The tilted playing field

I’ve been at a leadership training event for women for the past two days. It’s sent my mind off on various tangents – about being a leader in other movements (like the skeptical community), taking risks, and the validity of these psychological assessments that are the foundation of the class. Primarily, I couldn’t quite figure out if/why we still needed a Leadership academy for WOMEN exclusively. Shouldn’t we be owning equality rather than exclusivity?

Then, I heard a few things that answered that issue.

1. A researcher had tabulated the proportion of women at all pay grades in my state government for last year. Out of 14 pay grades, at level 8, the graph between women and men deviate sharply. The number of women in these higher positions (management levels) dive while the male proportion soars. I’m not even going to talk about minorities which were on the bottom of the graph.

2. A colleague from the health department told me of a meeting with a pro-life group regarding safety issues at clinics that provided abortion services. The government executive at the meeting was a female. This group of men refused to acknowledge her as an authority figure, directing their comments to the men in the meeting only.

3. A women volunteered her story about asking then Senator Rick Santorum for a recommendation for her daughter who was a candidate for West Point academy. He refused, saying he did not support women serving in the armed forces.

4. Just 10 years ago, a political science graduate was hired by a state Representative’s office along with several males. They got researcher positions, she was offered an administrative assistance position at considerably less pay.

I can not vouch for the validity of these stories but I have no reason not to accept there is at least a kernel of truth to them.

How can you expect equal treatment when the playing field is not level and the good old boy network is still operating? There are Conservatives in America, like Mr. Santorum, who feel that a woman’s place is under a man. (I’ll let you parse that however you wish.) Their goal is to take us backwards in time with Bible values, repression and disrespect. We will not go.

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0 thoughts on “The tilted playing field

  1. There is a theory that claims we will effectively level the playing field when 30% of the chief officer positions are filled with female-identified people. I doubt its truth, or at least its usefulness, because of situations like your second anecdote. Certain organizations will never even consider gender parity. Until it is possible to ignore such groups with impunity, their insulting and rude behavior will have an influence on the workplace and its environment.

    1. Your comment made me think about how I noticed that it seemed out of place to express a conservative view (or non-liberal) view in this group. MANY of the women named their church activities as a focus in their lives but did not seem to subscribe to the conservative (minority?) Christian view that a woman’s place is lower than the man’s. I can’t wrap my head around how these women like Palin can preach Bible this and that and ignore the obvious repression of women that is in there and held by their male counterparts like Santorum.

  2. Not to detract from your point, but there is at least evidence of progress in some areas–women have been the majority of university students for the last decade or so, and the majority in medical schools since 2003. Women were briefly a majority in law schools in 1992-93, and have been 45-50% since 2001; the percentage of female partners in law firms has been steadily climbing over the last two decades and was at 18.7% in 2008. (The same income disparity pattern you discuss holds there, however: http://www.catalyst.org/publication/246/women-in-law-in-the-us )

    The 111th Congress has a record number of women (74 in the House and 17 in the Senate). During the current recession, women have been hit much less frequently by layoffs than men (http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/0,1518,622373,00.html).

    It’s still not equal, and your cases show there are still ridiculous cases of discrimination, but there are at least signs of progress.

    1. Oh, I absolutely agree, Jim. I think I was more focused on the obvious progress and, therefore, was surprised that pockets of this still remain. I felt it has a lot to do with remnant cultural views. These are still around in terms of race and sexual orientation too. We have a number of women of color in our group and (at least) two gay women (total group size is 65). It’s good for us to have to go face-to-face with these issues.

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