Hidden Inequality -- A Voice for Change

Little man decided to wake up at 5:30 this morning.  I rocked him back to sleep (p.s. he's two! ha.  the stinker...but I still love to soak those sweet moments in).  Anywhos, I went back to bed, but my mind was wide awake.

Friday night I saw "Hidden Figures" (plan to start the book!).  I don't know that words can really express the amount of emotion I felt while watching the stories of these women's lives.  Along with many other feelings, I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude.  I felt gratitude for these amazing women who led the way for women of color in the sciences.  I felt gratitude that they led the way for women in general in the sciences.  They were/are women of amazing talent, but because of the color of their skin and their gender, they were seen as less.  They fought.  They used their voices.  They proved themselves to people that they shouldn't have had to prove themselves to.  I am so SO grateful that they helped lead the way for me to be a part of what I am a part of today - to be a strong woman in the sciences.  Because of them along with a close support circle that never once questioned my ability to succeed, I'm where I am today.
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I can't imagine what it must have felt like to be told that I couldn't attend a meeting because I was a woman.  I CAN imagine what it feels like to be the only woman in that meeting of 30+ men.  It's my reality.  I am the only woman within my R&D team at work.  I am currently blessed to have a supportive manager and supportive team of men surrounding me.  It hasn't always been that way; even in my short career so far I have already faced issues of inequality being a woman.

Within my first year, I attended a training with about 15 other men from my team.  I took the opportunity of not having to run around in the lab and wore a pair of heels (cuz I LOVE my heels!).  I walked in and a male colleague says in front of everyone else "Those are some nice CFMPs!".  I and the others laughed it off because I honestly didn't know what that stood for; call me naive.  During a 15 min break, I asked him what it stood for.  Apparently CFMPs = Come F*** Me Pumps.  I was at a loss for words/in shock that he'd even say that out loud.

A couple years ago, during an annual review, I was told by my manager at the time that because I hadn't been there a portion of the year (I missed a month due to maternity leave--the other two months being in the new year), I wouldn't be getting as much compensation for a raise.  Note: I was supposed to be protected by FMLA.  But, yup.  Today (or at the time 2015), things are still not equal.  Crazy, right?!  I wanted to tell him that what he just told me was illegal, that he can't say or do that!  Did I? no.  I still kick myself for not speaking up and using my voice.  It did, however, light something inside me.  I promised myself that the next time I faced a similar situation that I wouldn't sit silent.

A few months later, shortly after I had wrapped up the whole nursing/pumping challenge, I was told that my cleavage had been too much for an individual (who happened to be in a high position of power) -- this complaint came while I was still nursing.  In fact, I was told that they would be changing the dress policy to say "no cleavage" -- Let me remind you of the minority that women are here.  Now.  Please understand, I am not one that walks around with my boobs half-hanging out.  I am well-endowed, yes.  I had been nursing, yes.  I also happen to be built in a way that even with conservative shirts, I still have a small bit of cleavage -- more if I have the gall to cross my arms.  SO.  When I was told this, I fought.  I used my voice.  I wasn't going to sit quietly this time. I let them know that this wasn't okay and that they would be at a huge liability (especially because I had been recently pregnant and nursing).  And guess what, I "won".  Meaning, the policy was not changed in such a demeaning manner.  Honestly, though, I shouldn't have even had to deal with this.  Even though I knew I was right, it still affected me.  I became more self conscious and it took some time to move forward.

I work in a field that I have gained a lot of respect by having a degree.  I work in an area where (generally) morals are relatively high.  Because of this, I know that my negative experiences are likely just the tip of an iceberg for many others.

Why am I sharing this?  Because, WE HAVE TO HAVE A VOICE.  Even though there are laws in place that are supposed to prevent such experiences to occur in these days, they still happen!  Things are not equal!  It is by far better than what it was even just a generation ago, but it is still not equal.  The only way to create change is to have a voice.  To stand up and be heard.  Think Martin Luther King.  Think Suffregates.  What would have happened if they hadn't used their voices because people told them to shut up?  Just because you yourself may not have felt injustice or inequality, does not mean someone else hasn't.  Just because it is something that you yourself don't understand, doesn't mean it doesn't exist.  Please. PLEASE. Take a moment to listen and learn.  Please don't criticize those who are choosing to stand up and use their voice.

Now, I know we don't all agree on all the issues out there dealing with Feminism.  That is okay.  We don't have to.  BUT to tell someone to shut up about something that has personally impacted their life...please don't.  Your experiences are not theirs. You don't know what they have faced that has brought them to that point.  I myself, don't agree with all the issues that were vocalized yesterday and that's okay.  BUT I would never tell them to shut up, sit down, and be happy.  Silence does not bring change and understanding.

Some facts (not opinions) that I would hope that every woman and man would fight for...
  • Fact: Our society STILL has a knee-jerk reaction to believe the perpetrator vs. the survivor of sexual assaul.  OR, they believe the survivor, yet, won't prosecute for fear of losing (my sister's personal experience) because of the still remaining social stigma with sexual assault.  OR they prosecute, but don't want to "ruin" the life of the perpetrator so let them off with very little consequence, while the survivor will fight years and years of emotional turmoil working to overcome.
  • Graphic demonstrating that out of 1000 rapes, 994 perpetrators will walk free. Out of every 1,000 rapes, 310 are reported to the police, 57 reports lead to arrest, 13 cases get referred to prosecutors, 7 cases will lead to a felony conviction, 6 rapists will be incarcerated.
  • Fact: In some states (still today) tampons and pads remain taxed, while there are tax-exempt status on items including sunscreen, ChapStick, anti-dandruff shampoo, Rogaine, and, yes, sometimes even Viagra. Sadly, only five states have actively made decisions not to tax tampons: Maryland, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Minnesota and New Jersey. 
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  • Fact: Women make 79 cents for every dollar a man makes -- it's even worse for black and hispanic women.  In fact,  women have gained only 0.38 cents on average per year since the Equal Pay Act was signed in 1963. The IWPR estimates that at that rate, equal pay won't become a reality for another 44 years.

I didn't write this to start an argument or be all political.  This honestly, for me, has nothing to do with the man in office.  These were issues before him and we would have fought for change regardless (though, we may need to fight harder now).  I wrote this because it has been something that has been weighing on my mind for some time.  After seeing a few posts of people just not understanding what "those women" are complaining about, I figured I might as well try to share my perspective.  My hope is that by me sharing my small experiences of inequality, others may see that it is still an issue, an issue worth standing up for.  

Edit to add:  Though I've had the above negative experiences, I still feel very blessed to work where I work.  I have generally had very positive experiences and people that help me overcome the negative.  I am blessed to live in a country where I can receive an education and work as an educated woman.  I am blessed to know that I have a voice without fear of government retaliation.  But those negative experiences have given me the desire to make that voice louder.  I don't see it as a bad thing to try to make things even better. :)