Here's a quick question for you to use on unsuspecting friends at cocktail parties: What do Kevlar, engine mufflers, disposable cell phones, rotary engines, submarine lamps and telescopes, circular saws, elevated railways, medical syringes, windshield wipers, disposable diapers, fire escapes, and life rafts have in common?
Hmmmm..... still thinking? Take a moment. Close your eyes and see if an image connecting them together comes to you. Okay, open your eyes and here's the answer...
[A: All are inventions by women.]
Here's another question: Who comprises the majority of people the modern workforce in the United States?
Need another moment? Think about what images and ideas pop into your mind.... Ready for the answer...
[A: Women. Yes, women now make up more than 50% of the labor force in our nation.]
Again not the answer that was top of your mind? Well, you're not alone in sometimes overlooking the constant small and large contributions that women make in the world each day.
Sunday was International Women's Day and it went by with hardly a whisper recognizing women--or our positive contributions to our nation. In fact, the top CNN headlines on that day relating to women follow: "Woman arrested in custard attack on politician"; "Unhappily ever after' can hurt a woman's health;" and another article covering the sad, sad question of whether some moms were "pimping" their daughters.
Safe to say that none of these articles were shining a light on the best women are offering the world in the spirit of International Women's Day.
While it's not a criminal offense to ignore International Women's Day, the combined impact of the day-to-day oversight of women's contributions does add up to an economic offense that causes deep and long-lasting harm not only to women, but also to their families and to our ability as a nation to turn this economic downturn around. Consider this: With equal resumes and job experiences, mothers are hired a whopping 79% less of the time than non-mothers. Given that most families need to have both parents in the labor force to make ends meet and put food on the table these days and that women are the now majority of the modern labor force, this information puts our economic downturn in a new light--particularly since over 80% of American women have children by the time they are forty-four.
The hiring discrimination also carries over into wage discrimination, where mothers with equal resumes as other applicants are offered $11,000 less for high paying jobs than applicants without children (fathers are offered $6,000 more). Mothers were also taken off the management track for fewer late days than others without children.
Women face an uphill battle. And littering this field of battle are our children and families: In fact, prior to the economic downturn a full quarter of families with children under age six were already living in poverty and now this number is sadly getting worse, and current foreclosures are highest in homes with children. This family poverty is in no small part due to the wage hits that mothers take, along with the number of times that mothers are overlooked on the job market.
We need "all hands on deck" to move our nation to full economic recovery. With this pervasive wage and hiring discrimination happening on a daily basis, our nation, and our nation's employers, are in danger of losing out on women and mothers' best contributions in a time when they are most needed to both keep families out of poverty and to rebuild our nation.
Women, put on your Kevlar because now that we comprise more than 50% of the labor force and the economy is in a tailspin, we're going to play a big part in getting our nation back on track. Yes, we're certainly needed, yet mothers are paid only 73 cents to every one dollar made by men--a wage discrimination that has rippling impacts on our families and is partially fueled by the fact that women's real and good contributions are often bypassed in favor of reports about "custard throwing" and "pimping."
The oversight of women's contributions on International Women's Day, and every day, matters--as do our assumptions about what women, and mothers, can and can't do. The very fact that there was nary a soft whisper of women's contributions on International Women's Day hits women with a loud bang. It's time to take a new look at how we view women in our nation.
Follow Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner on Twitter: www.twitter.com/rowefinkbeiner