Whereas what? It’s Women’s Equality Day August 26, but are we equal yet?
Forty-five years ago this week on August 26, 1971, New York Democratic Representative Bella Abzug succeeded in formally having Women’s Equality Day put on the books. It was to commemorate the 19th Amendment signed 51 years earlier and signified a long battle for equal representation since the launch of the women’s civil rights movement in 1848.
In many ways, American women leaders in politics, business and more have achieved much. But in terms of a wage gap and parity in representation, women are still not treated equally in this country. Take The Lead’s mission is equality in the workplace and gender parity by 2025, only 105 years after women won the right to vote here.In terms of wage gap and representation parity, women are still not treated equality. Click To Tweet
The language from 1971 declaring the installation of Women’s Equality Day spells out the history of women’s inequality, looking ahead to different days:
- WHEREAS, the women of the United States have been treated as second-class citizens and have not been entitled the full rights and privileges, public or private, legal or institutional, which are available to male citizens of the United States; and
- WHEREAS, the women of the United States have united to assure that these rights and privileges are available to all citizens equally regardless of sex; and
- WHEREAS, the women of the United States have designated August 26, the anniversary date of the certification of the Nineteenth Amendment, as symbol of the continued fight for equal rights: and
- WHEREAS, the women of United States are to be commended and supported in their organizations and activities,
- NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, that August 26th of each year is designated as Women’s Equality Day, and the President is authorized and requested to issue a proclamation annually in commemoration of that day in 1920, on which the women of America were first given the right to vote, and that day in 1970, on which a nationwide demonstration for women’s rights took place.
So how far have women leaders come in four and half decades since this declaration and another near-century since earning the right to vote? Instead of focusing on challenges and problems, we are celebrating and acknowledging Women’s Equality Day by focusing on progress toward a future of gender parity in this country’s leadership in business and beyond.
Women more likely to be chosen to lead
While the unequal distribution of leadership across many sectors is well-documented, new research from the University of Buffalo School of Management shows that in groups of men and women collaborating, it is more often women who will rise as leaders of the group.
In both short term and long term projects, even with more men than women, “the researchers found that as the group became more social, women were more likely than men to seize leadership opportunities.”
According to the University of Buffalo site, “Groups choose a leader based on who best exemplifies their shared values. For example, in sports, the team captain is often the best athlete,” says lead author Jim Lemoine, PhD, assistant professor of organization and human resources in the UB School of Management. “Our results indicate that when work teams value communication and increase their interactions with one another, women may have a leadership advantage.”
Wage gap shrinks as women go further
In this Vox story explaining the wage gap in illustrations and text, the work of Claudia Goldin, an economist at Harvard University, and former president of the American Economic Association, shows that the gap is related to gender in surprising ways. The gap manifests because because gender is related to when an employee works. The hours an employee works in certain fields directly relate to higher advancement.
According to Vox: “’The wage gap starts small but immediately starts to get bigger and bigger through a woman’s 20s and 30s. ‘The difference in earnings by sex greatly increases during the first several decades of working life,’ Goldin says.”
This is the prime time of childcare years for many women, who can’t stay late for the work dinner, or work in the office on weekends, or be flexible on when they have face time at the office.
“And then something surprising happens: The wage gap starts to shrink as a woman enters her 40s and 50s. Goldin’s research has found that workers in the industries with large wage gaps are more likely to say their jobs value those who ‘develop constructive and cooperative working relationships’ and that their company generally determines their ‘tasks, priorities, and goals,’” according to Vox.
Fairness begins, not ends, with equal numbers of women hiredFairness begins, not ends, with equal numbers of women hired Click To Tweet
In a recent column in Fortune, Nicole Stephens, associate professor at Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, and Evan Apfelbaum, assistant professor at MIT Sloan School of Management, write: “Our research, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology and conducted with Ray Reagans of MIT Sloan School of Management, found that women and minorities have different responses to companies’ statements about diversity. For example, white women, who often comprise a sizable minority of employees (e.g., 40 percent) in professional settings, tend to respond best to diversity approaches that value their employees’ different experiences, perspectives, and unique strengths. However, African-America women and men, who often comprise a small minority of employees (e.g., 5 percent, tend to respond best to messages about equality and fairness, and the importance of competence irrespective of differences.”
