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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. 

 

ginidietrich
ginidietrich

@MightyCasey Man...some people, though. I got called "full of feminist garbage"

KyleAkerman
KyleAkerman

Last night Andy @Crestodina and I had dinner with a young attractive female lawyer. She claimed that when pitching ideas to new people she had to first mention that she had her JD in order to be taken seriously. Furthermore, she is thinking of starting a business and feels that she needs an MBA to be taken seriously. 

 

In both situations she felt that men would not have to have such advanced degrees. But in her case the degrees were necessary qualifiers to offset the fact that she is an attractive lady.  

 

Is this really what still goes on?  So sad.   

Etiquettemoms
Etiquettemoms

Really interesting post with some GREAT conversation: MT @ginidietrich Women's Equality: It Starts with Us or it Stays an Illusion

JefferyBialek
JefferyBialek

Another great post Gini...while attitudes s l o w l y change, I can't agree more how important it is to challenge stereotypes on both sides of the issue, to work tirelessly toward the places you want to get to, all while supporting those who are trying to do the same in many of the ways you suggested. As someone who has always felt more drawn to working inside the home rather than climbing the ladder, I'm fortunate to be married to a woman who is extremely career driven, yet still thrills to her role as mother. Even as we've found a great balance in our lives and roles, I still see the skepticism and disdain when I share that I work from home...even though this means I have a full time career working 'from' home which also allows me to participate in more of the domestic and childcare responsibiiltes. As far as the Danica jokes go, that's a tough one...though her racing accplishments should be heralded for what they are, it is difficult to not make the connection with her work on surely some of the most degrading ad campaigns of all time for godaddy and run wild with the comparisons. Another less mean, less titillating example might be McKayla Maroney who seemed to be more recognized for her "not impressed" look than her overall achievements in the 2012 London Olympics (though I know she helped to perpetuate the craze as it grew.) I often wondered if there would have been the same reaction and explosive response if it was a male athlete in the same situation.

Katherine Bull
Katherine Bull

Agree, Gini. I think some people - men and women - are wired differently in this regard. I know many stay at home moms who absolutely love it. I know myself well enough that if I were a stay at home mom, I would be in the loony bin within 30 days.

focuscom
focuscom

@ginidietrich While I agree with your post, to some degree the Go Daddy ads are part of the problem. Not saying that's right, just a fact

hackmanj
hackmanj

I am glad you are continuing to write about this issue. I will say what I have always said with a twist. Nontraditional gender involvement in all things will improve the quality of everything. I would happily debate this with anyone who disagrees with that assertion. I truly long for the day where we are oblivious of gender, ethnicity, religion, socio economics, etc... I resent the way we are conditioned to analyze and categorize one another. We are fearful and judgmental creatures by nature and while there is a logical reason for it to a degree the real manifestation is complete overkill. The bottom line is we have a lot to overcome and anyone working to improve that has my support.

Gini Dietrich
Gini Dietrich

My mom always told us that staying at home with kids was the hardest job there is. I believe it.

PattiRoseKnight
PattiRoseKnight

This blog topic is my favorite so far!  I have to work and am going to read all the comments later when I can relax and read at my leisure.  Great blog GINI!!!

DallasK
DallasK

I think everyone knows womens brains are smaller than mens.  It's science...look it up in any anatomy book.

ronnyzoo
ronnyzoo

@RebeccaAmyTodd Demand? God, ain't that just like a woman.

jeanniecw
jeanniecw

One more thought on this. Why don't we discuss what to teach our sons more often? As you know, I'm raising two young men and I find it CRITICAL to discuss with them the messages they get and the ways to understand what's ok and what's not. For example, around 2 years old, my little one started announcing what was for boys and what was for girls. Soccer, for example, was for boys. Um, what!? At that point I realized they get these types of messages from all over the place. I started looking for ways to highlight amazing women AND men doing amazing things. And then I realized that my working - and being my own boss, which they think is awesome - is the best example I can give them of this. (It also helps I have a great husband who supports this message, too.) We talk a lot about differences and what makes people unique. Our dinner table is filled with discussions about how all these people put together make the world go round. The other thing I stress is that we are incredibly fortunate to have these choices. Many, many women (and men) don't have the choices we do. I believe all of these messages start REALLY early. Otherwise, the things we don't say play just as much a role as what we do.

