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Gini Dietrich

Women’s Equality: It Starts with Us or it Stays an Illusion

By: Gini Dietrich | February 21, 2013 | 
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A couple of weeks ago, Sam Fiorella wrote an interesting blog post called, “Under-Representation of Women in Corporate and Political Offices.”

In it, he discusses how women make up more than half the population in the United States and comprise nearly 47 percent of the jobs, yet less than 20 percent hold executive seats in either boardrooms or political offices.

When I commented on the post, I talked about how, while some men are beginning to stay home to be the caretakers, it’s not what comes naturally to them. It’s not yet societally acceptable for men to work inside the home, raising kids and taking care of a house.

Think about it from your perspective.

When you hear about someone’s partner who is a stay-at-home dad, what’s your first thought?

I can almost guarantee it’s not a good one.

Because of cultural norms and even because of good, old hard wiring, we tend to be the ones focused on raising kids while our male counterparts work outside of the home. Not all of us (I certainly am not that way), but a very high percentage of us.

We Let Up When it’s Time for Promotion

In May 2011, Sheryl Sandberg – the COO of Facebook – gave a commencement speech at Barnard, an all-women’s college. During the 20 minute speech (which is well worth the watch, if you haven’t already seen it), she talks about why women aren’t given more leadership roles and why we still don’t have equality.

Her reasoning? We tend to let up for promotions when we think it’s time to get married and again when we think it’s time to have a baby (or babies). Not when we do those things. When we think it’s time.

Women almost never make one decision to leave the workforce.  It doesn’t happen that way.  They make small little decisions along the way that eventually lead them there.  Maybe it’s the last year of med school when they say, I’ll take a slightly less interesting specialty because I’m going to want more balance one day.  Maybe it’s the fifth year in a law firm when they say, I’m not even sure I should go for partner, because I know I’m going to want kids eventually.

I tend to agree with her. I’ve run a marketing communications firm in Chicago for nearly eight years and I’ve found the exact, same thing with the young women in our office. Which, by-the-way, is extremely frustrating for this leader who provides the flexibility most women want.

It’s not our fault. It’s ingrained. It’s natural. It’s in our DNA.

Women-Owned Businesses

But there’s good news coming out of National Association of Women Business Owners and web.com about the state of women-owned businesses.

It turns out the crazy economy of 2008-2011 created a reason for women to take matters into their own hands: Eighty-five percent of those surveyed predict more women will start businesses this year.

And, for those who already run businesses, 81 percent are optimistic about growth this year and 74 percent are confident about the economic outlook of their organizations (I concur).

Of course, this doesn’t speak to equality or women in the c-suite for the Fortune 10 companies or in the top branches of political office. But it does mean more and more women are contributing to the health of our economy through job creation, innovative products and services, and getting closer to the elusive work/life balance.

We’re Our Own Worst Enemies

But there’s a secondary problem.

This past Sunday, Danica Patrick won pole position at the Daytona 500. During her interview she said she doesn’t want to be the best female racer; she wants to be the best racer period.

And then the jokes lit up my Facebook and Twitter streams.

She won “pole” position. She’s hot. People made jokes related to strippers. And I threw up in my mouth a little.

It wasn’t just men. Women were playing along, too. I don’t know if that’s out of jealousy and being catty or if some of us really believe it’s okay to take away a big achievement from a woman by making jokes about her dancing on a pole.

I’ve written before about how we’re our own worst enemies. We’re hardwired to be mean to one another. But that doesn’t mean we have to be.

Women’s Equality

If we truly want equality in the workforce. If we truly want to be in the executive suite. If we truly want to be the very best at our job, not the best woman, but the best overall. We have to stop letting these things happen.

We have to stop taking our foot off the gas pedal when we think we might be getting married or ready to have babies. We have to stop buying products from companies that use sex and women to sell. We have to stop allowing jokes to be made about other successful women.

It starts with us. We have to lead the change. If we don’t, we’ll continue to moan about how it’s not fair and it’s not equal while nothing changes.

A version of this first appeared on the Sensei Marketing blog.

