For the past 23 years, the month of March has been devoted to celebrating National Women’s History Month. Every year, however, it seems that the month of celebration is overshadowed by other things. Often, it is forgotten as the nation is swept up in the madness of college basketball. In addition, the passage of the health care reform during March of this year garnered a significant amount of media attention. As a result, the number of articles and news devoted to National Women’s History Month represented a very minor portion of media coverage.
Considering the significant accomplishments of women such as Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony and Eleanor Roosevelt in American history, it is disappointing to realize that the commemoration of their lives is eclipsed in the press by other news. Ironically, the theme of this year’s monthly celebration of women was “Writing Women Back Into History.” The goal of organizers was to rejuvenate the commemoration of women’s achievements, both past and present. Unfortunately, even with the list of women’s accomplishments growing, women today are still subjects of subordination in society.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, women outnumbered men in this country 155.8 million to 151.8 million in 2000. Women statistically represent the majority in the nation, but they are treated like a minority across many arenas. The Census Bureau reports that a woman earns on average only 77 cents for every dollar a man makes. Although this is a 1.5-cent increase from 2004, the fact that women’s work is valued on average at only slightly more than three quarters the worth of men’s is troubling.
One area in which women have maintained their majority status is in college admissions. A report released earlier this year by the American Council in Education revealed that the average gender gap on college campuses is significant: 57 percent female versus 43 percent male.
Yet, even with more females attending college, there still remain gender disparities in campus leadership positions, including at Georgetown. A recent story by The Hoya exposed the lack of female leadership in campus organizations (“Gender Imbalance in Club Leadership,” The Hoya, April 9, 2010, A1). This leadership gap also expands beyond the students. According to The Hoya (“Gender Equality Remains Mixed Bag for University,” The Hoya, March 19, 2010, A1), women represent only 39 percent of the faculty and only 16.7 percent of the Board of Directors.
The lack of females in top positions is a trend all across the country. One might naturally look to Washington as the place to begin to enact change regarding women’s inferiority. That would be difficult, however, as the political arena represents another domain where women are in the minority.
In Congress, women hold only 90 seats out of 535, with 17 in the Senate and 73 in the House. The dominance of men in both chambers has made it very difficult for women’s issues to come to the forefront of national attention. Even progress that has been achieved has flown under the radar or been completely ignored. At the beginning of last year, the House passed the Paycheck Fairness Act – a positive step for women’s equality. Unfortunately, the action on the bill has stalled in the Senate. Until the upper chamber finally decides to act on the bill, the income gap between men and women will remain.
In order for the glass ceiling above women to finally shatter, it is important that women take action.
Women need not be afraid to challenge the social norms of a male-dominated culture. It is for precisely this reason that the achievements of women in the past are worth remembering. The courage and effort they directed toward combating female stereotypes should inspire today’s women to attempt to do the same.
It is because of past breakthroughs that women like Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and former Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin are where they are today. The organizers of Women’s History Month recognize that inspiration from others can be a strong motivator for change. Making a conscious effort to spotlight events like Women’s History Month is a simple way to maintain enthusiasm for, and continue to pursue, the women’s movement for equality.
Bethany Imondi is a freshman in the College.
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