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Equality? Not yet.
March is Women’s History Month. This is a time to reflect on the contributions that women have made to our society and the world. Given that in the past, no attention was paid, this is a step up. However, it would be much nicer if this was totally unnecessary. Unfortunately, data still shows that women have a ways to go before they are given equal recognition and compensation for what they do.
It was great that Hillary Clinton ran for president. Many people did believe she had the “right stuff” to do the job and even more think so now. Yet, studies of the media show that they still comment far more on what women politicians wear than on their policy positions. They will also focus more on her family and personal life than where she stands on issues. And, not surprisingly, men get more “ink” and serious coverage than women.
Department of Labor statistics have yet to show that women, as a group, get the same pay as their male counterparts. Women of color, not surprisingly, do worse than white women, but as a whole, women make less than men. The closest percentile women have reached has been 88 percent. It seems there is still more value attached to those jobs that men do than what women do.
We say that children are our most precious resource, yet child care providers are some of the lowest paid positions around. Apparently, stringing electrical wires or cable is worth more as these fields get paid much better. That is not to say that those jobs are not important, but why do we not value taking care of children as equally, if not more, important?
And, when it comes to employment, the language of white, blue and pink collar as descriptors still exists. Why is that needed? Why not use terms like the trades, office work, field work and the like? The former terms set gender expectations, the latter do not. And, this is not about being politically correct — another term that has become a negative when it shouldn’t be — but about recognizing that, regardless of gender, jobs should be open to all who qualify.
Women are approximately half the population of the United States. Yet, the percentage of elected women in Washington, D.C., falls far short. In the last Congress (2007-2009), there were 71 women in the House and 16 in the Senate. Not even close to the 50 percent mark.
Fixing these inequities is something that women and women’s organizations have been working on for a long time. From Abigail Adams to Susan B. Anthony to Eleanor Smeal, women have labored to get the right to vote, access to education, safe work and home environments and more. They have worked hard to create a society where women can choose their future and not have it chosen for them. And, yet, clearly, there is still a lot more to be done.
In a famous letter to her husband John in March of 1776, Abigail Adams asked that the Continental Congress “Remember the Ladies” when they declare their independence. She wrote, “If perticular care is not paid to the Ladies, we are determined to foment a Rebelion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any Laws in which we have no voice, or Representation.” While no one is advocating a rebellion, it has been more than long enough for women to have an equal place at the table. Two hundred and thirty-four years is 234 years too many to wait.