NOTE: Dear Men: was originally published on my Google+ blog, and I have chosen to import it here because of its relevance to the #MeToo movement.
I’ve been blogging on G+ since the second week of its existence, and from the very beginning I’ve felt welcomed by men on this platform. This was eye-opening, because, as a writer of literary nonfiction, some of which explores social, cultural and political issues that affect the lives of women (in which I’m naturally interested since my father died when I was young and my mother became a working mom within 24 hours), I had always been warned to stay away from anything on social media that could ignite the dreaded fear of feminism – you know, all that ooga booga booga about politics and religion at the dinner table.
Stay away, for instance, from raising the issue that it’s 2014, but women still make, on average, only 77 cents for every dollar that a man earns.
But G+ is a long table at which interesting people talk about things that are important to them, and I have had the continual pleasure of meeting scores of men here who are just as concerned about and interested in issues that effect women as they are in issues that affect men…primarily, I assume, because they know that life cannot be harmonious, happy and healthy when major issues throw life out of serious balance for one of the two human genders walking Mother Earth.
These men have mothers, grandmothers, aunts, sisters and daughters about whom they care and their concern for their well being is evident when I post about how education, employment opportunities, healthcare, and religious and cultural beliefs that affect the women they love. Often the most interesting conversation comes from men who are concerned that women are still fighting for equality.
So…consider this my open letter to you men, some of whom are married to women in the work force, some of whom are fathers to daughters going through school and dreaming about what they want to be when they grow up, some of whom are brothers to women who have decided to take a risk and start their own businesses after years of working for someone else, some of whom may have been, like me, the child of a working mother and who watched her struggle to get a raise, who watched her have to pay higher interest rates for her mortgage, her car loan and her credit cards – because she was a credit risk – some of whom may witness on a day-to-day basis something that makes life less than equal for the women in your workplace.
You might be aware of a woman who is absolutely qualified for a promotion and she needs a champion. You could be that champion. You might be aware that a woman is not getting paid what she should be paid, and you could speak up on her behalf. You might work with a woman whose title does not befit her actual role, and you could help her shape her argument for one that does reflect her contribution. You may know a woman who could use a mentor in your organization. You could be that mentor.
When I was growing up I watched as my older brother was essentially surrounded by older male mentors, who brought him into their businesses, who mentored him, who coached him, who were there for him after our father died. This is often not the case for young women, because even though the work force is now growing with the talents of women, those women are still working in less skilled positions, rather than in high level management positions where they can act as mentors to emerging women.
I was captivated before the Winter Olympics by the story of Jessica Jerome, who told her father when she was in second grade that she wanted to be a ski jumper, and his initial reaction was that he didn’t want his daughter getting hurt. But her ambition, her talent and her perseverance eventually won him over and her father, Peter, ultimately became her champion, spending ten years fighting for the right for women to compete as ski jumpers in the Olympics.
I was particularly interested in this story because Peter Jerome is a pilot for Delta, and aviation is yet another field where there are few women (only 6%). As a general aviation private pilot, every week I find myself asking, “Where are the women pilots?”
I don’t blame Peter Jerome for not getting actively involved championing something that affects women until he was confronted with having to help his own daughter. I don’t blame him because I think that Father/Son bond and mentorship is something that women have not had access to because not every mother works outside of the home, or wants to work outside of the home, and that is a choice I respect.
But…for the young woman who does need that mentorship, step out, won’t you? And help us change the sad fact that in 2014 women still only make .77cents on each dollar that a man earns.
Think about what it would mean for the emotional and psychological health of boys and girls raised together if they knew their work “worth” were equally valued. If your daughters could dream as big as your sons. If the challenges that face your wives and daughters only relate to their willingness to roll up their sleeves and work hard, but not to some invisible ceiling above which they will never be allowed to climb, the stratosphere in which the pay is stellar.
Think about what our economy would be like if men and women worked toward the same goal of parity and mutual respect.
Think about the things that are hard to imagine: how such parity would affect peace, economic growth, our individual and collective physical health. Think about the businesses that would be created.
Think about what it would be like to live and work in a country where women and men make equal pay for equal work.
Think about the smiles on the faces of your wives. Think about how it will shift the conversations you will have with your daughters about their futures. Think about how it will shift virtually…everything!
For good order’s sake, below is the link to the most recent article about this issue, which inspired this post: