The Gender Policy Report Welcomes New Education Curator: Fran Vavrus

The Gender Policy Report is pleased to announce that Fran Vavrus has joined our team as a curator for our Education page.

Fran Vavrus is a professor for the College of Education and Human Development (CEHD) at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, where she serves in the Comparative and International Education Development (CIDE) program. With her background in comparative and international education, Vavrus will bring a global comparative perspective to the Gender Policy Report’s Education page.

Vavrus also has plenty of international education policy experience to bring to bear on ongoing discussions of the gender dimensions of education policy. Vavrus serves as the North American representative on the Joint ILO/UNESCO Committee of Experts on the Application of the Recommendations Concerning Teaching Personnel (CEART). This role has led to her participation in major international conferences, such as the 2015 World Education Forum in Incheon, South Korea, where the UN Sustainable Development Goal for education was finalized.

Much of Vavrus’s research focuses on the Kilimanjaro Region of Northern Tanzania, where she has intermittently lived, taught, and studied since 1992. As with her research, in her contributions to the Gender Policy Report, she hopes to advance an understanding of the transformative potential of education as well as understand its limitations – especially as this relates to gender equity.


— Photo of Fran Vavrus at the World Education Forum

Mobility and Flexibility Expand Working Mothers’ Success

by Yingling Fan
October 31, 2017

In the U.S., women have historically had less access to cars, but their traditional, gendered family roles have increased their share of household-related trips—think daycare pickup, grocery shopping, and the like. The mismatch between women’s mobility constraints and burdens has, in turn, created significant restrictions in women’s labor market choices. As a result, employed women’s work commute trips were, for decades, shorter in both distance and time than those of employed men.

Over time, women and men have played more similar roles at work and home. Since gender differences in travel behavior are often regarded as a ‘‘barometer’’ of gender equality, we can now ask whether the inverse is true: does greater workplace equality mean a better balance in work- and household-related trips?

In a recent study, I used data from the 2003–2010 American Time Use Survey to update our knowledge by asking: Do gender differences in travel behavior differ by family structure?  Have gender differences vanished in some families but not others? How do gender differences respond to traditional aspects of family structure such as marriage and parenthood in light of the rise of childless households and single parenthood?

Data reveal that there is only a gender difference in work travel time when men and women are married and have children.

Married, employed women with children tend to travel significantly less for work than married, employed fathers. In contrast, there is always a gender difference in household support travel if women have children.

Single or married, mothers tend to do more household-support travel than do fathers.

Traditional family constructs (including marriage and parenthood) remain relevant factors in explaining gender differences in mobility access and need. Women, especially those who are married and have children, remain disadvantaged in mobility. And though I have not quantified the idea, it seems clear that this disadvantage is amplified among low-income mothers.

Decreasing this gender disparity will require federal, state, and local policies that address the different mobility needs of men and women.

Beyond longer-term solutions, such as increasing women’s household mobility resources and the gender division of care in heterosexual households, a shorter-term solution is found in pursuing alternative and flexible work schedules to accommodate the varied scheduling needs of men and women. There are labor policies in Vermont, New Hampshire, Seattle, and San Francisco to protect workers from retaliation should they request flexible scheduling.  Such policies also mandate greater work predictability, since unpredictable work schedules not only increase the complexities of transportation needs, but also influence parents’ ability to obtain and retain childcare. Expanding these policies may allow women with children greater choice in employment by giving them the ability to travel farther and longer for work, at their own choice. Further, we should expect long-term accruing benefits in the form of greater wage parity and lower maternal discrimination in hiring.

Yingling Fan is an Associate Professor at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota

— Photo by nbreazeale


Settler Colonialism: American Indians and US Racial Self-Conceptions

In Part 2 of a recent interview (find Part 1 here), Gender Policy Report curator, Professor William P. Jones, spoke to Sociologist Evelyn Nakano Glenn, a Professor of the Graduate School and founding Director of the Center for Race & Gender at the University of California, Berkeley, about settler colonialism. Settler colonialism is a concept that aims to bring American Indians into sociological theories of race, and race formation, which have previously focused primarily on African Americans, Latinxs and Asians. Settler colonialism traces how historical interactions between Europeans and American Indians were central to the development of foundational ideas in the United States such as the relationship between private property and freedom. Today, discussions of U.S. national identity still often conceive of the nation as white. However, Professor Nakano Glenn argues that white identity is profoundly shaped by a willful “amnesia” about the violence involved in the nation’s founding and expansion. Nakano Glenn sees President Trump’s admiration for white supremacists such as Andrew Jackson as “a good measure of the popular consciousness” about the nation’s racial identity. Settler colonialism also helps us understand national ideas about gender, both in terms of masculinity and the “settler maternalism” that white women deployed to impose their standards of domesticity on non-white women in the period of westward expansion.

