For this weeks’ #TBT (Throwback Thursday) I wanted to share this post I did on pay equality. With the conversation still going on four years after I originally wrote this it was interesting and sad for me to see things that have not changed. But as we continue to discuss these many unequal threads I’m confident the changes will come.
Today is the last day of Equal Pay Week but only the beginning, I hope, of our collective efforts toward pay equity for all, regardless of gender, ethnicity, or race. In another post, I discussed the Equal Pay Day event in NYC that I attended on Monday. Of course, a single post cannot sum up all that I learned at this crucial event for NY women, an event that brought issues to the fore that all women across the U.S. need to address.
Pay equity is merely one thread of inequity within the fabric of our society. Focusing on one thread will at best give us a temporary patch. We need to tackle the issue whole cloth if we are going to create a future for our daughters and nieces, granddaughters and great-granddaughters, in which women are fully represented in government and business leadership, in legislation, in the highest echelons of academia, with equal power, equal pay, and equal opportunity.
So what is stopping us from having equal pay, equal opportunities for leadership positions, equal representation in government? What is stopping us from making misogynistic health- and life-endangering legislation an impossibility in our country? The answer crossed the lips of nearly every speaker and commentator at Monday’s event: Fear.
Fear of rocking the boat. Fear of being wrong. Fear of being “found out” for who we believe we really are. Fear of vulnerability, of being seen as a bitch, of not being liked. Fear of failing.
Did you know that only 7% of women negotiate their first salary vs. 57% of men who do? That it has been 30 years since women became 50% of college graduates, and that today, women are more likely than men to graduate and more likely to earn higher-level degrees? Yet of full professors, only 24% are women. This is on top of the roughly 15% of women who are top executives. CEOs? Barely over 2%. I could go on.
In other words, “We are the 51%!” And it’s about time we occupied Wall Street, academia, corporate America, Congress, state legislatures, and the White House.
Women see problems and solutions differently than men do, and as I’ve written before (see “How Being Successful Can Save the Planet”), women leaders and board members are correlated with increased revenue. And in Congress, would you believe that the 17 female senators, from both sides of the aisle, actually get together regularly and discuss their shared values and women’s issues? A far cry from the bitter divide we see in Congress-as-usual, isn’t it?
Whoever you are, wherever you are, your opinion does matter and needs to be heard. Your voice might be the one that changes the debate. Your voice might be the tipping point that unleashes the voices of many and quickens the pace of change.
And I’m going to let you in on a little secret. The more you speak out, the easier it gets. I would never call it easy, but you do get more comfortable in your own skin the more you decide to trust yourself and tell your truth.
Women need to start demanding proof for why men doing the same job (or even less) are making more than women. Women need to start asking for more, believing they are worth it. Turn the tables on the power relationship. Own your power. You know your stuff. Your voice matters. As Facebook CEO Sheryl Sandberg said in her 2011 Barnard commencement address: “Let the barriers you face—and there will be barriers—be external, not internal.”
Women working in the home, in the office, running their own businesses, going to school—all of us need to speak up to our government. Start locally, in your community, your district, your state. Find others, such as local organizations, to pool efforts with to effect change.
Be a mentor to other women, encouraging them to speak up in their personal, professional, and political lives. Teach them to ask for what they want and to believe that they deserve it. Get women of all ages to vote.
And above all, keep your eye on the fabric as a whole. A patch here or there isn’t going to be a lasting solution. We need to address equality in every arena, from controlling our own bodies and lives to the ongoing racism and ageism that is always present with sexism and misogyny. But first, we need to address our own sense of equality, our own feelings about whether we’re good enough. We need to recognize our fear and instead of focusing on making it disappear (which it won’t), we need to embrace it and speak up anyway. The best way to address a fear of failure is to fail—and then keep going.
Remember: You are not alone in this. You are the 51%.