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.

229 comments
ginidietrich
ginidietrich

@nikki_little I got beat up for that post. Wow.

RebeccaTodd
RebeccaTodd

No no no. If you got beat up for it, send them over to me. I had begun to write you a note in FB about a very personal story that come from this post, but now it is gonna be right here for the world to read. 

 

I posted this to my facebook, encouraging my friends to take a peek and join the conversation. I am sure many people stopped to take a peek and didn't tell me, but one friend did. She messaged me to let me know that she had read this post and it really resonated with her. See, I split from my wasband about a year and a half ago. My friend and her wasband split just before xmas. It hasn't been an easy time for her. In the middle of her final year of vet school, just about to start a career that in her mind included a supportive partner with whom she would start a family, the split threw a real monkey wrench in to her plans. We have been friends since three years old-no exaggeration!- and a husband and kids were always a part of her plans, even while I was dreaming of space travel (some things never change...). She would hold weddings for her Barbies, I played GI Joe. So it did not surprise me that finding a new partner is a priority for her. 

 

We skyped yesterday after she read this post and thought about it. She told me how she read this post, and how deeply it touched her. So much so, that she has decided to completely reorganize her priorities. About to graduate as Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, she is no longer going to plan her career around having a baby. She realized, through your words, that she had already put limits on her career based on the idea that she would want, and in fact NEED to take time away from her job to have babies. She was already nixing potential internship opportunities because they would take her away from her wasband and the baby she thought she should have. She actually said to me yesterday that for the first time IN HER LIFE she realized that being married and having babies is NOT the measure of a woman. She said that she is now searching out internship opportunities that would provide her with the best possible start to her career, and is no longer making a timeline that involves large chunks of time "out" to spawn. She even mentioned that she could chose to pursue adoption at 45 as a single woman once her career has been established.

 

Gini, this woman who I have known 33 years is like a sister to me. And it was YOUR words that allowed her to reconsider the role that she "thought" she should play. Does this mean you have to be single and childless to have a career? No, not what I am saying. And does this mean she won't meet a man next week and fall crazy in love and have this plan change, too? Of course not. But thanks to your post, G, she has written herself a new future that revolves around her. And for this, I can not thank you enough. You brought light to a dark place. So again I say-pass the haters my way. I'd be happy to open their eyes to what conversations your blog sparks.  xxoo

 

AlaskaChickBlog
AlaskaChickBlog

"It's time for women to stop being politely angry" ~ Leymah Gbowee, Nobel Peace Prize Winner....

 

I agree completely. And seriously? Nothing is more disturbing than women OR men thinking those rude comments (like the pole comments) are in any way appealing or funny, IMO.

 

And because you pretty much said it - We HAVE to lead the change. Starting right this minute, if some have not already... NOW, I'll add another quote that means a lot to me.

 

"If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude. Don't complain." ~ Maya Angelou

Aimee West
Aimee West

I stayed home with my children until the youngest was 3ish...then I ended up with a really great job and my husband worked for a year out of state only coming home every few weeks...after about a year of that we decided it was better and in all reality more cost effective for him to stay home. That was about 15years ago and he got a lot of negative response about it. Our kids have really turned out great because of it and they were able to go on many different adventures that I never would have taken them on.

KevinVandever
KevinVandever

My daughters used to say "Girls rule, boys drool". I don't think it explains anything discussed in the post or the comments, but there is some significance to the statement.  

Jennifer Goode Stevens
Jennifer Goode Stevens

janey was so sociable from day 1 that i decided early on that she was going to have a sibling if we could make that happen. thank god it worked out, or this introvert would've been in the loony bin trying to meet her needs. i realize that path isn't logical for everyone, tho.

MatthewLiberty
MatthewLiberty

@dabarlow Thanks for the RT Denise! Good stuff from Gini as usual! @ginidietrich #Women #Business

Katherine Bull
Katherine Bull

A little off-topic. There's another side of this that is not a popular opinion: Some kids do much better being in daycare. Mine did, at least. She is social and liked being around other kids. I played with her and gave her loads of attention but the minute she entered daycare at 10 weeks, she slept better, ate better, and was a happier child. I honestly don't think that she would have done well if I were a SAHM, even with playdates, Mommy and Me, etc. Every kid is different, of course, but I know that daycare was the right thing for her.

