“The first thing you need to do about gender norms is forget them.” - Amy Poehler
I recently attended an event and donated clothing and copies of my book to Gals Starting Over and Clothes the Deal, two organizations that provide support to low income, injured, ex-felons, and single moms who are returning to the workforce. I am proud to lend my continued support to these organizations as they align with my commitment to SDG #5, gender equality.
Why is gender equality important to economic development? Any development effort must consider the needs of all people, especially those who don’t typically have a voice in decision making, if it is to be sustainable and effective. That’s why gender equality is a critical ingredient in achieving sustainable development.
Mount Saint Mary’s University in Los Angeles is a hub for gender equality research. According to their report on the status of women and girls in California, we are among the most diverse in the nation, being of various races, ethnicities, sexualities, abilities, religions, and ages. This diversity makes our communities stronger, but the life experiences of these women are vastly different. Women and girls of color face unacceptable levels of discrimination and lack of opportunity. This unequal access to resources and opportunities impacts women’s well-being and compromises future generations.
Where 50% of white women in California have earned Bachelor’s degrees, only 27% of Asian American women have the same education. When we look at Latina women that number goes to 15% and for African American women, it dwindles to only 5%. And these are only the people that we know about. The undocumented female population is estimated to be between 1.25 and 1.5 million.
Women and men make up equal parts of our state’s workforce, but gender bias has found its way into workers’ compensation. Compensation benefits to treat things like women’s breast cancer and men’s prostate cancer are not equal. It is critical that gender bias be exterminated from California’s workers’ compensation policies.
Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) is the author of the bill seeking to eliminate gender bias in the state system. “A woman’s breasts are worth just as much as a man’s prostate,” said Gonzalez in a statement released after the approval of her bill. “It’s long past time that we had a workers’ compensation system that reflected true gender equality.”
It is our responsibility to make this right. Unless women have access to empowerment opportunities, equal compensation, and are able to take a full part in decision-making at all levels, environmental sustainability will remain a remote goal. Encourage women and girls to come forward and speak their minds. Be aware of gender stereotypes. Stand up against harassment and teasing. Be a mentor. Support equal pay for equal work.
Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.