Equality for women can be attained through awareness

By Meghan Keyes

I grew up in a Christian household that was part of a non-denominational church. The world I lived in and the scope of my knowledge was limited, positively and negatively, by the views of the church. The church preached basic Christian values, yet we rarely dealt with tough topics. I knew nothing of gender inequality before college.

Now, I consider myself a feminist. I believe women should be equal to men, regardless of what part of the world they live in, who they love or the color of their skin. I owe this view to my education at Columbia and an intelligent group of female friends.

A Rasmussen Report released on Nov. 3 said 43 percent of the 459 employed Americans surveyed think men and women in the United States actually receive equal pay. Forty-two percent disagree and think they are not paid the same. Fifteen percent are unsure.

To break down these statistics further, 55 percent of employed males say men and women receive equal pay, while 66 percent of women say men and women do not.

The 43 percent of Americans who are unaware of, ignore or deny the salary inequality of women is alarming. If 66 percent of women believe they do not receive equal pay, the remaining 34 percent of women think they are paid equally or are unaware of a proven fact.

Other statistics have shown women and men are not paid the same. The U.S. Census Bureau reported that among full-time, year-round workers in 2009, U.S. women earned 78.2 percent of men’s earnings, or 78 cents for every dollar a man makes. In Illinois, women earned 77 cents for every dollar a man makes.

Feminism is a movement for full gender equality—socially, economically and politically. On this basic level—why aren’t we all feminists? I am a feminist because I am a woman who believes I should be equal to a man.

It’s important to note the extremes of feminism. As with any major ideology or movement, you will find extremists. There are intensely conservative Christians and there are zealous anarchists. Looking past these radical individuals (who generally receive the most media attention), they do not represent the majority. A feminist obviously does not believe in the eradication of men. Similarly, not all feminists are women.

I stand for the equal rights of women and men. Women should be paid the same as men for doing the same work. Women should be portrayed by advertising companies as strong individuals and members of society and as part of today’s workforce. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, women comprised 46.8 percent of the total U.S. labor force in 2009.

In the same Rasmussen survey, 23 percent said they personally know someone who was denied a job, promotion or pay increase based on sex—nearly one in four people know someone who was discriminated against based on sex.

Awareness and education are essential to equality. Those who are considered unequal need to talk about their experience, end the cycle and reach out to others treated unfairly. If someone experiences discrimination in the workplace, file a charge with the Illinois Department of Human Rights. Inequality exists because of ignorance.

The United States is making progress. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, 51 percent of high-paying management, professional and related occupations are held by women. One day, women will earn the same amount as men.

We must not lose sight of what is beyond us. Women living outside the United States are still women. Gay women are still women. It’s important to keep a world view and to strive for equality for all.