Women’s Liberation – One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

The other day while soaking up the sunshine treading water in the local outdoor pool, my friend asked, “What ever happened to Women’s Lib?”  I don’t remember what we were talking about that spurred the discussion, but we often touch on serious topics when waiting for our aquatics class to begin.  Many of the participants are teachers with free time in the summer, some of us are retired professionals – the conversations can get much more interesting than idle chit chat.  This got me thinking.

In the 60s and 70s we were on a roll towards equality.  We challenged sexism with a vengeance.  We thought we were setting the stage for great change.  At the time, I was climbing the corporate ladder aimed for the glass ceiling.  I was lucky enough to work for companies where the male/female ratio was close or actually 50/50 and pay was equitable.  I was focused on a successful career and in my narrow path, perhaps because I was ‘making it in a man’s world’, I didn’t notice what was happening (or not) around me.

What has happened to the Women’s Liberation Movement?  What happened to the momentum started 40 years ago?  Now look around me and I am in disbelief.  We seem to be going further away from equality.

I am outraged at the recent ‘heartbeat’ bills in the United States.  I am so thankful that I live in a country where the government leaves such decisions to a woman and her doctor.  Canada is one of the few nations with no specific legal restrictions on abortion; however, there are some right wing politicians who have recently started a new debate.  This is a step backward for women’s rights.

The Trump Administration changed the definition of domestic violence and sexual assault to mean only felony or misdemeanor level physical harm.  So, now in the U.S. other forms of domestic violence such as control, manipulation and psychological abuse no longer fit the legal definition.  The Obama Administration’s definition was much broader including physical, sexual, emotional, economical or psychological actions or threats of actions.  This is a step backward for women’s rights.

In the 1960s women in North America made 59 cents for each dollar men made.  Studies in 2016 and 2019 by Glassdoor Economic Research shows that in Canada women made 84₵ to their male counterparts and those in the U.S. made only 79₵.  The gap does narrow if comparing only workers of similar age, education and experience, and further narrows if adjusted to compare only same job title, employer and location to a 4% differential.  I understand that pay equity is affected by women catching up with education and experience so therefore takes time.  So, this isn’t a step backwards, but it certainly isn’t moving forward as quickly as we had hoped 40 years ago.

Worldwide gender equality encompasses so many issues – there is a plethora of problems to solve, particularly in countries with massive amounts of poverty.  One would think that North America would be the leaders in gender equality, but according to the World Economic Forum study in 2018, Scandinavian countries lead the way.  While it doesn’t necessarily mean these would be the best places to live, the following countries have made the best progress based on economic opportunities, education attainment, health status and political empowerment for women: Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Nicaragua, Rwanda, and New Zealand. https://www.msn.com/en-us/lifestyle/did-you-know/the-best-countries-for-gender-equality/ar-BBTz11H

Shame on us.

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