Improving the Dialogue About Sexism
I don’t think we talk about sexism in an amount that is proportional to the size of the problem. But even though I’m vocal about the problem, I know talking about solutions is more productive.
What we can do – not only women, but the sons, brothers, husbands and fathers of women – to create equality for all genders is to start talking. By talking, I mean to address the issue with people in power using words that oppose, resist and end bias. There is no such thing as neutral in the battle against discrimination.
If we want to create a better world for everyone, we need to raise our voices for:
White women make about 80 cents for every dollar men earn. Hispanic women make 55 cents to the dollar and black women make 65 cents to the dollar. Men and women in positions of power have the opportunity to address this discrepancy in attitude, policy, and practice. Employers who are taking advantage of this horrible custom need to stop. Women and men – especially those with leverage to do so – have to verbalize their desire to work for employers who do not apply outdated biases to current salaries. And women have to ask for raises every year.
There are insurance companies that discriminate against women by limiting coverage for conditions that are exclusive to or most likely to affect women (like pregnancy). Some companies charge women higher premiums, label previous Caesarean section deliveries as “pre-existing” conditions, and do not cover birth control or maternity costs. Women and men have to ask employers to choose health insurance companies whose benefits are designed to support both genders.
Workplace Education in Gender Bias
and Sexual Harassment
Gender bias is here to stay and people are responsible for evaluating and addressing their own beliefs, attitudes and behaviors. Sexual harassment is gender bias’s hideous cousin – because who do you harass but someone you think of as less powerful or less human than yourself? Employers must make it known that discrimination and harassment are not part of their financial plans or company cultures and that neither will be imposed or tolerated. Employees need to ask for and participate actively in regular education on gender bias and sexual harassment.
Fair Maternity Policies
Not every woman in the work force is having or will have a baby, but many will, and their careers will be affected. They lose pay, seniority, promotions and opportunities. Conversations need to occur within company leadership about how maternity policies can be arranged to help the company and the employee. Women need to be able to talk to their employers about plans for maternity, including benefits and leave, without apologizing or fearing injury to their careers.
Better Child Care Options
Employees must request fair options for carrying out their responsibilities as parents including flexible hours and sensible allocations for personal time and vacation. They need to discuss their responsibilities as professionals and parents and do so without guilt or shame. Employers have to verbalize their understanding that employees have lives beyond their work.
I’m not tired of hearing about the #metoo movement. I’m not tired of reading about women who are finally acknowledging terrible crimes committed against them. I’m not tired of talking about pay discrepancies, inequalities in healthcare, high poverty rates for women, and the horrific risks associated with being female in a third world country.
Women around the world struggle in every way possible because of the power differential in our most prominent institutions. It’s an enormous, tragic, and pernicious fact.
For hundreds and thousands of years men have closed ranks to achieve success as hunters, protectors, soldiers, fathers, breadwinners, leaders and professionals. Men dominate every major institution in the world including religion, higher education, government, the military, and the field of health care.
This creates a huge bias against women. The bias isn’t necessarily malicious – it’s more like a bad habit than anything. It’s harmful whether it is deliberate or unconscious.
Accepting the status quo isn’t a solution. Bias against women is also a bias against humankind, against men, and against children – boys and girls. Silence is not a solution.
I’m not tired of talking about it, but I know some people have had enough.
It’s more than OK with me if we start talking about solutions.