Women’s History Month: A time to create equity

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Facts about Women's History Month

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Find an ally. Don’t shame infertility. Utilize non-profit and volunteer projects. Those are the messages three women shared during Women’s History Month, which is in March. Samantha Elder, who selected the writers for this topic, serves as Ideas and Voices Guest Editor this week and reminds us of the inequities women still face.

Samantha Naves Elder
Samantha Naves Elder

Samantha Elder, Guest Editor, Ideas and Voices

Without a doubt, this has been a historic year for women. We have a record number of women in leadership positions, holding seats in Congress, and more. Although we have made phenomenal leaps and bounds in holding positions of “power,” gender equity is still an issue in several areas today. These issues include a consistently low number in comparison to men in executive roles, a poor relationship with physical and mental health as we work through career and motherhood, and an economy that seems broken for us.

According to Catalyst’s global statistics, despite a record number of women serving as CEOS in 2020, there are still nearly 13 companies run by a man for every company run by a woman. While approximately 40% of women held management positions, not even half make it to the C-suite. Another harsh reality? Women of color have a drastically smaller share of management positions, with Latina women at 4.3%, Black women at 4%, and Asian women at 2.5%.

How can we fix this? I argue, through allyship. Identifying ally’s inside and outside of your organization who ensure you have a ‘seat at the table’ when needed are crucial to moving these statistics in a positive direction.

One factor that contributes to the overall stress many women face is the battle between career and motherhood, which severely impacts women’s physical and mental well-being everywhere. While more women are choosing to have a career, it also means that many have families later in life, leading to a higher risk of infertility and pregnancy-related death. Modern medicine has saved countless lives, but shockingly, the number of pregnancy-related deaths in the United States has steadily increased since 1987 and disproportionally impact women of color.

And what about this economy? Today, women still earn only about 80 cents for every dollar a male coworker makes. Again, the pay gap is even worse for Black, Native American, and Latina women at roughly 58 cents for every dollar. When we look at this in relation to college, we know that just as many women are graduating with their four-year degree as men; however, the earnings gap makes it harder to pay back student loans and other debts.

We’ve also seen the cost of childcare rise to sometimes the same amount as in-state college tuition, which severely impacts single mothers, many of whom have chosen to leave unhealthy or dangerous circumstances with their partner. There still seems to be a notion that getting a job will remove someone and their family from poverty, right? This is absolutely not the case, and unfortunately, women make up most minimum-wage workers.

What is the end goal? It’s creating equity. This means we must work on establishing new standards for what it means to have women at the table with their voices heard, prioritizing healthcare for women, including those who choose the career path so that infertility and mortality rates decrease, and we determine how to make this economy work for all of us.

Samantha Elder, is Director of Strategic Initiatives and Communication, Montgomery County ADAMHS

Dr. Gwyn King
Dr. Gwyn King

Dr. Gwyn King

I was raised on a cattle farm in northern Ohio in the 80s. My parents worked hard, as we all did. At the time, I undervalued my rural surroundings, the country life, the manual labor, the dirt, and the sweat. I made it my mission to become as educated as possible, work with my mind, and enter a respectable field. I knew at a young age that I wanted a career so that I could create a life in which I could fully support myself, if necessary.

I wanted a career in medicine.

Medicine is not easy. My father died while in college and my grades suffered. I took a gap year that turned into three-years off before I was admitted to medical school on the second try. I worked harder than I ever had because I was determined to succeed. I didn’t care that I selected a specialty that was among the most competitive in the field; I was determined to make it work.

The determination came with costs. Relationships suffered because there’s often a tug-of-war between studies and love. But shortly after I completed my training, I married a loving and supportive partner.

Some 15 years after I graduated high school, I was ready to start a family. Like so many women who delay their personal lives for career success, I was shocked to learn that fertility issues are increasing at an alarming rate in our country. Even as a physician, I wasn’t aware that I had a reasonably good chance at struggling to have children. Even as a physician, I believed the myth that achieving a successful and healthy pregnancy was “easy” for women under 35. Like everything else that I sacrificed in my training, would having children even be possible?

The longer we spent undergoing fertility treatments, the more I learned about the sheer number of couples suffering. The fertility process is so emotionally devastating that just discussing the topic can be painful in many ways. We could benefit greatly, as a society, to help couples understand they are not alone; they are far from alone in having to work toward the family that they assumed would be possible after achieving career milestones. The silence around this topic must end to help support those in the depths of the struggle.

We must learn how to talk about infertility with those suffering, especially those who want both a career and family. It is a silent pain that doesn’t have to be hidden - when we realize those suffering likely include someone you know - someone you love. Let’s do better to become more aware and more vocal about infertility and how it affects women. Let’s support our sisters, friends, and doctors - these women who have already sacrificed so much.

Dr. Gwyn King is a dermatologist, Dayton Skin Care Specialists

Kathryn Oakes
Kathryn Oakes

By Kathryn Oakes

As I reflect on my career of nearly 16 years with my organization, finding and surrounding myself with people who embody who I want to be as a leader has been critical in my journey. As a woman in a historically male-dominated industry, I have always found it necessary to find women I could lean on and men I could learn from. Allies come in all shapes and sizes, but each one is equally as important. The world can be brutal and mean, and we need people who will encourage us and build us up when we need it the most. I am blessed with many allies at work, and each identifiable ally has taught me something about what it means to be supported.

I women encourage women to look at non-profit agencies and volunteer projects to find female allies. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with several nonprofit boards and volunteer projects, such as A Special Wish Foundation, The Dayton Children’s Hospital Women’s Board, the Dayton Art Institute Associate Board, and more. These experiences help make us more well-rounded individuals and connect with others.

I am also a big supporter of seeking educational opportunities about leadership, especially women in leadership. One local resource we have is the Dayton Chamber of Commerce’s EMPOWER cohort, which focuses on building a strong female network and how women can grow together as the next generation of community leaders.

Often, we seek out others who look or think just like us. But we need to be intentional about our open-mindedness to include those who are complete opposites. That is where real growth opportunities exist. A Winston Churchill once said, “There is at least one thing worse than fighting with allies, and that is to fight without them.” I sometimes think we as women are led to believe that we need to do it all. But I know, for me, that with allies at work, at home, and in life, I can accomplish more.

I challenge all women to answer the question, “How are you finding your allies?

Kathryn Oakes is Chief of Staff, Heidelberg Distributing Company

Interested in being a guest editor? Contact Ray Marcano, interim Ideas and Voices editor, at raymarcanoddn@gmail.com

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