When you witness or experience something that doesn’t feel quite right, how do you react? A pretty common coping mechanism is to tell ourselves that what we’ve seen or what we’ve faced is atypical. When something is difficult, traumatic, or unfair, the last thing we want to do is assume it’s common, right?
It’s becoming increasingly evident, though, that despite the progress we’ve made, our society still has a gender equality problem. It’s evident in the fact that women still typically only make 80 cents for every dollar men make. It’s evident every time a school’s dress code results in the body shaming of a female student. It’s evident in the studies showing that motherhood often negatively affects earnings, while fatherhood seldom does.
Women have rights, of course, but a lot of them are relatively new. There are women alive today who were born before their right to eventually vote was secured. And too often, rights are overshadowed by privilege. Too frequently, we assume that we don’t have the power to affect change. But we do. Let’s talk about how.
Last Fall, #MeToo hashtags poured into our social media feeds by the millions, suggesting that women being subjected to inappropriate, unwanted attention is anything but an uncommon issue. From uncomfortable verbal interactions to devastating physical assault, an estimated 81% of women have experienced sexual harassment in some form.
In response to #MeToo, the Time’s Up campaign was formed to address harassment and gender inequality in the workplace, and while much of its impact so far has been on the entertainment industry (understandably, since it was established by members of that industry), it offers a glimmer of hope. Hope that the wage gap might close before the currently projected date of 2119. Hope that gender bias won’t limit the access women have to jobs they’re very capable of performing. Hope that the paths we’re clearing now will be smoothly paved roads by the time our daughters travel them.
Putting the “act” in activisim
Talking about it is a great first step…but what should we DO about it? How can we overcome a history of bad habits and move toward a culture of women empowerment?
Let’s explore a few ways we can work together to make sure women don’t just enjoy equal rights on paper, but also equal opportunities in real life. Equal pay for equal work. Equal consideration for equal credentials. Equal benefits. Equal support. Equal respect.
Stop pretending the problem is invisible
The phrase “glass ceiling” has long been a blanket term for all the obstacles women and minorities encounter as they ascend toward their aspirations. Whether we’re trying to climb to the top of the corporate ladder or just trying to make it through a day without having something “mansplained,” many women would probably agree that the challenges aren’t as transparent as the metaphor implies.
A survey conducted by Pew Research Center just months before the #MeToo movement took the Internet by storm found that women are nearly twice as likely as men to say they’ve experienced gender discrimination at work. A recent Wall Street Journal poll indicated that 41% of employed men have witnessed sexual harassment while at work. So we see it.
Are there women who have made it above the glass ceiling? Absolutely. Not because it’s gone, but because they’ve diligently navigated their way through the cracks. Let’s keep chipping away until it’s completely shattered.
Speak up…but stay safe
Whether your goal is a promotion at work or just a peaceful jog through your own neighborhood, standing up for what you know you deserve should be an easy decision. Unfortunately, fear can get in the way…and even more unfortunately, it’s not always unfounded fear. Reporting workplace harassment may affect your career or your reputation. Rejecting unwanted advances while you’re out on a run may result in retaliation. However infrequently, we know these things happen in real life, and we don’t want them to happen to us.
So speak up…but learn how to do it as safely as possible. Rather than confronting the perpetrator directly, go straight to the HR department if a colleague behaves inappropriately. If you’re going somewhere alone, let your spouse, roommate, family, or friends know where you’ll be. If someone is making you uneasy, don’t ignore that gut feeling. Consider carrying pepper spray on your keychain, even if you don’t think you’ll ever need it. If your phone has an emergency SOS feature, activate it and learn how to use it.
Empowered women empower women
It’s easy, especially in times like these, to forget how much we all have in common. A lot of us are fighting the same fight, but that doesn’t mean we’re fighting it exactly the same way. So keep an open mind and an open heart about how others—especially other women—handle the issue of inequality. We can educate each other, of course, but more importantly, we can learn from each other.
At Our Life Covered℠, our goal is to empower every woman to take a more active role in helping to protect her family with life insurance. We do our best to make our process easy and our community strong. We’re proud to be standing beside each and every one of you as we march toward equality.