Photo: Jenn Evelyn-Ann
Despite what many of us want to believe, the gender divide in our culture remains very much alive.
It stems, in part, from a stubborn cultural insistence that men and women play traditional — and inherently unequal — gender roles.
The evidence exists everywhere. At home, women still carry much of the domestic and child-raising burden, in spite of the fact that studies showhaving both parents equally involved at home improves children’s well-being and school performance.
Furthermore, despite recent policy initiatives designed to promote gender equality in the workplace, gender diversity among corporate leadership teams remains low — something that’s often justified by the problematic reasoning that women aren’t qualified for leadership because they’re inherently too emotional or might become pregnant, two timeless staples of gender stereotyping.
Personally, I’ve witnessed this both in my career and at home.
At home, my career initially took the backseat to my husband’s because I had to be that stabilizing force for my family. And when I did go back into the workforce, I made less money and had to fight harder than my male counterparts to obtain the senior management and leadership roles I deserved.
The difference was so great that when I became a co-pastor at World Changers, I made combatting the gender divide a key priority.
So, we know the gender divide exists. It’s pervasive. But here’s the thing: it’s also seriously damaging — to both men and women
The evidence is clear:
- Birth rate. According to Harvard University, “Countries with high female labor force participation rates tend to have higher birth rates.” (A birth rate of 2.1 is required for a country to replace its population. In the U.S., the fertility rate is currently at 1.9.)
- GDP. According to the IMF, the gender gap costs U.S. corporations millions of dollars every year; closing it would raise U.S. GDP by 5%.
- Parenting. This one is easy. As I mentioned before, having both parents equally involved in a child’s life makes for healthier, happier children. Also, when parents share the burden, they themselves are happier.
The need for change is equally clear: we must internalize, as a culture, the fact that gender does not exclusively qualify or disqualify someone from an opportunity.
But let’s remember: gender inequality in the workplace and at home persists because, in many ways, it’s ingrained in our psyche
Meaning, it’s a tough problem to root out. For our ancestors, for example, inequality was sort of necessary. Men went out to hunt and bring home the food; women watched the kids and prepared meals.
But times have changed
Men and women are equals now. Both genders are both equally capable of bringing home the proverbial bacon and raising children. In fact, men and women complement each other. Side-by-side, we lead better together. We parent better together. We drive progress at companies more effectively together.
To end gender inequality, companies, families, and institutions must make systemic changes.
As my team and I do at World Changers, executive teams must make it a priority to hire people solely based on skill and experience as opposed to qualifiers of any physical sort.
As parents, we all must teach our children what sort of respect they should look for in a future spouse — namely, that they themselves believe in gender equality — as well as what kind of conditions they should demand of their employers. Personally, I’m trying my best to raise my daughters to be confident and aware of their self-worth. It’s helped me, even, having conversations with them and with other young women about fighting against that feeling of being ignored or overlooked.
And that’s another key factor of this fight: individually, we can all seek to find our voice and demand, collectively, a better, more equitable world.
Ultimately, equal gender roles benefit everyone
The key to ultimate success in this battle for equality is focusing on the fact that a more equitable world at home and in the workplace benefits everyone — not just women.
Going back to the stats I cited above, it’s clear that eliminating the gender divide would increase our national birth rate, increase our national GDP, and improve the lives of children across the country. And the reason is simple: women and men truly do work better together. A more equitable workplace is more efficient and productive. A more equitable home is happier and healthier.
Equality won’t come about on its own, though. As I’ve said, we have to work for it. As then-senator Barack Obama once said, “We are the change that we seek.”
That change is within our grasp. We know the type of world we want. We know why and how the world would benefit from equality
Now it’s time to make it happen.
This article was originally published on Medium.