One of the greatest economic challenges facing women in the United States is the lack of women in top management positions. Only 4.2 per cent of Fortune 500 CEOs are women. Regardless of the slim statistics, many of us are led to believe that women have already succeeded in breaking the glass ceiling because of the shift from women in the home to women in the workforce. Now more than ever before, more young women are enrolled in colleges in the United States than men. It has also been reported that the family dynamic is changing in terms of women holding jobs and becoming the breadwinners of their families.
I am here to join the many voices that say that equality has not yet come. When more women are sitting at the head of the conference table alongside their male colleagues; when more women hold highly influential political positions; and when bossy little girls are referred to as "leaders," as Sheryl Sandberg says, we will then have achieved something closer to our goal of equality.
I attend a women's college in western Massachusetts. Recently, in one of my college courses, I was stunned when a fellow classmate told the class about an article published in the Wall Street Journal. The article discussed how women are holding women back from progress in the workspace. Although this inter-gender conflict is just one of many potential sources for women's lag in the workplace, I could not help but speak up and question this theory.
Though the theory that women are holding women back in the workplace may be true to some extent in specific circumstances, I reject the idea that this is an overarching problem. When we spread these detrimental messages, we are not only undermining women as a powerful supportive force, we are also helping to perpetuating this message to younger generations of girls and women.
As opposed to teaching the next generation of women to be wary of their fellow women, we should teach and warn them of the nuanced discrimination and oppression that can happen to powerful women. Dispelling these myths about workspace environment is important in creating a positive and empowering message. This message should talk about what women have to look forward to when they collaborate with other women. If we accurately report and propagate what is actually happening, perhaps more people would see that women are indeed making progress and that we are not our own enemies. When we do this, more women will be better equipped with the right environment and tools to rise to the top.
We need more women leading our workspaces, our corporations, and our country. We should not be satisfied with the statistics that say women are now in more managing roles than ever. This statement simply suggests that we should be happy with what we've got. It is important to acknowledge our gains thus far, but it is even more important to ask questions like, "How can I support my female colleague?" Or, "How can I better the conditions of women in the economy by negotiating for myself?".
When I look around and see whom my greatest supporters are, they are my mother, a close friend and empowering female filmmaker, and my close friends at college. The thing is, when one of us stands up and speaks out for our own condition as women in the workplace, we are actually speaking for every woman out there. I would like to see more women on top, leading our economy and our people, not taking the backseat because we are told we only deserve so much success.
Jenni Lee, 2013 G(irls)20 Summit Delegate, represented The United States of America at the 2013 G(irls)20 Summit, June 15 - 19 in Moscow, Russia. Visit www.girls20summit.com to watch the G(irls)20 Summit.