Many years ago, I was working with a male boss on a project that we were both really invested in. He was older and more experienced in the industry — and he was new to the company and trying to prove himself. When we sat down together to look over the final draft of the project, I pointed out some details I didn’t think worked well. We went back and forth politely for a few minutes, clearly unable to see each other’s point of view.
Finally, with a smile, he told me, “I need you to approach this logically, not emotionally.”
We were discussing font choices.
Although we managed to resolve our conflict, I couldn’t help but wonder if he would have said the same thing to a male colleague.
Women face gender discrimination every day — and overcoming this systemic issue is going to take a lot. In North Carolina, for example, women still earn an average of $8,600 less than men a year, and the pay gap is even worse for women of color here, who make $13,179 less than men.
In fact, if current trends don’t change, the World Economic Forum predicts the United States won’t reach gender equality for another 208 years.
Jill Yavorsky, an assistant professor of sociology and organizational science at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, has covered various aspects of gender equality in her research, including how men continue to be the breadwinners in really rich families and how working moms enjoy less chill time after childcare and housework than their partners. She also speaks about these issues with local companies and organizations.
Here are four things this inequality scholar really wants you to know.
(1) The gender revolution is uneven and stalled.
In the last few decades, the number of women who’ve gone to college and entered the workforce has grown swiftly. Yet, most progress toward equity has stemmed from women going into areas that men have dominated, not the other way around.
“We’ve seen very little movement of men into female-dominated jobs,” Yavorsky explained. “We haven’t seen the same kind of uptick of men’s unpaid labor that we’ve seen in women’s paid labor. Women are still doing the majority of unpaid labor in most homes.”
The fact is, she said, society can’t achieve gender equality without men getting on board.
(2) Women’s rights are human rights.
That phrase is more than a eye-catching line stenciled on T-shirts and posters at rallies. “Not being able to care for your children or having to choose between children or employment — these are family level issues that also affect men,” Yavorsky said. “We need to start positioning these problems as being human issues and not women-specific.”
(3) Paid parental leave could move the needle on gender equality in the workplace.
The U.S. is one of only a handful of countries in the United Nations without a paid leave policy for parents. Passing national policy that encourages both men and women to take time off from work after the birth of a child could shift the way men and women share childcare duties to become more equal, Yavorsky said.
“Also, the hope is to signal to employers the value of employees being able to meet their family responsibilities, and that care work is no longer primarily associated with women,” she said. “Right now, companies aren’t really set up to recognize that people are full human beings who have families. Women take on nearly all the economic risk associated with having kids — they’re expected oftentimes to scale back their careers, take time off. These [factors] are associated with hits on a mother’s wages and promotion opportunities.”
(4) Gender equality is good for women and men.
“The biggest thing I have learned is the importance of men in this conversation — of getting people with the greatest power in society to champion these ideas and proposals to increase gender equality,” Yavorsky said.
But it’s also important to know that men reap the benefits of equality, too. Research shows men who handle their share of baby duties and household chores report greater marital and sexual satisfaction. Sharing the breadwinning burden also gives men the chance to come home from work at a decent hour so they can hang out with their families.
“As soon as both men and women realize that gender equality is good for everyone, the better we will be,” Yavorsky said.