This has been a hot button for a while. I’ve read many of the recent articles and a book or two that has covered this. I just can’t believe that it is as simple as women’s failure to negotiate well or greedy bosses. I believe both play a factor, along with many other things for each person. It is also too simple to chalk it up to the time lost for child bearing, or discrimination.
I always have to believe the truth runs a little deeper than that. We’ve discusses bias and the role it plays in our thoughts and therefore in our lives and behaviors. I even briefly touched in the way “women’s work” is devalued in our society. I don’t want to negate all the good points mentioned above and I believe this includes more than just cis white women. Any person who has identified or been considered as a female of the human species in the Western world could be exposed to such bias without people knowing about more than your outward appearance.
As stated previously, our biased thoughts can be damaging to every group or class that we interact with. White women make less than white men, but not necessarily less than Hispanic or Black men. However, Hispanic and Black women make even less than their male counterparts. This problem intersects well beyond gender distinctions. Even among just white men, class distinctions apply.
So what holds a woman back from getting equal pay at work? Any number of things. We’ve even discussed how home life impacts her ability to put in extra hours or do as much as someone who has less responsibility within the same hours. Sometimes I think its too late for those of us already in the work force. In many ways, we are already the bosses that selfishly get annoyed when a coworker is pregnant. We wonder if she’ll be lazy and worry about her getting sick in terms of the work that won’t get done and not the person she is. We often think these things before anything has even happened. How much of the rest is a self-fulfilling prophecy of disappointment?
So what’s a woman to do? Personally, I’m not going to pretend that your answer is the same as mine, or even similar to it. The only common thread we all have, I think, is to be aware of the pitfalls. negotiate, dispel your bias, take a stand against someone else’s bias if you notice it, mentor other women (and men), network. Learn about these things and the ways they create barriers to our success.
Let us also not forget to teach our daughters what we now, so they aren’t wondering what they did wrong when they get short changed later. Teach our son’s the true value of “women’s work” and how it makes the rest of the work possible. Teach them both that nurturing and care work are necessary and vital to life, and that they are equally capable of carrying it out.
As employers, bosses, coworkers and family, the first thing we can do is work on ourselves. Control the things we can control, like our thoughts and actions. Then bias is less likely to factor into the perceived worth, value, or ability of the person you might be underpaying. It is less likely to influence our children and the way that they look at each other. Until it is second-nature to do all that, we will still need feminism to progress and grow.
Join me next Friday to discuss the damaging body image issues that have swept American culture! Follow me here and on Twitter @createparity!