 

*climbing down from soapbox now*

jolynndeal
jolynndeal

I have been learning from the comments as much as from the blog.  What is interesting to me is how when male drivers are labeled as sexy, we don't even blink. It doesn't ruin their credibility and they have been promoted in this regard for decades.  Carl Edwards' 2006 ESPN pose is sexier than anything I've ever seen Danica do.  

http://tsminteractive.com/hottest-nascar-daytona-500-drivers-to-watch-hunks/

 

We are our own worst enemies.

AmyMccTobin
AmyMccTobin

OMG do I have 8 billion things to say on this. Here's my outline:1. I was pissed at Danica NOT because of her wanting to be seen as a driver only, but because she says THAT - YAY! and then does those crappy Godaddy ads that objectify her as a sex object.2. I cheer for stay at home men, but when I tried that with my partner when my daughter was born because I was the bread winner with a thriving career, it ended up that I was STILL expected to do the lion's share of the housework. We were both miserable. We hired a nanny.3. Our generation is buying into the crap that 'it's over:'  It's not over until we are represented in Corporate America fairly, and until we're earning equal pay for equal work.

4. It's our responsibility: I have so many female friends who complain about the lack of women mentors above them, but who in turn don't act as mentors to those below.I love this post. Thanks for writing it. 

Karen_C_Wilson
Karen_C_Wilson

In Canada, we have this beautiful one year maternity/parental leave that we can take as a mother and even share with the father. I balked when my husband said he wanted to take the last three months of parental leave. I wanted that time for ME and our baby. Then I realized that I wasn't being fair to him. He was handing me on a silver platter the one thing I have always dreamed of - an involved father for my child. So, I went back to work early. I've supported (as a cheerleader) my brother through his time as a SAHD. Fathers who stay home do so much good for their children - the same as mothers who stay home. It makes me so happy to live in a world where dads are proudly staying home with their children.

 

As a woman in the workforce, Sheryl Sandberg's comments have forced me to really examine my choices throughout my years of working. It's an uncomfortable AHA moment when you realize she's absolutely right. I delayed leaving jobs that were going nowhere for years because I knew that I wanted to have kids and I wanted "job security". Finally, one day I told a co-worker that my desire (or the accidental event) to have a child is no reason for me to put any other part of my life on hold. Men don't, so why should I? 

 

Getting married and having a family seems to be this lovely little carrot hanging from a stick that we chase with everything in us and then one day we realize that we've bypassed so many wonderful opportunities in search of a delicious carrot that would have been really good had it been included with the rest of the meal.

 

I don't have any desire to be in a Fortune 10 or even 500 C-suite and I never did. I finally started chasing the full meal last year when I started my own business with @Lara Wellman . Nothing I've done in my career up to this point has been nearly as satisfying or fulfilling.

lizreusswig
lizreusswig

I agree with much that's been said here - we do derail ourselves, women can be awful to each other and so on.  As with most societal & cultural changes, it comes slowly.  When I started working, I was regularly called "sweetie" and "honey"  and there were very few women in power positions.  Times have changed a lot from what they were, but I don't believe we'll reach the summit on this huge mountain women have been climbing until and unless the prevailing attitude is at least an acceptance of Women in the Boardroom & Men in the Home.

 

 @PattiRoseKnight your comments reminded me of when I was a kid. The town tavern had a Ladies entrance & a Gentlemen's entrance and the "Ladies" were not expected (allowed?) in the bar area.  

