, in full, in a timeframe that protects the survivor’s access to their education.

During freshman orientation, we are briefly introduced to Title IX procedures and available campus resources. That is not enough. Most students do not remember or feel that it is relevant to them. As an employee for UH, I have also completed the annual sexual assault training for the workplace. It is not effective.

Sexual assault awareness curriculum and training should be mandated for everyone in the UH system. It should be reviewed and designed in collaboration with students, so that it is relevant, and stops being viewed as an inconvenient but necessary task. Overviews of UH policies and information about campus resources should also be provided more frequently.

Awareness and support for better Title IX guidelines and a rollback of the toxic attempt by the previous administration to weaken its protections is imperative. We need to continue the fight to change the rape culture in which we live by having appropriate policies in place.

Ronja Steinbach, a rising University of Hawaii-Manoa junior, is co-president of the American Association of University Women at UH-Manoa.

Honolulu Star-Advertiser: Professional development will enable women to ascend, Oct. 20, 2019

AAUW Honolulu Career and Leadership Development Grant recipient Sara Ward penned this op-ed about the importance of professional development for women.

Read it here or if you aren’t a subscriber to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, read it below.

Column: Professional development will enable women to ascend
By Sara Ward

Oct. 20, 2019

It’s been a very long time since women were a novelty in the workplace — but why does equality still elude our workplaces?

Nationally, women make 20% less than men do on average. In your place of work, chances are the women make 82 cents on the dollar that a man, who’s doing the same job and with the same experience, makes on the average. That number is from AAUW’s most recent research into the issue, “The Simple Truth about the Gender Pay Gap” (from 2018’s U.S. Census Bureau numbers). That pay disparity increases for women who are minorities.

In Hawaii, AAUW’s research on gender wage-gap numbers, also from the Census, found that the state was above that average in 2015 with 84 cents to every dollar a man made on average. But in 2017, women made just 81 cents to every dollar a man made; in 2018, it was 83 cents.

In a state where the cost of living is unbearably high to begin with, any kind of pay disparity — especially one tied to gender — is too much.

It’s been estimated that at the current rate of progress, the gender wage gap will close in 2105. That’s not a typo. But even if the gender wage gap was eliminated, women in the workplace face even more hurdles.

Women also face the challenge of advancement in their careers. Nationally, less than 29% are executives, according to AAUW’s 2016 study, “Barriers and Bias: The Status of Women in Leadership.” The numbers are even worse for women of color, comprising less than 4% of executives and managers.

This is why just addressing the gender wage gap isn’t enough. Women need to take the issues of wage equity and representation in upper management as intertwined and symbiotic.

Hawaii’s made progress in addressing the wage gap through recently passed laws that allow employees to talk about how much they make without fear of retaliation or ask for salary history.

But C-level executives shouldn’t just pat their backs and call it a day. They must examine their employee pool and their management teams and take an honest look at their policies regarding pay and advancement. Even companies with corporate cultures that think of themselves as progressive have implicit bias that underpays women and holds them back from contributing fully as senior management members.

Researchers have found stereotypes associated with leadership are overwhelmingly masculine and this shapes subconscious promotion decisions that skew toward men, even if people claim to have no bias toward which gender is in charge.

Grooming the next generation of leaders is always an important responsibility of any company’s leadership. But in many cases the continuing education for additional training and certification overlooks women. The opportunity to attend important networking events like conferences and conventions, which help build the professional relationships so important to becoming an effective corporate leader, often go to men.

I am lucky to work in theater production. I’ve worked as a volunteer, a child actor wrangler, line prompter, set changer, props designer, box office manager, officer manager and now assistant executive director.

It’s a profession I feel passionate about. However, I’m even luckier to have worked for people, and to continue to work for people, who recognize the contributions I bring to my job and nurture my potential with management responsibilities.

The faith and opportunities my superiors have shown me and given me in my career are true blessings. However, I do realize that many women, who are deserving of being managers or executives, are often overlooked.

Companies across Hawaii should ask themselves if they are doing enough to give the women in their organizations the opportunity to reach their full professional potential.

Honolulu Star-Advertiser: Hawaii must protect access to full reproductive health care — July 8, 2019

AAUW Honolulu Career and Leadership Development Grant recipient Amber Granite and Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawaii state director Laurie Field penned this op-ed about a woman’s right to choose in Hawaii and what more needs to be done — especially given the current political climate.

Read it here or if you aren’t a subscriber to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, read it below.

Column: Hawaii must protect access to full reproductive health care
By Amber Granite and Laurie Field

July 8, 2019

Given the all-out attacks on reproductive health care by the federal government and states across the country, the words, “lucky we live Hawaii,” have never been more true.

Hawaii was the first state to legalize abortion before the landmark Supreme Court case, Roe v. Wade, and has been a consistent leader in the reproductive rights movement since then. A recent article by The Washington Post highlights the widening gap in abortion laws around the country and called out Hawaii as a state with a number of protections in place to ensure that abortion remains safe and legal.

However, Hawaii people still face barriers when seeking abortion care. People on islands without a provider and those who live in rural and geographically isolated areas face more challenges accessing services. While Hawaii has good laws, we can do better to ensure that these laws have meaning in practice as well as policy. The recent actions in Alabama and Missouri served as a good reminder about the importance of being vigilant in protecting our rights and promoting access to life-saving care.

In the last month, Alabama essentially eliminated abortion access and threatened to imprison doctors for life if they perform the procedure, and the last abortion provider in Missouri faced losing its license due to state law. Other states, including Ohio, Georgia, Kentucky, Arkansas, Utah, Louisiana, Indiana, Mississippi and Iowa, have passed restrictive laws that only serve to limit women’s access to safe, legal care and force a challenge to Roe v. Wade and snap into focus the work we must do to protect safe and legal abortion.

Actions across the country in support of abortion rights and access have been taking place because of these attacks on abortion rights. In Hawaii, supporters rallied, waved signs and took action to demonstrate their support for abortion rights at the new Honolulu Planned Parenthood health center. These supporters are in the strong majority here in Hawaii and across the country.

Polling indicates that 7 in 10 Americans do not want to see Roe v. Wade overturned. The Pew Research Center found that 58% of all Americans say abortions “should be legal in all or most cases.” The same poll found that a clear minority — only 37% — support restricting abortion in all cases.

The AAUW and Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawaii support increased spending for reproductive health and Title X, the nation’s only family planning program, which provides life-saving preventive care such as cancer screenings, STI (sexually transmitted infection) testing and treatment, and other critical care. We also support preventive care through the Affordable Care Act, which mandates birth control coverage. These programs, along with sex education and increased access to care will help to maintain the current historically low abortion and unintended pregnancy rate.

Access to the full range of reproductive health care, including abortion, is also key to achieving economic security. Preventive care and sex education, the majority of Planned Parenthood’s work, help people have control over their health, their lives, and their future.

While Hawaii’s laws protect our right to reproductive health care, legislation must be advanced to ensure those protections are fully guaranteed. The time is long overdue for people to make their voices heard and demand abortion access, reproductive health care and education, and bodily autonomy.