I appreciate the recent series of articles The Salt Lake Tribune has done on women’s status and attitudes, the gender wage gap, and women’s leadership in Utah.
According to an expert quoted in the article, “'There’s more education and awareness’ that needs to be done to get people engaged.”
I thought, “Is this saying women are so oppressed in this state that they don’t even know they are being oppressed?” Really? Are these 37% of women suffering from Stockholm Syndrome? Or is this simply another case of women being patronized?
It’s possible I’m inferring more than what was meant in those words. But the words reflect a bigger problem when discussing women’s status. Factors for determining women’s status typically include wage parity, political leadership and high-level corporate representation.
I suspect that while these 37% of women may acknowledge there are problems in these areas, they also believe their ability to meaningfully contribute to society’s betterment is at least on par with men’s. These women may be seeing what I see in Utah: women who are empowered and confident in their ability to make a positive difference in their communities, in their families and in the workplace.
These statistics don’t just reflect top-down public policy. They reflect the hard work that parents do to ensure their kids have stable and supportive environments, as well as the work volunteers do to build communities of opportunity and support, all of which enable individuals here to flourish.
I believe that the ultimate goal of feminism is to first empower women to make choices that maximize their ability to lead fulfilling lives and make fruitful contributions to society — in whatever form those might take — and then to recognize the value of those choices.
In order to reach this ideal, is there more work to do to convince employers that women working the same jobs as their male counterparts should be paid equally? Of course.
Is there more work to do to create more substantive and flexible employment opportunities to enable more mothers to utilize their skills in the workplace? Absolutely.
Is there more work to do to encourage men to pick up their share of the household work and childcare? Definitely.
But as we work toward these goals, shouldn’t we also bestow more status to the valuable contributions women make in the form of unpaid work, such as conscientious parenting and community leadership? Yes, yes, yes.
I believe more fully recognizing the true value of this important unpaid work may be the very best way to increase the status of women in Utah.
It seems that these 37% of Utah women already recognize it. Perhaps they are the most enlightened of us all.