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Have We Really Come a Long Way?

February 12, 2014

Amelia Smith ’17  Women in Leadership

Women’s issues are at the forefront of public discussion today.  Much has been said about “breaking the glass ceiling,” pay equity, and gender roles.  Despite the confidence that gender equality is on the upswing in the workplace, Julie Zeilinger of the Huffington Post wrote an enticing article about where women’s rights actually stand.  “4 Women’s Issues That Haven’t Changed Since 1911” discusses prominent women’s issues that have not changed in over 100 years.

The four issues raised in this article are:

1.  Men continue to dominate the most powerful job positions, and also get paid more for their work.

In a recent Catalyst poll, statistics showed that only 19.5% of law firm partners are women and a mere 14.6% of Fortune 500 executive positions are held by women. To make matters worse, women continue to only receive eighty-one cents for every dollar made by a male for the same job.  Emphasizing the importance of this issue, President Barack Obama made a point to address the gender wage gap in his latest State of the Union. According to Laura Bassett, most women do not realize that they are being paid less than their male coworkers. U.S. Representative Rosa DeLauro, along with 56 other Democratic congresswomen, are pushing for President Obama to enact an executive order regarding this issue.

2.  Women are more impacted by work stress than men.

Unfortunately, women tend to be more stressed at work than men. Political activist Emma Goldman wrote that in order to succeed at the work place women, “generally do so at the expense of their physical and psychical well-being.” This is possibly because women feel they need to work harder in order to prove their worth and success. The American Psychological Association also found that 37% of women feel they are stressed at work whereas only 33% of men feel the same.

3.  “Freedom” in the workplace sometimes does not feel so free to women.

The facts above contribute to the idea that the workplace is not a free place for both men and women. With the wage gap based on gender and the fact that men continue to dominate higher positions, how are women supposed to feel free? I believe that only when women begin to stand up to men in the work place will there be a sense of freedom.

4.  Women are taking double shifts, at work and at home.

The unpaid work that women do at home is often referred to as the “second shift.” In addition to providing a source of income, women are also expected to maintain the house so that it can remain a “home.” Last year, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that only 20% of men reported helping with housework. My mother was a single mother with a full time job. She managed to keep our house a home and put meals on the table, even if that table was at a restaurant. Marriage is a partnership. Men who marry women with careers should not expect them to drop everything to make a meal or clean the house. My mother taught me the importance of finding a mate who respects you and wants you to succeed. I believe that marriages are successful when both parties understand the other’s commitments and are willing to make compromises.

As a young woman in this day and age, I am absolutely appalled at the fact that the issues listed above have not changed. Women were granted the right to vote nearly seventy-five years ago. Why have we not continued the fight for equality? Why isn’t every woman in America fighting for what is rightfully ours? Joss Whedon, an American writer said, “Equality is not a concept. It’s not something we should be striving for. It’s a necessity. Equality is like gravity. We need it to stand on this earth as men and women, and the misogyny that is in every culture is not a true part of the human condition. It is life out of balance, and that imbalance is sucking something out of the soul of every man and woman who’s confronted with it. We need equality. Kinda now.”  I believe that only when every woman AND every man in America begin to realize that we have not reached total equality, will we gain what we have worked so hard for.

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