How far we’ve come and how far we have to go
For years, the pay gap between women and men has been narrowing, but progress has been extremely slow, despite a softening of international attitudes toward women in the workplace. In 1914, Berlin University Professor Hans Friedenthal published a paper about what would happen if women entered the workplace, noting that “brain work will cause [the ‘new woman’] to become bald.”
Barely 100 years later, women account for 46 percent of the American work force1, but 59 percent of that portion make under $8.00 per hour2, representing a disproportionate amount of opportunity. Add to that the fact that Hispanic women make 52 cents to every dollar of a white male in America, and even a bigot would agree the playing field is not level.
I am encouraged by the fact that women business owners now employ 35 percent more people than all the Fortune 500 companies combined3. I remain discouraged that four in ten businesses worldwide have no women in senior management4, despite women outnumbering men in management positions in female-dominated industries like education, health administration and human resources.
How women must narrow the gap in 2012
So what do women have to do to narrow the gap, earn equal pay, and be seated at the executive board room table? I have personally advocated loudly that women need to pull their own bootstraps and push their way into the board room, but with the case made above, much of the gap is cultural and cannot always be solved just because a woman has moxy. I published a controversial column about my own treatment in the workplace as a young woman, and I pushed the agenda that women need to worry less about being called a “bitch” and more about not playing into the “overly sensitive” role some men continue to impose on women – it’s well meaning but misguided.
In 1905, President Grover Cleveland said, “Sensible and responsible women do not want to vote.” So what did women do? They banded together, they marched, they published articles, they held rallies, they educated others, they fought, which is exactly what women have to do today. Do you need to pull out your poster paint? No, because you can’t just go scream at Washington to change things for you, and in this case, they’re not the bad guys taking rights away from you. Ladies, our fight today is an independent fight fought at the individual level.
The only way to make change is to persevere, challenge assumptions and keep forging ahead. Don’t pour the coffee of your male peer when you know damn good and well they would be offended if you ask the same of them, don’t pout when you’re reprimanded or fail to close a deal, don’t cry sexism when you get passed over for a promotion. Ladies, you get revenge and get ahead by succeeding and outdoing everyone else in your company – that is your 2012 protest sign and your modern rally cry.