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