Monday, April 4, 2011

We can do it! Or can we?

During World War II, this iconic image represented the women at home supporting the homefront war effort while their husbands and sons were fighting overseas. Women developed a new sense of independence and pride as they took over "men's jobs" and worked to keep the nation running smoothly while also caring for their families. It's actually pretty impressive.

Then, in the 1960s the feminist movement swept over the nation...and is still moving. I find the argument for women's rights to be uniquely complicated. Women certainly still face some discrimination in the workplace, but women have also achieved greatness, equivalent to men.

For example, take a look at some of corporate America's incredible female leaders. The following women are all CEOs of their organizations.

1. Brenda Barnes, Sara Lee
2. Carol Bartz, Yahoo
3. Angela Braly, WellPoint
4. Lynn Elsenhans, Sunoco
5. Andrea Jung, Avon Products
6. Ellen Kullman, DuPont
7. Ursula Burns, Xerox
8.  Indra Nooyi, PepsiCo
9. Irene Rosenfeld, Kraft Foods
10. Laura Sen, BJ's Wholesale

I think that women have made substantial progress in the area of equal rights. It is acceptable for women to have a career or focus on their families or do both! The independent women is no longer frowned upon across the U.S., although some still maintain the philosophy that women should stay in the home.
Now, I feel that there is a different battle that we must face as women. We are pressured to meet a double standard. Women who are too strong-willed and confident are seen as 'masculine' rather than as incredible women. Women who do not fit society's definition of beauty are overwhelmed with insecurity issues. The media tells us to be independent, society wants us to be homemakers. Corporate America tells women to continue to rise in the ranks, but statistics show that children with stay-at-home moms perform much better in school. Facts show us that two salaries will provide more for our children, but religious teachings emphasize that money is not important.

Here is a little taste of the issues you can see by watching television:

In the most recent cycle of America's Next Top Model (which includes a whole slew of issues on its own), the women acted in a commercial set during the Mad Men era, when secretaries were not allowed to actually provide their ideas or participate in the development of new campaigns. The script directs the women to use mildly sexual behavior, innuendos, and play up their looks in order to catch their boss's attention and help him to come up with a new ad campaign.

AdAge posted the following commercial as Hispanic Advertising Creative award winner. Objectively it is creative and memorable, and if you don't think too hard, perhaps even funny. Unfortunately, there is just a little too much truth in this commercial about the standards of beauty in our society.

I do not think that women will feel that they have truly achieved gender equality until these expectations change. As long as celebrities, music artists, and so on continue to support the stereotype, we will be waiting to see this change come about.

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