American tennis player Serena Williams is the highest paid female athlete in the world. She holds 23 Grand Slam titles, and her $89 million in career prize money is twice as much as that won by any other female athlete.
Williams, aged 37, has revolutionized tennis with her unique style of play. Off the court, she is just as successful. In 2014 she founded Serena Ventures, a venture firm investing in founders changing the world with their ideas and products. The firm focuses on funding start ups founded by women, minorities and young people.
Williams is the only woman on this list. Of the 100 Highest-Paid Athletes in the world today, 99 are men.
What’s the reason for such a huge disparity? Forbes writer Kim Elsesser argues that the root cause is “a chicken and egg situation. Since women are not paid equally to men, their game is not respected, and therefore less revenue is generated. Since less revenue is generated, female athletes continue to receive less pay.”
In a recent article for the New York Times, Emily Ryall writes about sexism in sport in relation to this year’s Fifa Women’s World Cup. The tournament has seen record-breaking viewing figures and received unprecedented global attention for women’s football.
“Great sport requires only three things: excellence of skill, uncertainty of outcome and a crescendo of drama until the last second. Gender or sex is irrelevant,” writes Ryall.
On the first day of Wimbledon 2019, it’s worth questioning why Serena Williams is the only woman to have made it onto that Forbes list. Our attitudes hold influence. We can all contribute to creating a culture where female athletes are respected and paid according to their skill and success.
In the United States, products are taxed based on whether they are ‘necessities’ or ‘luxuries’. Products deemed luxuries include a sales tax – on average this tax is 6.25%. Products considered necessities do not. Medications, shampoo, ChapStick and Viagra are some examples of products exempt from the tax.
Products not considered necessities, and therefore not exempt from sales tax in the majority of American states? Tampons and pads.
Currently, only ten states have removed menstrual products from the list of taxed items. Nevada is the most recent to do so – their exemption came into action January 1, 2019. Other states include New York, Illinois, and Florida, plus Washington, DC.
In an interview from 2016, former president Barack Obama spoke about the issue: “I have to tell you, I have no idea why states would tax these as luxury items […] I suspect it’s because men were making the laws when those taxes were passed.”
For those who do not menstruate, this may not seem like a significant issue. But as Obama agrees, it is an issue of gender inequality and access to healthcare.
“The basic idea is that women should not be at a disadvantage in the health-care system and this is just one more example of it, which I confess I was not aware of until you brought it to my attention,” he explains.
The financial burden of sales tax on menstrual products is a significant health and economic issue.
According to the office of California assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, “women in California pay about $7 per month for 40 years of tampons and sanitary napkins.” That’s a total of more than three thousand U.S. dollars per year. Garcia pointed out that this issue “is not insignificant […] especially if you’re on a tight budget.”
The added cost of sales tax on menstrual products leaves many with a difficult choice: buying menstrual products or buying food. Women are largely already at an economic disadvantage due to the gender wage gap and poverty. Around 14% of girls and women in the USA – compared to 11% of boys and men – live below the poverty line.
“Having your period when [you’re] poor means that once a month you have the added stress of finding a way to pay for these essentials,”Garcia said in a Facebook post.
Several campaigns and organizations are bringing awareness to the issue of menstrual equity in the USA.
There’s PERIOD, a non-profit organization promoting the belief that menstrual care is a basic right. Distributing Dignity provides bras, tampons, and pads to women in need. Period Equity is a law and policy organization fighting for menstrual equity.
There are also awareness initiatives, such as Menstrual Hygiene Day, which highlight “the challenges women and girls worldwide face due to their menstruation.”
Most recently, the issue gained global attention when Period. End of Sentence won an Oscar for best short documentary. The film tells the story girls and women in Hapur, India where a machine was installed to create affordable sanitary pads. It also discusses the girls’ and women’s experience with menstruation stigma.
Efforts towards gender equality must include menstrual equity.
Menstrual products are undoubtedly necessities and not luxuries for those who need them. As long as women are required to spend more on essentials, we will remain at an economic disadvantage.
After almost three years of working multiple near-minimum wage jobs, a seemingly great job opportunity finally fell into my lap.
Happy ending? Not entirely.
The emotional scars from working 14-hour days, still stressing over rent, and having a male employer who didn’t respect me began to take their toll.
Some say everything happens for a reason. Now that I’m doing better, I can perhaps agree more with that sentiment. I quickly realized I wasn’t the only woman to have experienced workplace anxiety, which made me passionate about sharing what I learned with others. Here are four lessons I took away.
