It’s International Women’s Day and in spite of all advances of the past 40 years by and for women, in the U.S. we still need to call out a date to remind everyone of the contributions women make every day to our families and communities, our labor force and the world at large. Coincidentally, or perhaps not so, we see Germany announce last week that it’s enacted into law a mandate of 30% female representation in corporate boards, joining a score of European countries such as Norway, Spain, France, Iceland, Belgium and the Netherlands who also have such mandates. I was shocked to read the #NY Times article of March 6 “Germany Sets Gender Quotas in Boardrooms” by Alison Smale and Claire Cain Miller that in the United States the incidence of female representation on boards is only 17%, well below that of European countries which are in the 30-40% range. But then again, civilization in Europe is at least 523 years older than ours. They should be ahead of our times…
In reality, we need to ask ourselves in this country, should we push for more representation or rather, are we on the right track to demand gender equality in salaries, job opportunities and improved working conditions for women? What do we want for ourselves and our daughters, nieces and granddaughters?
I propose that both are equally important. A large majority of women will be beneficiaries of gender equality in the workforce than those who can aspire to be chosen for boardroom representation. But the fact is that more women in U.S. boardrooms will lead to better conditions and opportunities for women in the workforce. There’s no such thing as the chicken or the egg; it’s both! You can’t have one without the other.
As life would have it, I have a Gen X niece who was brave enough to add two amazing girls to our family. No doubt they will be achievers and doers, they already are at their young ages of 9 and 7. I want to see them thrive as young women when they come of age and have all the opportunities to be whatever they want to be; I want them to be able to successfully balance their professional and personal lives; and absolutely yes, to be equally compensated and recognized for all their hard work.
Friends and colleagues, let’s work so the girls of today and tomorrow don’t have to have a special date on the calendar so that women’s issues are heard. Let’s make sure that everyone in the U.S., particularly corporate America, understands that the noun in the sentence “All men are created equal” is a collective noun to signify humanity, the collective of men and women alike.
We’ve come a long way but there’s still so much more to this journey. If every successful woman today commits to be a voice for gender equality in the workforce and to mentor young women’s personal and professional development however they can, the influence of women will rise and U.S. society will benefit. Gender equality in the workforce is a must do.