THE BLOG

For Women's Equality, Some Positive Developments

01/22/2013 05:13 pm ET | Updated Mar 24, 2013

President Obama has been getting plenty of much-warranted attention for the dwindling diversity of his cabinet. Three female cabinet officials are on the way out of the administration, and President Obama has so far tapped men and only men to replace them and fill other vacancies as well.

That's unfortunate. Now that the President is starting a second term, it needs to change.

Look beyond the Beltway and Washington, D.C., however, and you'll see some more positive developments happening for women.

In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo just launched what appears to be a terrific 10-point plan aimed at achieving equal pay for women, ending family status discrimination and addressing sexual harassment in the workplace, among other things.

In Rhode Island, Gov. Lincoln Chafee is living up to his promise to double the number of women on state boards and commissions. Currently, women hold 33 percent of state board and commission appointments -- up from 15 percent three years ago.

And internationally, the world is beginning to pay new attention to women's equality issues too.
For the first time in the history of Saudi Arabia, women recently were appointed to the Shura Council, which drafts laws and advises the king. In Tunisia, the United Nations recently called on leaders to adopt stronger gender equality measures in its new constitution. The horrific gang rape of a woman in India has forced the world to face the ugly truth about the dangers and sexual harassment women face each day all around the globe.

The need to get women more involved and more equally represented in our governments, our businesses and our organizations isn't just to make us all feel better.

Study after study after study shows us that more women in top management positions can help businesses improve their bottom lines and their return to investors.

Women in top decision-making roles in government help states and countries make better decisions that better reflect the wants and needs of citizens.

And ensuring women get equal pay, and recognizing and respecting family issues, makes for better employees, stronger families and more stable societies.

"Women issues are world issues," Michelle Bachelet, the executive director of U.N. Women and former president of Chile, recently told the New York Times. "Today there is greater awareness than ever before that women's full participation is essential for peace, democracy and sustainable development."

In the workplace, the recognition for the need for better equality for women is not new, of course.

As New York's Syracuse Post-Standard recently pointed out in a piece supporting Gov. Cuomo's womens' equality initiative, it has been almost 50 years since President John F. Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act, prohibiting employers from paying women less than men to do the same job.

"So, 50 years later, why are we still talking about equal pay for women?" the paper noted. "Because we still haven't achieved it."

It's time to stop talking about women's equality -- in pay, in management, in government -- and start doing something about it.

Fortunately, some companies and some leaders, like Govs. Cumo and Chafee, are showing us how.

President Obama and others need to follow their lead.