Not too long ago, we held a networking event for young women in PR. Thirty years after marching for equal pay and equal rights, I would have thought a networking event for women would have been unnecessary. But turns out, the glass ceiling is still firmly in place — made even more insidious because like glass itself, you can see through to the other side, but can’t get there without shattering it. Women’s wages — 30 years after marching — are still only three-quarters of what men earn. Women are still relegated largely to service type jobs, and even in a profession like PR, which is dominated by women, it is men who lead the largest PR agencies.
I’m currently enrolled in the Institute for Corporate Directors’ course for executives interested in serving on corporate boards, and it’s no different here. There’s 36 students in the class, and we meet for three days over a weekend, four times a year. Of the 36 students, six are women — about the same composition of women that currently make up directors on corporate boards. Turns out, there’s a glass ceiling here too, and becoming a corporate director has just as much to do with who you know as what. Since men tend to know other men in business, primarily because women are largely absent in senior leadership roles, the system perpetuates itself — leaving women largely absent around the board table.
While referring to oneself as a feminist has gone out of both style and favour, I think it’s time for it to make a comeback; for young and old women alike to embrace the F-word, and acknowledge that it’s a fitting attribution, because it means we are viewing the world through a female lens — and when we do, what were seeing, just isn’t good enough. Not for ourselves, not for our daughters, not for each other.