Feminism: the advocacy of women’s rights on the basis of the equality of the sexes.
This seems like a simple enough concept yet in many circles the word feminism has become a dirty word. I have read articles that use it as a derogatory term, that have claimed feminism has been the downfall of western civilization, and that have accused feminists of hating men. I have read women claim to not be feminists because they want to stay home with their children, as if feminism means all women have to work and put their kids in daycare. That isn’t what it means. It very simply means that they should have the choice to stay at home or to enter the workforce and that if they do enter the workforce, they should have equality in pay and opportunities for promotion. Inequalities in the United States are not as pervasive as they are in some parts of the world, but they still persist. Below shows the pay gap by state as of 2016.
We shouldn’t want to do what is right only if it benefits us, but I know for some people it is important to see how it benefits society at large. Gender equality can have implications in areas that many people wouldn’t even think about. If you work for a large corporation, making sure the leadership of that corporation is gender-balanced should be important to you whether you are a man or a woman. Research done by Catalyst and Harvard Business School have come to some interesting conclusions. Read the full report here. If you want companies to act in an ethical way, if you want them to give back to the communities they are a part of, if you care that the company you work for takes its social responsibility seriously – then you should be a feminist. You should want gender equality in its leadership structure. Not only does the research show that “In 2007, annual company contributions were 28 times higher in companies with gender diverse boardrooms” it also shows that the quality of their corporate social responsibility programs were higher. Gender equality in the boardroom means companies who give back more and are more inclusive in their selection of vendors.
The positive effects of gender equality goes beyond the corporate world to nearly all corners of the world. There are many parts of the world where girls are still not educated at the same rates as boys. Google “educating girls” and you will get pages of results about the importance of educating girls and organizations attempting to do just that. It goes beyond the individual benefits of educating an individual girl. Project Drawdown is a project that has extensively researched solutions to reversing global warming. We are at a point where we need to do anything and everything possible to reverse the trend of global warming and climate change, and two of the solutions in their top 10 have to do with women and girls; “educating girls” and “family planning” which is entangled with educating girls. They give a more thorough explanation as to how educating girls can help with reversing global warming than I could ever give. When women and girls are empowered though, it lifts up families, communities, countries, and perhaps the entire world.
Anywhere we look we can see that gender equality has ripple effects that benefit us all. Feminism shouldn’t be a dirty word. It should be a label we all carry proudly. If you need more convincing, listen to this TedTalk which brings it all full-circle: