#WomenWednesday But You’ve Come So Far

I know what some of you may be thinking (how’s that for a definitive statement?). You’re thinking, “Man, a whole series, 52 posts, just about gender equality and stuff like that? This is such a non-issue. This is just a hornet’s nest that doesn’t need to be kicked anymore.”

I think a lot of that reaction comes from the fact that often we get on the defensive (or the offensive) when we talk about gender. We have our guards up. Men feel like they are perpetually attacked. Women feel like they are perpetually disrespected. We go into these conversations with those gut reactions already set, and as soon as someone says something, anything, we are ready to throw up our arms and start to block and punch.

I don’t want this series of conversations to go like that, but I do feel it’s important to have these conversations. I did some research over the last few days on what the totally objective, no way you can argue with ‘em stats are about women and men in the US (note, just US). Here are some things I thought were interesting.

According to census information from 2009:

• Women who worked full-time all year earned 78.2¢ compared to a man’s dollar

• 29.9 million women 25 years or older have a Bachelor’s Degree. That’s versus 28.7 million men in the same scenario.

According to the National Committee on Pay Equity, which released a report on September 13, 2011:

In 2010, African American women were at 67.7¢ compared to a man’s dollar

According to the White House “Women in America” report released in March of 2011:

• In 2007 24% of women had their first child at age 30 or older. In 2008, 18% of women ages 40-44 had no children at all. These were huge contrasts to similar numbers in the 1970s and 80s.

• In 2009, 28% of working single mothers lived below the poverty level. That’s 8% of all working women and just 6% of all working men.

• 11% of women 25-34 have had at least 2 years of graduate study compared to 8% of men

• In 2009, working women spent 7 hours and 40 minutes on work each day compared to the male average of 8 hours and 50 minutes a day. However, the report notes that these same women did more housework than their male counterparts.

• In 2009, only 7% of women were involved in the computer industry or in engineering. Just 14% were involved in management, business, or finance positions.

• One fifth of all working women were still working in what are considered traditionally female-dominated occupations like teaching and nursing.

What do these statistics mean to us? What story do they tell? To me, it’s a story of progress, certainly, in may areas. Women used to not be allowed to go to college. Now they are graduating in greater numbers than men. Women are waiting longer to have their first child. A lot of women are choosing not to have any children.

But what does that REALLY mean? It begs some questions, doesn’t it? For example:

If women are excelling in school, why is there still a pay gap across all levels of occupation?

If women are waiting to get married and have children, why are we still saying that women don’t want to be in management positions because they care more about having kids? Sure, some women may feel that way, but the statistics are showing that this sentiment is changing.

Why are the women who need support most – single moms – most often living below poverty level?

Why are African American women running some 11¢ behind white women in wages?

And that’s just the US. According to the UNHCR, 49% of refugees are girls. We all have seen the struggles that women have faced around the world in countries where women are most certainly second class citizens.

We need to talk about this stuff and figure it out.

But you’ve come so far

Yeah, women have made a lot of progress. We can vote now. We can own land. We can start companies. We can run for political office. But it’s not the same as it is for men, is it? Is that a bad thing? Is that a good thing? Is equality possible?

That’s what we’ll be talking about every Wednesday for the next year. Those issues. Those topics. Because they have been swept under the rug for far, far too long. The era of patting ourselves on the back is over. It’s time to get back to work.

Don’t you think?

Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mckaysavage/3892677218 via Creative Commons

 

8 comments
mayaREguru
mayaREguru

Margie,

Fabulous and thoughtful post. You have my attention. I think that a lot of the statistics are wonderful and accurate, but sometimes we have to ask if some of the differences in earning between gender and races are based on willingness to take less in order to prove value and worth. I know I once had to convince a company that even though I was "overqualified" (their words) I still wanted the position and the low salary .

Equality is an interesting concept as it is defined by an individuals experience and from their pespective.

What interests me most is medical equality. Most studies and reports, treatments and proven methodology of prevention are based on the study of men. The heart attack symptoms we are all accustomed to being aware of are those for men, women present differently. We are not the same physically or mentally. It's a major example that no matter how much we scream for equality total equality is not attainable in the natural order.

Men and Women think very differently. In 1997 I was working on a web project, an online auto insurance quote site... we had HP 3000 systems that ran the services, and we had to be able to connect a sun server for the web front end to it - we essentially had to invent our own BLE (business language engine) to interpret and transfer the data between the two systems. As we worked on an extremely large white board trying to figure out how to make it happen I had an idea.... I told the two men on my team what I thought we should do, I drew it, I explained it, they stared at me as though I had 3 heads. I didn't know how else to explain it. About 30 minutes later "they" came up with the same idea. That is when I realized... we don't think the same, and we can't change that.

