Last night as I was perusing through my social media, I came across a post in which someone I know was angry about “radical feminists” speaking over her and advocating for things she didn’t personally want. She was offended at the idea that some women felt they could speak for all women. For her, traditional gender roles are not only appropriate, they are important to the survival of society. Furthermore, she believes women already are equal in society and that the quest for an enhanced version of women’s equality is not only misguided, but damaging to women because in seeking to be on equal footing with men, women are losing the qualities that make them uniquely feminine. Men and women are different, and we should celebrate and embrace those differences instead of trying to make them disappear.
I read through the social media post and barrage of comments thereafter with mixed feelings, but mostly I felt dismayed. While I agree that women should not seek to become men, and that indeed our differences should be celebrated and leveraged for greater success, the notion that women have already achieved equality and so there is nothing left to fight for is, in my opinion, just plain wrong. Here are the facts:
- There are only 18 women world leaders
- Women make up 19% of the House of Representatives, and 21% of the Senate
- Women make up 23% of statewide executives, including governors, Lt. governors, and other statewide officials
- Women make up 19% of mayors in the 100 largest cities in the U.S., and 18% of mayors in cities with over 30,000 people
- Women hold 4% of CEO titles in the S&P 500 companies
- Women hold 37% of tenured positions in academia, and only 23% in business schools
- Women make 80 cents for every dollar earned by a man for doing the same work
Women are significantly underrepresented in every important institution in our society. Important decisions related to nearly every facet of our lives are made within the walls of these institutions and when women are so markedly absent from the conversation, it’s hard to believe that the best, most thoughtful conclusions are reached. Moreover, women have less economic security and power than men.
Women are also underrepresented in other arenas. When was the last time you flew on a plane with a woman pilot? How many women surgeons do you know? Or head chefs at top restaurants? How many women movie directors can you name? How many holidays do you get off of work to celebrate the achievements of remarkable women?
Of course, it’s true that not all women want the same things, and I understand my friend’s frustration that her views are being discounted simply because they are different. It is important to listen to and try to understand all points of view. In doing so, we create a more inclusive culture and can create more positive change than we can when we box each other out. But the point is that the gender gaps are real. We’ve come a long way, but we are nowhere near true equality. Until that day comes, I for one, will continue fighting on.