This is Part One of a mini-series discussing and sharing my perspective on men, women, and working roles.
I hear many comments from my female coworkers and friends about how men seem to advance quicker, make more money, get more and/or better raises, seem to be given more responsibility, and how leadership roles are typically held by men. Usually these comments are met with sisterhood solidarity and often times we vent our frustrations and unfairness’s. These comments, some I have said and continue to say frequently, are hinged on a sense of injustice and a knowing awareness that it’s tougher for us women to get a head and to see our careers advance the way we like, while it almost appears effortless to our male counterparts.
And you know what? A lot, if not all of this, is true. Women do have to work harder. I see men get promoted often and easily. Men don’t have to be vocal about their pay or their efforts. It all seems to just fall in their laps.
But there is one thing that needs to be said: I am not a feminist. Sure I partake in these conversations laminating about how a male counterpart has been promoted 3 times in his 3 year career in the company and I have only been promoted once in my 3 year career with the company. But one thing I won’t do is wave my pink flag of Girl Power. I won’t stand up and say that the corporate world is being unfair to women or that men are suppressing women. I won’t protest and I won’t wave that flag.
I’m not a feminist, but I am a huge advocate for equal opportunities and working hard. I’m also a huge fan of breaking cycles. And although this isn’t easy, it’s the way to see lasting change.
At the start of World War II – men were at war and this left our nation’s labor force at a HUGE shortage of workers. Without these factories and businesses, our men couldn’t get the necessary items they needed to fight the war and live. Items like guns, ammunition, blankets, food, shoes, clothes, etc. were all needed. Yet, these manufacturers didn’t have any warm bodies. Not to mention tons of new jobs were created because of the war, but no one to fill them. Enter women – this allowed women the opportunity to fill this working gap. Many women entered the work force as a sense of duty, patriotism, and as a sense of giving back to our men fighting. It also gave women a taste of freedom and community while they earned wages. Women entering the work force paved the way for proving that women, just as easily as men, could be trained to do the same work. During this time, the number of working women rose from 14.6 million in 1941 to 19.4 million in 1944.
Now jumping ahead to the 1960s, there was a strong women’s movement that worked to break down work inequality, lower wages, and denial of access of better jobs. Here’s an interesting link from CNN with some things that women were not allowed to do in the 1960s. Needless to say there was a lot for the women of this feminist movement to fight for! And I’m glad these women were around and spoke up and fought back.
In 1970 there were 30.3 million women in the workforce compared to 72.7 million women between 2006-2010. And from data collected by the Census Bureau this is where it gets interesting; from 1970 to today, very little has changed in terms of our nation’s corporate culture. The above hyperlink goes into lots of good details but I summarize to say that back in 1970 women were majority employed in roles such as administrative assistants, elementary school teachers, and nurses. Today, women still out rank men in these roles. And men back in 1970 had roles in management, as lawyers, doctors, and as police officers. Women have made great gains in some career fields the most notable being accounting. However, cultural norms have facilitated men and women working in the same career fields for going on 40 years now. Is this bad? Not necessarily, but one thing I think worth noting is that we must keep in mind what our nation’s corporate culture is, and that is, as a nation we expect more women to be teachers, nurses, administrative assistants, and more men to be lawyers, judges, and managers.
The article goes on to say that in the 1990s more women were working or entering the work force because our nation’s economy was experiencing a boom and wages were better. However in 2008 when a news-worthy decline in our economy hit, women in the workforce declined. Speculations were that since women were earning less than men, it made since for typical middle class families to have the women stop working. It also became less favorable for women to enter the working force because salaries were lower. However, if more women were in the roles of teachers, assistants, etc., then it seems to make sense that women were making less money – women didn’t populate the higher wage earning professions like men did.
And here in lies the issue – our nation’s expectations on working roles has been founded for 50 plus years in our country’s corporate culture. I’m not saying this is right or wrong. I’m not saying this is ideal or even balanced and fair. I’m not saying that women should or should not maintain jobs as teachers, secretaries, or personal assistants (do what you LOVE!). I’m saying it is what it is.
But as women, we don’t need to wave our pink flag or even our white flag. Instead we have a perfect opportunity to empower our colleagues, men and women alike, and educate and demonstrate, that women are capable of SO much more. We have a lot of work ahead of us, but we are already tipping the scales.
As the Millennials have entered the working world, we see this culture being tested. We see scales tipping more to a balance; more women are going to college, more women are entering into STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) careers, more women have graduate degrees, and more women are in management. Heck we even have women CEOs.
So I’ll say it again, I’m not a feminist. I don’t have it out for men. I don’t think men alone have created our corporate culture, and I think for the vast majority of male leaders and managers their intentions are good. I do think men have grown with the times some and see that women are strong and capable and can add a lot of value to a company. I am a woman who is all about embracing our opportunities, working hard, and continuing to tip the scales to break the cycle of predominately men held roles and adjusting our corporate culture. Ladies, continue tipping those scales with me and be proud of your successes!
I hope you enjoyed Part One of this mini-series. Stay tuned for Part Two coming soon!
- Do you have a job in a predominately male dominated field? If so, what perceptions or expectations have you had to tip?
- Do you work in a role that is not considered “typical” by today’s society?