published 3/6/17


By Elise Skolnick
Communications Coordinator

Let's Not Make Another "Grave Injustice"

I don’t remember learning about Japanese-American internment camps in school. And, honestly, I don’t think I forgot that piece of history – I don’t think we learned it. After all, it’s a shameful part of our history, and one some people might rather forget.

When I did learn about it, I was shocked. I couldn’t believe a president of the United States of America would imprison Americans simply because they were of Japanese heritage. He wouldn’t because we’re a melting pot, and we’re the home of the free, right?

But that’s exactly what President Franklin D. Roosevelt did. In 1942, he issued an executive order that forced 120,000 innocent Japanese-Americans – women, men, and children - into 10 prison camps scattered throughout the United States. They lost their lost their homes, the majority of their possessions, their livelihoods - and their freedom. Most were American citizens.

For up to four years, these citizens lived behind barbed wire and were watched by guards holding rifles. Their housing was substandard, and they were not provided with adequate nutrition or health care.

Though justified as a “military necessity,” it was later documented that the government had no proof whatsoever that any Japanese-American, citizen or not, was engaged in espionage.

Much later, Congress passed the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, which attempted to make reparations to victims of the internment. The act acknowledged that “a grave injustice was done” to the Japanese-Americans forced into the camps.

Yet, not even a month into his term, President Donald Trump signed an executive order on immigration that makes some leery that we could go back to a time when we interred citizens in camps surrounded by barbed wire.

Trump’s order barred Syrian refugees from entering the United States, suspended all refugee admissions for 120 days, and blocked citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries (Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen) from entering the United States for 90 days. It did not affect naturalized United States citizens, but after the order was signed, students, visitors and green-card-holding legal permanent United States residents and refugees from around the world were stopped at airports in this country and abroad.

This order was ultimately blocked by the courts, but another is in the works. This feels like going backward, to a time when “a grave injustice was done.” It’s easy to believe an immigration ban that’s clearly targeting Muslims can quickly become a round-up of American citizens who are Muslim. We must learn from our past mistakes and not repeat them.

YWCA of Youngstown condemns all forms of racism, and actively works to ensure equality for all regardless of an individual’s nationality or religion. Please join us in our mission to eliminate racism, empower women, stand up for social justice, help families, and strengthen communities.


The New York Times



published 1/31/17

By Elise Skolnick
Communications Coordinator

January is human trafficking awareness month, so I set out to write a blog post about it. But it didn’t come easily. I opened a document to write multiple times, never getting very far.

It’s not an easy topic to write about – the fact that people can trade in other people and that there’s a market for it, isn’t an easy one to grasp. Beyond that, there’s little information to be found. Yes, it’s talked and written about. I imagine that most people have heard the phrase “human trafficking.” Task forces have been created, and there have even been arrests and convictions.

But it’s still a largely hidden crime, making statistics and information hard to come by. It also makes it hard for victims to get help, and for the public to understand the problem.

Yet, human trafficking is thriving all over the world, including in the United States. In this modern-day slavery, women, men and children are forced into domestic servitude, labor, or the sex trade.  

It’s highly profitable, and is believed to be the third-largest criminal activity in the world.

Victims can be any age, race, gender, or nationality. And they can be anywhere. Cases of human trafficking have been reported in all 50 states.

In 2016, Ohio law enforcement reported 135 human-trafficking investigations that included 151 potential victims. These investigations led to 79 arrests and 28 convictions.

There are different types of human trafficking.

Sex trafficking victims are forced to engage in sex acts for money.
Labor victims are forced to work in factories, on farms, or in other places for little or no pay.
Victims of domestic servitude are forced to work as nannies or maids.

Human trafficking predators prey on vulnerable people. Victims may be illegal immigrants, speak little English, or have economic hardships, been the victim of natural disasters, or be runaways. Victims can be found working in sweatshops, massage parlors, agricultural fields, restaurants, hotels, domestic service, and the sex trade.

These victims are often “hidden in plain sight,” however. But there are some warning signs we can watch for.(You can download this information here.)

