As a woman who is interested in both the medical and business field, it is concerning to see gender inequality still exist in these fields. Although times have changed drastically for women from the 1920s where the suffrage movement in the U.S. ended allowing women the right to vote to today, the 21st century, where women have almost every right a man has. Yet, women still face some challenges due to their gender. Throughout the course of this class, we explored the topic of women’s rights in multiple books. In We Should All be Feminists, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie mentions the topic of feminism and talks about her experiences as a feminist in Africa. Feminism seems to be a term that is always given a negative connotation. Adichie’s says the official definition of feminism is “A man or a woman who says, ‘Yes there’s a problem with gender as it is today and we must fix it, we must do better.’ All of us must do better” (48), which I found to be a very powerful way of explaining feminism as it holds males accountable for the gender roles issue women face today, rather than just leaving women to make a difference and create change.
Adichie’s experiences as feminist come from Africa, although she was told it was “un-African” like. An example she uses in her book, which I thought perfectly relates to some issues women face today, is when she was talking about her friend, an American woman. Adichie’s friend who was in a high paying advertising position was, “[…] One of two women in her team. Once, at a meeting she had felt slighted by her boss, who had ignored her comments and then praised something similar when it came from a man” (23). Too many times society ignores women’s thoughts and opinions as if it does not matter. Women don’t do anything about it because they fear of not being liked and belittlement. The stigma where women cannot perform as well in a “man’s” job must change as well as the fact that females are too afraid to speak up for their rights. For example, many people believe the business and medical world is meant for a man and that a women would not be able to do their job. So, while women have gained many rights in some aspects, they still lack rights in other facets like jobs. Times are slowly changing and women are starting to realize they are capable of much more than the stigma belittling women depicts.
There seems to be so few women who have a job role in high positions of power, while there are plenty of roles that still need to be filled. Despite these open positions and women meeting the qualifications, males are still favored over women for these positions of power. Women are highly underrepresented and are still struggling to fight for equality despite having already won women’s rights. A research article written by Northwestern University observed challenges faced by women leaders touched upon the issue of the gap between gender equality and said,
Gender Stereotypes are holding women back […]. Americans tend to think of men as ‘agentic’ people who are assertive and take charge. They think of women as ‘communal,’ individuals who are nice, friendly, and caring. But Americans think of leaders as more agentic than communal. (Positions of Power)
In We Should All Be Feminists, Adichie points out how often people worldwide make these generalizations about women. As Adichie says, women are far more concerned about their likability avoiding any type of disagreement or aggression. These gender stereotypes made by people worldwide create a stigma in women that they are not able to perform as well as their male counterparts in positions of power. Slowly women are changing the stigma that they cannot be as successful as males and as a result are starting to feel more empowered.
Over the years, there has been a gradual increase of women in the business and medical field in the U.S. To bring more women into the field of business, universities like Virginia Tech have started to create clubs like Collegiate Women in Business (CWIB). The purpose of the CWIB club is to teach female students how to succeed in the competitive environment of the business world. This club is a helpful resource to show females it is possible for them to take over the male dominant field (Collegiate Women in Business). One stereotype slowly dismissed by women is the idea that males are typically seen as doctors rather than females. The issue where women cannot be found as a doctor is not true anymore. In fact, there is a whole day dedicated to women as doctors. National Women Physicians Day first started being observed last year on February 3rd. February 3rd is a significant date because it marks the birthday of Elizabeth Blackwell, the first American woman to have an MD degree. The number of women in the medical workforce has increased over the years starting at 11% in 1990 to 24% in 2000. Today, women make up nearly a third of the physician workforce. So, National Women Physicians Day acknowledges how women have broken the barriers for women as physicians. While males in America are still dominating the medical field, the women in this field are surely rising (Mohammed). The notion of women stepping up into these positions of power relates back to We Should All Be Feminists because one of the topics mentioned is about women’s success. Adichie talks about how the world puts limitations on a woman’s success. “We say to girls, ‘You can have ambition, but not too much. You should aim to be successful but not too successful […]’” (Adichie, 25-26). Women face these limitations all because we should not “threaten the man” of a relationship and we should not “emasculate” him. A woman becoming successful has now become a threat to a man. Elizabeth Blackwell changed the stereotype that women cannot be a medical doctor. By becoming the first American women with an MD degree she changed the field of medicine and created a rise in women physicians. One result of having the first woman physician was it led to an increase of females in other job fields. Over the years there has been a growth of women in a variety of occupations, which goes to show the progress made. We have gone from a time where women were underrepresented in almost all job fields to now, the 21st century, where women have proved to the world that they can do a “man’s job.” Despite the increase of women in the workforce, females still face challenges.
One of the most common ways gender stereotypes occur is through wage differences. Research by the U.S. Department of Labor shows women, who have the same exact job position as males, typically earn less. According to the 2005 U.S. Department of Labor report, “Wages are only 81 percent of men’s wages” (Brantner). Wage gap differences is such an important issue that there is a whole day dedicated to equal pay for men and women. There is endless amount of reasons for the gender wage gap. Some of the reasons include, the belief that women are not capable of the work men do, the belief that the male of the household is the one who brings in the income of the family, pregnancy discrimination where employers believe women are not planning on staying at their current job long term, etc. Another possible reason for the issue where women are treated lesser then men that Adichie points out is people seem to see a “woman [as] subordinate to men because it’s our culture” (45). Although Adichie mentions the issue as a part of her culture in Nigeria, she indicates throughout the book that her experiences should be applied to our society as a whole and not just in Africa. Change needs to occur everywhere, even in the western world like the U.S. Women are slowly making progress in that they are advancing within many job fields and are starting to be seen as equals to men. For example, in Pennsylvania, for every dollar a man makes a woman makes 78.9 cents (Farber). This National Women’s Law Center statistic shows that while we haven’t quite reached point of pay equality between male and female counterparts, the wage gap is slowly closing.
Women many years ago fought for our rights and opinions to be heard. Despite the rights women won many years ago, women are still struggling to be seen as an equal to men. Although, it is very comforting to see progress has been made and women are making their voices heard, proving to males they can succeed in high powered positions. Adichie uses her experiences from Africa and tries to apply it to our society to teach women to stand up for themselves. She hopes by teaching future generations about feminism and equal rights for women, change will be made and the day will finally come where women are not found to be any less than men. I hope to see gender equality become non-existent within the near future. If both women and men unite together then I believe together we can stop the issue of gender inequality and have equal wages.
Brantner, Paula. “Gender Stereotyping in the Workplace and the Discrimination It Creates.” Today’s Workplace. N.p., 1 Dec. 2016. Web. 18 Apr. 2017.
“Collegiate Women in Business.” CWIB at Virginia Tech. Virginia Tech, n.d. Web. 18 Apr. 2017.
“Why Do So Few Women Hold Positions of Power?” Research News. Northwestern University Institute for Policy Research, 2016. Web. 18 Apr. 2017.
Farber, Madeline. “Pay Gap in Each State for Equal Pay Day.” Fortune. Fortune, 03 Apr. 2017. Web. 18 Apr. 2017.
Mohammed, Samaya. “National Women Physicians Day 2017.” Medelita. Medelita, n.d. Web. 18 Apr. 2017.