Excerpts from the conversation, edited for clarity, appear below.  The full audio recording follows.


William P. Jones

The work that you’ve done in the past has focused largely on immigration and the way in which the histories of servitude and slavery have shaped race relations and thinking about race in the United States. How do you see settler colonialism as bringing a different perspective on those conversations?

Evelyn Nakano Glenn

I became interested in settler colonialism and I’ve been teaching in ethnic studies for a long time, and I’ve done comparative work, and it’s always been around African American, Latinos, and Asian Americans, and not at all about Native Americans. Who, even though they’re part of the ethnic studies department, tend to fall outside the analysis of racial formation. My colleague, Michael Omi, and his colleague, Howard Winant’s, work on racial formation in America is about those three main groups and not about Native Americans. It seems to me that Native Americans are very critical in terms of shaping American racial formation and particularly the formation of whiteness. The encounter with indigenous people and the necessity of, quote, “eliminating them” in order for white settlers to be able to populate the continent was absolutely critical, not only in terms of the founding of the nation but also in terms of the conception of whiteness that develops out of that. Notions of private property, the ownership of private property, are linked to independence and freedom, which are very seminal concepts in terms of American identity. The recent rise of white nationalist’s movements reminds us of the fundamental way in which whiteness is not just a racial category, but is very deeply implicated in the conception of the nation as a white nation and the culture being essentially a white culture. Which originates in that first encounter with Native Americans and then the subsequent treatment. But, as scholars of settler colonialism have argued, a basic part of settler colonialism is the colonial amnesia about the foundational violence on which the nation is founded. Native Americans have been totally marginalized in so many ways in terms of consciousness and where they fit within the relations among groups in this country.

William P. Jones

It’s interesting, the talk about colonial amnesia. […] It strikes me that Trump himself seems very aware of history in a particular way. Whether it’s his attachment to Andrew Jackson or the history of genocide. There’s sort of a strong personal attachment to that. Or his defense of Confederate symbolism. On one hand, it is an amnesia, it’s a sort of selective memory, but it’s also a political identity that’s very deeply rooted in a sense of history. It seems like those are maybe contradictory.

Evelyn Nakano Glenn

I think that’s actually an excellent point. […] So I think that fact that he has those strong identifications and imagery indicates that they’re really part of the popular culture. I think that’s the level at which his consciousness operates. So in a sense, he’s a good measure of what is the popular consciousness of what our history is. It’s a very selective account as you know. So that popularization, the lionization of Andrew Jackson, who was essentially a populist—he was a white populist—that sort of fits with the current ideology.

William P. Jones

What does the concept of settler colonialism do for our understanding of race, gender, and class?

Evelyn Nakano Glenn

There are people who have worked on settler maternalism who argue that white women have had a particular role within white settler projects. Which is the kind of civilizing mission. They were very much involved in the removal, placement, and education of Indian children in government-run boarding schools, for example, and various kinds of reform. Some of these reforms are around home economic and care work and domestic service training women from the Mexican community in California, Indian women in the Indian boarding schools. They were simultaneously learning so-called American housekeeping techniques. In fact, there was a textbook that was used in the Los Angeles school district, called Americanization Through Housework, which was used to teach Mexican-American girls how to keep house and stop using peppers and corn and switch to potatoes. There were similar projects in terms of assimilating European immigrants, especially Eastern and Southern European, whose immigration increased in the 1880s and 90s. In the East, there were tenement projects for Americanizing immigrants that focused on American dietary practices. But, what was specific about the ones for Native American girls and Latinas was preparing to become workers in white households. It’s preparing them to be American but preparing them for a subordinate role in American society. That the assumption is that the hierarchy will still be there, but they would speak English and be able to maintain a so-called American household.