Behavior or Physical State:

• Does the victim act fearful, anxious, depressed, submissive, tense, or nervous/paranoid?
• Does the victim defer to another person to speak for him or her?
• Does the victim show signs of physical and/or sexual abuse, physical restraint, confinement, or torture?
• Has the victim been harmed or deprived of food, water, sleep, medical care, or other life necessities?
• Does the victim have few or no personal possessions?

Social Behavior:

• Can the victim freely contact friends or family?
• Is the victim allowed to socialize or attend religious services?
• Does the victim have freedom of movement?
• Has the victim or family been threatened with harm if the victim attempts to escape?

Work Conditions and Immigration Status:

• Does the victim work excessively long and/or unusual hours?
• Is the victim a juvenile engaged in commercial sex?
• Was the victim recruited for one purpose and forced to engage in some other job?
• Is the victim’s salary being garnished to pay off a smuggling fee? (Paying off a smuggling fee alone is not considered trafficking.)
• Has the victim been forced to perform sexual acts?
• Has the victim been threatened with deportation or law enforcement action? Is the victim in possession of identification and travel documents; if not, who has control of the documents?


Minor Victims:

• Is the victim a juvenile engaged in commercial sex?
To report suspected human trafficking, call 1-866-347-2423. To get help from the national human trafficking hotline, call 1-888-373-7888.



 ublished 9/16/16

By Elise Skolnick
Communications Coordinator

The term “gender-based violence” is just three little words, but those three words encompass a lot.

They describe the experiences of the 15-year-old girl who was kidnapped from her own driveway, and forced into the sex trade.

They describe the death of a woman whose husband tortured her for 11 days and, released on bond, followed through on his threat to kill her.

They describe the rape of an unconscious college student who should have been safe on her campus.

They describe the college student who had her whole future ahead of her but was shot in the head because she told someone to stop grinding on her at a festival.

These are just a few examples. I could list many, many more. But these four clearly illustrate why this year’s theme for YWCA’s Week Without Violence is focused on gender-based violence.

YWCA’s Week Without Violence is a global movement to end violence against women and girls. We’ve been doing it for 20 years, and we don’t want to do it for 20 more. It’s time to end this type of violence for good.

According to the U.S. state department, one in three women worldwide will experience gender-based violence in her lifetime. That’s too many. One is too many.

Gender-based violence includes, but is not limited to, intimate partner violence, sexual assault, trafficking, and harassment.

Violence kills more women between the ages of 15 and 44 than cancer, malaria, traffic accidents and war combined, according to the Borgen Project.  

It can also negatively impact a woman's physical and mental well-being.  

The week of Oct. 17, at YWCA of Youngstown, several young women will share their experiences with gender-based violence, through speeches and spoken word poems.

Please join us in supporting them, and learning more about this issue. Together, we can end gender-based violence.


Published 7/27/16

Are You Registered to Vote?

By Elise Skolnick
Communications Coordinator

This month brought us both the Republican National Convention and the Democratic National Convention – and we now officially have two candidates for president.

But that doesn’t mean the process is over. Far from it. Now all Americans need to prepare to exercise one of their basic rights, the right to vote.

The general election is Nov. 8. In Ohio, the deadline to register to vote in that election is Oct. 11.
If you’re not registered, it’s easy to do so. You can download or request a voter registration form at You can also pick one up at any public library, high school, or your local office.

Voting is easy, too – in Ohio, we have three options!

  • Vote in person on Election Day. Polls are open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Bring ID! You can find your polling location at
  • Vote by mail. Request a ballot be mailed to you, complete it, and drop it at the local board of elections office or mail it in. Go to
  • Vote early. During the absentee voting period, you may vote in-person at your local county board of elections or designated early voting center. Check with your county board of elections for times and locations.

Other things to consider: Have you moved? Or changed your name? You need to update that information. You can do it online or in person. Go to for a form or to update online.

But even if you think you’re registered, you might not be.

Thousands of people have been purged from the Ohio voter rolls in recent years.

The Columbus Dispatch says that, “Under the current process, if a person did not vote in 2009 and 2010, the county board of elections sent the person a notice in 2011. If the person took no action to verify his or her status and did not vote in any election through 2014, the county board was told to remove the person from the voting rolls in 2015.”

Since you likely won’t realize you’ve been removed from the rolls until you try to vote, it pays to check now. You can check to see if you’re registered to vote at If you’re not registered, register before Oct. 11 so you can make your voice heard in the Nov. 8 general election.