 

Many men trade on their looks, too and I have no problem with Danica do so.  Unfortunately, there always have been and will always be people who make inappropriate (stupid, immature, etc.) comments.  The key is that those who don't agree with them should speak up against them.

 

PS - @belllindsay ... @ginidietrich wrote "I threw up in my mouth a little"  :0

MightyCaseyMedia
MightyCaseyMedia

Perception becomes reality. That starts between one's own ears - Danica Patrick can be forgiven (somewhat) for trading on her looks, given that's the currency that women have been taught to use first for millennia now. I think @Erika Napoletano and @ginidietrich are correct in observing that Danica's made her own brand-bed based on "expert advice" from those who see her core audience as NASCAR nerds.

 

However, as something of a female gear-head (lived alone on a sailboat for 12 years, and have a tool-set that would make Tim Allen jealous), I've never been a big fan of Danica's, largely because she's playing the "I got tits!" card. Both Lynn St. James and Shirley Muldowney own those appurtenances, too, but neither of them played that card. Without their track-blazing work, Danica'd be stuck in a permanent pit-stop.

 

Madeline Albright said, “There is a special place in hell for women who don't help other women." That includes not falling for the bullshit, and not buying into stereotyped brand messages. I still have one outstanding bit of business with GoDaddy, which will be terminated within the next 30 days. We owe it to our daughters, and our sons, to put our money where our mouths - and our beliefs - are. Hypocrisy ain't purdy, nor has it ever been.

Kevin Grout
Kevin Grout

Well, I've been a stay-at-home dad for the past four months after a layoff, but that comes to a halt next week. I greatly admire men (and women) who choose to stay home. It's no easy task, that's for sure. And caring for our world's most precious resource is no small order.

Lara Wellman
Lara Wellman

I will completely admit to doing this. I wanted a family and now have three young kids.  The desire to work my way up the ranks to a job that would require me to work insane hours while trying to raise a young family....  I just didn't want that.  I'm now building up my business on my own terms (and honestly, some of my feelings may have come from always wanting to work for myself :) and by the time my kids are older I expect to be working a lot more intensely than I am now.  

 

For now I want both my husband and I to be available and flexible enough to have family time. So maybe I just want everyone to slow down, not just the women ;) I think everyone should get equal opportunity and equal pay for all jobs, I just understand why a lot of women don't go that route.

Kelli Matthews
Kelli Matthews

I think I couldn't do it without him. My partner is a stay at home dad and he's amazing.

Jennifer Goode Stevens
Jennifer Goode Stevens

I know several. Fortunately, they blog. It's awesome to see men handling the baby/little kid minutia that isn't minutia to the kids because they're, you know, 23 months old.

Katherine Bull
Katherine Bull

I think it's awesome. My brother-in-law did it with their first son for nine months and he loved it. I don't view it as unmanly or that there's anything odd about it. In some cases, the woman earns more money so it financially makes more sense. And, some dads I know really enjoy being at home more with the kids than the mom.

yvettepistorio
yvettepistorio

To answer your question - "When you hear about someone’s partner who is a stay-at-home dad, what’s your first thought?" I'm actually curious what kind of job the woman has. I think it's awesome that couples are switching those roles. I like/agree with what @rdopping said, "If mom's got the chops then mom's got the chops. Simple as that." 

Howie Goldfarb
Howie Goldfarb

First yes Danica winning the pole is a HUGE boon for Women's Equality.

 

But she sabotages that with her sexist misogynist Go Daddy spots.

 

You want equality. Danica wants women to be nothing but sex objects in my opinion. In fact wasn't she married? Did she ditch the guy for someone more famous.

 

This is a sensitive subject to mesh sports with out of sports behavior. I can never root for her. Because she does promote the women as strippers persona.

 

While you know I hate Sheryl Sandberg and feel she is unethical in her business practices. I can at least say she brings equality because so many men are unethical why should women be any different. But maybe that isn't the kind of equality women should be shooting for?

 

Curious your thoughts.

