Dear sisters and brothers, dear fellow children, we must work… not wait. Not just the politicians and the world leaders, we all need to contribute. Me. You. We. It is our duty. Let us become the first generation to decide to be the last, let us become the first generation that decides to be the last that sees empty classrooms, lost childhoods, and wasted potentials.
Malala Yousafzai was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014 when she was 17. This above excerpt is from her acceptance speech.
While inequality for women takes many forms, schooling and job opportunities are major concerns that impact the quality of their lives from birth to death. It would be nice to think that in the United States every child and every adult is treated equally, but that is not true so let us first reflect briefly on our own reality of wasted potentials.
Before World War II there were basically 3 jobs a woman could train for: to be a teacher, a librarian or a nurse. In this country, we have made great strides in opening up educational opportunities and job options for women and today there are female astronauts, senators, pastors, plumbers, and carpenters. There are also female doctors, lawyers, and CEOs, but most of them make less than men in comparable positions. Ironically, the size of the gap between the pay scales of men and women tends to increase with higher levels of education and more lucrative employment options.
It is easy to think that shouldn’t happen at any level because of the Equal Employment Act of 1963 that prohibits discrimination on account of sex in the payment of wages. But, it does not apply to every job a woman might hold, and there are other clauses in it such as “merit pay” that provide wiggle room for employers to “justify” unequal compensation.
In 2017, the most recent year for which the federal government has released data, women were paid 20 % less than what men were paid. Or to put it another way, they earned 80 cents for every dollar a man earned. The AAUW Report on Frequently Asked Questions about the Gender Pay Gap points out that the Gap “deprives women of a great deal of money.” It goes on to explain that women are paid less to begin with and the gap in pay gets worse as they get older.
In an ideal world, all girls would have equal educational opportunities with boys, as well as equal access to jobs and equal pay. Malala’s speech reminds us that unfortunately that isn’t so. She went on to say “It is not time to tell the world leaders to realize how important education is – they already know it – their own children are in good schools. Now it is time to call them to take action for the rest of the world’s children.”
Given the magnitude of the inequality problems for women that still exist in the U.S., I suspect you are wondering how this is connected to girls who have no opportunity to go to school in other parts of the world. What I would say to you is that given the progress we have made in this country, it behooves us to work for the educational rights of girls elsewhere even as we continue to fight for equal opportunities and equal pay for women here. It is in the process of lending a helping hand to others that we find we are also helping ourselves.
What steps will you take to provide educational opportunities for girls in developing countries and what will you do to help girls believe in themselves and become all they can be here at home too?
Blessings on your efforts to eliminate inequality for females of all ages – at home and abroad.