Every Woman is Valuable

Hilary Rosen has been in the news recently because she said Mitt Romney’s wife, Ann Romney, had “never worked a day in her life” because she chose to be a stay at home mother.[1]  Choosing to stay home and raise a family might not bring in the financial or status gain as a paid career, as Ms. Rosen is suggesting, but it should not be defined as ‘not working.’ As Ann Romney and many others, including Michelle Obama, responded saying raising children and running a household is hard work.[2] It was with these comments that it became more apparent that women are undervalued by society as a whole.

In the last fifty years, women have made great progress to close the gender gap and achieve status equal to men. Several laws in the United States have been passed to improve equality and end discrimination in the work place, such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. Likewise, in recent decades, women have excelled in higher education. Currently more than 50 percent of students earning a bachelor’s degree are female.  Despite their best efforts, however, women still continue to be under appreciated in US society.

Proof that society does not financially value women and men equally is there remains a gender pay gap in almost all work places. Across all fifty states and Washington DC, on average, the earnings ratio between a full-time, year round employed woman and man is 78.6 for equal work.[3] In other professional careers such as news media reporter, lawyer, and other general management positions, men outnumber women.[4] Even though more women are seeking higher education and earning professional degrees, they are severely underrepresented in the professional work place. In the past decade, more women have sought out post-bachelors and professional degrees because “women need more education to reach the same average income levels as men.”[5]  Further, across all forms of government representation in the United States, women represent less than 30 percent of elected officials. Currently, the United States is ranked 69 out of 188 countries with directly elected governments in terms of female representation. This ranking is far behind other nations such as Sweden, South Africa, and even Rwanda.[6]

At a recent Heritage Foundation event, Condoleezza Rice spoke about the United States’ involvement in foreign policy. In relation to Rosen’s recent comments, Condoleezza Rice added in a quick word of advice to the young women in the room and in the United States about success and achieving equal representation. She has full confidence that women will someday achieve full equality in the US but the process to get there will be taken one step at a time. Glass ceiling, she said, will be broken not because of an announcement, but because there are women who will continue to break them. She closed this statement saying, “never let anyone define what you are going to be by how you look. If you see someone trying to do that, you just challenge them right back because they have no right to do it and you can’t let them.” [7]

Similar to other social movements in the United States, women are not going to gain equal pay and job opportunities by asking for it; they need to fight for it and push forward as a unified group. Women, in general, will receive more setbacks in achieving equality if they do not value each other as equals first. Hilary Rosen’s comments about Ann Romney devalue the hard work of the average homemaker. Clearly there has been political spillover and more recognition has been raised that women, no matter their career choice, do work hard. Women deserve to be treated equally to men and to each other.

–Catherine Kus

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