Yesterday, I wrote about March being Women in History Month and women who have inspired us to do and be more than we thought possible. I have mixed feelings when I hear that a woman has broken through some barrier. I am proud to hear that someone has become the first female conductor or president of a company or professor in a particular field. But seriously, how can a person’s sex and their ability to do a job still be a factor? Man or woman?
I believe one of the major problems is the confusion between the words “equal” and “identical”. On one of my jobs — I took over for a supervisor for two months. The bosses said I did a great job. During this time — although there was a significant difference in the responsibilities for my “new” job — I continued to receive my lower salary, I did not get paid overtime and when I received my yearly review — although the praise was nice — I got a lower raise than the previous year?
My boss told me that it was because my husband was a lawyer and so I didn’t need the raise as much.”
This is not equal.
I was asked to sub on my work’s golf league by my husband’s golf partner. I never conceived that this could present a problem. Not until at least I was told that a big meeting was going on to see if it was okay — me being female and all. I should point out at this point in the story that my husband who played on MY company’s golf league didn’t work for MY company and no one had a meeting over that.
This is not equal.
It was finally decided that I could play. Not that it matters, but I beat my opponent both handicap and scratch.
I’m not sure how many “discussions” I’ve had with men who kept telling me I have to do something their way. Once I was trying to put plywood panels up into my attic via a hole in my ceiling. My brother insisted he should hand them up to me, while I leaned down from the attic, because he was stronger. I tried to explain that this wouldn’t work because being female, I don’t have the upper body strength that he does. After a number of failed attempts — he got in the attic. A woman uses her legs, hips and whole body to lift. I almost smacked my brother in the face with the panel. The panel he could not life up to me. He couldn’t believe how easily I lifted it up to him. And then he easily placed it into the attic.
This was not identical but it was equal. We each used our strengths to accomplish the task. A task neither of us could have accomplished alone. So often I have not been allowed to use my strengths. Because my strengths were different from my male colleagues — they were not recognized as strengths. Performing the task in a manner that came naturally to a male but not natural to me as a female — made me appear weak. If I hadn’t been hampered by sexual bias, they would have seen me perform the task at least at an equal level to them just not in an identical manner.
Being alive during the space race was an amazing thing. But as a girl interested in science it baffled me. Why was NASA sending into space big muscular men? In zero gravity all that muscle wouldn’t mean anything. It cost thousands of dollars for each additional pound launched into space. I reasoned as a very small child that it seemed more logical to send women into space. We’re typically smaller and lighter. I wonder with all that money we would have saved if we would have had the financial resources to put a human on Mars by now?
One of the best compliments I ever got was that I treated and allowed my son to be a boy. It has not escaped my notice that while some men have tried to masculinize woman, that some women have tried to feminize men. I hope whether you are a parent or teacher or employer that you think about allowing all kids/students/employees to follow Jane Goodall’s quote. “Every individual matters. Every individual has a role to play. Every individual makes a difference.”
The other compliment I’m proud of — when I was hired as science teacher there tended to be a discrepancy between the success rates of girls to boys. After two years of reporting data on how well girls succeeded or not compared to boys. I was told not to bother any more. The statistics were about 50:50 in all categories.
If you were to ask me did I treat my students equally? Obviously. The data proves that. However, I did not treat the boys and girls in my class identically. Equality among the sexes does not mean we have to or should conform to some unisex correctness.
Today’s Intention: Stop conforming. Be the person I’m meant to be with no excuses.
What about you, do you feel that you had to suppress your natural abilities because of your sex? Or get turned down for something because of a work place bias against your gender? Do you think we will ever have a world where men and women are considered equal AND have the freedom to embrace their own gender AND still pursue their dreams?