ExtremelyAvg
ExtremelyAvg

Ladies and Gentlemen. It has been a fun start to this blog post. If I wrote my novels as quickly as I was banging out my rants, I'd be able to crank out one per week.

 

Now, I'm off to bed. You're all smart, beautiful and should each be getting endorsement deals for your girlish good looks...especially Ralph.

rdopping
rdopping

What a crazy world. Because I am a man (debatable from my wife's perspective, I'm sure) it is infinitely more difficult to understand a woman's perspective. Sure, I KNOW what you are talking about but haven't lived it. It's the same as racial inequality. Until you FEEL it you can't really understand it.

 

The pole position thing is an eventuality, in those situations, that is going to be difficult to beat. Maybe chalk that up to the gear heads that are into that sport. Oops. Did I just profile? Darn, didn't mean to. The most caring, open-minded, intelligent, worldly types of people might be huge NASCAR fans and just like the "old boys clubs" out there likely still see "the best man for the job" as the way it is. 

 

It's sad really.

 

The fact that Danika is "hot" has nothing to do with her racing ability but it sure does give her curb appeal. I wonder how the media reaction would be if she looked like Shane MacGowan? Different debate, I know.

 

Ability (skill) should be the only real yardstick. With the ability to "work anywhere" these days doing the work shouldn't really matter anymore. We need to get out of the 1950's mentality already and take a look at the the reality of the "modern family." If mom's got the chops then mom's got the chops. Simple as that.

margieclayman
margieclayman

It's hard for me to feel bad for Danica Patrick after her ads with GoDaddy. This is a problem I see a lot of women bring upon themselves. "I don't want to be treated like a woman, I want to be treated like a person. Why do you look at me as just a sex object?" Then they do commercials like the ones she and Jillian Michaels did. You can't have your cake and eat it too in these cases. If you want respect you have to earn it. If you want to be treated as a person with substance, you have to ACT as a person of substance.

 

You know my spiel on the rest of your post from over in Sam's neighborhood :) 

Latest blog post: My posts (apart from here)

PattiRoseKnight
PattiRoseKnight

I have been fighting the women's rights movement since the 60's; I've seen women do the exact same job as a man when I worked at a large PR firm but get paid substantially less - fair? no it's not but it's the way it is.  

 

And, people are cruel.  People compare our president to Hitler and make jokes about President Lincoln's assassination.  So I'm not surprised what they said about Danica - like I said people are cruel that is just a fact.

 

The good news is that my grandmother told me stories about when women couldn't smoke cigarettes in public and couldn't vote.  We're getting there but it's been a long, long road that's for sure.  Don't give up that's what they want us to do!!!!!

 

 

Erika Napoletano
Erika Napoletano

Just heaving this out there, and I know it won't be popular. Do you feel that any of this backlash comes from her participation in racy ad campaigns for GoDaddy? Having been on the receiving end of people thinking they have license to say whatever vulgar stuff they do to/about me on account of my digital love for the f-bomb, having tattoos, etc., I feel there's a connection.

 

Is it right? Not in the slightest. But repeated incidents in my world led to a rebranding -- and in my case, for the better. Danica's talented AND gorgeous (heavens to Betsy). And there will always be those who feel that people of certain genders don't belong in certain roles. But there's a part of me that feels that she bears a responsibility for her own marketing image -- and the associated backlash. Her talent is worth more than the degrading ads she participates in for her sponsors -- and as a Danica fan, I'd love to see her embrace her image as a driver, professional, and icon in the world of racing as opposed to the image she currently puts out.

 

But then again, I'm sure many people have thought the same of MY image over the years. And before anyone comes back with a rancid thought that I'm saying "she's dressed that way so she was asking for it" argument -- think of it from a PR angle. If you had a client with ONE visible marketing image who wanted to be perceived and something contrary to that image, consider the conversation you'd have. Now -- let fly the dogs of war.

Latest blog post: It’s Maria F^&*ing Shriver!

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