By Sydney Witwer
As the new decade begins, humanity should reflect on the overall progress that has been made and the hurdles that are yet to be conquered in the topic of women’s rights. The ideas of “equal pay” and “equal treatment” have greatly informed our viewpoints in recent years. But what does equal treatment really entail?
I think beginning at the idea of gender equality is important. Women should not be held to stereotypes that regulate who they should be or how they should act. The primary role of women in society no longer rests only in the home, a fairly recent but necessary change in perspective of this country and the world. In addition to the idea of viewpoint, the relationship between men and women should not be hierarchical, but rather reciprocal, dependable, and with equal input from both sexes.
This idea of equal input has been a rapid and radical change since women were granted the right of suffrage by Congress in 1920. This is just one example of how in the entire course of history women have been oppressed and undervalued worldwide.
This theme of inequality was similarly shown in the 1960s, when unmarried women were denied the right of having a credit card. This denial continued until 1974, just 46 years ago, when the Equal Credit Opportunity Act was created so unmarried woman could get a credit card. In this same time period, many women were denied Ivy League education because schools, such as Yale and Princeton, only began admitting women as recently as 1969. If these Ivy League schools continued this policy, women like comedian Mindy Kaling, former first lady Michelle Obama, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, and many more would have been denied the education that began their lives of great achievements.
A common theme that ties all of these events is the lack of control. Women’s lack of control of their lives, their finances, how they are viewed, and most importantly how they are treated is unfair and unjust. A lack of control is one of the most monumental reasons why women struggle in the world of business. An example of this would be men overpowering women in the workplace, which is still a relevant and difficult issue currently.
But this should not be a barrier, because statistically many women have characteristics that are more fit for business than men. Some of the top characteristics women carry in relation to business include creativity, flexibility, patience, open-mindedness, and craftiness. In contrast, men carry dominant characteristics of aggression, power, judgement, control, and reliability. Both of these lists of traits parallel positive and important traits for the business world, but men are often valued more than women due to the recurring idea that image impedes judgement.
This statement is further proven by statistics demonstrating that women are 30% less likely to be considered for a hiring position than men, which presents an initial barrier before the job applicants even interview. As a country, we need to find ways to change this gender inequality that dominates much of the world. Granted the conditions are improving, but this improvement is not enough to reach equality. More efforts need to be made to bridge this gender inequality.
People at Manheim Township High School are already making these efforts, especially Women in Leadership club advisor Mrs. Kennedy. Kennedy believes that women in leadership periods at Manheim Township “come and go”, but does admit that our leadership is currently “male dominated”; though she does not overly blame that on gender stereotyping, more on just the hiring process. However, Kennedy does believe that women in leadership positions are becoming much more common, though not without difficulties or challenges.
One of these challenges is having opinions being heard. Not in all cases, but Kennedy discusses how women can tend to be overshadowed by male voices and opinions. This obviously depends on the situation, but in general, Kennedy believes that women sometimes struggle to be heard in the business world. This idea is changing due to an increased number of women in powerful positions.
Since there are more empowered women, young people that are still learning and growing to have more role models to turn too, which is why Kennedy believes that the Women in Leadership club is so beneficial: it provides an outlet for like minded women to discuss real life situations with feminine leaders.
She parallels this to how when she was growing up, when there were no outlets and clubs like Women in Leadership to be involved in. Before this era women had to “forge their own path when regarding leadership,” and now there are many role models and opportunities for young girls. She believes that this change explains an increase in leadership positions held by women.
The entire idea of women in the workplace comes back to women’s empowerment and leadership. The opportunities to make a difference even within a Manheim Township exist and should be taken. Kennedy mentioned that coming to the forum later this school year is another opportunity to enhance our environment at the school. At the seminar, women in the Township community will speak about their triumphs and challenges in the workplace. Last year, there were roughly 300-400 students in attendance, and Kennedy hopes that, with more advertising, there will be even more this year.
Finding opportunities to enhance and improve gender equality and increase the number of women in leadership is essential to the world’s development. Someday we should no longer need women in leadership clubs because we will have reached a time of equality.