• Improving Gender Equality — On Both Sides

    Women have made great strides in the last several decades, moving from the expectation of mother and wife to a place where she can (mostly) choose her roles in life.

    But what strides have men made? Yes, paternity leave is under discussion and may someday be as normal as maternity leave in workplaces. But men’s roles in general have changed very little.

    Those expectations start young. Anne-Marie Slaughter is well known for saying women can’t have it all. In a recent Freakonomics podcast episode, she points out that part of the problem is how we raise our children. Even as we tell our daughters they can have a corner office, we’re not telling our sons that they can be a stay-at-home dad.

    If we’re going to get to real equality between men and women, we have to focus less on women and more on elevating the value of care and expanding the choices and roles for men … we measure our progress in the women’s movement by how many women CEOs we have, women leaders of all kinds, women politicians … and it’s assuming that you can get to equality between men and women by changing women’s roles but not changing men’s roles.

    … we’re still saying to men, “Your worth in society is a function of your breadwinning. It’s a function of how much money you can make and how high you can rise in your career.” And that is a very limited set of choices. It’s the flip side of saying to women, when my mother was raised you know, “Your worth in society depends on can you get married and can you have children.” And my point is all of us should have access to both.

    So what happens when the son raised to feel that breadwinning is his role marries a woman who wants to be CEO? If they have children, one of them will likely take on more of the child caring than the other. In a perfect world, it would be equal, but in reality, probably not. Would the man be willing to step down? Would he feel less of a contributing member of society?

    Of course, teaching our sons will be a learning experience. We often are so blind to gender inequality that we take part in it, telling our young sons not to cry, but picking up our daughters to comfort them. It’s not enough to have mom mow the lawn and dad do the dishes. Is dad attending the school play while mom runs the staff meeting?

    Even if that occurs, society will still impart the idea of what it means to “be a man” on our sons. While it may be difficult, we must find a way to teach our sons that being a man is more than the images they get from movies and the lewd jokes in the locker room.

    This often starts with conversations at home, with us speaking up with we see something sexist on television. Acknowledge and discuss it. While we cannot control the outside world, we can teach our sons and daughters to question what is right and wrong.

    Posted on January 13, 2016 by in Inspirational Articles