Women’s History Month

Women’s History Month

To all the women out there, this is your month.  The 2018 theme, Nevertheless She Persisted, could not be more appropriate.

I am sure you’ve heard the phrase, especially if you are connected to social media.   It came to life during Mr. Sessions’ confirmation hearing for Attorney General in early 2017. If you watched it on TV or saw a replay you will remember that Elizabeth Warren, D-MA, was protesting Sessions’ confirmation and reading a letter that Coretta Scott King had written in 1986.  Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, used the phrase nevertheless she persisted  after attempting to silence Warren during her reading.  Within moments feminists latched onto the phrase, flooding social media with the hashtag. I get it.  No one wants to be silenced when they have something important to say. No matter how you feel about the chain of events leading to this phrase, it sure became a loud battle cry.

The 2018 Women’s History theme of persistence celebrates all women who are fighting all forms of discrimination against women. Whether fighting for equal pay or against sexism in all its forms we need women and men who persist.  Persistence is what helps to create change.

It is always good to be reminded that women did not get the right to vote in the United States until 1920. It took more than 70 years of persistence for that to finally happen.

Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucy Stone were persistent women.  Thank God for them and all the persistent women who came after them.  Whenever I stop to think that it is possible I could have lived in a country where I was not allowed to vote because it was assumed that I as a woman was not concerned with politics or because my husband would represent me, I shudder.   I thank each and every persistent woman who spoke up, went to jail and filed lawsuits that would benefit me and all my sisters.

Today, we continue to be persistent about things like equal pay and sex or gender discrimination in the workplace. It is hard to believe that in 2018 these still exist. The Equal Pay Act of 1963 made it a requirement that pay scales be the same for identical work. Fast forward to 2015.  Women only earned 83% of what men earned in the same job.  Some more persistence is needed here wouldn’t you say?

Then along came the #MeToo movement in 2017. The magnitude of widespread sexual assault and harrassment, especially in the workplace, was brought to the forefront where it has always belonged.  Women from all walks of life are now feeling empowered to recount their stories.  I have my own #MeToo stories and almost every woman I know has one or more. I believe the intent of this movement was to shed some light on the magnitude of the problem.  While that worked thanks to social media I am conflicted with the end result.  Is it that we have to show one million examples before it is acknowleged as a problem?  Our culture has allowed this to go on since the beginning of time.  I am not sure that the sharing of these stories of Facebook and Twitter will change that culture.

Let’s be persistent in our conversations with men in power, our brothers, our husbands, our sons, our grandsons and our male friends.  They have to be included in our discussions about equal pay, equal rights and how we want to be respected personally.  I feel very fortunate that I have men around me who value women as their equal and support their need for persistence in having these important discussions.

Women have come such a long way from 1920 when first allowed to vote. We are doctors, lawyers, scientists, astronauts, and CEO’s. Think about what it has taken women to reach these milestones. It is a remarkable showing of strength, determination, resilience and persistence.

My life is easier thanks to all of the women who came before me. I hope that I have been able to do my part in ensuring the generations behind me have it even easier.  I hope in the remainder of my lifetime I see a shift that finally brings wage equity. I pray the sexual harassment culture that has been accepted for so long is toppled.

Happy Women’s History month to all of you strong, beautiful women. I am grateful to be a part of the tribe.

Peace and Love,

Melissa

 

 

 

 

International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day

On March 8th the world celebrated women, commemorating the movement for women’s rights.  The United Nations celebrates women with a theme.  This year the UN theme is “Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030.” A message from UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stated that women’s rights today are being “reduced, restricted and reversed.”  As the economic gender gap continues to widen, Guterres calls for change by “empowering women at all levels, enabling their voices to be heard and giving them control over their own lives and over the future of our world.”  The sixty-first meeting of the Commission on the Status of Women began today and will run through March 24th at the United Nations.

Outside of the UN, the theme heard for this year’s International Women’s Day is “Be Bold for Change.”

I am sure you read about or maybe even participated in “A Day Without A Woman” last week.  Many of the women who participated were part of the Women’s March on January 21st, the day after President Trump’s inauguration.

Not just here in the U.S. but throughout the world women took to the streets to stand in unison on International Women’s Day.  They all have one thing in common and that is a sense of urgency surrounding women’s issues and rights.  Each country surely has its unique set of circumstances but there is commonality among all the women when it comes to equity and the human rights of women.

The day is also designed to encourage reflection on the progress women have made throughout the years .  It is important to have knowledge about the history of the women’s movement.  If you have a clear understanding of the history of women’s struggles for equality then you can better understand the uncertainty and fear that many women have today.

I have actually heard women say that a protest for equality is ridiculous. I heard that exact remark while sitting in a restaurant recently.  Two women were sitting at the next table next to me. They were about my age. They looked fairly well to do.  I made the assumption they were educated.  So what was it that was making them react negatively to the recent organized protests?  I did not lean over, introduce myself and ask. Instead I remained in my seat with my salad and I am not totally ashamed to say I continued to listen to them.

The dominant one did most of the talking and in a voice that made it easy for me and other patrons to hear.  The thrust of her conversation was around abortion and the need to abolish it. I think her friend may have disagreed a little but was overshadowed and only made a few protest noises while trying to change the subject.   The subject eventually changed to equal pay and the less dominate woman became more animated and offered her opinion as to why women should not necessarily get paid the same as men for the same job.  Her reasoning did not make sense to me but I tried to see it from her perspective and just appreciate our difference of opinions.

