The U.S. Women’s Soccer Team just won the World Cup (again). They are unquestionably the most dominant and successful woman’s team in soccer.
Despite their achievements they are paid significantly less than players on the U.S. Men’s Soccer Team–who didn’t even qualify for the last World Cup. When they won the game fans weren’t chanting “U-S-A”, they were chanting “Equal Pay”.
After the first round of the Democratic presidential debates, all the headlines agreed: women dominated and took center stage. It is anybody’s guess whether a woman will once again become the nominee, but one thing is for sure—women are no longer taking a back seat to men. Yet, only 45% of men say they are comfortable with a female president.
This second-class treatment of women in the 21st century is hard to believe, but it is all too common. It not only permeates sports and politics, but also the workplace and society at large. In fact, most people who have populated the planet since recorded history have been affected by a condition called androcentrism – a male centered worldview.
I grew up during the Baby Boom era. My father worked and paid the bills; my mom stayed home and raised kids (like nearly all the other women in the neighborhood). We watched TV shows that reinforced the idea of sharply defined gender roles. The message I heard most of my life was “men are in charge”. So how did I end up a diversity trainer who for the last twenty years has been actively promoting equality for women?
Just like overcoming any bad habit it involved engaging in new behaviors that slowly rewire the brain. Here are four simple steps that can make that happen:
1) First, realize that gender norms are relative and arbitrary, not absolute.
The expectations and standards for gender norms change with each generation, and from country to country. The majority of them are not a right and wrong type of thing.
2) Second, recognize the intelligence, wisdom and achievements of women.
At the high school level females tend to have higher grades, take more advanced classes and make up 70% of valedictorians. The majority of college graduates (at the associate, bachelors, graduate and post-graduate levels) are women.
3) Third, acknowledge the discrimination and inequity faced by women.
In spite of the undeniable demonstration in the recent past of their equal intelligence and capabilities, women still regularly go unrecognized and unrewarded in the workplace. They are usually paid less, promoted less, and are given fewer opportunities in their assignments and duties. They typically have to work twice as hard to get half the credit.
4) Fourth, become an advocate and actively support women’s issues.
It is not enough to be sympathetic and concerned. We need to be adamant, relentless, unwavering and involved. Stop being a passive bystander, let people know where you stand.
I have learned (and am continuing to learn) to overcome my androcentrism. You can too. As a society we will only be half as good as we could be, if we fail to give women equal standing, equal pay, an equal voice and equal control (which means positions of leadership and decision making). These changes (which are so long overdue), are not just for the benefit of women, but for the benefit of humanity. I speak from experience. Listening to women has made me a better man, so if more of us did the same, I am convinced it would be a better world.