You might remember the tagline for the so-called pro-women ad campaign that the manufacturers of Virginia Slims cigarettes used to try to sell cigarettes to women in the 1960s and 1970s. “You’ve come a long way, baby!” The campaign attempted to capitalize on the women’s liberation movement. It purported to celebrate the advancements of women in the United States, but it really highlighted the long-standing hypocrisy of national claims that women have achieved or are close to achieving gender equity.
As we end Women’s History Month in 2021, it bears asking, how far have we women in the United States really come?
By virtually any metric, significant gender inequity persists. Misogyny is alive and well – as we have recently seen in the Anti-Asian violence that just took place in Georgia this month. Gender Discrimination is still with us – as documented in studies, including a recent one, which found that almost half of the women surveyed believe that they experience gender discrimination every day! Gender disparities persist – as seen in the persistent gender pay gap and the data which shows that women continue to be underrepresented in leadership positions in virtually every profession and industry.
Consider, for an example, the legal profession. Although women have made up roughly half of all law school graduating classes for well over a decade, they still make up only about 20% of all Equity Partners at law firms. And, women are over-represented in legal positions that are the least well renumerated, and the least respected.
Sadly, too, though women make up roughly half the population and have had the constitutional right to vote since 1919, women are underrepresented among elected officials. The United States has never had a woman President, distinguishing it from peer nations. Women only make up about one-quarter of the members of Congress: 26% in the House of Representatives and 25% in the Senate. Only 43 women have served as Governors in the entire history of the US and twenty states have never had a woman governor.
We may have come a ways – but, we have hardly come a long way. And, it looks unlikely that we will be reaching gender parity any time soon. Until all women of all ages, races, ethnicities, religions and abilities have the opportunity to rise, we won’t get there! In 2021, we must be data-drive, fact-based and realistic. We still have a long way to go!