Get It Done: When Will Women Have True Equality in U.S.?

The push for parity continues far beyond Women’s Equality Day.

The push for parity continues far beyond Women’s Equality Day.

We get it that this is not Iceland.

Iceland is No. 1 on the “World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index, which ranks 144 countries based on how close they are to achieving gender equality,” Melissa Jun Rowley writes in Forbes.

The U.S. ranks 45th.

“According to the Global Gender Gap Report 2017, Iceland has now closed more than 87 percent of its overall gender gap. On January 1, 2018, legislation came into effect requiring companies and government agencies employing at least 25 people to obtain certification of equal-pay policies.”

Iceland ranks #1 on the @WEF’s Global Gender Gap Index measuring how close countries are to achieving #genderequality. The U.S. ranks #45. #WorkToDo

On Women’s Equality Day on August 26, commemorating the 1920 passage of the 19th Amendment that granted women the right to vote, we can see how far we have come in 98 years, but also see how far we need to go and how to get to 50/50. Take The Lead has the mission to reach gender parity in leadership across all sectors by 2025.

Read Gloria Feldt’s take in Take The Lead on Women’s Equality Day

A new study by University of California- Davis sociologists surveying  70,000 people in 47 countries “charts three distinct transitions in gender attitudes associated with national characteristics,” according to Science Daily.

In the largest study ever of its kind on gender attitudes, the first group of responses of gender attitudes  “taken by the social democratic countries of Finland, Sweden and Norway is characterized by high economic development, high rates of women’s labor force participation and high levels of women’s economic independence,” the study shows. “These features promote a highly egalitarian gender ideology toward women’s rights and dual mother-worker roles.”

On #WomensEqualityDay on August 26, commemorating the 1920 passage of the 19th Amendment that granted women the right to vote, we can see how far we have come, but also how far we need to go. How will you celebrate #womensequality?

The second set of responses “taken by liberal and conservative Western countries such as the United States, Germany and New Zealand are characterized by economic wealth, modest rates of women’s labor force participation, fewer women as chief wage earners and meager maternity provisions. This combination produces a liberal individualist ideology, endorsing women’s equality with men while subjecting women to culturally prescribed expectations of intensive mothering,” Science Daily reports.

Read more in Take The Lead on Women’s Equality Day

The last set of responses “taken by former socialist states such as Russia, China and Romania, which features far less economic development, a high degree of women as chief wage earners and decent maternity leave provisions. These characteristics foster an ideology that upholds male supremacy,” The study shows.

While the U.S. is in the middle group, policy initiatives waiver on promotion of women’s equal rights.

Federal law prohibits discrimination in places of public accommodation based on race, religion, and other categories, but not based on sex, including sexual orientation or transgender status. There are still police departments in this country that don’t make clear in policies or training materials that on-duty sexual misconduct against civilians is prohibited,” writes Louise Melling, Deputy Legal Director and Director of Center for Liberty, American Civil Liberties Union, writes in ACLU.

She adds, “Six of the nation’s 50 governors are women. Five are white. None is transgender or lesbian. Eighty-one percent of women report having been subject to sexual harassment. More than a third have experienced intimate partner violence. Those companies that provide paid family leave — still less than 40 percent — often offer significantly less leave for men, reinforcing the notion that raising children is women’s responsibility.”

Initiatives and conversations may deepen understanding, but action to correct inequities in the workplace and culture are what is needed.

“You may have the right intentions, yet imbalance still exists and progress is slower than we want. While our senior leadership continues to endorse our diversity goals, we are talking about changing behavior and practices that are more ingrained in some people than others,” Laura ZelenkoBloomberg News’ talent, diversity and standards chief, tells Henna Inam in  Forbes.

“Becoming aware and more mindful of ones’ unconscious bias can take time. We’re learning that sometimes we need to have tough conversations. Some people simply don’t recognize that what they’ve been doing is contributing to the problem,” Zelenko tells  Forbes.

The gender pay gap, deepened by race bias—with African American, Latina and Asian American women paid less than white women—is a legacy in private institutions and difficult to erase.

The #genderpaygap, deepened by race bias—with African American, Latina and Asian American women paid less than white women—is a legacy in private institutions and difficult to erase. But we must work to erase it. #WomensEqualityDay

Read more in Take The Lead on Women’s Equality Day

“Pay transparency is still relatively rare in the private sector, according to Stephanie Penner, a senior partner at consulting firm Mercer, which works with companies on these issues,” writes Samantha Cooney in TIME.

“About 17 percent of private companies practice pay transparency, while 41 percent discourage and 25 percent explicitly prohibit discussion of salary information, according to a December 2017 report from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research,” Cooney writes.

Chris Grieve, Executive Director of the EDGE Certification Foundationtells News Deeply, the problem of inequality goes beyond head counting and quotas.

“It isn’t just about representation in terms of the number of women, it’s also about what’s going on within an organization around a pipeline of opportunity. What are the recruitment or promotion processes going on within a company? What sort of development training, particularly leadership development training, and mentoring do people have? What’s going on in allowing flexible working arrangements, so women or men can choose to engage as caregivers with their family?”  Grieve asks.

“And what’s going on within a company culture that contributes to conscious or unconscious bias in how women and men are treated when it comes to the pipeline? When it comes to promotions? When it comes to things that make a critical difference in whether someone can have a career or just a job – a low-paying job at that, one that keeps them stuck at low levels in organizations?

Read more from Gloria Feldt on Women’s Equality Day

“The outcome for an organization would be that they end up making a visible commitment to and progress on – and then, ultimately, achievement of – a strong gender balance at all levels. They would be managing pay equity in their organizations, they would have a solid framework of effective gender equality policies and practices, and an inclusive culture that would be reflected in terms of employees’ protections and experience.” Grieve says.

Most leaders in the workplace today advocate publicly for a shared responsibility to achieve gender parity. That is, they argue that both men and women need to work toward the goal of equality. Many men do, but there is backlash, according to new research.

Janine Bosak at Dublin City University in her “recent research suggests that men may face a backlash for speaking out on behalf of others,” according to Daisy Grewal in Scientific American.

“We know that men, and in particular, white men, are more likely to hold leadership positions in a variety of industries. Movements like #Askmoreofhim rest on the assumption that men will be motivated to advocate for others if they are sufficiently convinced to do so,” Grewal writes.

“However, the present research suggests that men may shy away from advocacy in order to avoid being perceived negatively by others. Although we may laud the integrity or compassion of men who speak out on others’ behalf, we may simultaneously question their competence compared to men who do not advocate for others.”

Mark Learmonth, Professor of Organization Studies at Durham University Business School, says there is deep resistance for men to push for parity.

“As powerful men automatically benefit from the privileges of being a man, they are unlikely to question these privileges seriously unless forced to do so. Sooner or later men need to face this underlying issue, as opposed to continuing to avoid it, and look to do something to change this,” Learmouth writes in Huffington Post.

“Unfortunately, the continuing hierarchy of privileged male groups means that it is difficult to force senior men to question their gender privileges. Speaking out effectively takes a lot of guts, and many who protest about workplace inequality too overtly can face considerable (if often subtle, hard-to-complain) forms of hostility, from their disapproving bosses.”

About the Author

Michele Weldon is editorial director of Take The Lead, an award-winning author, journalist, emerita faculty in journalism at Northwestern University and a senior leader with The OpEd Project. @micheleweldon