There is so much more to it than just the discussions surrounding abortion rights or equal pay.  I sometimes think people tend to compartmentalize one issue that resonates with them without fully vetting the wholeness of the situation.  Maybe it is human nature to do it that way, I don’t know.  That said, to all the women of the world, my wish for you is that you live in peace and be valued every day for all that you offer.

“I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.”- Audre Lorde

 

Off the bookshelf:

The Women’s Liberation Movement in America, by Kathleen Berkeley

Half the Sky, by Nicholas Kristof

When She Woke, by Hillary Jordan

We Should All be Feminists, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

A Call to Action, by Jimmy Carter

A Thousand Sisters: My Journey into the Worst Place on Earth to be a Woman, by Lisa Shannon

 

Peace and Love,

Melissa

 

 

 

 

 

Bad News From the Institute for Women’s Policy Research

Bad News From the Institute for Women’s Policy Research

New data shows the gender wage gap is widening.  Census data shows that in 2015 the ratio of women’s to men’s median weekly full-time earnings was 81.1%, a decrease of 1.4% since 2014. This is the largest downward turn in 12 years.

The Equal Pay Act of 1963  does not seem to be addressing the issue and just last year the Paycheck Fairness Act was voted down in the Senate.  I won’t discuss the politics of this decision.

If you think the pay gap between men and women is because women work in lower paying jobs that isn’t the case.  In fact, if you read through the data, the gap shows to be the greatest among the highest paying jobs.

Those who wish to deny the statistics argue that the pay gap exists because of education differences or life choices.  Not so according to the statistics and analysis.  We seem to have a deep rooted and healthy case of “gender stereotype” disorder.  It depresses me a bit as I thought we were making better progress in this area.

Most, not all, of my male friends are feminists and most of the organizations I have worked for were aware of the issue and made efforts to address it.  For me personally I believe I was one of the lucky women who was in an equal pay arena with men. However, I think I have had some unique circumstances during my working career.  Friends and colleagues from a variety companies and industries tell a different story.  It is quite outrageous to think that in 2016 a woman with the same degree and equal work experience would be paid any lower than her male counterpart.

This is certainly related to gender bias which is alive and well, but that’s for a future blog post.

I read a piece by the actress  Jennifer Lawrence who talks candidly about this very subject and how personal it is to her. Worth the read.   I have added it below.

 

Why Do I Make Less Than My Male Co‑Stars?

By Jennifer Lawrence:  as seen in the publication Lenny, October 14, 2015

When Lena first brought up the idea of Lenny to me, I was excited. Excited to speak to Lena, who I think is a genius, and excited to start thinking about what to complain about (that’s not what she pitched me, it’s just what I’m gonna do). When it comes to the subject of feminism, I’ve remained ever-so-slightly quiet. I don’t like joining conversations that feel like they’re “trending.” I’m even the asshole who didn’t do anything about the ice-bucket challenge — which was saving lives — because it started to feel more like a “trend” than a cause. I should have written a check, but I fucking forgot, okay? I’m not perfect. But with a lot of talk comes change, so I want to be honest and open and, fingers crossed, not piss anyone off.

It’s hard for me to speak about my experience as a working woman because I can safely say my problems aren’t exactly relatable. When the Sony hack happened and I found out how much less I was being paid than the lucky people with dicks, I didn’t get mad at Sony. I got mad at myself. I failed as a negotiator because I gave up early. I didn’t want to keep fighting over millions of dollars that, frankly, due to two franchises, I don’t need. (I told you it wasn’t relatable, don’t hate me).

But if I’m honest with myself, I would be lying if I didn’t say there was an element of wanting to be liked that influenced my decision to close the deal without a real fight. I didn’t want to seem “difficult” or “spoiled.” At the time, that seemed like a fine idea, until I saw the payroll on the Internet and realized every man I was working with definitely didn’t worry about being “difficult” or “spoiled.” This could be a young-person thing. It could be a personality thing. I’m sure it’s both. But this is an element of my personality that I’ve been working against for years, and based on the statistics, I don’t think I’m the only woman with this issue. Are we socially conditioned to behave this way? We’ve only been able to vote for what, 90 years? I’m seriously asking — my phone is on the counter and I’m on the couch, so a calculator is obviously out of the question. Could there still be a lingering habit of trying to express our opinions in a certain way that doesn’t “offend” or “scare” men?

A few weeks ago at work, I spoke my mind and gave my opinion in a clear and no-bullshit way; no aggression, just blunt. The man I was working with (actually, he was working for me) said, “Whoa! We’re all on the same team here!” As if I was yelling at him. I was so shocked because nothing that I said was personal, offensive, or, to be honest, wrong. All I hear and see all day are men speaking their opinions, and I give mine in the same exact manner, and you would have thought I had said something offensive.

I’m over trying to find the “adorable” way to state my opinion and still be likable! Fuck that. I don’t think I’ve ever worked for a man in charge who spent time contemplating what angle he should use to have his voice heard. It’s just heard. Jeremy Renner, Christian Bale, and Bradley Cooper all fought and succeeded in negotiating powerful deals for themselves. If anything, I’m sure they were commended for being fierce and tactical, while I was busy worrying about coming across as a brat and not getting my fair share. Again, this might have NOTHING to do with my vagina, but I wasn’t completely wrong when another leaked Sony email revealed a producer referring to a fellow lead actress in a negotiation as a “spoiled brat.” For some reason, I just can’t picture someone saying that about a man.

Jennifer Lawrence is an Academy Award–winning actress.

I would love to hear your feedback.  Have you experienced wage discrimination or gender bias?  I think I will add this topic to my interviews for the Beyond Sixty Project.  I bet there are some good references there.

Have a great day,

Melissa