August 2017

So Far, No Good

Author: Courtney Hampson

This morning, I had my monthly operations meeting with my team. The six of us, all women, met in the lobby of our office where there are comfortable couches and we can easily chat and catch up. I love the informality of the space; it feels like a living room, and conversation flows so much more easily than in a board room. We tackle important topics: goals, upcoming milestones, big wins, and snafus. I enjoy the time.

Until this time.

A man walked in the front door, surveyed the crowd and said, “Oh, did I interrupt ladies’ tea?”
Fortunately, my team is professional, and despite a few “are you kidding me” sideways glances, no one said what I was thinking, which was, “No. We are the six women who run the sales and marketing operations here. We don’t drink tea. We drink coffee. High octane. We get more done before you even wake up in the morning.”

Despite the disrespect and disillusion from this guy, I guess you could say we’ve come a long way. I mean, it is only within the last five decades that the Equal Credit Opportunity Act of 1974 finally allowed women to open a bank account (without a man). And, we can now sit in jury boxes (thanks, Mississippi, for holding out until 1968). A mere three years later, the law finally put an end to a state being allowed to deny a woman (with a law degree, who passed the bar exam) the right to plead a client’s case. In 1977 (Harvard was the hold out), women were finally allowed to apply to any Ivy League university. Just a year later, women in many states were now able to go on maternity leave without fear of losing their job, but it wasn’t until the Clinton administration that it became a federal mandate. West Point didn’t accept female cadets until 1976, and it was 1978 before the first female astronaut broke the mold. The Boston Marathon was an all-male event until 1972.

But, what has happened lately? A little. Women can now fight in combat (circa 2013) and breastfeed in public (2016). Wow, we can risk our lives and feed our children. Thank you, America!

Rather, thank you to the men who run America. Merely 19 percent of the 2017 U.S. Congressional and Senate seats are held by women. It is no surprise that the rules remain outdated. In fact, a decades-old dress code on Capitol Hill prevents women (or men, if they were so inclined, but they’re not) from going sleeveless. So, the second amendment says that say we can bear arms, but we can’t bare our arms? Fun fact: The average temperature in Washington, D.C. during June, July and August is 86 degrees. Brrrr. Bundle up ladies.

Per the Center for American Women and Politics, California has sent more women to Congress than any other state—a total of 41 to date. New York is next with 28 women. Sadly, Mississippi and Vermont (Really? Neighbors to live free and die New Hampshire? That Vermont?) have never sent a woman to either the House or the Senate.

Why is it that women remain the minority? We’re better educated (true story, women are more likely to get a college degree than men), but paid less. And why is it that when we do excel—get the extra degree, get the promotion, get the raise—we’re seen as intimidating, a bitch, too driven? What are we teaching young girls and boys that in 2017—2000-freakin-17—still leads them to believe that men are superior to women?

On the July 9 episode of NBC’s Sunday Night, Megyn Kelley explored a recent study from NYU, the University of Illinois and Princeton that shows that gender stereotypes related to smarts and brilliance persist, especially with girls. “By the age of six, girls become less likely than boys to associate brilliance with their own gender and are more likely to avoid activities said to require brilliance,” shows the study, published this year in the Journal of Science.

Author of the study, Lin Bian says this research sheds light on how children view themselves. “We feel it’s a very important question, because if young kids have these beliefs since a very early age, then it will have lots of time and opportunities to affect their career aspirations. [It’s] a very big problem for society, because women will be steered away from some of the certain areas that seems to require brilliance,” Bian said in an interview with NBC.

A summary of the study, posted on explained: “Researchers tested children ranging from five to seven years in a series of studies. In one experiment, the children heard a story about a person who was “really, really smart” and were then asked to guess which of four unfamiliar adults (two men, two women) was the story’s protagonist. They were also asked to guess which adult in a series of paired different-gender adults was “really, really smart.”

While the results showed both boys and girls aged five viewed their own gender positively, girls aged six and seven were significantly less likely than boys to associate brilliance with their gender. These age differences were largely similar across children of various socioeconomic and racial-ethnic backgrounds.”

Kelley conducted her own (mini) study as part of the NBC story and found the results to be the same. Perhaps more upsetting than girls as young as six doubting their brainpower and self-worth were the mothers of the participants who were visibly upset and surprised by the answers their daughters gave. One mom, accomplished in her own right, with a master’s degree and successful career had been staying home with her children since her oldest was born. As a result, her daughter saw her daddy as the smart one, because he went to work every day, saying, “He teaches college.”

But, even when we are working and successful, we’re still making less. It was 1894 when the American Association of University Women (AAUW) first published a piece on the gender pay gap. For more than a century, they’ve tackled this topic. I’d love to paste all 32 pages of their 2017 report, but instead I’ll just whet your whistle:

“In 2015, women working full-time in the United States typically were paid just 80 percent of what men were paid, a gap of 20 percent (Proctor et al., 2016). The gap has narrowed since 1960, due largely to women’s progress in education and workforce participation and to men’s wages rising at a slower rate. At the rate of change between 1960 and 2015, women are expected to reach pay equity with men in 2059. But even that slow progress has stalled in recent years. If change continues at the slower rate seen since 2001, women will not reach pay equity with men until 2152.” This roughly means that it will be your great-great-great-great granddaughters who finally reach equality when it comes to their pay grade.

“The gender pay gap has lifelong financial effects. For one, it contributes directly to women’s poverty. In 2015, 14 percent of American women ages 18–64 were living below the federal poverty level, compared with 11 percent of men.” Fun fact: “Eliminating the gender pay gap by increasing women’s levels of pay to those of their male counterparts could cut the poverty rate for working women in half (Hartmann et al., 2014).”

There is some hope. Just last month, Fortune reported that in 2017, there are 32 female CEOs on the Fortune 500 list, meaning that 6.4 percent of the United States’ biggest companies (by revenue)—General Motors, IBM, Pepsi Co., Lockheed Martin, Oracle, Yahoo, just to name a few—are run by women. This is the highest proportion of female CEOs in the 63-year history of the Fortune 500.

Please don’t allow this brief ray of hope to cloud your thinking. Overall, we have a long way to go.

My company has 190 employees. Twenty-three of them hold the title of vice president. Two of them are women. One of them is me. Am I lucky? Or deserving? Perhaps some of my fortune is because I have had two very strong male mentors who pushed me to grow, cheered me on, and didn’t let me quit. It is their cheering that moves me to continue to fight for what I believe I (and my all-female team) deserve. Inequality has not been my experience, but neither is biting my tongue. So, maybe it is time to teach the boys and girls a little something, find our voices, and make some new rules.

  1. Bravo Courtney. The article was both in lightning and enjoyable. I couldn’t help but picture the nine-year-old in a soccer uniform as I read it LOL but I am so proud of you that is and amazing article. I am so happy that Melanie forwarded it to me to read. Good luck to you send my love to your family. I am woman hear me roar!

    — Nancy Hurley    Aug 2, 07:19 am   

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