Posts Tagged 'gender equity'

Once An Activist…

The notion of activism has been swirling around me for the past week or so.

I’ve always been an activist at heart. Standing up for what I believe in. Speaking truth to power. Privately, I lean *far* to the left and care deeply about issues of social justice, race, LGBT rights, gender equity, and more. Publicly, at work, I’ve focused primarily on advancing diversity in tech, especially gender diversity.

But lately, I’ve been asked — and have felt compelled — to do more. A colleague told me last week that I needed to “get involved” and “be an activist.” I have a perspective that needs to be heard.

The last two days have been difficult in Charlotte. A(nother) black man shot by the police. Protests. Riots. A protester shot and killed….and a state of emergency called. It’s sadly no different than what’s been happening in so many places across this country, but this one hits very, very close to home. My college community — faculty, staff, and students alike — came together in a moment of solidarity this morning. The message, from those who spoke, was clear. Solidarity is nice, but it doesn’t change anything. Action is needed. Be an activist.

I’ve always believed that those of us who hold positions of power have a responsibility to use that power for the greater good. It’s what I so greatly respect about Colin Kaepernick sitting/kneeling during the pledge (although, as a 49ers fan, I’m disappointed in Kaep for other reasons). And it’s why I advocate so repeatedly, and vocally, for women in tech.

But I can (and will) do more. I have power in my position, and power in my privilege. I stand with the #blacklivesmatter movement, and sit with Kaepernick. I rally against discrimination of any form, especially the hateful HB2. And I continue to advocate for #genderequity and diversity in all its forms within higher education and the IT community.

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We’ve Come a Long Way, Baby?

March is Women’s History Month, and I was asked to speak at a campus Women’s Club luncheon. Just provide a little info on yourself and your experiences, and then let the participants ask some questions, the club coordinator said.

So I got to thinking…what experiences should I share? Should I share the recent Obama report that says women have higher graduation rates than men, but still make 75-80% of what men do? I’ve had experience with that. Or perhaps the fact that women lag behind men in science and technology fields, and recent research shows that unconscious sexism may play a part in that? I’ve had experience with that, too.

I don’t want to portray a negative image of my own work experiences specifically, or the plight of women in the workplace generally. Overall, I’ve had a tremendously successful career and have been very fortunate to have many supporters, advocates, and mentors — most of whom were men. But I do want to be realistic, and the truth is that despite my many successes, I’ve had to wade through the sexism (inadvertent and covert, alike), unequal pay, differing expectations, and more to get where I am today.

It saddens me to  hear — from men and women alike — that we’ve come a long way, as if this somehow justifies the current state of things and makes it more acceptable. Really? Relative pay has increased at a snail’s pace over the last 30+ years, and we may actually be losing ground in the STEM disciplines. Perhaps we have come far in some areas, but not so much in others. And there are still, in the the immortal words of Robert Frost, “miles to go before [we] sleep.”

A Housework Benefit? Really?!?

Stanford’s Clayman Institute posted an interesting article to its blog today about the amount of time academic scientists spend doing housework — 19 hours per week, to be exact — and the impact of that work on job productivity. Their assessment? Universities should offer a “housework” benefit to enable women to spend more time doing what they’re paid for.

Seriously? I’m as much of a feminist as anyone, and deeply interested in gender equity in the workplace. And I’d totally *love* to have a housework benefit — I mean, who wouldn’t? But their argument that it isn’t a “good use of resources to to be training people in science and then having them do laundry” is a hard one to swallow. If that’s the litmus test, then really, is it a good use of resources to care for ones children, shop for clothes, or read a book for pleasure? If I gave up all of those things, I’d have a *ton* more time to spend at work. How great would that be? (kidding)

Yes, I get that women are disproportionally saddled with housework. I would think that single people of both sexes are, too. But is this really something that eats into one’s work time, or prevents someone from taking a demanding job? And isn’t the benefit of taking a high-level, professional job the relatively high-level salary that goes with it (which, presumably, can be used to pay someone else to do your housework)?

For me, the trade-off I make is not between professional work and housework, it’s a trade-off between housework and other ways to spend my personal time. Guess what doesn’t get done at my house, very often? C’est la vie…


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