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Everyone has a role in achieving equity for women

In today’s edition of The Outlook, we’re celebrating some of the amazing women who have risen to great success in their careers, home life and community. Their stories begin on our front page with a feature story on retired Gresham Police Chief Carla Piluso and continue in our special supplement, “Exceptional Women,” found inside today’s edition.

These stories arise from a cross section of our community: successful business owners and leaders, community volunteers, elected public servants and dedicated parents. In many ways, these exceptional women embody the very best of how far women have come since the feminist movement began in the mid-19th century.

But as we talk in today’s Outlook about these exceptional women, we’re aware that women continue to fight an uphill battle for equal rights and equal status, that even as great strides have been made, much work remains before the gender gap disappears.

An impromptu conversation with female members of The Outlook staff led to these observations as contributing to inequities for women in the workplace. Here’s some of what they had to say:

• “We are still tied to our appearance as our identity, especially for girls. Self image is a big deal.”

• “Aspects of our culture still see women as having to be barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen.”

• “The attitude persists that ‘You’ve got children, so obviously work is not your top priority.’”

• “We need to advocate for better public policy, such as on issues of equal pay.”

• “Some women are a little reluctant to take higher positions within their companies because of time constraints between work and family responsibilities.”

• “In some cases, we are our own worst enemies.”

This is the very topic addressed by another exceptional woman, Sheryl Sandberg, whom you many know as the chief operating officer of Facebook and a former Google executive. She’s also the author of a recently published book, “Lean in,” which she describes as a “sort of feminist manifesto.”

Sandberg addresses issues that she says continue to hold women back in the workplace, among them an inadequate number of women in leadership positions and a lack of assertiveness on the part of women in their careers.

These two issues are certainly contributing factors to the gender wage gap, which was estimated at 81 percent in 2010 — meaning women (on average) made 19 percent less than their male counterparts in full-time positions.

Much of this boils down to the realities women face in our culture.

• Families no longer can sustain themselves on a single income.

• Women do shoulder the heavier load of parenting responsibility.

• And women do generally accept the greatest level of responsibility for caring for aging parents.

Take action

While today’s Outlook won’t solve the inequities faced by women, we can say that there are just a few things that both genders can do to keep the movement headed in the right direction.

To the women: Stop enabling your boys to carry on in the ways of their fathers and grandfathers. Stop doing everything for them. Instead, teach your sons to wash the dishes, shop for groceries and to cook and clean. And don’t feel guilty for your success in the workplace. Let your partner carry an equal share of the load.

To the men: Carry your weight around the house. Model for your sons the type of behavior that leads them to honor and respect their mothers, and women in general. Don’t wait to be asked before you help.

To business executives: Examine your hiring practices. Pause long enough to review your hiring practices and the wages you pay. And be brave enough to honestly answer this question, “Am I gender blind?”

To all of us: Support the efforts of women who continue to seek parity with men through the legislative process.

Celebrate

We hope you enjoy today’s edition of The Outlook as we celebrate Exceptional Women.




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