In the wake of Equal Pay Day I realized that my fanatic refusal to accept any additional professional recognition or help for simply being a woman might not be a feminist move at all. In fact, it might be anti-feminist.
I identify with the women’s movement to the core. I found my voice while attending St. Mary’s Academy—an all-girls college preparatory high school in Portland, Oregon. My confidence grew among assured girls who were being groomed for leadership. We read Virginia Wolf, Simone de Beauvoir and Betty Friedan. We served on committees, played sports and earned high grades. We had our fair share of fun attending proms and football games. But we laughed at cheerleaders, fashionistas and sometimes boys.
However, I have veered away from those ideals in matters of business; strongly believing that we women shouldn’t accept awards just because we are women. If you are going to offer me an award, offer me the one you’d offer to a man too, damn it! Not that I’ve really ever been up for any such honor, but I have obviously thought this out—adhering to a strict aversion to women-based recognition.
The deliberately slow growth of our business has meant that we’ve been fortunate enough to not need any business loans (hmmm…am I also a PR person to the core? ‘deliberately’ slow growth…sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?). But of course being the over-thinker that I am, I’ve thought about it. And this is hard for me. My old aversion to getting help just-because-you-are-a-woman surfaced at first when I reviewed the options. But as any good business person would do, I realized that money was at stake and quickly got over it. I decided that should we ever want a business loan, I would not rule out loans for women-owned businesses only.
Which brings me to what is in the press today with Equal Pay Day. Of course women and men should be making the same amount! It is a scary reminder to see that this still is not the case, with women who worked full-time in 2012 making only 77 cents for every $1 earned by men (Census Bureau). The Business Journal reported “[This] doesn’t show that women make less money than men for doing the same job. Women often work in lower-paying occupations. That’s not wage discrimination.”
What is even scarier is to think about all the women who have been passed up for promotions by men—never even getting the chance to be considered to make the same amount.
The stats on women-owned businesses really hit home. On the bright side, women have started more businesses than men have. But they only account for 4 percent of all business revenue. “In many cases, these businesses are deliberately small. But plenty of women business owners can tell you stories about the obstacles that they’ve faced in the past—such as having bank officers ask them to have their husbands co-sign a business loan,” again quoting the Business Journal.
Equal Pay Day helps me reflect on the obstacles women from past generations have had to overcome so that we could have an easier time today. Possibly I can serve as a current leader to help create an even brighter future for all the young women who will be graduating this spring.
The first step is to cast aside previous judgments and embrace every opportunity presented to women in business. Because, as yesterday’s press gently reminded me, we aren’t quite there yet. If I act out some of that assured confidence that was so freely given to me, I might enable more of today’s young women to reach that same place of leadership.
My friends and I might have been of a rare breed. We never thought to stand down—asking our bosses for what we knew we deserved. We eventually became the bosses. But there is the girl sitting in the back of the classroom. She is everywhere. She is starting Kindergarten. She is applying to internships. She is also at St. Mary’s Academy.