— Photo of the Fort Shaw Boarding School mandolin club originally appeared in the Women’s History Matters blog.  Photo caption: Cultural assimilation was the primary objective of off-reservation boarding schools such as Fort Shaw.

The US Withdrawal from UNESCO: Undermining Girls’ Education

by Frances Vavrus
October 18, 2017

The Trump administration has made yet another devastating decision undermining girls’ and women’s education, and this time its effects will be felt throughout the world. Last week, the White House revealed that the U.S. would withdraw its support from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), an institution established in 1945 with the inauguration of the United Nations itself.

It is sadly ironic that the UNESCO announcement was made the day after the United Nations’ International Day of the Girl Child, an annual event on October 11 that draws attention to the challenges facing girls around the world and to advances in the achievement of their human rights.

Claiming the decision is due to UNESCO’s “anti-Israel bias,” it also provides further evidence of an administration opposed to multilateralism and ignorant of the vital role of UNESCO in promoting gender justice in education.

UNESCO’s work extends far beyond its most famous arm, the World Heritage Committee, which identifies and monitors World Heritage Sites. In fact, gender equality is one of UNESCO’s two “global priorities,” and its five primary objectives include the achievement of “quality education for all,” the development of “inclusive knowledge societies,” and the enhancement of “science knowledge and policy.”

UNESCO links its work on education and gender in a number of ways.

For instance, its Institute for Statistics plays a critical role in documenting gender gaps in access to education, and its International Bureau of Education works closely with governments and ministries of education to improve curriculum development, teacher education, and assessment. These efforts have resulted in the publication of numerous resources for educational practitioners and guidelines for policymakers. For example, UNESCO has recently been involved in the development of a resources to promote gender-responsive STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) curricula for African and Asian countries, and it partnered with UN Women to develop the Global Guidance on Addressing School-Related Gender-Based Violence report (2016), a comprehensive review of national policies and school-based practices in different countries aimed at creating safe spaces for all children.

UNESCO is among the most important multilateral institutions engaged in addressing gender equality in education around the world.

They and many others are working to ensure that the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals related to education (Goal 4) and gender equality (Goal 5) do not remain mere aspirations but are instead converted into policy and practice. The U.S. must remain a part of multilateral efforts to achieve these goals because it cannot claim to have achieved any of them, not quality schooling for all girls and boys as called for in Goal 4, or the elimination of gender-based violence and the provision of sexual and reproductive health services as demanded in Goal 5. By looking at the U.S. through an international lens, we see a nation whose administration is walking back from multilateral commitments to education and gender equity at a time when other nations are moving toward embracing them even more firmly.

Frances Vavrus is a Professor in the University of Minnesota’s Department of Organizational Leadership, Policy and Development where she serves in the Comparative and International Development Education (CIDE) program.

— Photo originally appeared in Jolkona’s report on girls’ education in India

The Feminization of Carework

Women in the United States have long been expected to care for others out of love or devotion rather than for money. This feminization of care work has resulted in low wages for domestic workers, who are often immigrant women, and the exclusion, historically and today, of care workers in many parts of the workforce from the protections of labor laws and policies.

In Part 1 of a recent interview, Gender Policy Report curator, Professor William P. Jones spoke to Sociologist Evelyn Nakano Glenn about this topic and its intersection with U.S. labor and immigration policy. Professor Nakano Glenn is a Professor of the Graduate School and founding director of the Center for Race & Gender at the University of California, Berkeley. In her recent book, Forced to Care, Nakano Glenn explains how the “valorization” of care work has led policymakers to exclude domestic workers from minimum wage laws and other labor protections on the grounds that state regulation would violate the sanctity of the domestic sphere. Even as those laws were extended to some care workers in the 1970s, Congress exempted home health care workers who were considered “companions” to the elderly. This changed with the reinterpretation of the Companionship Exemption during the Obama Administration, but this is likely to revert under President Trump.

As demand for care work has increased, many women have immigrated to the U.S., mostly from Latin America, the Caribbean, and Asia, to perform this work that few native-born workers are willing to do. President Trump’s proposed changes to immigration policies could drastically change the caregiving industry. Immigration policies have been shaped by differing perceptions of skill and the value of certain types of work. The naturalization of women’s caregiving creates a perception of carework as unskilled and unnecessary for the purposes of immigration policy; a perception far from the reality.

