some thoughts on #EqualPayDay

Today marks the yearly installment of Equal Pay Day – a day on which we come together and share our opinions on why the gender wage gap is still a thing; how we can change it being a thing; and that it isn’t so bad after all. Everyone has an opinion and I tried staying away from this topic but then I read an article on a German news site which turned me into a rage ninja before 9 am.

Of course this article was written by a man and had such great insights as:

    • it’s up to us women to make up the pay gap
    • if women would choose to study more technical heavy fields, they would earn more money
    • why are we even complaining.

And yes, obviously part of the above is true but it’s also only half the truth. There is so much more to this topic than a simple suggestion of women asking for more money. We have been doing this for years and yet we are still talking about this. We still life in a community where choosing a degree in STEM is uncool for girls because they get labeled as weirdos, as nerds and are always in the minority. I have no real solution as to how to change that but it’s a problem of society as a whole. This morning I tried to remember the books written by women that we read in high school and I couldn’t think of a single one. I just looked at my bookshelf and there was one book out of maybe 20 we read in German and English. One. And it wasn’t even a memorable author.

Just look at Hollywood movies and how good they fare with the Bechdel test. You will be surprised and a big part of why I don’t go to the movies as often is because I don’t care about another male lead action movie with a female character that only exists as a love interest.

How can we expect young girls to choose STEM jobs when they don’t have role models to model themselves after? Sure, Girls Days are a good idea but they are only one day out of 365 days a year. If we don’t see ourselves reflected in the media we consume and are not taught about in school, it’s no wonder. At least not to me.

So don’t tell me that asking for more money or simply going into different fields is as easy as deciding what to wear each morning. Because it isn’t for us. There are still a lot of women thinking that they can’t succeed. That math is too difficult and a lot of that has to do with role models. We don’t get the tech savvy-geeky cool role models and if we do, they also always come with a side of male gaze.

And don’t get me started on how differently the same qualities are perceived differently depending on gender. It could fill an entire post on its own.

Men telling me/us how easy it is to just choose different jobs or ask for more money makes me angry because fuck patriarchy. It just makes me angry. Period. Who is still in charge of HR related stuff, who inhabits managerial positions in companies? Men do! I recently had to write a work email to my biggest client addressing all managers and oh wonder, all of them were men. All of them. In a company with more than 600 employees.

For once I can’t claim the role of the underdog. I had the same entry level wage as my male friend who started at this company a year prior to myself. I also know how much he got for his contract expansion and I’ll be asking for the same once my contract is up. I know I’m lucky because I studied engineering, always have and always will be one of the STEM girls. I also know that we were in the minority at uni and I see it in the field every day because most clients I have to deal with are technical companies and not humanitarian. Regardless of the field though, most managerial positions I have to deal with are inhabited by men.

Germany recently established a female quota for the top 50 or top 100 companies and while I’m not a fan of the quota, it seems necessary because in the last 5 years we have been discussing bringing this quota to life, nothing has changed. These institutions are still boy’s clubs and I wish to see this changed in my lifetime. I really, truly want to see that. I want my daughters (presuming I will ever have them) to grow up in a world where there is equal representation. Where there are movies with female superheroes wearing costumes that are designed for women’s bodies and not based on male gaze. I want them to read Virginia Woolf’s “A Room of One’s Own” in high school and other writings by famous female authors as well as male. I want them to say that they are feminists and not get weird looks for it. I want feminism to be obsolete.

Maybe I’m a dreamer but as much as I am an optimistic realist in every other regard in life, here I’m firmly on team #DreamBigOrGoHome! It’s a very slow process of getting there but we are on our way and I will try my damnest to support it. So much for my feelings on Equal Pay Day.

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