Disclaimer: The follow piece does not necessarily represent the views of Maryland NOW, Maryland NOW PAC, its officers, or members.
By Victoria Brown
Atholton High School, Columbia, MD Class of 2015
It almost seems as though it’s time for modern women to take a bow. There was once a time when women were relegated to being either homemakers, secretaries, teachers or nurses, but now we’ve entered an era where we are just as accomplished as men, if not more. In terms of education, women earn the majority of associates degrees (62%), bachelor’s degrees (57.4%), master’s degrees (62.6%), and doctoral degrees (53.3%).
According to U.S. Department of Labor, women also seem to be doing better in this economy. We account for 51% of the increase in job growth in the past few years, and the unemployment rate for women is less than that of men. We’ve accomplished all of this while being 47% of the working population. So is that it? Have we accomplished our goals? Absolutely not.
Women are more educated and a smaller proportion of us are unemployed. In addition, according to a newly released statistic from The Pew Research Center, women earn the most money in 40% of households. In some of those households women are single parents; in most of them women earn more than their husbands. Despite all of our hard work, we seem to be not just undervalued, but also chastised for our accomplishments. In a discussion on Fox News about the Pew report, Lou Dobbs said the increase in working mothers indicates “something going terribly wrong in our society.” Juan Williams followed up by saying that because four out of ten women are the major breadwinners, there has been a disintegration of marriage and that this somehow hurts our children. God forbid women are portrayed as hardworking professionals and effective parents.
Statistics also say that more often than not women are paid up to 23% less than their male counterparts for the same job, but this is usually stated in the positive; i.e., women earn only 67% of what men do for the same job. Are you enraged yet? If not, here’s another little tidbit: employers are stereotyping about women in a very creative, but negative way. According to Catalyst Research Institute, women face a double bind with respect to leadership roles. If a woman is too enthusiastic or positive, her superiors will think she is too kind-hearted for a promotion and incapable of leadership. If she is too driven and strong-willed, she is perceived as off-putting and therefore a bad leader. Thus, women are regarded as either too pushy, or too soft; they’re either antisocial and intelligent, or likeable but incompetent. Women are thought to never really be the right fit for leadership or management positions, so men are promoted instead. This phenomenon might explain why women make up only 4.2% of top-level managers in Fortune 500 companies. When you think back to your days in kindergarten and elementary school, it might all make sense. The boys were almost always the leaders, but girls with the same characteristics usually viewed as bossy.
The final question, however, is what we can do from here. First, there needs to be more time and efforts focused on raising consciousness among young women, teaching them where we are, and where we still need to go. Next, we need to eradicate the glass ceiling, which is at least partly responsible for the difficulty women face when they try to get upper level jobs. This is guaranteed to be an arduous feat, because it requires us to change other people’s behavior by altering our own thoughts and dialogue. For example, we need to be wary of placing limits on other women, while still criticizing and punishing companies that routinely promote men over women. Last, but not least is the legal remedy. Maryland has an Equal Rights Amendment, but on a national scale, it’s still not illegal to discriminate in the workplace based on gender. The Equal Pay Act passed Congress 50 years ago, but still hasn’t been fully implemented. Additionally, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would prohibit employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, has yet to be voted on by the U.S. Senate. Politically, women, both Democrat and Republican, need to unite because it’s time for progressive women to use our influence to push Congress to make that bill a law. So, is it time to take a bow? Definitely not. The show isn’t over, and we must continue our march toward equality.