Excerpts from the conversation, edited for clarity, appear below.  The full audio recording follows.

William P. Jones

How do you see the historical work that you’ve done on race and gender, immigration and labor, helping us make sense of this contemporary time and this contemporary political moment?

Evelyn Nakano Glenn

I think one of the things that has changed in terms of immigration flows, especially around labor issues, is in some sense the feminization of immigration from particular sources, like the Philippines, where the biggest demand is around carework and those sorts of feminized work. So what’s happened in terms of the Philippines is that the flow of immigration from the Philippines has become much more female. So that’s a historic change. It has impacts intergenerationally within the Philippines where women leave to do care work and many of them leave their own children and partners behind in order to care for generally elderly or disabled people in the United States and Europe and some other locations. What has happened is a kind of intergenerational migration of women. Women migrate to do care work and finally return home and even though that lifts the family’s economic status, so they can pay for education and so forth for their children, it doesn’t actually create mobility for them, so the next generation then has to immigrate. That’s an interesting pattern. At the same time, the immigration of women from the Philippines has not led to a change in the division of labor in the Filipino family. In other words, the fathers or the husbands do not, in fact, take up the care of the children and those kinds of responsibilities. Instead, those kinds of responsibilities fall on the female relatives or sometimes care workers abroad hire poorer or more rural women to do their domestic chores. In an interesting way, it actually reinforces the valorization of motherhood. It hasn’t actually shifted that kind of gender politics. The women are seen as heroines. In other words, it’s become part of the mothering role to provide for the family by going abroad, but it doesn’t actually shift the gender division of labor within the Filipino family. It also doesn’t shift the gender division of labor in the first world, the United States or Europe. Because it’s still women who employ other women to do that kind of care work. So having that kind of available labor force makes it possible for women in the first world to be employed in certain occupations, but again it doesn’t shift the gender division of labor.

William P. Jones

We have this whole migratory system set up around carework. It reflects a high demand for carework in the first world. And yet this work remains undervalued and it remains very low wage work. Why is that? On one hand, we see a valorization—or even a valorization of motherhood and caring in the abstract, but that doesn’t follow with a sort of monetary valorization.

Evelyn Nakano Glenn

Well, it’s considered to be a labor of love and therefore something that women do for either emotional satisfaction or because it’s what they’re expected to do. […] The idea is that on the one hand, the work is priceless and on the other hand, it doesn’t have a monetary value. And in a sense, the motivation for doing it should not be monetary. I think that’s the kind of argument that people do it for love. Very often the care worker is praised for going above and beyond what the requirements are by investing in that work emotionally. I think it’s built into the sort of moral thinking of people and then that’s also, on the other hand, trivialized within the law and the labor protections that there is a valorization of the home as a place of love and not as a place of economic exchange. Therefore, the care worker should not see her job as primarily economic. And that somehow that relationship between the caregiver and the care recipient is such that it shouldn’t be seen as a monetary exchange. So for that reason when the Fair Labor Standards Act was passed in the 1930s it specifically exempted care work through the Companionship Exemption because the home was seen as a sacred place where the government should not interfere. It prevented minimum wage and maximum hours from being enforced by the government. In an odd sort of moral thinking, by elevating the home as a sacred, private sphere then it omitted it from any kind of protections for the workers who were working in the home.

William P. Jones

Who are the live-in home health care aids? What do you they do?

Evelyn Nakano Glenn

They are primarily immigrant women. In different areas of the country, there are different groups. Like in the New York area, a lot of Afro-Caribbean women are in the workforce. In a lot of areas, again it’s Filipina women who do that work. There was a famous case, Evelyn Coke vs. Long Island Care at Home. Evelyn Coke was a Jamaican woman who had worked for over 20 years as a live-in home care worker for an agency. Sometimes she would work 80 hours a week and never received overtime pay. But she was employed by a for-profit home care agency. So she sued the agency for overtime pay. This case went all the way up to the Supreme Court where she eventually lost the case on a technical basis. […] With the loss of the Supreme Court case, then the only thing that could happen was a change in the Labor Department’s interpretation of the Companionship Exemption. When Obama came into office there was a promise that that exemption would be reinterpreted so that live-in caregivers would be covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act.