Companies, they write, need to approach employees’ inclusion in ways the employees find most useful. Equal numbers, then, do not always mean employees feel the same about the company culture or the work itself.
“Diverse talent that’s hired but does not feel welcome is likely to depart. The problem, then, is not only relevant to equity or justice, but also for the bottom line. Turnover is costly in terms of time and money, and turnover of diverse talent makes it that much harder for organizations to hire more diverse talent in the future.”
The solution, Stephens and Apfelbaum write, does not end with fair hiring. “The first step is establishing fairness and equality for all, so that people know they are valued for what they bring to the organization. Then, as a group gains representation, the second step is to talk about how unique backgrounds and perspectives add value.”
In addition, Apfelbaum wrote about the same study in Harvard Business Review. He concluded, “This research suggests a way to align traditional business objectives of boosting performance and stemming turnover with the goal of helping all groups have the same opportunities to succeed.”
Being positive about equality doesn’t mean being blind
Julianne Malveaux, economist and author of “Are We Better Off? Race, Obama and Public Policy,” writes in Dallas Weekly: “While people say they saw the glass ceiling shatter with Hillary Clinton’s nomination, others saw the millions standing at the sticky floor with few opportunities to climb up to that glass ceiling. Those standing on the sticky floor are disproportionately women of color, especially those who earn low wages and have fewer opportunities than others. Maybe Hillary Clinton will bridge the gap when she pursues a progressive economic agenda that includes fair and equal pay, affordable childcare, and other benefits for working women.”
Malveaux adds, “There has been significant progress for women since the 19th Amendment was passed, significant progress since Congress designated August 26 as Women’s Equality Day. Yet women still don’t have even a third (not to mention half) of the seats in the House of Representatives or the Senate, nor in any state legislature in the nation. Women aren’t even 10 percent of our nation’s corporate leaders. Women still face hostile work environments. While commemorating the progress that has been made in nearly a century, we must also ask whether it will take another century to reach real equality for all women.”
With women leaders, women will fare better
If the latest polls are accurate predictors, this November, a woman for the first time will be elected president of the United States. With Hillary Clinton, it is possible that issues affecting women will see resolutions in new policies.
“The global research is unequivocal: Women in political office make it a priority to advance rights, equality and opportunity for women and girls, in a way and to a degree that men in power overwhelmingly do not,” writes author Nancy L. Cohen in Ms.
“In hundreds of studies examining large data sets of roll call votes, bill sponsorship, laws enacted and other measures the answer is clear. ‘Across time, office and political parties,’ political scientist Beth Reingold writes in a comprehensive review, ‘women, more often than men, take the lead on women’s issues, no matter how such issues are defined,’”Cohen writes.
Cohen, the author of Breakthrough: The Making of America’s First Woman President, writes: “The U. S. has made tremendous advances on equal rights for women over the last 40 years. And yet we have a ways to go. Women are paid less than men in almost every job and at every level. Ours is the only advanced economy that doesn’t guarantee paid leave for new mothers. On broad measures of gender equality, the United States ranks an unimpressive 28th in the world.”
She adds,” One reason why these disparities persist is that women hold only a tiny fraction of the seats at America’s most influential tables of power—in Congress, in corporate boardrooms, in Hollywood and Silicon Valley. To achieve equal opportunity and full participation for women and girls in all areas of American life demands leadership, dedication and political will—and especially the will to expend political capital—at the top.”
In honor of Women’s Equality Day, Take The Lead salutes all women at the top, and all those choosing a path to get us there. Take The Lead has been honoring and celebrating Women’s Equality Day for years.Happy #WomensEqualityDay. One more year and many steps forward together. Click To Tweet
Take at a look at different ways the co-founder and key contributors have paid tribute. Take The Lead co-founder and president Gloria Feldt on ways to celebrate; Suzanne Braun Levine on empowerment; Kaitlin Rattigan on what to do to reach equality; and Rita Henley Jensen, founder of Women’s eNews on joining forces with her friend, Gloria Feldt.
Happy #WomensEqualityDay. One more year and many steps forward together.