Our Call to Action

By Kristen Taylor, Client Advisor for Mission Wealth Management, active member of FWSF and Co-Executive Producer of Passing the Torch: Celebrating 100 Years of HERstory

Passing the torch

As we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment that guarantees and protects women's constitutional right to vote, we not only have the opportunity to commemorate this incredible milestone at FWSF, but also to honor other milestones for women that it has since inspired and to consider its relevance to the issues of equal rights and gender parity today.

Women have made AMAZING progress toward equality and leadership over the last century, in part thanks to the 70+ years that suffragettes spent fighting for our right to vote, thereby paving the way for 100 years of women’s achievements. This is why celebrating with the Passing the Torch: Celebrating 100 Years of HERstory presentation is so important in remembering how far we have come as well as acknowledging the work we still have to do.

In co-producing Passing the Torch, I learned about so many motivated women who have passed the torch in their own way creating “firsts” across all industries, and to witness the profound momentum it has generated for all women, past, present and future. In seeing how this wave of inspiration has carried through several generations of women so far, I also recognize the continued effort to achieve truly equal rights and equal opportunity for women including the companies leading the charge and initiatives we can follow so that we all rise together.

According to Rosaling Barnett, Ph.D., a senior scholar at the Wellesley Centers for Women at Wellesley College, “Now, for the first time, women are half of the educated labor force and earn the majority of advanced degrees. Women are doing spectacularly well in universities, but as they move up the work ladder, they run into unforeseen biases that can derail them. The higher they go, the harder it gets; they are not making the progress they have a right to expect, given their education and early promise.”

I found Rosaling’s comment to be a helpful summary of where we are today, so I have broken down five topics that remain a priority for further progress and change for women:

  1. Pay Equity. Women continue to earn less than men, despite the Equal Pay Act that was signed by President Kennedy in 1963. A woman and man may graduate from the same University, with the same degree, in the same type of job, working the same hours, and the woman will likely be paid less. In aggregate the difference is significant, and I have seen how speaking up and pushing for more transparency can successfully urge companies to consider firm-wide initiates on pay equality commitments.
  2. Bias. Studies have shown that many women will apply for a promotion only when they feel they have sufficient experience creating their own internal bias, whereas men are willing to take more risk to try a new position. This is often a bias on the employer hiring side as well. I see this issue being highly addressed through women’s networks to support women’s advancement with empowerment, advocacy, and promotion training.
  3. Systematized patriarchy. Studies show women and men are not different in the workplace because of fixed gender traits, but instead because of organizational structures, outdated company practices, and patterns of interaction that potentially position men higher and women lower, creating a different experience for each of them in the workplace. Bringing light to these differences and unequal practices will help shift superiors to become more aware of the patterns that need updating.
  4. Credit. In mixed-gender teams, studies have shown that men often get the credit. In addition, men are often given higher marks for performance than women, even if they are equal, provided by both genders, and even in female-dominated industries. It is not conscious discrimination, so this welcomes a deliberate effort to highlight women where credit is due and eliminate skewed ideas about capabilities across each gender.
  5. Rights. In the last four years, program funding cuts have in many ways affected women’s rights more negatively than men’s (for example: blocking Title X funding, cutting funding for teen pregnancy prevention, cutting health profession and nurse training programs (predominantly female), cutting nutrition assistance for WIC (women, infants, children), and easing guidelines for aggressive investigations of campus sexual assaults). Human rights progress has been challenged on a wide range of fronts and as women feel the rollbacks more than men, it will take actions like building a community of vocal women and men to speak up for the progress that so many originally fought to achieve.

I know we’re not talking about quick fixes, or even easy conversations, to reverse old patterns and structures, but the past 100 years are a reminder that women will confidently press on and never give up on what we feel is right and just. In many cases simply promoting more awareness of the differences is a great first step to help others to see the unintentional patterns of inequality, and therefore work together to rewrite policies, biases and perceptions for a more equitable workplace and world for women and men.  

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