Published 6/16/16

Wear Orange

By Elise Skolnick
Communications Coordinator

This blog post was nearly finished when the horrific shooting that killed 49 innocent people occurred at a nightclub in Orlando. Too frequently, we are faced with evidence that we need gun law reform in this country.

I wore orange on June 2. I’ll be honest, it wasn’t easy. I don’t look good in orange, so the only orange garments I own are two orange T-shirts for work. Period. But I put one on and proudly wore it that day.

Because it’s even more difficult to be the victim of gun violence. Or to be a family member or a friend of someone who was the victim of gun violence.

June 2 was National Gun Violence Awareness Day, and, like me, people across the country wore orange that day. The Wear Orange movement was started by friends of Hadiya Pendleton, a 15-year-old Chicago girl who was shot and killed days after performing at President Obama’s second inauguration in 2013. These friends chose orange because hunters wear it in the woods to protect themselves and others.

The gun violence statistics on the Brady Campaign to End Gun Violence’s website are shocking.

  • On average, 297 people in this country are shot every day. 48 of them are children and teens.
  • 89 of those people die; 7 of them are children and teens.
  • One in three people in the U.S. knows someone who has been shot.
  • The murder by gun rate in the U.S. is 20 times higher than the combined rates of 22 countries similar to us in wealth and population.

Statistics shared by YWCA USA about gun violence and domestic abuse are equally shocking.

  • Women living in the United States are 11 times more likely to die from gun violence than in any other developed nation in the world.
  • Guns are the deadly weapon of choice for most perpetrators of domestic violence.
  • Perpetrators with access to firearms are five to eight times more likely to kill their partners than those without firearms.
  • Intimate partner homicides account for nearly half of all women killed each year in the U.S., and more than half of these deaths are attributed to firearm use.
  • Millions of guns are sold every year in transactions with no background checks. Only 60 percent of all gun sales are conducted with a background check.

So I wore orange on June 2. It’s time to take notice of gun violence in this country, and time to end it.

Read YWCA USA’s position on Domestic Violence and Gun Violence Prevention.

Published 4/26/16

On a Mission

By Elise Skolnick
Communications Coordinator

Eliminating racism. Empowering women.

It’s our mission. It’s listed on our website. It’s what we tell people YWCA’s all about.

But we don’t just say it and post it – we live it.

Our jam-packed calendar demonstrates that.

In March, we collaborated with the Youngstown State University’s Student Chapter of NOW, YSU’s Pi Sigma Alpha, and YSU’s Women and Gender Studies program to offer Feminism 101, an interactive lecture that served as an introduction to, and summary of, what feminism is and isn’t, what it means to be a feminist, and the impact feminism has had, and continues to have. We also collaborated with YSU’s Williamson College of Business Administration, Youngstown Business Incubator and Youngstown State University’s Women and Gender Studies program to present Negotiation Workshop for Women: Strategies, Tools and Skills for Empowerment.

This month, we partnered with Youngstown Business and Professional Women for an equal pay event. The event was held on Equal Pay Day – the date that symbolizes how far into the current year women must work to earn what men earned in the previous year. The event helps raise awareness for the gender wage gap still existing in today’s workplace, as women only earn 79 cents for every $1 a man of equal position earns.

We also were part of YSU’s Take Back the Night – a night honoring the survivors of sexual assault and that educates people about issues related to rape and sexual violence.

That’s just for starters.

This month we also have our 4th annual Stand Against Racism. Taking place on April 29 at YSU, this YWCA signature campaign is meant to build community among those who work for racial justice and to raise awareness about the negative impact of institutional and structural racism in our communities. Our event this year will bring together members of law enforcement and the community for a positive dialogue on working together to eliminate racism.

We also hosted a Health Fair April 20. This featured a chair yoga session, a talk on the power of food, memory testing, a dental van, and blood pressure screenings. On April 28, we’re working with ACTION, Enabling Racial Reconciliation in Greater Youngstown, Mahoning Valley Association of Churches and the Youngstown Department of Health for a community dialogue on race that focuses on infant mortality rates. April 23 we were part of YSU’s Walk a Mile in Her Shoes, an event in which men were asked to walk one mile in women’s high-heeled shoes as a way to get the community to talk about gender relations and men’s sexualized violence against women.

