Will Women Ever Achieve Equality?
Continued from previous page
That's really no solution at all.
From the moment a woman enters the work force, she will earn less than her male counterpart -- and if she has children, as the majority of American women do, it will cost her. She will end up making significantly less than men, according to a recent report by The New York Times.
And it will cost her in other ways. Unlike 168 countries that provide some form of paid family leave, most of which offer a minimum of 14 weeks and as much as a full year, the United States has only the Family and Medical Leave Act, which applies only to companies with 50 or more employees, and which guarantees only 12 weeks of unpaid leave. For most American women, three months without a paycheck is simply not a possibility. And even then, women still face the very real threat of losing their jobs anyway if they actually exercise that right.
Once working mothers do go back to work, they face the enormous expense of childcare -- an expense that ranges from $3,016 a year to $13,480 a year -- or more. Without any aid from the government because, according to those like the Chamber of Commerce, the government and society in general should not have to concern itself with the "choices" women make to work and have children.
But in a nation in which women are so severely underrepresented in positions of power, is it any wonder that the "solution" offered them is simply to figure it out for themselves?
For all the progress women have made, they still comprise a mere 16 percent of Congress and 12 percent of governorships. That's not real representation; it's token representation. And token representation is not enough to implement real, systemic changes that are necessary to improving the lives of women, and therefore all Americans. Such under-representation is not without its consequences.
During the debate about health care reform, for example, Republican Senator John Kyl argued against a requirement that insurers offer basic maternity coverage. Why? Because it didn’t affect him.
"I don't need maternity care," Kyl said. "So requiring that on my insurance policy is something that I don't need and will make the policy more expensive."
Senator Debbie Stabenow was quick to point out to him, “I think your mom probably did."
Yes, John Kyl’s mother -– and 80 percent of all American women. Yet when the government is run largely by men, who see no need for something as basic as maternity care, is it any wonder that our system still refuses to acknowledge the needs of half the population?
That's what you get with token representation: the government's blind eye to problems that disproportionately impact women -- but, in reality, impact everyone. Senator Kyl certainly isn't the first to argue against legislation to help women, on the grounds that since he doesn't need it, it doesn't matter.
The antidote is greater -- much greater -- representation, a critical mass of representation.
Critical mass is an idea that has moved from science and sociology to political science and into popular usage over the last 30 years. The concept is borrowed from nuclear physics: It refers to the quantity needed to start a chain reaction, an irreversible propulsion into a new situation or process.
...[O]nce women reached a critical mass in an organization, people would stop seeing them as women and start evaluating their work as managers. In short, they would be regarded equally.