Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Challenges for Millennial Women

This is a special post in honor of the Third Annual Blog for International Women’s Day, a day where bloggers, writers, and humanitarian organizations are asked to write about issues facing women and girls. 

International Women’s Day provides us with a great opportunity to celebrate the many things the women who came before us accomplished. But it is also a time to ponder on the many things we have yet to do..  Our world has seen very dramatic changes in the past 50 years and millennial women have reaped the benefits of the revolutions that occurred in the 60’s and 70’s. Yet we don’t have to go very far but to see that millennial women still have much ground to cover on the domestic and international fronts:

A Fair Work Place

·     I’m sure you know that the United States is one of the few industrialized nations that doesn’t provide Universal Paid Maternity Leave. This is only one of the many issues that affect women’s role in the workplace and is indicative of pay inequities that still exist in our country.  Clearly we are still struggling to integrate women with children into the workforce in an equitable way. Meanwhile, the stay-at home mommies and the work mommies are still struggling to find common ground. I hope millennial women figure out how we can all join forces so that women stop feeling like they have to choose one path over the other.

·      I’m also still alarmed at the pay inequities that exist among men and women and how this recession has disproportionately affected women. While it is great that more of us are taking on Graduate and Professional degrees during times of economic uncertainty it is unfair that we will be compensated differently once we enter the workforce. We have heard the numbers: 
  • Women earn 77-85 (studies take into account certain factors to come up with the higher number) cents to every dollar a Man makes. If you are a woman of color this number is lower (Yay, for me). As if we needed more proof the most recent census revealed that women earn less per month than men at EVERY degree level.  We could go into details as to the why’s and the hows of this but either way it is something we need to examine further in the next few decades.
Slut Shaming (See next point)

Access to Basic Health Care
If you haven’t noticed it seems that health services that have played a big role in women’s lives, such as birth control, are still considered quite controversial. Just last week Rush Limbaugh caused an up roar when he declared that the Georgetown Student that testified in Congress about the importance of having access to birth control, was a “slut” and that her and all of the other Feminazi’s that want to government to pay for birth control should have to upload videos of the themselves having sex. Then a few weeks back Mr. Foster Friess (sp?) explained to renowned journalist Andrea Mitchell that in his day women would “put a Bayer aspiring between their legs for birth control” aka- Close your legs! Mr. Freeze was on television discussing his support for Presidential nominee, Rick Santoroum who was quoted as saying that “birth control is harmful to society.” Geez.

This is a challenge for millennial women because the way these things play out in our country is very indicative or where women stand in contemporary society. I know our mom’s and grandmothers tell us that “we just don’t know what it was like in the old days” and you know what? Thanks to all of their efforts we don’t, but we still have our own battles to fight. I can’t help but wonder if these political discussions would play out differently if Congress was 83% female, instead 83% male. Hmmm…This reminds me of my next point

Breaking the Glass Ceiling/s and/or denying there is still a Glass Ceiling to Break

Sometimes I feel like I’m living in parallel universes, on the one hand there is world declaring “the end of men” and telling me how men are falling behind on educational attainment. Yet on the other hand I see a world where I can only think a few female CEO’s and I see that many of the organizations that hold the power in our society are still very male dominated. This brings us into a larger discussion about whether or not women are failing to achieve seats of power because they don’t really want to be there, what Sheryl Sandberg called “the ambition gap” in her now famous (well famous among my colleagues) TED Talk. Others may argue that there are indeed true barriers to access. If such barriers exist are they institutional barriers? Or is it that women were not raised to have the characteristics needed to succeed in high level positions? I wish I had the answer to these questions. If I did there wouldn’t have been a need to list it as a challenge for millennial women. I will probably be wondering about this one for the rest of my life. This brings me to my next thought…

First World Problems

 I use the phrase “first world problems” when I am discussing a problem that can only happen in the life of someone who has their basic needs fully met. It’s also a reminder to myself that for a majority of women around the world, not having been selected to serve on a Board of Directors is a superfluous issue that does not compare to losing a child because you are unable to provide food or shelter, or because you are living in a place being ravaged by a war that was most likely started by men. (Sorry sometimes I make generalizations)
How will we continue to advance the rights of women and girls around the world to ensure that they are no longer casualties of famine, war and of the decisions made by those around them? Michelle Bachelet is one example of a bad-ass woman who is working to ensure that the next generation of women has a better chance at life. While it is important to work to advance ourselves, we must also remember our sisters around the world who could use our help and deserve a chance to pursue their own dreams and aspirations.

Ok so now that you are riled up let’s look at some organizations that are already working hard to solve these issues:    
What do you think are the biggest challenges for Millennial women? 

Together we can make a difference!
Happy Women’s Day!
Betsy Aimee

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