By Carolina de la Fuente
Women make 79 cents to a man’s dollar every time they are paid. To many, 21 cents is chump change, but for women all around the country, these 21 cents speak volumes about the state of gender equality.
I recently participated in a research project at my college and it helped me understand feminism a little bit better and I’d like to share my newfound insight with you.
But first, a quick statement on terms: Feminism isn’t about women alone, it’s about equality of the sexes.
In this project, I specifically focused on women in the field of communications, but this information can be relevant to any woman in any field. There’s a greater picture here.
In 2013, TIME magazine stated “For three decades more women than men have graduated from college, but that academic dominance has not led to corresponding business or political success.”
There is a sort of stereotype embedded in society that tells us that women are “the softer sex” and that men are the leaders.
Sometimes, we are naturally partaking in this narrative and we don’t even notice it. The mere fact that women make up only 5 percent of CEO positions in Fortune 500 companies makes this a very big concern of mine.
So how can we fix this? Calling ourselves feminists and tweeting things like “MY P*SSY, MY CHOICE” can only go so far. Though, there is some valid rationale behind that concept.
The most important thing we have to do is empower women.
Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, said in a 60 Minutes interview: “Women play it too safe. They must aim high and fight the instinct to hold back.”
It’s a matter of identity. We have to reiterate the narrative that it’s okay for a woman to be outspoken and assertive without having to be perceived as a “bitch.”
Women need to identify and become comfortable with all their aspirations and not let this stereotype come in the way or shy them down.
Like this? You can write for us too!
Mindy Marques, the Executive Editor and Vice President of the Miami Herald, reinforced this notion in a recent talk she made at Florida International University.
“As women, we tend to dwell on our weaknesses, and men I think focus more on their strengths,” Marques said. “We often bring that self-criticism to the workplace as well, and so we’re dissecting our abilities; second-guessing ourselves.”
Besides issues of identity, there is a whole system that also needs to be tapped into in order to change this disproportionate number of women leaders.
In this case, it is leadership training that could be the big fix.
In order for women to become empowered, we must train them and provide them with resourceful skills to go out on their jobs and be able to ask for that pay raise, or speak up about an unpopular opinion in that business meeting.
Kathy Fitzpatrick, Professor and Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs in the School of Communication at American University, suggests colleges should implement a standard curriculum for leadership training in communications.
“We can learn a lot from schools of business and other schools who have taken a lead in attempting to identify the core content and objective of leadership training,” Fitzpatrick said in a recent speech at FIU.
Leadership training is a crucial skill that needs to be held as a priority in this field whether it be through curriculum reform or mentorship programs.
As fun as it is to angry-tweet when you want to feel empowered, it’s important to understand the root of the problem and the solutions we can present to our institutions.
And it is even more important to remember that a big chunk of the responsibility is on the woman herself, to feel empowered and to continue empowering.
RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. You can write for us.
Cover Photo Credit: Ian Clark/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)