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The following article by Ericka Hatfield, director of client engagement at VMLY&R Dallas, was published by Little Black Book. Click here to read the article on the Little Black Book website. 

As we prepare to celebrate Women’s Equality Day on August 26th, we recognise that more than 100 years ago, white women were granted the right to vote. It was not until later until the Civil Rights movement and Voting Rights Act that women of colour were granted the same right. As we look at equality for women in the US there remains an ongoing battle of perception versus reality.  

We recently have seen a boom in women starting businesses and rapidly outpacing male counterparts in education, but what is the true story behind this recent trend? Is it that women are earning more degrees to catch up? Or is it that women must leave their corporate jobs in order to be paid fairly? This year marks a record number of female CEOs, but even with the increase in women executives in 2021, women - specifically women of colour still earn less per dollar than their male counterparts. For every dollar a white man makes, Black Women earn 0.63, Native American/Indigenous Women earn 0.60, and Latina Women earn 0.55. This is especially appalling considering that women are more educated than their male peers. Due to these pay gaps and challenges with work flexibility, the influx of women small business owners has increased 31% from last year's 27%, based on findings from the Small Business Trends report by Guidant Financial. Due to these pay gaps and challenges with work flexibility, the influx of women small business owners has increased 13% from last year. 

Despite companies implementing a flexible/hybrid work schedule ahead of the pandemic and enhance benefits for women like 12-week paid parental leave for expecting parents inclusive of adoptions or surrogacy. PayScale.com reports that women’s labour force participation is at a 33-year low as more women take on caretaker roles at home due to remote schooling. The lack of workplace solutions for women who are often the primary or sole income providers is another harsh reality with negative impacts on families and communities.  

Many industries were forced into self-awareness about what being diverse, equitable, and inclusive really means. Organisations made promises of change but challenges that woman face often were not actualised into corporate policy. If changes were made, they were clearly identifiable. 

Women are faced with different obstacles in 2021 than those our feminist leaders and activists who fought for voting rights, ownership, and belonging to the workforce. 

The pandemic uncovered a new set of roadblocks for everyone, especially women, concerning our mental health. We watched two talented Black women, Simone Biles and Naomi Osaka the backlash for prioritising themselves, which is a burden many women carry, and one Sojourner Truth famously spoke about. As we look beyond 2021, I hope women continue to speak up for themselves where it pertains to   their worth, value, mental health, personal space, and treatment.  

From deciding what to wear to avoid certain types of comments or the fear of our body being policed to having to shrink oneself to not be intelligent, bold, strong, passionate, or ambitious because those are ’threats’, not traits, women are allowed to embody. From being told to relax, the reality is the women I know - do not need to be told to relax. Especially when it comes to challenging norms, smashing the glass ceiling, closing the pay gap, and pushing toward clear, visible equality for all women – in perception and in reality.


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