I look forward to your posts, it's a great topic and well worth discussion. I always enjoy your thoughtful and insighful writing.

margieclayman
margieclayman moderator

@mayaREguru Yeah, very excellent points here Maya. The physiological and psychological differences between men and women have barely been explored. There are lots of doctors who refuse, out of a lack of skill, to deal with "all that women stuff." We're not too far from the era when women who had hormone imbalances were sent to insane asylums, right?

As for thinking differently, I'm not so sure that's the issue. I feel often times that men literally just can't hear women (and there are probably many women who can't hear men). It's like you just need a credible source of your own gender to be able to make sense of it all, as sad as that may be.

Latest blog post: Dear Trey and Bruce

ChiefHotMomma
ChiefHotMomma

"The time for honouring yourself will soon be at an end,"

Maxiumus in the movie Gladiator

Is this wrong? Or is this is necessary wake up call. Sometimes, it's hard to know when to put down the pom poms and get a little (or big) kick in the patootie. I tend to like the hybrid combo - which this post does, in fact, embody. Yes, we've accomplished a great deal. And that's fantastic. But, we do have a far ways to go and the numbers speak for themselves. So, let's put on our hiking boots and keep on going.

Based on what we've accomplished so far - we can do it. And now, because we bring wealth to nations and companies, there are a lot of folks willing to help us.

margieclayman
margieclayman moderator

@ChiefHotMomma Great comment. Putting on the laurel wreath just makes ya look prettier as you continue to fight. That's how I see it. Until we don't have these kinds of questions anymore, we're not done.

Latest blog post: Dear Trey and Bruce

douglaserice
douglaserice

Whew, too many issues to tackle! Impressive stats and thank you for doing the research, Margie! I guess all that I want to say for this post is that I think it's dangerous to lump men and women into the two categories "male" and "female." Many women are as different from those within their own gender as they are from men. While I understand the importance of gender equality, I can't help but think that statistics such as these pigeon-hole people into their gender or race. People are people; not demographics.

margieclayman
margieclayman moderator

@douglaserice Well said, and that's another reason I want to write this series and talk about these issues with everybody. There are way too many posts out there that say things like, "Well, women should do this" or "Women want this." Just like there are way too many posts out there saying "Men want this" or "Men do this."

I know women who adamantly refuse to have children. I know men who want nothing more than to stay at home and raise a family. I know men who love to knit and women who love to watch football. We are all different, but to allow each other that freedom, we need to come to terms with why we do not offer each other that freedom now.

Or that's the way I see it, anyway :)

BruceSallan
BruceSallan

Oh Margie, I'm oh-so-happy that I now get your wise words regularly thru our "Tribe" - even if I may disagree now and then. Oy, wait until you see my newest post for YOU...lol.

I learned ONE THING during my MBA that I still use on a regular basis. Statistics can be thoroughly manipulated and knowing the source and agenda of the person gathering them only adds to their potential misuse. I am NOT declaring that ANY of yours are wrong but only suggesting that the context of them could use closer examination, possibly.

We also can now agree, without debate, that more women are admitted to college than men. We also can agree that primary education is dominated my female educators/administrators and that boys are regularly challenged NOT to be boys. As a dad advocate, though it's improving, we mostly would agree that SAHDs are still struggling for equal respect with the SAHMs. I hope we would also agree that women now - after way too long otherwise - actually have more choices than men in the latter regard. A woman who "chooses" to stay home - temporarily or permanently - with her children will largely get support for that choice. A man who "chooses" the same (or has no choice - which applies to moms as well, of course) gets the question I ALWAYS got from other men, "When are you going back to work?"

This is such a great and challenging topic, Margie. How about joining me on #DadChat as co-host and we make this topic that Thursday evening's topic - as it relates to our lives and more so how the future of gender equality (or inequality) affects our children! It would be a winning discussion, without a doubt (and I'm completely serious).

margieclayman
margieclayman moderator

@BruceSallan Hi Bruce - yes, statistics are tricky, which is why I tried to find sources that were just reporting on the issues. The Census pretty much is what it is, and the same holds true for the White House report. A lot of the information was simply presented based on wage information, which we can't argue with, as much as we'd like to.

As for stay-at-home dads, I couldn't agree more. I have always said that articles that say, "Oh, women don't work as much because they want to stay home with their kids more than men do" is equally unfair to men. I know too many wonderful dads who have decided to shift their time to the homefront, either working from home or taking new jobs so that they have more time at home. And I know too many moms AND dads who are having to work ridiculous hours and are really sad they don't get to see their kids more.

I'd be honored to have a chat with you and your great community on this issue. Thank you :)

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