Yesterday marked the 105th anniversary of International Women’s Day. I used to look forward to this day, because I felt we were doing something beneficial by acknowledging and celebrating the achievements women have made and continue to make, and highlighting the women who have led the way. However, now it almost feels like a passing ship in the night. It’s like a Hallmark moment that just comes and goes. I am starting to ask myself what are any of us gaining, men or women, from this day?
I don’t mean to sound harsh or that we shouldn’t continue to have this day. I know on the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day in 2011, Barack Obama declared the whole month of March, “Women’s History Month”. That’s definitely a step in the right direction, but I want more. I want society, the government, the media, businesses, schools, universities, health insurance companies, politicians, investors, and the list goes on, to do more for women than just to have a day and a month in their honor.
Why don’t we start by asking ourselves what can we do to finally have proper maternity and paternity leave? Yes, we need both. One is for the health and wellness of the baby and the mom, and the other is for supporting the new mom, her new born and giving families this important time together. It goes deeper than that, because by not having proper paid maternity leave there is an economic, physical and psychological cost that Jessica Shorthall brilliantly points out in her TED talk titled, “The US needs paid family leave – for the sake of it’s future.” I would encourage everyone to take the time to watch this talk and understand the true implications of not providing paid family leave.
I would also like to know what’s taking so long to implement equal pay for men and women? Did you know that the Equal Pay Act was passed in 1963, but the gender pay gap still persists? The numbers are; women in general earn 78 cents compared to every dollar men earn, for African-American women it’s 64 cents and for Latina women it’s 56 cents. President Obama has worked hard to try and push the agenda of equal pay by signing one of his very first bills called the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and his other two initiatives, the Equal Pay Task Force and Equal Pay App Challenge. Yet, it’s 2016 and we’re still waiting to close the gap.
The good news is Salesforce declared late last year they would spend $3 million in order to equalize all of their employees pay. Just yesterday noted by Fortune, Cindy Robbins, Salesforce’s EVP of global employee success, wrote in a blog post the details of how that money was spent. Approximately 6% of their employees needed salary adjustments and apparently the impact was almost equal between men and women, but women were naturally affected more. Not only has Salesforce aggressively made changes to closing the gender pay gap, they went further and implemented their High Potential Leadership program which has already led to a 33% increase in the number of women who were promoted last year. Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce, is encouraging other CEOs to do the same. Now that’s what I call change!
When we think of the media, what comes to your mind? What comes to my mind is they are either broadcasting what’s wrong in the world, criticizing and attacking women, or displaying advertising that exploits women. Every now and again when I watch E News! 75% of what they report on is who’s become pregnant or after giving birth, how much weight the woman lost, or who’s dating who, or who’s broken up with who, or who’s been spotted on vacation in a bikini and how great or not they look, and it just goes on and on. I finally decided to stop watching E News! because I feel guilty that I’m supporting this type of media and quite frankly, you should too.
I’m not sure if we understand the true impact of the media on girls and women and to make sure we do, Women Not Objects is on a mission. They want to change the way that women are portrayed in advertising. This is actually nothing new, because several years ago Jennifer Siebel Newsom, wife of the Governor of San Francisco, Gavin Newsom, wrote, produced and directed the documentary Miss Representation shining a light on sexism in American society and the media. Yesterday as part of Women Not Objects celebration of International Women’s Day, they posted a pretty powerful video of the impact the media and advertising has on girls and women, watch the video below. The media and the advertising industry has an important role to play and they ought to think about what they can do to portray girls and women in a better light.
There’s so much more I would like to highlight, but I think you get the point. I’m all for celebrating International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month, but we need to do more throughout the year to make sure we’re truly making an impact when it comes to providing what’s necessary so women and girls feel confident, empowered and supported in this world.
What would you like to see done in society, the government, the media, businesses, schools, universities, politics, the health industry and the investment world to help girls and women? Leave your comments below.