What I really want for Women’s Equality Day – Inclusion

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Women

Just last week American women celebrated 100 years since the ratification of the 19th amendment which granted our right to vote. 1920 was a powerful year for women – I’m hoping 2020 brings more of the same. In 1971, the U.S. Congress designated August 26 as Women’s Equality Day.

An excerpt of the sample proclamation for women’s equality day from a Joint Resolution of Congress in 1971 reads:

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.

Source

Where are we today?

I’m immediately struck by the opening of the statement that reads, “…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…”

Rights. Privileges.

There is no question, 2020 has been a dumpster fire of a year so far. But, it’s also been a year of rising voices and growing momentum for social justice and civil rights. Facing a global pandemic, while working and schooling from home, perhaps with a spouse on unemployment has no-doubt shifted our focus and perspectives greatly. In 1971 Congress named August 26 Women’s Equality Day, but where do we sit almost 50 years later?

The Pay Gap

“In other words, the median salary for men is roughly 19 percent higher than the median salary for women. This figure represents a 2 percent improvement from 2019 and a 7 percent improvement from 2015, when the median salary for men was roughly 26 percent higher than the median salary for women.” Source. You’ve likely heard of the gender pay gap. During the rise of the #MeToo movement women in Hollywood used their platforms to highlight that they were often paid significantly less than their male costars. This is not a new challenge and is one that had long existed. The statistics above show that the gap is shrinking, but goodness – isn’t the uphill battle exhausting?

The Mental Load

A few years ago a French cartoonist, Emma made the Mental Load go viral with her illustrated work highlighting all the labor women are expected to accomplish as a result of long-standing social expectations. Mothers across the world dropped their laundry baskets and applauded. Finally, someone named it! Now, is caring for a family of children you longed for, with a partner you chose ultimately a gift? Yes. But is it fair that as women we are expected to manage the majority of domestic responsibilities alone? No. However, I do see a striking contrast to domestic partnerships of today vs that of my grandparents. Men are packing lunches and braiding hair and giving baths right alongside the matriarchs of the home.

One current burden mothers are faced with is the weight of distance learning during the time of COVID-19. Women are forced to either alter their work schedules significantly or quit their jobs completely in order to support their children’s education. In some cases, we are jumping through endless hoops to arrange learning pods or find tutors when modifying a work schedule isn’t possible.

It. Is. Exhausting. 

Equality vs Inclusion

I recently took a training course on Inclusion at NAU and one of the points we focused on was the difference between equality and inclusion. Equality is the idea that we should all be considered equal – but that only works if we are all starting from the same place.

Let’s take a step back and examine our founding fathers – they were: male, white, rich, heterosexual, and Christian. As a result, our country was constructed on the basis that these 5 points were ideal. Those beliefs then became the foundation of our institutions – government, voting, healthcare, education, the justice system.

Inclusion is the idea of accepting others as their authentic self while removing the institutional barriers. That looks like rejecting those 5 “ideal” points and then deconstructing the bias systems within our institutions that have prevented everyone from succeeding.

So what do I want for Women’s Equality Day this year? I want inclusion. I want all women to be their authentic selves in a country where our institutions are free of barriers that prevent us from truly thriving.

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