When I visited China for the first time with school a few months ago, our tour guide mentioned that her family was slightly disappointed that they had 3 daughters and no sons. Most of us were shocked or at least surprised because there usually isn't a preference for the gender of the child in the U.S. However, in China, as I had already seen in India, there's a pretty strong culture of sexism and prayers that the child is a boy. In fact, in some rural areas of India, the culture was/still is so strong that determining the sex of the child before she is born is now banned. It's crazy and made me wonder where the concept of one gender being considered superior than the other originated from.
Centuries ago, sexism was never a major issue because everyone needed to hunt and gather in order to sustain themselves. However, once agricultural communities began to develop, working in the field was considered more important and therefore, men were seen as superior to women. The average man has always had more muscle mass than the average women, making them physically stronger and able to work more in the field. Also, women have always had the role of bearing children and then, taking care of their family. In my opinion, these are two of many reasons why women have fallen behind over the last few centuries.
Fast forward to today. Most people are not farmers anymore and even if they are, we now have an abundance of fancy machines to do much of the hard labor done by hand in the past. Nevertheless, sexism continues to be a prevalent issue, shaped by ingrained opinions and a gender pay gap. Why is that? If technology has changed so rapidly, why haven't views and action on gender equality kept pace? Well, it's all about power and the belief that equality equals loss.
Many men see diversity as wearing away meritocracy and eliminating the level playing field. For their entire lives men have unknowingly had subtle advantages, such as being able to turn on the TV and see intelligent leaders of their gender widely represented or never being asked if they plan to take a few years off for their children. Now, i'm not saying that men have not faced hardship or overcome obstacles, just that they have never been taught in school or by society that with their gender comes unearned advantages. Often, when we talk about gender inequality, the fact that women have inherent disadvantages comes up in conversation, but rarely does that men have an innate advantage.
In terms of equality signifying loss, men often welcome the need for efforts that lead to fairness, such as equal pay, but have a much more difficult time with their own loss of dominance. Their perspective is understandable. However, not only do women and people of color benefit from equal pay and equality in general, entire families earn more on average, improving people's lives and benefiting the economy.
"When a room's population is 20% women, men see 50%. When it's 30%, men see 60%."
Geena Davis (Eponymous media institute)
The American Council on Education did a study asking teachers to call on boys and girls equally (50/50) as accurately as possible. After the experiment, the boys were asked their opinion on it. Their shared response was: "The girls were getting all the attention". The boys (and men in general) feel a loss when equality is attained. Society has normalized overbalance.
Watching the U.S. women's soccer team has been exhilarating, but the team's extraordinary fourth world cup title also uncovers an undercurrent of inequality, a feeling all too familiar to women today. According to their own calculations, the U.S. women's soccer team makes 38 cents for every dollar their male counterparts make.
The women's team make $1300 for every match they win, whereas men make $17,000. When the men's team loses they still make $5000 and the women make nothing.
You can watch a funny video clip from the daily show with Trevor Noah featuring Hasan Minhaj where he interviews three members of the U.S. Women's soccer team and how they respond to his funny excuses for why the men earn more.
What is being done to combat the issue
Although sexism is a prevalent issue, particularly in the developing world, significant progress is being made. The organization that I interned with a few weeks ago in India, Aangan, was run primarily by women and from my perspective, everything seemed equal and unbiased.
Nordic countries like Sweden have the lowest gender pay gap because of strong government family plans that encourage continuous full-time employment for men and women and allow both parents to spend more time with their children. Today, families are raising their children to be more aware and think of one another as equals. More women are in the workforce, so their kids, especially daughters, see that it is common and beneficial to work.
Activists like Malala Yousufzai and Michele Obama are fighting for the right to education for girls ,especially in parts of the Middle East and Africa where certain groups do not want girls to get an education or there are few opportunities.
Certain companies have made salaries transparent in order to make sure that colleagues are being paid the same amount for doing the same work, regardless of their gender or ethnicity. Others have committed to hire more qualified women by examining hiring practices, analyzing company policies, and using Artificial Intelligence (AI). Forward thinking parental leave policies-providing longer and equal parental leave for both mothers and fathers to balance the responsibility and joy of parenthood-are another way many companies are combating the issue.
What we can do to improve circumstances
Parents can place a greater emphasis on teaching their children that boys and girls are both capable of whatever they set their mind to, with no discrimination based on gender. If kids are taught to treat one another as equals they'll pass those values down and teach others around them. When looking for a job, do your research and make sure that the company you work for/get interviewed at either makes salaries transparent or has gender protection laws. If your company doesn't have any guarantees like that, try to bring attention to the issue and get some of those practices enacted.