Gini Dietrich
Gini Dietrich

I'm with you, Katherine. I did not get that part of my mom's genes.

barrettrossie
barrettrossie

>> "It’s not our fault. It’s ingrained. It’s natural. It’s in our DNA."

 

Seriously, if I had written this about women... would some people have jumped all over me? 

 

By the way, great post and discussion. 

 

nikki_little
nikki_little

@ginidietrich Well I'm not beating you up for it!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

 @barrettrossie I just got a private email about that very thing. What I meant was that we are hardwired to be the caretakers. Men are not. It's natural for us to want to put our wings around our babies and protect them. Men can do it, but it's not as natural as it is for women. It's more a learned skill for you. 

AmyMccTobin
AmyMccTobin

 @ginidietrich  @RebeccaTodd Are you kidding? It made ME cry too.  I wish every single teen going through guidance counseling could read the post, and your comment Rebecca.

jolynndeal
jolynndeal

 @ginidietrich  @AlaskaChickBlog   Gini, something that's easy to do is to focus on the negative that someone says. In fact, I think people are drawn to it for some crazy reason.  I was reading some of the Oscar predictions last night and saw all of the negative comments about Argo and Ben Affleck.  I thought, bummer, I loved that movie.  I wondered how he can stand all the negative critiques.  But, the truth of the matter is, we will never have everyone agree with us. And we wouldn't want that, because how incredibly boring would that be.  Imagine having everyone follow behind you saying only, "Yes, Gini."  (Well, don't imagine that because that does sound kind of great.)  Anyway, you didn't write your post to elicit the negative but it's part of the discussion. You are awesome, and a mentor and an inspiration to many.  It's why you have thousands of people following you.  You influencer, you.

margieclayman
margieclayman

@ginidietrich @AlaskaChickBlog aw don't say that, Gini. It's a tough topic, and because you are a high profile woman (sorry but it's true) your thoughts about these touchy topics are weighed heavily. I haven't read all of the comments but if people went bonkers I am sorry to hear it. BUT - don't say you shouldn't have written it. I am proud of you for doing so. It's an extremely important conversation.

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barrettrossie
barrettrossie

 @rdopping There are LOTS of women in advertising and design. They just don't seem to make it to the top as often as they should. I was doing some long-term contracting for an agency a couple of years ago that has some really great female talent. Went to a big client meeting in San Diego, with one of those huge conference rooms. Probably 14 people around the table.  The only female was the client's marketing director. 

barrettrossie
barrettrossie

 @ginidietrich I understand and agree. But after participating in discussions of women in the workplace for many years, I just know if a man had written that, he would have been taken to the woodshed. Maybe not by you, but by a lot of people. I have scars from living in San Francisco. :) 

 

And just to be clear, I agree that in advertising and in design, women are way underrepresented at the highest levels. 

JoeCardillo
JoeCardillo

 @ginidietrich  @RebeccaTodd  @AmyMccTobin I think y'all are great. I'm sorry the trolls showed up, but they often do when something of significance is being said.

 

That being said, I was moved by your comment @RebeccaTodd  and by the comments and the entire conversation on this piece. I hope I never stop having the ability to be moved by people communicating their passion, work ethic and desire to make the world a different place. I tell myself all the time "if you want the world to be different you have to make it different." These kinds of conversations along with corresponding actions do exactly that.

RebeccaTodd
RebeccaTodd

 @ginidietrich  @AmyMccTobin Agreed! You show so much vulnerability and integrity here on the blog, and if people want to voice their opinions, you welcome them. But for someone to not have the proverbial balls to answer you in public, where this conversation is occurring, is shameless and weak. 