Please join us – be empowered, and help us empower others! Help us eliminate racism.  

Posted 12/22/15

Following the Lead of Martin Luther King, Jr.

By Elise Skolnick

Communications Assistant

I recently had a chance to see the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Washington, DC. It’s amazing – both beautiful and inspiring.

I truly enjoyed seeing it. But it also made me sad. It’s been 47 years since King was assassinated. While much has changed in that time, much hasn’t.

Quotes from many of his speeches are part of the memorial. I took the time to read them all. It struck me how much they still pertain to the world today. Maybe even more so today than the last few years.

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

King said that in 1963. At a time when injustice toward some was rampant. If he were alive today, he’d still be making this point. Because injustice toward some is still rampant.

At that time, black people in this country didn’t have the same rights as white people, and he was trying to change that. Today, on paper, they do have the same rights. But the reality is often different.

Rather than fixing that reality, it seems as if we’re adding to the problem. Refugees, Muslims, and other minority groups must be feeling unwelcome and like they have no rights.

They feel this way because some members of law enforcement are practicing racial profiling. Governors of many, many states are saying they won’t accept Syrian refugees into their state (never mind the fact the law says they can’t do that).

Have we learned nothing from the past?

Are we going to go back to “separate but equal?” In Brown vs. Board of Education, the Supreme Court formally abandoned the Court’s earlier decision that separate, if equal, did not violate the Constitution. People, such as King, worked hard to ensure all Americans would be equal - together.

Are we going to take away livelihoods and possessions and lock people up as we did during World War II? Over 127,000 United States citizens were imprisoned during World War II, on order of President Roosevelt. Almost two-thirds of them were Japanese Americans born in the United States. Many families, afraid they would be gone when they returned, sold their homes, their stores, and most of their assets, often at a fraction of their true value.

It saddens and scares me that many of my fellow Americans think we should go backwards, that we should forget about the rights of people simply because of the color of their skin, their ethnicity, or their religion.

But I know not all Americans feel that way. So we need to stand together and make sure others know we will not tolerate racial, ethnic, and religious profiling, and that we condemn all forms of racism.

We need to follow the lead of King:

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

Stand with the YWCA of Youngstown as we fight prejudice and work to eliminate racism. Watch for upcoming programs that aim to combat hate, in particular our Stand Against Racism, which will be held in April.


Posted 11/11/15

The Importance of Early Care and Education

By Elise Skolnick
Communications Assistant

The phrase “children are our future” seems kind of cliché. But don’t most cliché’s have a ring of truth to them? And this one certainly does.
Today’s children are tomorrow’s leaders. One of them will be president, another will cure a disease… and others will help the planet, aid the poor, save animals from extinction, give birth to the next set of leaders, and much, much more.

But they can’t do those things if we don’t empower them and encourage them now. 

Nearly 1 in 4 children under age five is poor, and almost half live in extreme poverty. This is during their years of greatest brain development. Ninety percent of brain development occurs before the age of five.

This is unacceptable. Children should not be wondering where they will sleep and if they will eat. They should be playing and learning. Education is empowerment. And it can help break the cycle of poverty.

Unfortunately, early care and education can be unaffordable for some families.

This is what makes the YWCA’s work vital to our area. 

We provide families with a warm place to sleep and live, as well as affordable early care and education and nutritious meals. We served over 5,300 individuals last year. 

YWCA Discovery Place focuses on providing a safe and nurturing learning environment that is culturally sensitive and developmentally appropriate for children ages 6 weeks through 12 years. We teach our kids social skills, life skills, and financial literacy starting from the earliest years. But, most importantly, we teach them independence, resiliency, and encourage them to explore and learn about the world around them. We provide them with the skills to move forward successfully in life no matter what they may face. We give them love and hope. We provide our future leaders with what they need for their future.

We hold pride in the fact that YWCA Discovery Place is rated among some of the highest in the area, a four-star Step Up to Quality rating. Step Up To Quality is a rating and improvement system administered by the Ohio Department of Education and the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. It recognizes and promotes learning and development programs that meet quality program standards. The program standards are based on national research identifying standards which lead to improved outcomes for children.

