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The week of March 21, 2016 marked the first major initiative of The 100% Project, Talk It Out. What started out as a weeklong, region wide conversation series on gender bias is now a year-round programming effort.

Inspired by the conversations CFW hosted with over 500 Chicagoans in 2014, Talk It Out created an opportunity for nonprofits, civic leaders, concerned residents, and community stakeholders to have a focused conversation about gender bias. It is a topic that does not comes up often for many people, and yet it impacts each of us at home, at work, and in our communities. CFW is confident that having the conversation is a necessary step on the path to solutions. To end gender bias collectively, we have to know where we stand individually.

Talk It Out uniquely allowed for CFW to learn what other ways residents experience gender bias, and how it is influenced by race, sexuality, and social location.

To end gender bias collectively, we have to know where we stand individually. #AllInWithCFW Click To Tweet

The Jewish Council on Urban Affairs, AIDS Foundation of Chicago, Forefront, BP, CFW’s Young Women’s Giving Council, the Gary Comer Youth Center, and Rape Victim Advocates are just some of the groups that participated or hosted a Talk It Out conversation. CFW also organized an online discussion about the impact of gender bias on Latinas in the workplace with grantees Mujeres Latinas en Accion, Latino Union, Women Employed, and community partner, Latino Policy Forum.

Through Talk It Out, CFW heard African-American girls on the South Side share stories of the double standard that exists in their high school classrooms, where boys who act up are “just being boys,” while girls are reprimanded or disciplined. These same conversations also revealed how race adds another complicated layer to gender bias where Black girls are held to a standard of decorum not placed on their white female counterparts.

Business leaders affirmed for us that gender bias cannot end if we view it as solely a women’s issue.

Mikva Challenge hosted Talk It Out conversations with 150 of their middle and high school students. It was the first time many of the them had ever heard terms like “gender bias” and “patriarchy.” Miriam Martinez, senior program director at Mikva Challenge shared that, “Because of these conversations, students are now holding each other accountable for their actions and challenging each other’s use of language!”

Heidi Stevens of the Chicago Tribune had the unique opportunity to sit down with some of those students and learn how they – as sixth, seventh, and eighth graders – experience gender bias. Samuel Bahena, an eighth grader at Marquette, shared that teachers and adults play a role in perpetuating gender bias. “They separate us for recess and lunch […] We have all females at recess and all males at lunch. It makes it harder to understand each other — how they feel about subjects or situations. This is the time we should be making connections and building up relationships and get into our heads that everyone’s equal.”

Also as part of Talk It Out, CFW organized a screening and panel discussion of “The Mask You Live In,” alongside grantees Rape Victim Advocates and Apna Ghar; as well as Chicago Public Library and The Siragusa Foundation. The film follows boys and young men as they struggle to stay true to themselves while negotiating America’s narrow definition of masculinity. Understanding how men and boys are impacted by gender bias also affects how we, as a society and community, hold women and girls to unfair standards and biases.

The 100% Project and Chicago Foundation for Women’s continuous efforts to improve the lives of women and girls in our region, is a group effort. Wherever we are, and in whatever way we can, ending gender bias is something that will take all of us.

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