Women make up more than half the world’s population, we are 40% of its economies, we drive its cultural trends, and we give birth to- and raise its human population from before birth through adulthood.
We are the major caretakers, trend setters, the idea generators, and yet, we are continuously paid less than our male counterparts in the freest countries, and we’re subjugated to slavery to second class citizenry in the worst.
But where we are raised up, where our rights have gained an equal footing with men (and in reality, this is not happening in too many places) society at large is progressing.
Where women are pushed down, societies are breaking apart.
One needs only to look at the condition of women in war-torn Syria to see that this is true. Where women are treated less, peace dissolves.
The United States did not become a world power until women had the right to vote.
When women gained the right to vote, the Civil Rights Movement began to slowly take hold, and with the refusal of Rosa Parks to sit in the back of the bus, the movement gained the full momentum it needed.
It takes a woman to move the world, because we are the world’s great motivators.
So, we know that when one woman inspires an entire country with her bravery, as Parks did for the Montgomery Bus Boycott, sweeping change can happen.
But even though Parks eventually gained the freedom to sit wherever she wanted on the bus, she still made far less money than men doing the same job.
She was a department store seamstress, and no doubt, a tailor doing the same job working for men would have made more.
What does that say about how the world valued her then and how they value women still making less in the United States now?
Parks was the secretary of her local NAACP, and she collaborated with Civil Rights leaders, like Dr. King, and while the movement was successful in insuring that all American citizens could safely vote without interference, could drink at whatever water fountain they wanted, send their children to any school within their district, America is still rife with racism, and voters are still routinely cut out of their inherent right through redistricting laws and voter ID laws, which make it very difficult for some people in minority neighborhoods to cast their votes locally and nationally.
So, with the Civil Rights Movement, and Parks’ and other people’s great sacrifices, centuries old laws of segregation and humiliation were finally broken, but were women in America better off?
Were women around the world better off?
Were they equal with men?
And if whole societies can decide, through their laws and pay scale gaps, that women are “less than” how do any other groups have a chance at success?
Imagine if Rosa Parks had been not only given her cultural freedoms, but gender equality as well?
What if the world had risen up around her and insisted that she, not only, be granted the right to sit wherever she wanted on the bus, but also be paid equal to the male tailors at her same employer.
Where might women in America, and the world, be today?
To acknowledge that ensuring women’s rights protects everyone else’s rights means brings the world to a place of greater peace and freedoms.
Yes, the men on Omaha Beach at Normandy won World War II, and defeated the Nazis—the greatest evil the world had ever known—but women back home in Great Britain and the United States were the ones building the ammunitions for the men to fight and, also, successfully running households.
Without their support, the Allies could not have succeeded.
In the former USSR, women were fighting alongside the men and, also, working the same kind of jobs in their cities and towns as they were in America and Britain.
The economies of all Allied nations boomed after the war, because women had built them up. But a woman couldn’t get a line of credit in most US states without her husband’s signature and married rape wasn’t illegal for some three decades later.
Tensions within all Allied countries were constantly boiling over with riots and demands for greater rights, and while some rights were gained, many were set back almost as soon as they were won.
Again, imagine if women had been allowed to keep their full-time jobs after the war; if there had been the same kind of community support of small children that had been around during the war.
If women hadn’t been forced to give up their factory jobs to the men coming home, and could have retained their freedom and choices, it would have been much more difficult to deny them equality today.
In the UK, women are paid 26% less than their male coworkers, even though women are roughly 30% of the British government and the current prime minister is a woman.
In the United States, women in government jobs are routinely paid 25% less than men doing the same jobs.
In her book, Lean In, Facebook CEO, Sheryl Sandberg, noted,
“Men are hired for their potential, but women are hired for their experience.”
So, men can get jobs just about anywhere in the world, simply based on their potential, but women have to rack up years’ of experience.
How can women possibly erase the gender pay gap if they’re expected to have experience before they can even get hired?
This unfair male advantage allows for women to always remain behind.
Women always remaining behind in things like equal pay ensures that women and girls are still seen as “less than” men and boys, and this creates tensions within societies, because one half (or more) of every country’s citizens are considered not as good as the other.
When the young men we are raising see us treated as equals by our husbands, fathers, brothers, and coworkers, they in turn treat the other women in their world with equity.
When young men know that their mothers are paid less, mocked for their demands for something greater, and still having to fight passionately for their rights (as seen in the recent Women’s Marches across the globe this past January), how can they possibly learn to treat other members of society with equity?
How can we train our young people, to treat the LGBTQ community, people of color, Muslims who are so marginalized in so many countries of the world today, with respect and equality, if our own mothers are paid less and treated as less in our own cities, towns, and homes?