Learn more about YWCA of Youngstown early care and education programs here

posted 10/915 

Week Without Violence

By Elise Skolnick

YWCA of Youngstown, Communications Assistant

All of us have been, or know someone who has been, touched directly by violence. And we’re bombarded by it indirectly every day – on TV, the internet, the newspaper, social media… it’s everywhere. You can’t escape seeing and hearing it about it.

Even our children are exposed to it. If they don’t watch the media reports, or read it on social media, they see kids on the playground bullying others, and see fights in the high school cafeteria.

It’s time to end the violence.

YWCA annually holds a Week Without Violence campaign in October. The campaign has mobilized people in communities across the United States to take action against all forms of violence.

This year, on the 20th anniversary of Week Without Violence, the YWCA has targeted domestic violence awareness for this campaign.

One in four women will experience some form of domestic violence at some point in their lives, and, on average, three women are murdered each day at the hands of their abusers.

Those are sobering statistics. It’s time to #EndDVNow.

Knowledge is power. So, this month, unite with us in learning what domestic violence looks like and learning about the systemic barriers that prevent women from being able to seek safety.

Week Without Violence is October 19 – 23. Each day has a different learning theme:
Monday: Domestic Violence 101
Tuesday: Women of Color and Barriers to Safety
Wednesday: Domestic Violence Gun Homicides
Thursday: Ending Domestic Violence Around the World
Friday: Financial Abuse and Economic Empowerment


YWCA of Youngstown will host an event Oct. 20 at the YWCA. At noon, speakers will discuss Domestic Violence and Systemic Barriers for Women of Color. Lunch will be available for purchase from the Big Green Thing - Better Food Truck. A portion of food sales will benefit the YWCA.

posted 9/14/15

Register to Vote!

By Elise Skolnick

Communications Assistant, YWCA of Youngstown

The first women’s rights convention was held in July 1848. Following that convention, women fought for their right to vote, as well as for equality in all areas of civil, political, economic and private life.

Women did finally gain the right to vote – but not until May 1919.

And today – over 150 years since that groundbreaking convention and nearly 100 years since we gained the right to vote with the passing of the 19th amendment to the Constitution – women still earn less than men for doing the same job, our reproductive rights are constantly in jeopardy, the glass ceiling still exists, gender stereotypes persist, men continue to dominate leadership positions – the list of inequities goes on and on.

We’re still fighting in all areas of civil, political, economic and private life.

We need to use the one true win we’ve had – the right to vote – to win these other fights. At a women’s rights convention in Syracuse, NY, in 1852, Susan B. Anthony, a suffrage pioneer, said it best when she declared "that the right which woman needed above every other, the one indeed which would secure to her all the others, was the right of suffrage."

We have the voting right – let’s use it! Voting is an American right, and one we should not take lightly.

Going to the ballot on Election Day is a way to make our voice heard. Every vote counts. And, collectively, we can make a difference.

But to vote, you must be registered. And if you’ve moved, you need to update your address. In Ohio, individuals must be registered at least 30 days before Election Day. This year, the final day to register in Ohio is Oct. 5.

The YWCA is committed to strengthening our community by registering voters before Election Day. We’re partnering with the League of Women Voters of Greater Youngstown and Youngstown State University Student Government Association to hold a Voter Registration Drive. It’ll be from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 17 in Kilcawley Center at YSU. Join us!


posted 8/5/15 

By Elise Skolnick
Communications Assistant   

#ItsOnUs to Stop Sexual Assault

Back-to-school sales are everywhere. But this year I don’t have a child to buy backpacks, notebooks and pencils for. My oldest daughter has just one year left in college, and my youngest is starting her freshman year at the end of the month. They take care of their own supplies now.

So I won’t be stressing over finding the right binder and checking off a school supply list. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have worries. In fact, the worries just seem to get bigger.

Among the many issues facing college students, and thus their parents, is the very legitimate fear of rape.

According to It’s On Us, a campaign aimed at fundamentally shifting the way we think about sexual assault as a society, young women between the ages of 20 to 24 are the most vulnerable to dating violence and sexual assault, followed by young women ages 16 to 19.  

