#PressforProgress is the theme for 2018’s International Women’s Day, and I’ve been thinking a lot about movement towards women’s equality and rights. Clearly, this past year, there’s been more sustained focus on the issue, but I ask you: Are we actually moving towards our goal or is this superficial?
OK, let’s look at what’s happened recently. It’s been a year of resistance and recognition of women’s issues:
- TIME Magazine’s “2017 Person of the Year” was The Silence Breakers, (Ashley Judd, Susan Fowler, Adama Iwu, Taylor Swift and Isabel Pascua) women who valiantly shed light with their personal stories of sexual harassment and intimidation. (TIME says that they, along with social media and the #MeToo movement have “unleashed one of the highest-velocity shifts in our culture since the 1960s.”)
- Watching the optics of the Academy Awards presentation the other night, you might think that women, including women of color, are making strides in their representation in the profession.
- And even Mattel announced a new Barbie doll collection of 17 modern-day and historic role models to honor with a doll in their likeness.
But, let’s look at the data in a few industries.
According to Forbes, there is an enormous pay disparity between men and women in films. In its research (August 2017), it found that 14 of the highest-paid male actors made more than Emma Stone, the highest paid actress. (Stone made $26 million; Mark Wahlberg—the highest paid male—made $68 million.) Even Stone’s co-star in “La La Land”, Ryan Gosling, made $29 million.
In Bollywood there’s a similar issue. In a 2015 article, leading Indian actresses were making one-sixth of what their male counterparts made.
Jennifer Lawrence, a top grossing actress (who discovered that she was making only a percentage of her male co-workers), and other high-profile women are focusing on pay disparity; Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman and others are protesting the dearth of female stories and role models, female producers, directors and writers.
Clearly, movies are only the most obvious of the problem.
Women in the labor force are 56.7%, but in the US, held only 16.6% of global corporate boardroom seats (According to a Credit Suisse report). This flies in the face of the fact that companies with more females on the board have better financial results as well as being recognized as being more socially responsible.
Finally, one more example of the discrepancy is in the area of science. Female scientists are underrepresented in professional journals. According to The Conversation (March 8), while women hold 40% of the postdocs in neuroscience (in the US and Europe), they represent only 25% of the lead authors in prestigious journals. Moreover, 30% of grants by the US National Institutes of Health are given to women (which is similar to academic faculty stats) but they have only 15% representation in their comparable journals.
So, I ask you: As you look at the data, are we making strides? Or, is a lot of this superficial window-dressing?