I volunteered to present at a business conference: How Women Work. After submitting a couple proposals for workshops, I was given the “booby” prize of being on the debate team. Joking aside, it was an excellent debate. Each team had two women and one man. We were graced by two university students who were not only very intelligent but humorous as well in regard to their rebuttals. And then of course it would not have been a debate without another amazing woman, Maddie who was loaned to us from Qatar Debates to coach us.
The conference was born out of a vision had by Carolin Zeitler of Arcata to inspire women to create and define their success. And inspirational it was both last year and this year. This website was born out of last year’s conference after all.
The motion for the debate was selected: The House Believes that the Glass Ceiling No Longer Exists. Yesterday, I argued against the motion (that the glass ceiling still exists). As I did my research for the debate, I was overwhelmed by what I learned. This coupled with the upcoming International Women’s Day on March 8th got me thinking…thinking about the oppression and challenges that women have had to face and still face.
In the Western World we have it made, relatively speaking. Sure there are disparities. Women make 77 cents to the dollar that men make in the United States which is similar to the stats in the UK. Minority women make even less (69 cents) and women with higher degrees even less (60). In global privately held businesses less than ¼ of senior management positions are held by women. All of these statistics are compliments of the 2009 Grant Thornton International Business Report.
And then there is the sexual discrimination that still goes on. Last month a Federal contractor, Green Bay Dress Beef, was ordered to pay 1.65 million in back wages, interest and benefits to 970 women who were subjected to discrimination. (put in link) This is just one of many such cases.
Our team: The Opposition
The team for the motioned argued that women self impose this glass ceiling. Their argument was that they impose it to make other choices: taking time off for the family or for better work life balance. Don’t tell the other team that to some extent I would have to agree with this argument. I have always felt like I could and did achieve as much as my male counterpart. This is not to say that I didn’t feel the glass ceiling to some degree. But it would be naïve to think that every woman’s experiences are the same as mine.
The House also argued that the glass ceiling never existed and quoted a study in which the majority of graduating university students surveyed in 2009 felt that issues of gender discrimination did not exist (and with that the glass ceiling). I love this change in perception!
I expanded on the traditional definition of the glass ceiling by extrapolating it to the limitations on advancement of women in the 3rd world. This research was even more astounding. Let me correct that the research of 2 New York Time’s journalists: Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn was astounding. They published it in their book “Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide (Vintage)“, a must read in general and if you would like a starting point in making a difference.
Here are some of the facts:
2 million women disappear a year due to gender discrimination.
How do they disappear? 39,000 baby girls die annually in China because parents don’t give them the same medical care and attention that boys receive. In India, a bride burning occurs approximately every 2 hours. Why are brides burned? For inadequate dowries and or to eliminate the woman so the man can remarry. China has 107 males for every 100 females, India has 108 and Pakistan has 111 due to abortions of female fetuses. And this last fact had the most impact for me: More girls were killed in the past 50 years just because they were girls than men were killed in ALL the battles of the 20th century. All the battles of the 20th century! I started to list them in my head: WWI, WWII, Vietnam, Korea, The Gulf Wars etc. To highlight this point further, a conservative estimate for the death toll in WWII alone was 40,000,000.
Worldwide (even in the USA) women are forced into sex slavery. The exact number of women who are forced into this trade was harder to determine but it is into the millions per year. The girls are beaten or drugged into submission until they comply. This submission renders then helpless and often times they will not (or cannot) leave their unfortunate situations.
Women are not deemed important enough to receive medical care which results in 100,000 women yearly leaking urine due to obstetrical fistulas. Fistulas that can over 90% of the time be corrected with a simple surgery.
For those of us who have the resources, let’s unite. Unite and stop the age old battles: stay at home vs. working mom. Childless by choice vs. multiple children. Make-up wearing vs. au natural. The list goes on and on. With all the above statistics, it is hard to argue any more.
Let’s change our perceptions to those of the university graduates that we can and will achieve as much as the men can. Without the perception of the glass ceiling, we are part way there. The opposing team would chuckle to know that I am on their side in this regard.
And for the women who don’t have the resources let us all step up.
- Sponsor a child: http://www.yezelalemminch.org/
- Volunteer your time at a shelter for women.
- Donate your gently used business clothes to a woman who cannot afford it: http://www.dressforsuccess.org/
- Or empower a woman in the third world by micro funding her business: www.kiva.org.
It is time we shatter the glass ceiling for good.
I would love to hear whether you encountered the glass ceiling and how you overcame it. Send me the ways you have made a difference in a woman’s life.