July 13, 2011 by Ilene H. Lang
Let’s talk about sexism.
Now I know the word “sexism” carries baggage. But no matter what you call it—gender bias, systemic inequity, inequality, or discrimination—the belief that a woman is not as capable as a man simply because she is a woman is at the root of many challenges we face.
Spectacular examples of sexism and harassment get front and center attention—Anthony Weiner is merely the latest in a long line. But insidious day-to-day sexism often goes unchecked, unnamed, and tolerated.
I’m talking about sexual harassment from men on the street in the form of “hey baby” or “sweetie,” scantily clad models who give out product samples in public spaces, or advertisements that pander to the lowest stereotypes around homemaker wives or dumb, oafish dads.
When broadcast messages or the language we use everyday reinforce sweeping generalizations about women, it’s hard to make real progress in the workplace or across society. Sexism reinforces a notion that women are valued less.
And this has a real impact.
In industrialized countries, women working full-time earn, on average, 82 cents to every dollar earned by men working full-time. In turn, paying women less reduces GDP in the United States by 9%, in the Euro-zone by 13%, and in Japan by 16%.
Exposing sexist messages and images for what they are—inaccurate falsehoods that perpetuate bias—can help end this vicious cycle. What do you see? What don’t you see? (Remember, the absence of women is sexism too!)
Only by saying something—and doing something—can we stop sexism at the source.