My daughters fall in those age groups.

The facts are startling: One in five women are sexually assaulted while in college. Most of these assaults occur during their freshman and sophomore years. And, in most cases of sexual assault, the victim knows the perpetrator – either as an acquaintance, classmate, friend, ex-boyfriend, or boyfriend.

This naturally makes me fear for my own children…and to realize this is a problem that needs to be stopped.

So I’m taking a pledge to take a stand against sexual assault. Because it’s on me, and all of us, to make sure young women are no longer the victims of sexual assault. As the campaign tweeted: #ItsOnUs to be part of the solution, not part of the problem. And as the U.S. Department of Education tweeted: #ItsOnUs to reject the quiet tolerance of sexual assault and to refuse to accept what’s unacceptable.

The pledge is simple:

To RECOGNIZE that non-consensual sex is sexual assault.
To IDENTIFY situations in which sexual assault may occur.
To INTERVENE in situations where consent has not or cannot be given.
To CREATE an environment in which sexual assault is unacceptable and survivors are supported.

You can take the pledge here: #ItsOnUs. Together, we can stop sexual assault.

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posted 7/10/15

Women in Art

By Elise Skolnick
Communications Assistant

When people talk about great artists, names such as Degas, Monet, Picasso, Rembrandt and Van Gogh are mentioned. Flash forward some years, and you come up with Pollock, Homer and Rockwell.

All men. Where are the women?

Though women have been creating art as long, or longer than men (according to, Pliny the Elder, a Roman writer from the First Century C.E., says the first drawing ever made was by a woman named Dibutades, who traced the silhouette of her lover on a wall), they’re largely ignored in the history of art.

Women have been making art throughout history, of course. Mary Cassatt and Georgia O’Keefe are two of the more notable names that come to mind. But in a Google search of famous artists, very few women make the lists.

More female artists are making their voices heard, but there’s still an emphasis on male artists. In September 2014, artnet asked 20 women (women collectors, dealers, curators, advisers, and artists), "Is the Art World Biased?"

The consensus is yes.

“I feel that there is indeed sexism in the art world,” said Leila Heller of the Leila Heller Gallery. “While there are numerous successful gallery owners who nurture female artists, when you look at the auction results, a very small percentage of the records were set by female artists. Jasper Johns, a living male artist, reaches prices of $28.6 million, whereas the highest price for a Joan Mitchell, the top-selling female artist, is only $11.9 million.”

And Doreen Remen, co-founder of Art Production Fund said, “Despite the vast number of female art professionals working today, when it comes to the most recognizable artists, the majority of the names are still overwhelmingly male. If we do not raise awareness about sexism's prevalence in our industry, we only perpetuate the issue.”

The YWCA of Youngstown is doing its part to empower female artists.

Thirty-three years ago, a YWCA board member, Nancy Morris, thought a show to recognize area women artists would be the perfect thing to go along with a local community art event. She enlisted the help of friend and fellow artist, Eileen Scragg – and the YWCA Women Artists: A Celebration! was born.

This show annually encourages, and highlights the work of, female visual artists. It’s planned by a committee of women. They work together to plan and promote this all-women art show, and in the process help to combat sexism in the art world. The proceeds from the show benefit YWCA housing programs, thus empowering other women to succeed, as well.

This year’s show includes 128 pieces of art made by 63 women artists. You can see them in person through July 17. Encourage women artists by stopping in to see the show. The pieces will also be available for viewing on our website throughout the year. Don’t miss the work of these women artists. 

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posted 6/22/15

Encouraging Girls to Pursue STEM Careers

By Elise Skolnick
Communications Assistant, YWCA of Youngstown

Once upon a time, little girls could only dream about a few career choices. Nurse, teacher - they were the socially acceptable choices. A career as an astronaut, engineer, doctor or similar profession weren’t options for most women.

Which also means girls didn’t have many female role models in non-traditional professions. But some pioneering women worked to change that. In 1849, Elizabeth Blackwell was the first American female to earn a medical degree. Ellen Swallow Richards earned a bachelor of science degree after being the first woman admitted to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1873. She became the first female professional chemist in the U.S. In 1983, Sally Ride became the first American woman in space. And Dr. Antonia Novello became the first woman U.S. Surgeon General in 1990.

