Why I Appreciate How Far Women Have Come, Rather Than Dwelling on the Gender Gap
Imagine your grandmother saying that growing up, she wished she'd been born a male. Perhaps you'd be surprised by that, or saddened. But, really when you think about it, it isn't a shock at all. For much of the 1900s, women's rights were secondary to men. That comment is exactly what was said to me recently, and I couldn't help but think, "I've never felt that way!" I believe each gender has its own unique privileges and benefits, but never once have I thought that I wished I were a man or that I would have it easier as a man.
As a woman in the business world, sure, I've encountered some discrimination. As have countless others for gender, race, religion, sexual preferences and more. But, we're getting better with that all the time, and regardless, I've never felt I wasn't taken seriously in the workplace because I'm a woman.
And so, instead of focusing on the areas where the gaps still exist, let's spend a moment on the wins -- the positive breakthroughs for females in the United States, and how this helps us as entrepreneurs.
Then: "Decades ago it was normal for a woman to be chiefly a caregiver, housekeeper and wife. Wives did all the cleaning and made sure dinner was on the table. It was the husband who would give weekly allowance to the kids. On occasion, he would also give his wife some money to pay the bills," said Marguerita Cheng, co-founder and CEO of Blue Ocean Global Wealth, in her CNBC article earlier this year.
Now: According to a NerdWallet survey, as of just a few years ago, almost 80 percent of women pay at least a quarter of the household bills. We also know that many more women now hold jobs outside of the home, and spouses are sharing financial duties and household contributions.
Why that matters: Women, now more than ever before, are responsible for managing their own finances. Investing in 401(k)s, budgeting and paying the bills have become the norm for many women. This means that women are better equipped to manage the finances of their own businesses as well. While accountants and lawyers are great assets for any small business, it's important to know at least the basics yourself.
Then: In years prior, you would often see no women in politics, board rooms or senior positions of any kind. If you've seen the show Mad Men, you'd recognize the clear depiction of women as assistants, there to bring a cup of coffee or answer your phone. When one of the female lead characters was promoted to copywriter, it was a big deal, because that just wasn't done at that time.
Now: Women like Sheryl Sandberg, Marissa Mayer and Hillary Clinton -- like them or not -- have certainly made a name for themselves. Female leaders are on the rise, breaking glass ceilings around the world by becoming the first woman to do something never before done.
Why that matters: More women leaders means more women entrepreneurs. Females are able to gather the skills needed to lead their business, and to confidently take on new challenges and new risks. Slowly, it's becoming easier for women-run businesses to raise funding, and this is just the beginning.
Then: Previously, the natural characteristics shared by many women were seen by some as "weak." Rather than "empathetic," women might be considered "overly sensitive." The double-edged sword is that women couldn't behave like men -- that was frowned upon. A woman should know her place ... and stay there.
Now: Today, female qualities are often celebrated instead of shunned. These traits enable women to develop long-lasting relationships based on trust and understanding. Because of this, the relationships tend to be genuine versus only self-serving. Their ability to care for others has helped them to become good managers and mentors.
Why that matters: Not only do many people better understand the differences between men and women, but they appreciate them also. Both genders have unique qualities to be valued and they come together to create a balanced team. This has allowed women to embrace their own traits and talents, and at times -- develop their own businesses.
There has never been a better time to be a woman in the United States, and many countries around the world for that matter. While there's still a ways to go -- with pay discrepancies domestically and personal safety internationally -- we've made great strides. We should always strive to improve, but not lose sight of how far we've already come. I like to believe that a woman in the United States has the same opportunities as a man, and I challenge you -- whether man or woman -- to continue pushing that bar. It's up to us to modernize, and we can do it together.