One quote that particularly resonates with me is, “Well-behaved women rarely make history,” coined by Pulitzer Prize-winning American historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich and echoed by iconic figures such as Eleanor Roosevelt, Gloria Steinem, and Marilyn Monroe.
During the past 100 years, women have made tremendous strides. Women account for an ever-increasing share of growth in the job market, college degrees, and homeownership. Despite these gains, women still face chronic obstacles in their lives, in policy, and in the workplace.
For the sake of this piece, we are going to focus on the workplace and where we can use our sphere of influence to affect change. Here is the bad news: A new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report to Congress found that women in the U.S. still are not gaining leadership positions nor earning equitable pay, even in industries they dominate. In fact, one Harvard Business Review study showed that women do not apply for positions unless they believe they meet 100 percent of the job criteria, and another showed that they are unlikely to apply if they were rejected for a similar position before.
This issue is not limited to the U.S. The United Nations states that women are paid an average of 20 percent less than men globally and perform two-and-a-half times as much unpaid work. Within the European Union, the gender pay gap averages at 12.1 percent, with some countries like Estonia and Latvia having gaps higher than the global average (21.2 percent and 22.3 percent respectively).
The data is an egregious indictment. When we add to that the overall pay gap for women, the underrepresentation of women in leadership roles, and the prevalence of gender bias and discrimination, we are left with little hope for pay equity for women in both leadership and non-leadership roles.
In a world dominated by social media, it is easy to lean on platitudes during Women’s History Month. But, if we are truly committed to improving the lives of women, we cannot continue to be at peace with the status quo. We need to act. Here are some steps within our reach:
These four actions are not necessarily inspiring per se, they might even be a little uncomfortable. I continue to be inspired by women who speak their truth, use their voice as the not-so-well-behaved women throughout history have done, knowing that the next generation relies on them. The next generation of women in the workforce is looking to us and our allies all to be bold, speak truth to power, and continue pushing those boundaries. We just need to become more comfortable with being uncomfortable. There is a reason it is called a “comfort zone.” It is because you are not growing when you are in it.
Tracy Ferry is a Director at the Washington, D.C., office of Stanton Chase. She brings nearly three decades of talent experience in search and consulting in consumer products, technology, and human resources. Her knowledge and expertise include consumer products, aerospace and defense, and diversity.
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