Still a long road to gender equality


Natalie Wilcox

“While I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last,” Vice President-elect Kamala Harris said. Winning the 2020 vice-presidential election, her victory is demonstrating a shift in the role of women in America. However, gender equality still has big strides to make.

   November 2, 1920: eight million women across the U.S. voted for the first time in their lives. The National American Woman Suffrage Association had been fighting hard for women’s right to vote for about fifty years.

   1963: a report found significant discrimination against women in the workplace, and as a result, Congress passed the Equal Pay Act. This law was an attempt to diminish the gender wage gap, which at the time women were earning around 60% of what men earned. 

   1972: Title IX of the Education Act is passed, prohibiting gender discrimination in any educational opportunities. This amendment is known for allowing females to play school sports.

   2013: Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta removed the rule made in 1994 that banned women from serving in combat. Before this restriction was removed, many women would disguise themselves as men and go to war. If their identity was discovered, they would usually just be sent home, but some women were imprisoned.

   2016; Hillary Clinton became the first female presidential candidate of a major political party. 

   Now in 2020, Kamala Harris is the first woman to be the Vice President-elect.

   After reading those listed accomplishments of gender equality, society sounds pretty gender-discriminatory free, right? It is extremely unfortunate this is not true. Gender discrimination plays a huge role in society, happening in schools, the workplace, and government representation.

   A commonplace where gender inequality happens is in schools. According to the Women’s Sports Foundation, “ As girls grow up, the quality level of their sports experience may decline.

   The facilities are not as good as the boys’ venues and the playing times may not be optimal. The availability of quality, trained coaches may be lacking in their community or these coaches may be more focused on the boys’ programs that have more money for training. Equipment and even uniforms aren’t funded for many girls’ programs at the same levels as boys so their ability to grow and enjoy the sport is diminished.” 

   Another big example of gender discrimination is the commonly known dress code in schools. Dress codes for girls often include parts like “you can’t show your shoulders or stomachs” and “shorts/skirts/dresses must be fingertip length”.

   Girls are told to dress in a way that won’t distract boys, and that the boys will misbehave more if they don’t abide by the dress code. Boys do not deal with these objectifying rules; they are not told to dress to meet the needs of girls. They are not told to change into pants because their shorts show too much of their legs, or that their tank top shows too much of their shoulders, both of which would distract the girls. 

   The area where gender inequality most present is in the workplace. A study from the Eos Foundation looked at large companies based in Massachusetts and their representation of women, and found that  “more than half of the companies do not have a single woman among their highest paid executives. Eighty percent of the companies were marked as “unsatisfactory” or in need of “urgent attention” to achieve gender parity in the report.   

  Women now make up 31% of corporate boards. And 25% of executive leadership teams are women.” The same study also found “But women of color face a bigger uphill battle — they make up just 3% of executive leadership positions at the state’s top companies and 6% of corporate board seats, according to the report.” 

   One’s response to this information might be that maybe there aren’t as many women compared to men that have the educational degrees, qualifications, and skills to hold these leadership positions. The Center for American Progress proves the invalidity of this claim. They found that “Women are 50.8 percent of the U.S. population. They earn more than 57 percent of undergraduate degrees and 59 percent of all master’s degrees. They earn 48.5 percent of all law degrees and 47.5 percent of all medical degrees.”

   So if women are about half of the U.S. population, and make up about half of educational degrees, why are such a small percentage of them represented in the leadership of companies? Since there is no logistical reason, the most profound answer is blatant misogyny. On top of that, the gender wage gap is nowhere near equal. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women earn just 81.4% of the amount their male counterparts make.

Gender discrimination also takes place in the representation of women in government. According to RepresentWomen, “Women are 51% of the U.S. population but make up only: 24% of the U.S. Senate, 27% of the House of Representatives, 29% of state legislative seats, and 0% of presidents of the United States.”

So as we celebrate the first female Vice President-elect of the U.S., we must not be satisfied. Why did it take so long to elect the first woman into that office? Why in all of the 231 years of presidency, not a single president has been a woman? Why in the 57 years since the Equal Pay Act was placed, women are still making around 20% less of what men earn?

   The only logistical answer left is gender discrimination. Women continue to be valued less than men. Women have faced discrimination for hundreds of years, and have made big strides in creating gender equality. However, there is still a long way to go. It is 2020. This problem should be history by now.