Sexism Alive and Well: Women Still Have Something to Prove

Speaking as a woman who is working through a male-intensive undergraduate degree duo – economics and philosophy – and who intends to pursue law school, a traditionally male-dominant form of doctoral education, sexism hits home for me. In areas of education and professionalism, especially those like law and corporate practice that don’t traditionally accommodate women and credit us as equal in stature and capability, it’s important to understand that no matter how many people say that sexism doesn’t exist thanks to things like Title IX, or that things have “gotten so much better,” there is still progress to be made.

Someone can argue that women aren’t being promoted or offered the employment and professional opportunities that men are because of things like a woman’s greater likelihood to use parental/maternity leave, or that she has less work experience due to greater commitments to schooling. But at the end of the day, women aren’t advancing easily beyond entry-level employment positions because there is still a stigma within society that women are not as capable as men of making meaningful and serious professional contributions.

USA Today reported on some interesting statistics in late September of this year; according to a survey conducted by the consulting firm, Mckinsey and Co., and Sheryl Sandberg, a Facebook executive, entry-level positions are almost split between genders at 46% women and 54% men. But at the top the disparities are drastic, with women occupying 19% of C-suit positions (chief positions) and men standing strongly in the remaining 81% of positions. Additionally, women “are more likely to be ignored at meetings, with 74% of men ‘able to participate meaningfully,’” when only 67% of women supposedly can. It was also reported that men receive more challenging assignments, with 68% taking on the most difficult tasks as opposed to 62% of women. And women are reportedly “less likely to be consulted for input on important decisions, with 63% of men being asked to share their thoughts and 56% of women.”

 We’re making progress, and I won’t belittle that. The wage gap has essentially been cut in half since the early 1980’s, according to the Pew Research Center. And we came close to electing our first female president, which is an extremely significant role as our nation is a global economic and social superpower with undeniable influence. But that doesn’t mean that we, as women, don’t still experience sexism and shouldn’t keep fighting to end sexual bias in the workplace and beyond.

Female celebrities seem to be doing their part. Immersed in an extremely sexist and critical profession, female stars have been using their public spotlights and social influence to fight back against sexism. Jennifer Garner is reported by Buzzfeed to have confronted a commentator about balancing work-home life as a new parent. Garner essentially made the claim that it’s ludicrous ask someone something like that simply because she’s a woman and a mother. Her husband at the time, and co-parent, Ben Affleck, claimed to have never been asked the question in a professional context. Emma Stone, Jennifer Lawrence, Anne Hathaway and Tina Fey are only some examples of influential and successful women who have undermined, “But what are you wearing,” “What’s in your purse,” and “What workout routine did you use,” as irrelevant and uninteresting interview topics in comparison to the professional work they’ve done. And Mila Kunis, just recently, published an open letter to a producer who said she’d never work in Hollywood again after declining his request to pose partially nude on the cover of a men’s magazine to promote a film. Her response: “The film made a lot of money, and I did work in this town again, and again, and again. What this producer may never realize is that he spoke aloud the exact fear every woman feels when confronted with gender bias in the workplace."

At this point, I think it’s important to let your results do the talking, and don’t let yourself be mistreated. That doesn’t mean you sacrifice your femininity to be “one with the guys.” Women tend to be better at things like communication and relationship tactics than men, and utilizing our distinct perspectives, experiences, and innate character can add value to companies from the top of the corporate ladder. We may not always handle things the same way men do, but that is no reason to belittle our abilities to contribute. And who knows? Maybe our natural methods, while not familiar to the eyes of the traditional CEO, along with our credentials, will make for even greater results than those usually produced by strictly male collaborations. There’s room for women in the upper divisions of the workforce, and if there is an unfair an unequal representation of that, something needs to change and progress needs to continue to be made. It’s still a greater issue than many people realize.