Equality in Sight?

Oct 23 2010 Published by under Feminist Musings

The past 3 days number among the most amazing in my life. In the company of more than 100 women leaders, we have discussed what barriers keep women from achieving complete, indisputable equality in every aspect of our lives.

This summer marked the 90th anniversary of women's suffrage in the USA. We have come a long way from that point, but we still cannot say we have equality with men. We still earn only 77 percent of our male counterparts, a number that has remained flat for several years now. The AAUW has a great map showing statistics state-by-state. My own state of Nebraska currently shows that women earn 76% of male salaries when all workers 16+ years of age are studied. Surely this gap goes away when those of us with higher education are the subject; but no, restricting the sample to those with college degrees aged 25 years and up shows women dropping to 72% of male wages. The worst wage-gap state is Alaska, where college-educated women earn only 64% of male salaries.

After days of discussions, 102 delegates from every state and the District of Columbia signed the Declaration of Equality:

This declaration, proclaimed by American women united in purpose,
commends to this nation the wisdom and oblicgation of achieving equality.

This declaration, inspired by the efforts of thse who have come before,
recognizes that although equality is in sight, it is not yet fully in place.

This declaration, dedicated to tenabling children to reach adulthood with full expectations
of equality, advances the belief that a true sharing of leadership and responsibility
among women and men will inspire an unprecedented dimension of American excellence.

This declaration contends that:

  • Without equality we cannot truly claim that we
    the people, are fairly self-governed and free to pursue happiness.
  • Equality is both a measure of our democracy
    and its hallmark. It is the foremost feature of
    justice and it is descriptive of our common humanity.
  • There is an urgency to this matter
    because equality delayed is opportunity denied.

This declaration, signed by willing hands pledged to devote their time, talent and tenacity to the fulfillment of all
that equality promises, is now submitted to the hearts, minds and collective conscience of the American people.

With faith in humanity, we resolve to fulfill the promise of our nation and the potential of American women.

Go to the web site and see the Declaration in its formatted beauty. Then, if you, too, believe that none of us are equal until all of us are equal, sign it via the electronic form. Show your support for our goal of true equality by 2020, the centennial of the 19th amendment. And keep in touch. Each of us delegates now have to devise an action project to help achieve these goals.

There is more fun ahead!

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One response so far

  • Prof.Pedant says:

    "We still earn only 77 percent of our male counterparts, a number that has remained flat for several years now. "

    I suspect that the 77% and the general lack of improvement in the past several years is due to cultural (and biological?) factors that are more complex and less questioned than 'simple sexism'. There are probably still far too many examples of women being paid less than men with the same skills and experience, but it seems unlikely to me that such unfairness accounts for more than a few percentage points of the difference, if that much.

    The two factors that (from my superficially informed perspective) _seem_ to be the largest contributors to the fiscal inequality would probably be the amount of time that some women spend out of the *paid* laborforce, and [differences in the sorts of jobs women seek out/women get hired for/$ paid for occupations predominated by women].

    The amount of time that some women spend out of the paid laborforce would only seem relevant if those women are not being socially useful while not having a formal paid job. Since a high percentage of those women are raising families/being caretakers - and therefore benefiting society - they should be, in some real sense, financially compensated 'in some way' (beyond the munificent largess of an employed spouse)....after all, society benefits from their 'work' and a 'fair value' in return for your labor/effort is supposed to be an American value....

    The contribution of the 'differences in the sorts of jobs that women seek out' is an interesting area to consider, but I think we can only know what roles 'preference' plays once we have had several generations of women in jobs that used to be all or almost all male. Once we have had several (five? seven? eleven?) generations of women in 'formerly male' jobs we might be able to discern some interesting things about gender preference in job choices....but I doubt that will reveal any 'natural argument' for a discrepancy in pay between men and women.

    The contribution of 'differences in the sorts of jobs women get hired for' can probably be studied by looking at the gender-ratio of applicants and the gender-ratio of new hires and promotions. I suspect that there are still statistically significant discrepancies here, although I assume they vary widely by field, region, and workplace. Unfortunately these can be hard to discern because small differences in hiring rates, ones easily attributable to 'non-sexist' reasons whenever you look at individual decisions, can add up to some significant differences in hiring and promotion...a very sexist effect, but one not convincingly attributable to the sexism of any specific decision-maker.

    The amount of money paid for a 'woman-dominated' occupation is a bit more easily addressed, but that easier address is the very disruptive idea of evaluating what a fair wage - a fair value exchange - for a task actually is. I suspect that 'Investment Banker' is not nearly as socially useful as the current pay would suggest.....

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