Diversity, Inclusion and Equity

There still are women’s issues

July 21, 2015

Better but not yet equal

Over the weekend, candidates from both the Democratic and Republican parties weighed in on gender issues. As a public employee, I do not engage in partisan politics. I want our School to be a civil place where people can articulate many points of view—civilly. That being said, I am struck that women candidates from both parties are still forced to navigate policies and cultural mores that affect women adversely. (See “Women Are Underrepresented In Politics, But It’s Not For The Reason You Think,” from The Huffington Post last summer.) In many industries, including the film business, Silicon Valley high-tech companies and some university departments, women still report being paid less than men who have comparable experience and are in similar jobs. That’s outrageous.

Cultural differences related to gender, race, sexual orientation or disability can be even more challenging because they often are insidious. I sometimes hear that women are told they shouldn’t have children at a certain point because it will hurt their careers. Whether or when women have children should be a personal decision, not one enforced by colleagues! When I talk with other women, we often express the feeling that we have to prove ourselves over and over, no matter where we are in our careers. That may be beneficial to our organizations, but it takes a personal toll.

I’ve been fortunate in my career and have had fabulous opportunities. Yet, I keenly remember one conversation nearly 20 years ago, after I just had been named to lead a National Cancer Advisory Board committee appointed by President Clinton. I was sitting at a table with eight male colleagues at the university where I worked. One of them looked at me and said, “So, why are you such a big deal?” Would he have asked that of any of the other seven people at the table?

Check out the YouTube video below. According to our communications director, David Pesci, Carly Fiorina stopped by BuzzFeed and showed some of the men there what it’s like to be a woman in the workplace. I am not endorsing her candidacy for president in 2016, but her video is right on the mark.

Have a good day. Barbara

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The views expressed in this blog are Barbara Rimer’s alone and do not represent the views and policies of The University of North Carolina or the Gillings School.