Women in these fields shouldn’t be an anomaly. 

More and more options to study STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) courses are available to women, giving them easier access to the careers those pioneering women chose. And many women are taking advantage of those educational opportunities. A report released by the American Association of University Women (AAUW)in March of this year shows that more females than ever before are studying these subjects, and they’re excelling.

Yet the workforce does not reflect this. The same report says the number of women working as computer scientists is declining and women make up just 12 percent of working engineers. And women who are working in the STEM fields are leaving the field in large numbers. 

So women in these fields are still an anomaly.

A major reason is the stereotypes about and biases against women in STEM fields. To encourage women to continue to pursue the STEM fields, we must all work to eliminate the stereotypes and biases. And we need to do it from a young age, so children don’t grow up with these biases.

This week, the Summer Manufacturing Institute will begin at the YWCA. This camp, now in its third year, is a collaborative project of OH-Penn Manufacturing Collaborative, OH WOW! The Roger & Gloria Jones Children’s Center for Science & Technology, the Mahoning Valley Manufacturer’s Coalition, Senator Sherrod Brown’s Office, and the YWCA of Youngstown.

It’s open to boys AND girls in grades 4 through 6. Both genders will have a chance to build a Mars Rover or an articulated hand. This is an opportunity for girls to discover a love for the STEM fields. Let’s support them, not tear them down. 

We must shift our attitudes and our vocabularies to do this. It’s not enough to just offer the opportunity to the girls. We must stop using phrases like “boys will be boys” and stop thinking in terms of “male professions” and “female professions.”

Let’s make sure the girls who create a Mars Rover or articulated hand this summer pursue a career in the STEM professions, if that’s what they want, and feel welcome in the field once they have a job.

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posted 5/6/15

Mother's Day 

By Elise Skolnick
Communications Assistant, YWCA of Youngstown

Every second, somewhere in the world, four women become moms. There are approximately 2 billion mothers in the world. And this month, we celebrate them.

Mother’s Day has been around in different ways since ancient times. It’s celebrated in many countries.  

The modern American version has its roots in the ideas of Anna Reeves Jarvis and Julia Ward Howe.

Jarvis, before the Civil War, started Mother’s Day work clubs in West Virginia. They were meant to teach local women how to properly care for their children. I like that idea.

Howe wanted mothers to unite in promoting world peace. She campaigned for “Mother’s Peace Day” to be celebrated every June 2. I like that idea, too.

But the Mother’s Day we celebrate in America today was the brain child of Jarvis’ daughter, Anna Jarvis. Though she never became a mother herself, following her mother’s death, Anna worked to establish a day where mothers and their families could celebrate in personal ways. Another idea I like.

And I can’t help but compare these ideas to the work and mission of the YWCA.

YWCA is dedicated to eliminating racism, empowering women and promoting peace, justice, freedom, and dignity for all.

Doesn’t teaching women how to properly care for their children empower them? And promoting world peace through a Mother’s Peace Day would help in eliminating racism and achieving peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all. Jarvis and Howe were YWCA advocates without even knowing it.

Because this is nothing new to the YWCA of Youngstown.

In 1919, business and professional women organized a club at the YWCA to promote cooperation of women in the business, professional and civic worlds. And women were empowered.

In 1920, women finally had the right to vote. So the YWCA scheduled nonpartisan talks on political issues of the day to assist them in exercising this new right. And women were empowered.

In 1931, unemployed women needed to learn job-related skills, so the YWCA formed a school in shorthand and typing. And women were empowered.

In 1963, a program of interracial visits to homes for discussion on jobs, discrimination, and recreation was established. And a step toward eliminating racism and achieving peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all was taken.

In 1968, the Panel of American Women was started, providing opportunities for Youngstown women to gain new insights into people who come from different ethnic and religious backgrounds. And a step toward eliminating racism and achieving peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all was taken.

In 2013, YWCA hosted its 1st Stand Against Racism Event. And a step toward eliminating racism and achieving peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all was taken.

On May 10, I will embrace Anna Jarvis’ idea of a Mother’s Day filled with family and personal celebrations. I will spend the day with my children and my husband. But the rest of the year, I will devote to a different type of Mother’s Day – one where I work to empower women, eliminate racism, and work for peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all.

