Wednesday, March 8, 2017

A Day Without A Woman; Protesting The Protest

The need for women is no more or less essential than the need for men. Mothers are no more important than fathers. Wives are no more important than husbands. However, I don't hear any men threatening to stay home to protest the fact that they are much more likely to die or be injured in workplace accidents (because they are more likely to take the dangerous and higher paying jobs). I don't hear men threatening to stay home because they are much less likely to have custody of their children if they get divorced. Or even the fact that men are much more likely to commit suicide.

Advocates for the “Day Without A Woman” protest are quick to point out that women are less likely to speak up at work, ask for raises, or negotiate starting pay. And they're right, at least on those points. But how is that the fault of men? And how does it help for those women to stay home today?

Women are afforded almost every opportunity that men are these days. Sure, there are some opportunities that are just more available to people of one specific gender. But it goes both ways, for men and for women. Equality in all facets of life sounds great until you are confronted with that equality affording you something less appealing than what you might have otherwise had.

The fact that school administrators in many districts are concerned about a large percentage of their staff not coming to work today, says a lot. It says that a lower-paying (not less important) career field is dominated by women. That is not the fault of men; nor is it due to inequality. It is because those women chose to go into a career that they knew before even declaring a major in college, had less earning potential than many other fields.

It's great that these educators are passionate about what they do, and it is incredibly important for future generations. However, they all knew when they chose to go into education that they weren't doing it for the money. It is certainly not the fault of any man that this career field, dominated by women, pays less by comparison to whatever different field that man chose.

So if the point of this protest is to prove that women are important, it is unnecessary. We are all important. And it would have a very similar impact if men chose as a collective group to not participate in life for a day. The issues I see being pointed out as “reasons to protest”, will not be solved by boycotting their jobs, refusing to make purchases or making a scene.

Women absolutely need to become more comfortable speaking out in the workplace. They need to know the proper, professional method of negotiating pay and requesting raises. Those are uncomfortable conversations and no one likes having them. But if a man makes more than a woman doing the same job because he is willing to have those uncomfortable talks and she is not, the fault for any inequality in pay lies solely on that woman.

Aside from standard small raises, no manager is going to voluntarily offer to pay you more if you don't ask for it. They are in the business of getting as much productivity as possible while spending as little money as possible on labor. So unless you convince them that you are a vital asset to the company and they are at risk of losing you if they don't agree to your requested raise, you will never see a significant increase in salary.

If women truly want to make a difference in these scenarios and hopefully increase their pay, they should ask for help! Over my professional career, I have negotiated my starting salary in almost every job I was offered. I have even successfully requested raises a couple times. If anyone came to me for advice on how to be more assertive and convincing in these situations, I would gladly help them out. But everyone has to accept that if they aren't making a fair wage for the work they are performing, SOME fault lies on them!

Personally, I predict the "day without a woman" protest to be an abysmal failure today. Mostly because I think the majority of women are responsible and see that it would be stupid to boycott the day. But I'm sure some will take part and stay home. I just hope that some of their managers choose to treat them equally and give them the same disciplinary action that would be used if a man pulled the same stunt.

Just remember, the risk you take individually any time you choose to take part in a “sit down/non-participation” protest, is that you might prove to the person signing your paycheck just how incredibly unnecessary you are to the success of his or her company.

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