I don’t know if you’ve seen what’s going on in California these days. I guess I should narrow the scope, since California is regularly splashed all over the news on account of its political leanings and celebrity drama. I’m talking specifically about this bit of legislative genius [insert sarcasm here], mandating a woman sit on the board of all publicly traded companies in California by 2021.
I. Am. Livid.
I would consider myself a feminist, in the original sense of the word…not the angry, rage against men version that is pervasive in media coverage today. I’m very well aware of the wage gaps and title inequalities between men and women that are plaguing various workplaces nationwide. I know I have made significantly less than my male counterparts, to do the same job, when I have more experience and a proven track record. I’ve watched as my ideas are shot down, while the same idea uttered by a man is celebrated. I’m not blind to the fact that women in upper management are notably and inexplicably lacking in companies I’ve worked for. I’m not naive.
But a quota spits in the face of everything I’ve worked for my entire career. This is not what equal rights is. This is, at best, a tragic bastardization of the ideals of feminism, and at worst, an intentional move that sets the cause back decades of hard work and perseverance…a move that will have to be painstakingly undone and the damage reversed before women can ever really hope to be taken seriously or considered an equal.
Excuse me for thinking I have more to offer the world than a vagina. Pardon my concern that this mandate will effectively dismiss every ounce of work women who got there legitimately have done, and instead, reduce their accomplishments in the eyes of their peers to “having breasts.” Delightful. Those women that have worked their tails off to get to the highest level will now have the respect they deserve minimized and replaced with a slew of question marks as to whether they really earned their place, or if they’re just a checkmark in the female column when someone from the government comes knocking at a company’s legal department door…both in the minds of their colleagues and likely their own minds as well.
Touche to the California majority, making a habit of legislating the results instead of bothering to understand actual problem…you managed to create something that effectively invalidates the accomplishments of the very women you claim to support, and causes them to question the legitimacy of their position, while simultaneously patting yourselves on the back for saving them.
Well guess what? We don’t need saving. Certainly not in a way that further diminishes us, thankyouverymuch.
The larger and more concerning issue is where does it stop? What other demographic will be entitled to a slot next? And at what cost? When does what’s best for the company come into play? While the legislature is busy filling up token figurehead spaces, is there any consideration as to whether or not it’s actually improving the situation and not making it worse? Or is the checkmark enough to consider your job done, so you can sleep at night, knowing you’re saving the world from itself? (Or is that easy sleep coming from knowledge you’ve secured another demographic in your constituency for the upcoming election cycle? No…that couldn’t possibly be it.)
I, for one, am not having it. I know everything isn’t perfect, and that we haven’t reached the equality we’ve been working toward. But I also know, I have a lot more opportunities than women did 50 years ago. Even 20 years ago. And I know that every step in the right direction gets us closer to where we need to be, and that’s a beautiful thing. I know that I have a choice in the matter. If I see that a company that I’m working for doesn’t respect women, I look for a different company. It may not be an easy choice…and it certainly isn’t fair…but important decisions are often difficult and the circumstances unfair. It’s still your choice to make.
That’s how we fix things. We make a conscious effort to make the right choices every day. We teach our kids to work hard and make the right choices every day. We teach them that they have inherent value, and they have so much to offer the world that has nothing to do with their gender or their skin color or their sexual orientation or their religion. We teach them that their actions matter more than which box they check on a demographic survey. And when we create a culture that celebrates who we really are and the actions we take…instead of micromanaging what percentage of which types people are in which positions, irrelevant to their merits…that’s when stuff starts getting really good.
But it takes time. Change doesn’t happen overnight, no matter how much you want it to. Small, consistent steps in the right direction is what gets us there. We need a culture shift…not another law…let’s make that shift together, one step at a time.