EDITORIAL: Make a pledge for parity
Today is International Women’s Day 2016. It falls at the beginning of Women’s History Month, which started in 1981 as Women’s History Week and became a month-long celebration in 1987.
Increased globalization and our ability to share ideas across the Internet have allowed us a greater understanding of the challenges of women internationally, as well as domestically.
As much as some may like to say that U.S. women enjoy social and economic parity – basing this assumption, perhaps, on the fact they have the right to vote – it is not the case. The conscious and unconscious biases that plague our interactions must be acknowledged.
A tweet by @DGIOM (William Lacy Swing, director general of the International Organization for Migration) under the hashtag #IWD16 on Twitter captured that bias perfectly: “We tend to treat female mediocrity much harsher than male mediocrity.”
This is also exhibited in the frequent observation that if a female presidential candidate had attributes of either Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump she would be deemed too old, disheveled, loud, blustery or pushy.
Pledging for Parity is the International Women’s Day campaign, consisting of five important ways men and women can help achieve global parity:
- Helping women and girls achieve their ambitions means organizations can “illuminate the path to leadership” for women and individuals can commit to advocate for themselves and create role models for women in the workplace.
- Challenging conscious and unconscious biases is achieved by individuals learning about their own biases, adjusting their behavior as needed and welcoming differences of experience and point of view. It means that organizations must build cultures where all feel valued.
- A call for gender-balanced leadership encompasses leadership and mentoring programs that gives women an opportunity to advance through exposure to important networks, strategic and financial roles that encourage their growth. Organizations must “ensure women are exposed to strategic operations and functions that allow them to gain experience needed for senior positions.”
- Valuing women and men’s contributions equally is a vital economic initiative. By raising the female labor force participation rate to match that of a men “will have a positive impact on the Gross National Product (GDP) in both developed and developing economies.”
- Creating inclusive, flexible cultures is crucial to workers. After competitive pay and benefits, the International Women’s Day organization says, “workers in eight countries rank working flexibility and still being on track for promotion as what they value most in a job.”
Across the globe progress towards gender parity has slowed, according to the World Economic Forum, which predicted in 2014 that it would take until 2095 to achieve global gender parity. One year later it estimated that “a slowdown in the already glacial pace of progress meant the gender gap wouldn’t close entirely until 2133.”
There is a direct correlation between economic parity and abuse of women, who are disproportionately objectified, harassed, abused and killed in domestic violence assaults and homicides.
According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNPF), “where gender inequality exists, it is generally women who are excluded or disadvantaged in relation to decision-making and access to economic and social resources.”
According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, 3 in 10 women (29 percent) and 1 in 10 men (10 percent) “have experienced rape, physical violence and/or stalking by a partner.” Other statistics from the violence hotline include:
- Nearly half of all women and men in the United States have experienced psychological aggression by an intimate partner in their lifetime (48.4 and 48.8 percent, respectively);
- females ages 18 to 24 and 25 to 34 generally experienced the highest rates of intimate partner violence;
- from 1994 to 2010, about 4 in 5 victims of intimate partner violence were female;
- most female victims of intimate partner violence were previously victimized by the same offender, including 77 percent of females ages 18 to 24, 76 percent of females ages 25 to 34, and 81 percent of females ages 35 to 49.
According to the UNPF: “A critical aspect of promoting gender equality is the empowerment of women, with a focus on identifying and redressing power imbalances and giving women more autonomy to manage their own lives.”
When women are empowered and offered the same opportunities for social and economic autonomy, they are not beholden to abusive partners who have psychologically and systematically usurped their power to leave.
This should be the legacy of a day set aside for global parity and of a month dedicated to women’s history here in the U.S.