The theme for International Women’s Day on March 8th this year is gender parity (#PledgeForParity) and there’s never been a better year to think about this issue as people everywhere begin to wake up to the fact that women are literally being shortchanged in their paychecks.
Last year around this time, we heard from actress Patricia Arquette as she took the stage to collect her Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. Rather than weepily thank the Academy, Arquette used her unique position of influence tp demand equal pay and equal rights for women.
Variety reports about Arquette’s activism for equal pay and both the success and bumps in the road she has seen over the last year. At a recent “Dinner For Equality” that she co-hosted, the actress spoke about how her outspokenness at the Oscars cost her two jobs. She says, “I’m okay with that. But it’s not just about acting, and it’s not about me as an actor. I don’t believe this is fair for anybody. I want to live in the America I believe in, that really is fair, that really has possibilities, and really does treat people of all races and all sexes equally.”
Arquette may be partially okay with the job losses since her speech is credited with helping to pass the California Fair Pay Act that recently went into effect. The law is the first of its kind to amend the disparities between men and women in the workplace. William B. Gould IV, a former chairman of the National Labor Relations Board, explains how the law differs from other laws put in place to assure equal pay. Gould says, “It’s much more expansive than traditional employment discrimination law. This is the most ambitious law we’ve seen of its kind…. It is more beneficial to female workers.”
New equal pay requirements seem to be spreading. Just last month we saw President Obama announce a new rule to promote equal pay across the nation. Larger sized companies will now be required to report what they pay their employees based on gender, race and ethnicity. Obama had this to say about the way forward: “The notion that somehow we would be keeping my daughters.. or any of your daughters out of opportunity, not allowing them to thrive in every field ... it's counterproductive. That's not how we're gonna build a bright future for our country.”
Everyone - men and women - can pledge to take a concrete step to help achieve gender parity more quickly - whether to help women and girls achieve their ambitions, call for gender-balanced leadership, respect and value difference, develop more inclusive and flexible cultures or root out workplace bias. Each of us can be a leader within our own spheres of influence and commit to take pragmatic action to accelerate gender parity. Make a pledge on International Women's Day here.
What do you think about the effort to close the pay gap and have equal opportunities for women in the US? Does more need to be done?
Tell us about your experience with gender equality in the workplace or out!
There is a definite gap in the STEM ( Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) fields. As a scientist, I've been mentoring both high school and undergraduate students in research. I show and tell them that, yes, you can be a scientist, doctor, any other science profession, no matter your gender or family background. I try to give them the information that I wanted to know earlier and would have been very helpful, so it's easier for them to get to where they want to be. Small things can make a difference and can lead to big changes. The culture in STEM does need to change to change. The hours required by many are not feasible or healthy really. There is preferential bias in publishing and grants that's been shown through multiple studies. I hope it starts changing soon as it is keeping a lot of talented people from discovering and producing amazing things. I'm trying to do however much I can to improve this and hopefully my students will as well.
I still remember the day legislation passed in New York back in the '70's making it illegal to harass women on the street (Yes, folks, it used to be "perfectly okay" to do that!). When I went to work that day, it was delightful to see foremen at a construction site standing with their arms folded in front of them and glaring down at the guys, who didn't even look at us! Yay, treated like normal people! (It also shows you how it does not happen unless they enact laws.)