For some time now, technology companies have acknowledged that women are underrepresented in their companies in technology and leadership positions. Both large and small companies in Silicon Valley have publicly announced their intentions to increase the representation of women and minorities in their ranks, yet not much progress has been made.
United States Congresswoman Maxine Waters of California has become a heroine to many of us, especially millennials, since she stood up for her principles and refused to attend President Trump’s inauguration or his first speech to Congress. Her willingness to speak honestly about her values and beliefs has won the respect of people in all age groups. As Sarah D. Wire reports for the Los Angeles Times, Waters explained that she doesn’t honor this president because of “his insulting comments about former presidential rivals Carly Fiorina and Hillary Clinton, the lewd ‘Access Hollywood’ video in which he bragged about grabbing women and his mocking imitation of a disabled reporter.” In addition, Lottie L. Joiner of Crisis Magazine reports that Waters is determined to do what she can to stop Trump’s agenda of undermining African American contributions to our democracy.
An important new study of online conversations among economists by Alice H. Wu quantifies “outright hostility toward women in parts of the economics profession,” reports Justin Wolfers of the New York Times. Wu reported the findings from her award-winning senior thesis research paper at the University of California, Berkeley. Her paper is prompting urgent conversations among leading economists around the country.
Wolfers notes that, while the underrepresentation of women in the economics departments of top universities is well known, claims about workplace culture as the culprit have been hard to measure. People are guarded about publicly revealing their attitudes toward female economists. Wu developed new uses of technology to reveal hidden misogyny.
Research indicates that pay transparency does result in smaller pay gaps. At the very least, if employees are aware of pay discrepancies in the company, women and people of color can confidently negotiate for higher salaries than those offered. But most companies keep salary information secret and are not transparent. That is why the step taken by employees at Google is so important—they took matters into their own hands to create transparency.
Progress has been very slow for women’s advancement in law firms. Why is this the case? As Elizabeth Olson of the New York Times reports, women are
- Slightly over 50 percent of current law school graduates (and have been for a long time)
- Under 35 percent of lawyers at law firms
- Only 20 percent of equity partners, where the highest compensation and best opportunities for leadership exist
Olson cites a recent study by Anne Urda of Law360 that found that “only nine of 300 firms surveyed had a lawyer work force that was 50 percent or more female.”
Anita Hill, an attorney and professor at Brandeis University, is one of my heroines. She had the courage in the early 1990s to accuse her ex-boss Clarence Thomas of inappropriate sexual behavior toward her when he was her supervisor. When she learned that he was nominated for a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court, she felt she had to testify to his lack of moral character during his confirmation hearings. She came forward and spoke the truth of her experience. While she was not able to stop his confirmation, she did give a voice and a name to the abusive behavior that women have always been subjected to by powerful men—sexual harassment. Her testimony opened a door for women to work together with male allies to make the workplace safer and more inclusive for all women.
Therese Huston of the New York Times writes that “history has long labeled women as unreliable and hysterical because of their hormones.” Interestingly, new research shows that men’s hormones fluctuate, too, both naturally and artificially, with possibly dire consequences for the rest of us. Prescriptions for testosterone supplements, often for a condition called “low-T,” are heavily advertised on television and social media and have increased from 1.3 million to 2.3 million in just four years. As Huston notes, the availability and popularity of these supplements makes new research on testosterone possible. She reports the following findings:
Here is a piece of good news for all of us: women’s involvement in politics is skyrocketing. The ways to get involved are endless, including petitioning Congress, attending meetings and rallies for causes you support, holding elected officials accountable for their votes, registering voters, and running for office. Running for office can include running for school board, town council, state legislature, governor, or US Congress. Gail Collins of the New York Times writes that “groups that help prepare women to run for office are reporting an unprecedented number of website visits, training-school sign-ups and meeting attendance.”
The Army is not making a fuss about it, but this is one of those moments in history that is a big deal: the first eighteen women, out of forty-four accepted for Army infantry training, recently completed the grueling boot camp and graduated. These are the first women to complete infantry training in two hundred years. Dave Philipps of the New York Times writes that the Army is not making a fuss because it has taken great pains to develop “gender-neutral performance standards to ensure that recruits entering the infantry were all treated the same.”
When President Trump and Melania Trump visited France this July, President Trump’s first action was to look First Lady of France Brigitte Macron up and down and pronounce her to be “fit.” Trump said to her, “You’re in such good shape.” He then turned to the President of France, Emmanuel Macron, and said, “She’s in such good physical shape. Beautiful.” Clearly uncomfortable, Brigitte Macron grabbed Melania’s arm and stepped back away from Trump. This incident was broadcast live around the world.
What message does it send when the American President treats the First Lady of France like a sex object?