William P. Jones

It’s been difficult to follow changes in labor policy under the Trump administration, in part because these are administrative decisions and interpretive decisions. How you see these longstanding debates over the value of care and how might they inform debates over changing immigration laws to value particular skills?

Evelyn Nakano Glenn

In some ways, carework is being seen as unskilled because it is something that women know how to do naturally. The same thing could be said about agricultural workers. Usually, the argument is not that it’s skilled worked, but that it’s a type of work that native-born Americans are not willing to do. […] The ability to do some types of work are racialized or gendered. They’re kind of natural and therefore, in some sense, they’re not skilled. But more often, the argument has been around Americans being unwilling to do this type of work. They’re not willing to do agricultural labor. They’re not willing to do carework. Which can be dirty work. […] So it will be interesting to see the way this is played out. Traditionally, the farmers, the agri-businesses have had tremendous political clout in being able to get workers, even though supposedly the immigration law is going to be based on skills that are in short supply. I think that those are not the battlegrounds on which the whole issue of who and what types of people are going to be allowed in is going to be fought. There will be a lot of different economic interests, health care industry, insurance companies, agri-businesses, all those players will be in the mix.




— Photo of Evelyn Nakano Glenn from the Center for the Study of Women in Society




Declining Diversity in the Federal Government Under President Trump

By Diana Boesch
October 2, 2017

President Trump’s nominees show a stark trend toward less diverse candidates by race and gender. White men consist of 74% of President Trump’s cabinet and cabinet-level positions, 72% of lower federal court nominees, and 90% of U.S. Attorney appointees. In addition, 79% of President Trump’s Executive Branch nominees are men. Far fewer women and minorities are nominated to positions of power in President Trump’s administration compared to President Obama’s administration. Here is an intersectional breakdown of each position by race and gender.

Cabinet and Cabinet-Level Positions

Among President Trump’s 23 cabinet and cabinet-level positions,i 17 (74%) are white men,ii 2 (9%) are white women, 2 (9%) are Asian American women, 1 (4%) is a Latino man, and 1 (4%) is an African American man. President Trump’s cabinet is much less diverse than recent Presidents’ cabinets. In comparison, President Obama’s first cabinet consisted of 12 (50%) white men, 4 (17%) white women, 2 (8%) African American men, 2 (8%) African American women, and 1 (4%) Latina woman.


i The Secretary of Homeland Security position remains unfilled, but was originally filled by John Kelly, a white man.
ii This includes Former Secretary of Health and Human Services, Tom Price, who resigned September 29, 2017.

Lower Federal Court Nominees

As of September 7, 2017, President Trump has submitted 50 nominees to the federal circuit and district courts, most of which are white and male. Of those nominees, 36 (72%) are white men, 10 (20%) are white women, 1 (2%) is an Asian American man, 1 (2%) is an Asian American woman, 1 (2%) is an African American man, and 1 (2%) is a Latino man. President Trump has nominated fewer women (22%) than President Obama’s first 26 nominees, of which 10 (38%) were women. President Trump has also nominated many fewer non-white candidates (8%) compared to President Obama’s 14 candidates (54%) out of his first 26 nominees.

U.S. Attorneys

President Trump’s 42 nominees for U.S. Attorney are predominantly male and white. 38 (90%) of the nominees are white men. There is one Asian American woman (2%), one Asian American man (2%), one African American man (2%), and one Native American man (2%). Only one woman has been nominated. This is a stark contrast to President Obama, who had nominated 20 U.S. Attorneys at a similar point in his presidency. Of President Obama’s nominees, 11 (55%) were white men, 4 (20%) were white women, 3 (15%) were African American men, 1 (5%) was an Asian American woman, and 1 (5%) was an Asian American man.


Executive Branch Nominees

President Trump’s nominees for Executive Branch appointments have also been predominantly male. 234 men (79%) and only 64 (21%) women have been nominated or confirmed for Executive Branch appointments. Data is unavailable by race. This is a stark comparison to President Obama, who nominated large numbers of women and minorities to the Executive Branch, including 53.5% of women and minorities to 80 top policy positions.


— Diana Boesch is a Masters of Public Policy Student at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota.

White House photo of President Trump’s cabinet at Camp David.