Let’s make every day Mother’s Day.

posted 4/13/15

Equal Pay Day

By Elise Skolnick
Communications Assistant, YWCA of Youngstown

Equal Pay Day is Tuesday, April 14, 2015. This date was chosen to symbolize how far into the year women must work to earn what men earned in the previous year.

Seventy four business days into the year.  It shouldn’t even be one.

According to the American Association of University Women (AAUW), female full-time year-round workers were paid 78 percent of what men were paid in 2013 (most recent data available). This is true in nearly every occupation, even those dominated by women, and regardless of educational level.

This pay gap is worse for women of color (Hispanic women’s salaries show the largest gap, at 54 percent of white men’s earnings), and grows with age (Women typically earn about 90 percent of what men are paid until age 35. After that, median earnings for women are about 75 to 80 percent of what men are paid.).

Here in Ohio, women fare slightly worse than the average – we typically earn only 77 percent of what a man earns. In 2013, median earnings for men in Ohio were $47,323 while women earned $36,569. (See a state and Congressional district comparison here).

Why? Shouldn’t everyone, regardless of race and gender, be paid the same wage for doing the same work?

Fortunately, women aren’t sitting back and saying, “Yeah, this is OK.” Across the country, events are being held on and near Equal Pay Day to highlight this pay inequity, and the need to correct it. Women will be wearing red to symbolize how far in the red we are, and to show their support for change.

The YWCA of Youngstown is making its voice heard, too. Empowering women is part of our mission. We host an annual leadership conference, focused on networking and career advancement for women.

And we encourage non-traditional career choices for women.

This year, we’ve partnered with the Youngstown Business and Professional Women’s Club to host an “Unhappy Hour” & Networking Mixer. This event is intended to raise awareness of the gender wage gap still existing in today’s workplace. It will be from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, April 17 at Magic Tree Pub & Eatery in Boardman. Join us!

Women comprise more than half of today’s workforce. One in four women are the sole or primary breadwinners for their families. The pay gap between men and women has not changed much in a decade. It’s time to change that. I’ll be wearing red on April 14. Will you?

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posted 3/24/15

Women's History Month 

By Elise Skolnick
Communications Assistant, YWCA of Youngstown

March is Women’s History Month. It’s an important time to reflect on how far we’ve come, and how far we have yet to go.

The Women’s Rights Movement began over 150 years ago. It started with a Woman’s Rights Convention in SenecaFalls, NY in 1848. Seneca Falls is only a couple of hours from where I grew up, and I’ve been there. I was excited and proud to take my daughters to this historical place. We read the Declaration of Sentiments and posed for photos in our shorts and T-shirts – something we couldn’t have worn there in 1848.

Yes, there have been many positive changes for women since 1848.

Unlike women of that time, I’m not required to give up my wages to my husband, and I own property.

And I can vote. I love Election Day, and always proudly wear my “I Voted” sticker. It was an exciting day when my husband and I took our oldest daughter to vote for the first time. This year, it will be equally exciting to take our youngest daughter. Unlike Susan B. Anthony, my daughter and I were not arrested.  And our votes counted.

But then something happened that pointed out to me things haven’t changed as much as I’d like.

My oldest daughter, a junior in college, told me about a conversation she recently had with a professor. He asked about her plans following graduation. She gave him a brief explanation, to which he replied, “Your fabulous hair will be sure to land you any interview.”

Yes, she has beautiful hair – thick, red and curly. But that does not define her or her abilities. And would that professor have made the same comment to a male student? I think not.

So it’s a battle we’re still fighting. And it’s a battle at the forefront of what the YWCA of Youngstown does. It’s part of our mission: Empowering Women. We’ve been doing it for over 110 years, and we’ll keep doing it.

This month marks the 21st anniversary of the YWCA of Youngstown’s Young Women with Bright Futures program. This program honors seniors from area high schools for their leadership qualities, creative talents, academic excellence, and volunteer service. They are our future leaders. In September, we will host our 8th annual Women’s Leadership Conference. This event brings together women in our community to network and learn, to become empowered.

Please join the YWCA of Youngstown in its efforts to empower women.

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