The Price We Pay as Women

I recently joined a story circle. I heard about them through my Facebook friendship with Susan Wittig Albert. (If you haven’t read her China Bayles mystery series, you are missing out!) I am not sure yet exactly how this will fit into my very busy life right now, but I have derived so many benefits from writing this blog and expressing myself, it seemed a logical thing to do.

China Doll

image courtesy of Trey Ratcliff- http://www.stuckincustoms.com

A recent story prompt they provided was a quote from Shirley Abbott. She said, “Everybody must learn this lesson somewhere—that it costs something to be what you are.” 

I believe this to be true, particularly for women. We pay a price to be what we choose to be. We have grown up assuming it is part of the “ovary package” we have been blessed with, and there is no changing the status quo. Whether we are focused, career women who give up the notion of having children in favor of success, or a women who give up the notion of having a successful career to be a full-time mother and wife…we pay a price for our choices unless we are one of the very lucky few who manage (or at least seem to manage) to have it all.

I read in the local paper today that women still make much less than men for the very same qualifications and job. Over time the gap becomes hideous, both in earnings and in the subsequent social security benefits women often depend on in old age. It made me so angry to think of my bright and talented daughters who will likely be handicapped in the same ways when they enter the work force. The article even calculated the price my daughters will pay in decreased wages and eventual retirement income for each child they decide to bring into the world. I find this situation appalling, and I hope you do, too.

This is prejudice of an extremely stealthy variety. The article I read pointed out that when orchestra directors auditioned musicians behind a screen, and their gender could not be determined, they chose females more often than males. But the hiring patterns for orchestras are in exact opposition, because musicians are not usually hidden when they audition. Evidently, the orchestra employers in the tests were very surprised at this, and they had no idea it was happening. The bias was so subtle that no one really noticed until it was pointed out.

So…what do we as women, parents of women, employers of women, etc. do about this?

“The same thing we do every day, Pinky.” We educate to change the paradigm. We cannot change the world, but we can begin the change in thinking with our families, our friends, our employees and our community. Speak out and make people aware. Talk about this with your family and express your views and experiences. Educate your sons and daughters about this form of prejudice and start fighting against it, along with all of the other forms, and perhaps we will begin to see a change in the next generation.

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