March is National Women’s Month, and today (March 8th) is International Women’s Day. One of the many things happening to mark this is the A Day Without A Woman demonstration, which got me sort of thinking and wondering what might happen if every woman who is a part of the Hello world took the day off?
We are, in many ways, a celebration of the tremendous economic opportunities that are available to women in 2017. But the national numbers on women-owned businesses tell a different story. In 2012 (the most recent data I could find), only 36.3% of all businesses were women-owned nationwide. Something I found really interesting was that male-owned businesses employed 5x more people than female-owned businesses (89.5% of those women-owned businesses had no employees at all!). I’m not so great at the maths, but even I know these numbers are way off from hitting the equality mark.
Speech-language pathology is 96.3% women. So, again, we’re talking about total collapse of a system if women suddenly stopped doing this work.
The fact that the field is overwhelmingly female must mean that it’s an awesome career for women, right? Well, if you’re looking at wage parity, the answer is (shockingly) NOPE. The Wall Street Journal took Census data and made this really cool, interactive graphic in May 2016. I typed in “speech-language pathologist” and get this: women earn just 85% of what their male counterparts make. That. Is. Garbage. I mean, like, serious major league garbage.
Whether we’re in the schools or in our clinic, our work centers around children and that means that it centers around women. Here’s what I mean:
The schools are full of career paths that are “woman-friendly” (hate that term, but whatever). 76% of teachers and 91.4% of teaching assistants are female, while 52% of school administrators are women. So, a day without women in the public schools could still go on (this is a good thing!), but words like “hot mess” and “trainwreck” might be used to describe it afterwards, given that buildings and districts would be without over half of their staff.
As you’ve likely already guessed: none of them make as much money as their male colleagues. Women teachers make 92% of what the men make, and women teaching assistants make 77% of what the men make, and female admin make 77% of what the males make. Again, please file this under GARBAGE.
And then, there are the mothers. In addition to many THFers being mothers ourselves (63% of us, more or less), we have front row seats in our clinic and our IEP meetings to the work that mothers do everyday. We see them being tireless advocates for their children experiencing disability, fighting fights that shouldn’t have to be fought, forging a path forward for their families. A day without mothers is, in a word, inconceivable.
The work of motherhood is often not rewarded by our society, however. There is a sociological construct called The Motherhood Penalty that even affects women who never have children. Anyone in our field can tell you stories of mothers who have had to quit their paid jobs to care for their child’s needs or whose employers wouldn’t give them the time off to attend meetings. The wages of motherhood will likely never be paid in dollars (maybe because being a SAHM should have an annual salary of $113,586?), but simple solutions like workplace flexibility, paid family leave, and better wraparound care for children can make a huge difference in the lives of women everywhere.
My Very Scientific Conclusion
. . . is that my professional world would cease to exist without women. Which, honestly, I didn’t have to write this to figure out. I know it, I live it, I breathe it.
But what I didn’t know is just how inequitable my professional life is. I think I thought that, because I work in such a female-dominated sector, I didn’t have to worry about it so much for myself and could focus my energies on the bigger fights. I was wrong.
The gender gap in pay equality won’t close entirely until 2186. How long will that take in the fields of speech-language pathology and education? How long until employers of all types recognize the value of a flexible, family-friendly workplace? How long until society recognizes the value of women?
Big, hard, and probably totally unanswerable questions. But how about this for something a little easier: how can we here at Hello Be Bold for Change as the International Women’s Day campaign urges us to do this year?
I’m quite certain that that everyone here would have a different answer to that question (because that’s just the sort of folks we are), but here’s what I think: We can continue to offer a place where SLPs, OTs, and School Psychs can do the work they love while having the flexibility to be fully present in the lives of their children, parents, partners, and community. When we celebrate our achievements in the business sphere, we can take extra care to mention our female-ness. We can continue our international work which empowers and educates women in developing countries. We can continue to hire, promote, celebrate, and do business with women and our male allies who share our vision for a world where inclusion and equality for all are the norm.