Listening Sessions Reports
One of our favorite ways to connect with our people of New Hampshire is through Listening Sessions because we are able to engage communities around current issues that state residents are facing. The purpose of our listening session model is to encourage open and honest discussion around various topics. This enables us to both educate and become educated about the numerous issues, and help to be better agents of change by listening to what people of New Hampshire want from our organization. These sessions are led by volunteer facilitators in the communities we visit and generally hold between 8 to 20 participants. We have women and men of all stages, ages, and places at the table to engage in this type of respectful dialogue. We have held these all across the state and every session provides us with new insights and information of the work that needs to be done. This first series of sessions were instrumental in establishing our current agenda, which includes three issues: Wage Gap, Women in Leadership, and Work-Life Balance.
The first set of sessions occurred between 2011-2012 and was focused on gender inequality. The second set of sessions was held in the fall of 2013, with the focus specifically on the Wage Gap. We are excited to use these listening sessions to educate more people about these various issues and change the climate of gender inequality in our state. We hope you enjoy them!
Wage Gap Listening Sessions (Fall 2013)
The Wage Gap Listening Sessions were held during the Fall of 2013, and facilitated conversations around the state focused on pay equity, which is below the national average (see June 2013 Gender Matters). These reports were finely detailed to what participants said during the discussions. These sessions also gave participants the opportunity to provide suggestions on how to remedy this gap. These ideas are all compiled at the end of the reports. This model of engaging our communities will continue to inform our work on the Wage Gap and more.
Please take a look at four reports that have been completed:
Gender Equality Listening Sessions (2011-2012)
In 2012, the New Hampshire Women’s Initiative (NHWI) conducted geographically and demographically diverse listening sessions with small groups of individuals across the state with content centered on “Contemporary Gender Equality” which is defined by this group as ‘gender equality issues as it relates to young New Hampshire women and men’.
The original goal of the listening sessions was to understand what NH citizens identify as important gender equality issues so the NHWI can develop programs and policies to support those areas. However, as the listening session format evolved, the demographics broadened to include the voices of women and men in a wider age demographic. These efforts include the voices of over two hundred men and women, age 17 – 87, across the Granite State.
What we are hearing across the state is that many of the same issues central to the second-wave feminist movement still affect women in New Hampshire today: fairness and respect in the workplace, violence against women, reproductive rights and issues related to equal representation in positions of power. However, the perception exists that legal protections created during the second-wave feminist movement merely give the appearance of fairness and equality, but do not protect women from more surreptitious forms of discrimination. These issues are complex, but very real, concerns facing women in New Hampshire.
Additional themes emerging from the listening sessions include a sense that many women feel a dichotomy in their lives. For example, women feel equal in their roles as domestic partners in a relationship; however, some feel that when children are introduced inequity in the partnership emerges as the women are often left to coordinate the childcare needs in addition to all of the other things they were previously responsible for in the relationship. Moreover, women feel that when they enter the workforce that the experience of inequality emerges even if they experience feeling equal at home or in college. The examples of inequality are greatly influenced by life-stage, race and gender expression.
Curiously, men are experiencing inequity too as they begin to break into traditional female roles such as staying home with their children, becoming a teacher or guidance counselor. People are often suspect of their intentions which make it difficult for men to succeed in these roles and thus redefine gender roles in our contemporary society.
Lastly, it has been revealed that there exists a critical need to develop a common language to describe gender equality. It was very difficult for participants to articulate specifically what gender equality means. Women could cite examples of what equality feels like, but many seemed to struggle to define what it means to them. Many of the traditional words that people have used to describe the women’s movement – such as feminism – no longer fit the description. Rather, gender equality really means fairness, and describing fairness is incredibly complex and dependent on life-stage, socio-economic status, race and gender expression.
The results of the listening sessions are a mosaic of compelling material that is providing the context for the NHWI in the development of outreach, advocacy and research efforts in New Hampshire.
— Jennifer Alford-Teaster and the NHWI Gender Ambassador Panel
Please take a look at the following raw reports, which were all generated by the gracious volunteer facilitators of each of these sessions across the state.