More than 4 million people around the world joined the Women’s March in 2017, and in 2018, an estimated 1 million hit the streets again. The #MeToo movement shined a spotlight on sexual harassment, forcing predators to step down from power. And according to CNN, more women than ever are running for political office.
It’s a fight our great-great-great grandmothers took on during the Suffragette movement and one our mothers and grandmothers continued with the Civil Rights and Women’s Rights Movements. But how much better off are we than we were a decade ago? And how can we push the Movement further than ever before?
MAKING WAVES IN THE GOVERNMENT
From the Southern Crescent to Washington, D.C., more and more females are setting policies that further women’s rights and protecting the ones we do have. As Attorney Tameka A. West of The West Legal Group, P.C. noted, there are more African-American women serving as judges than in any other time in history. For instance, Eleanor Louise Ross and Leslie J. Abrams both sit on U.S. District Courts in Georgia. “As members of the judiciary, these women play vital roles in the justice system while balancing their traditional roles as mothers and wives.”
She also pointed out that Keisha Lance Bottoms is the second black woman to serve as the mayor of Atlanta and that African- American women were key in Doug Jones’ Senate win over Roy Moore in Alabama. While women get closer to greater equality in politics each day, The Washington Post reported men still outnumber women in office three to one. Therefore, it’s also important to back men who support women’s issues.
“Voting matters, and we must elect officials who prioritize women’s issues, but it takes more than just checking a box on election day,” remarked State Senator Valencia Seay, “We have to speak up for each other at our workplaces, in our schools, and in our communities, because historically, no one has been willing to speak up on our behalf.”
FIGHTING FOR EQUALITY IN THE WORKPLACE
In the business world, women shattered the glass ceiling decades ago, but that doesn’t mean the shards aren’t still there. Today, women hold 52 percent of professional jobs. Entrepreneur reported female owned businesses are set to employ 5 million people this year, and Fortune noted African- American females make up the fastest growing group of entrepreneurs.
But according to Senator Seay, with every advance, there’s still room for improvement. She noted that in Georgia, only 10 percent of public companies are headed by women, and only 11% of corporate board members are female. Nationwide, women still only make 79 cents for every dollar made by a man.
To change the direction for women, it requires dedication from companies, coworkers and women themselves. In West’s opinion, as a labor and employment law attorney, “Companies can help eliminate bias in the workplace by ensuring equal pay among men and women, offering the same job opportunities and promotions to qualified men and women, providing EEO training to all employees on a consistent basis, and treating all employees fairly with regard to their policies and procedures.”
Just as important, said Charmaine Savage, a military veteran and publisher of I Am East St. Louis magazine, is for women to take a self-inventory of their experiences, determine their priorities, and put in the work to show they’re worthy of every success they
“In my experience, men want peers who work just as hard as they do. If we can do that, we can be ourselves, fit in with men, and be respected – while setting a positive example for other women and girls.”
THE BATTLE AT HOME
One of the biggest places women still face inequality is at home. A 2016 World Economic Forum study found women work 39 more days a year than men – and yes, that work is unpaid.
In many households, women are still in charge of the housework, child care and elder care. Not to mention, the emotional labor – micromanaging a family’s schedule, parties, remembering to get the dog’s shots – is exhausting.
“We are attempting to fix symptoms of a systematic problem,” said Savage. “We must start with our boys valuing girls and eliminating ‘traditional’ roles for girls and boys in child rearing and in models we present at home.”
As a mom to two girls, I see it quite a bit. I see it when the men sit around after Thanksgiving dinner while the women clean up. Or when my husband automatically expects me to take a day off of work to run a kid to the dentist when he has more vacation time than I do. While he is respectful of women, I have to remind him to be cognizant of these things ingrained in him as a male.
Unfortunately, this mindset can often leak over into the professional and political world. As Savage remarked, “Laws, regulations, and professional feelings and behaviors may change, but until we intentionally raise our boys to respect girls as equal, then perceived progress is fleeting.”
SETTING A SOLID FOUNDATION FOR THE NEXT GENERATION
While there continue to be obstacles holding women back from the successes they rightly deserve, the good news is they’re being chipped away by strong females and the male allies who support them. Tasha Mosley, Solicitor General for Clayton County, explained that change will come in three ways – demanding equality from our male counterparts, teaching younger women to respect their brains and abilities, and make a legitimate effort to change the current culture of behavior.
They’re all lessons she learned on her way up the ladder and ones she wants to share with those women coming up behind her.
“As a female elected official, it is my duty and responsibility to be a positive role model to all. It has meant earning the respect of my male colleagues in this field. It has been a hard journey, but well worth the struggles. Because the lessons I’ve learned have only made me stronger and more determined to be a beacon of light.”