RebeccaTodd
RebeccaTodd

 @AmyMccTobin  @ginidietrich There are always going to be people in the world who disagree. Heck, G and I love to debate each other. But I sincerely hope it is worth all your hard work to know that you could have such a huge impact. Even if this post only resonated with my friend and I, I hope it makes it worth what you risk to share yourself with us G. 

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

 @jolynndeal  LOL!! You are right, of course. It's like I told Margie...it takes away from being able to effectively run my business. And, as it turns out, I'm as sensitive as the next person. When people anonymously call me names and bully me, I get upset. But thank you for the nice comment. A TON!

JoeCardillo
JoeCardillo

 @AmyMccTobin  @ginidietrich  @margieclayman  @ExtremelyAvg  @AlaskaChickBlog Agree w/ the regular crew, Gini, I think you did a good job of raising the issues (no one is going to offer a "final" pronouncement on a topic like that anyway) and I encourage you to take a breath but keep thinking/talking about it. "Sit down and shut up" doesn't fly in my book and I hope it doesn't for you either.

AlaskaChickBlog
AlaskaChickBlog

 @AlinaKelly  @ginidietrich  Thank you, Alina, for saying that... I shared that same sentiment this morning discussing this and its results with my Dad.

 

And for those without children and young ladies of their own... your own sister, wife or mother can be inserted here.

AlinaKelly
AlinaKelly

 @ginidietrich  @margieclayman  @ExtremelyAvg  @AlaskaChickBlog Name calling? Seriously? No one who expresses themselves so crassly towards another person is worth listening to. You can agree to disagree but there is no need to resort to personal attacks. 

 

I for one am grateful you shared your views on this important subject. I'll be sharing and discussing your post with my daughters. I want them growing up in a world that is respectful of their choices - whatever those choices happen to be. The thought that anyone would disrespect my daughters for their achievements is sickening. 

 

Thank you for writing this Gini. It's by talking about these subjects that we create awareness of issues. We can only fix the things we know are broken. 

 

AlaskaChickBlog
AlaskaChickBlog

 @ginidietrich  Gini, love, I am sorry they hurt your heart but your mind knows this is an incredibly important topic. AND anyone with sense and a brain that can read, understands this is a call to action towards women.... not a ball-busting-tournament.

 

Unacceptable.

 

You are in the eye of the people.... and I know from my own personal experience (snicker) that it is easier to take a shot at the biggest target.

 

(I had to make sure my tiny little girl-brain had it right...) "Feminism is a collection of movements and ideologies aimed at defining, establishing, and defending equal political, economic, and social rights for women. This includes seeking to establish equal opportunities for women in education and employment."

 

Umm...where's the nasty-man-hating-garbage in that? Is it wrong to want any flavor of human to stand proud and offer what they have to the world? (No, I didn't think so.)

 

And as for the name calling... well, it isn't allowed, so they have to send it privately because we ALL know it isn't permitted and wont be allowed to smear anyone.

 

You are the least kissy-faced-clown I have ever had the pleasure to get to know and learn from, my friend. (And see? I feel I can call YOU that, because really....the word they were looking for was "Lady".)

 

Hang tough. Go for a ride or ski and breathe. Anyone who has ever had the honor of meeting a "Lady" knows there is steel where the rest have marrow....

AmyMccTobin
AmyMccTobin

 @ginidietrich  @margieclayman  @ExtremelyAvg  @AlaskaChickBlog   Don't you DARE Regret this post!!!!  You are my hero for doing it.  And the feminist garbage came from my right wing nut job 'FB friend' who spews his hate everywhere.I think you're being beaten up because people start reading it and INFER that you are blaming it on men... and you're not. It's a call to action for us to ASK for more, for what we deserve.  Don't you dare back down on these ideas.  And look how many people supported it!!!!!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

 @margieclayman  @ExtremelyAvg  @AlaskaChickBlog It won't prevent me from writing about the topic again (I'm super fired up about Marisa Mayer saying no one can work remotely), but it's a little raw right now. I got emails, DMs, FB messages...some guy told me I'm full of feminist garbage. I was called a "kiss-ass clown." It's been a little rough.

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