Last updated: Bridging the gap between equality in pursuit and equal pay

Bridging the gap between equality in pursuit and equal pay


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Today is Women’s Equality Day – we’re celebrating a milestone in US history – the 99th year anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which prohibits states from denying citizens the right to vote on the basis of sex. Here’s what it all boils down to: Do we have a society where people are not limited in their passions, their rights, and their pursuit of success and happiness on the basis of sex?

When I think about how far we’ve progressed in 99 years – and that doesn’t count the 100 year fight leading up to the 19th Amendment being passed – quite honestly I feel simultaneously proud and frustrated.

We’ve come a long way, and yet there’s still so far to go. Achievements like the 19th Amendment and Title IX focus on the equality in pursuit – that individuals cannot be excluded from things like voting or access to education, etc on the basis of sex. 

But these do not fundamentally address the lack of equal treatment that comes later in the process. I’ve been thinking a lot on the gap between equality in pursuit vs equal treatment in success.

Opportunities for success exist, but the reward is not equal

Yesterday, we dropped our daughter off for a week-long co-ed summer Alpine camp. She couldn’t be more excited to spend the next seven days hiking, rock climbing, and sleeping under the stars. As we drove away, I was surprised when I realized that both her camp leaders were young women in their 20’s.

These women will lead their week-long expedition; guide them, belay them as the scale the rock, and train them to do the same for their campmates. Why was I surprised? It wasn’t because both camp leaders were young women – and that this was out of the norm – but rather that they were both young women and that there was absolutely nothing remarkable about that. It was simply normal, and that is simply awesome.

And for moments like these, I am proud.

I’m proud that my daughter is growing up in a world where moments likes these ARE unremarkable. I love that she’s growing up in a world where being a young woman in no way prevents her from pursuing her passions, and that she has no lack of amazing role models (both men and women) to help her become her best at those passions. Candidly, I think we have equality in pursuit part pretty well nailed down.

Where the frustration sets in isn’t in the equality in pursuit of their passions, dreams, and success, but rather what happens when they get there: equal treatment in success.

Daily examples abound where the opportunity for women to succeed exists, yet the reward, the pay, the treatment when they do is not EQUAL. One of the most recent and public examples being the US Women’s Soccer Team’s fight for equal pay.

Closer to home, I was personally reminded of this recently when a male colleague gave me a piece of feedback. He suggested that perhaps I sometimes fall into the women trap of not being vocal or bold enough when negotiating salary changes, highlighting my successes, and pressing for organizational change.

While it is true that women of my generation still have work to do in these areas to evolve past our conditioning, we cannot achieve equal treatment in success without addressing how women are perceived when they do take a more vocal and bold approach.

In the past several years, pressing outside the women box, being more vocal and bold, pushing outside my comfort zone (like my male counterparts) was regularly been met with labels such as “overly ambitious” and “too pushy” by the traditional male establishment. Those are also labels I’ve never heard uttered in reference to any male colleagues.

The bottom line is, we cannot achieve true equality until equal treatment in success and the value or pay we assign to a “job well done” is agnostic of gender.

On this #WomensEqualityDay, let’s all give some thought and take action to ensure that we press hard to remove the double bind women and girls are faced with when it comes to equality in both their pursuit of their dreams AND how their success is rewarded.

This post was initially published on LinkedIn, and is syndicated here with permission.

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