1. Women still aren’t equal in the workplace
Legally, employers can no longer discriminate on the basis of sex, but in reality, behaving exactly the way men do at work can cost women their jobs. I’ll never forget my former boss hearing a male coworker literally screaming very inappropriately at a customer on the phone and just walking by. But should my own frustration lead to so much as asking for some assistance, I’d receive responses like, “It’s not rocket science, honey.”
Anyone who watched the confirmation hearings of Brett Kavanaugh witnessed the way that men who display emotion are frequently rewarded, while women who do the same are derided and dismissed. Dr. Christine Blasey-Ford maintained perfect composure during incredibly harsh questioning and was disbelieved. Kavanaugh sat on the stand alternately hollering and crying and earned a Supreme Court appointment.
2. Anxiety takes many forms for women
Everyone worries now and then. Those with anxiety disorders differ in that the feeling doesn’t fade even when no external stimuli warrant the worry. Those suffering from general anxiety disorder often see the worst possible outcomes when making workplace decisions. Others may experience panic attacks, and those with PTSD react disproportionately to certain triggers.
In a world where women are frequently labeled as “too emotional”, “hysterical” or “crazy”, I’ve learned to manage my anxiety disorder in ways men may not have to worry about. I’m certain this varies widely depending on the situation, but my own experiences still hold true.
3. High-achieving women often suffer internally
My performance at work matters greatly to me and I’ve always gone above and beyond. Hearing about my achievements can make some people skeptical that I’d suffer insecurity and anxiety.
The truth is, high achievers suffer from anxiety disorders at alarming rates, as they thrive on external stimuli like earning the top bonus tier or a big promotion.
The therapist I could finally afford spent several sessions teaching me how to honor myself without comparing myself to others. I’ve come a long way, but it’s important to note that I’ve always worked in creative fields, which are known for being friendlier toward women. I can only imagine what high-achieving women in grievously gender-imbalanced fields feel when they have to constantly compete with and compare themselves to their overwhelmingly male peers.
It’s also interesting to note that in a US-study, 88% of women reported in 2018 that they frequently compare themselves to others. Half of those then said that the comparison generally comes out unfavorable in their eyes. Meanwhile, only 65% of men reported regularly comparing themselves to others, with 37% deeming the comparisons frequently unfavorable.
Additionally, another 2018 study found that men tend to have higher opinions of themselves than women do. Is comparison a uniquely female trait? Not altogether, but our society puts significant pressure on women to look and act in certain ways, and the resulting anxieties in women speak volumes.
4. Anxious women also suffer depression
Many women experiencing workplace anxiety have a comorbid diagnosis of depression. It makes sense. After all, no matter how good you are, someone is always better, a fact that drives anxious people to despair.
Interestingly, the same neurotransmitters influence both anxious and depressed mental states. As such, antidepressant medications often do double duty by helping to balance these brain chemicals. It’s unfortunate, though, that our culture can drive so many to develop depression and anxiety disorders they may not have otherwise had, but now have to learn how to treat.
It took a lot of work, but today, I can sleep through the night instead of lying awake replaying every professional interaction in my head. While I still strive to excel, I’ve learned to forgive myself when I have an off day.
Anxious working women would do well to examine the many factors that could be at play in their workplace to ensure that they are being valued as they deserve to be.
Thousands of people marched through Glasgow, Scotland this week in the largest equal pay strike the UK has seen since the seventies.
Around 8,000 city council workers – most of them women – walked out of jobs and picked up placards to demand equal pay for carers, cleaners, caterers and support workers.
The strike marked a culmination of a dispute that began more than a decade ago, in 2006, after a newly introduced pay scheme enforced existing inequalities within the system. Female–dominated roles within the council, such as cleaning and caring, were penalized through complicated methods of measuring a job’s value in ways that male-dominated roles, like gardening and refuse collection, were not.
Back in 2006, Glasgow City Council was run by the Labour Party. Over the ten years that followed, Labour reportedly spent £2.5 million on legal fees and staff costs so that they could challenge women who were claiming wage discrimination.
In 2017, The Scottish National Party (SNP) took control of the council, with a promise to “end Glasgow’s years of pay injustice”. However, in the months since, workers became increasingly frustrated with the lack of progress and voted to take strike action, despite the council’s claims that industrial action was unnecessary as progress had not stalled.
How We Value Women’s Work
Amanda Green, a care worker, explained that the women taking part in the strike carry out some of the city’s “toughest and most valuable jobs.” “The value of these jobs,” she continued, “is just not recognised – that’s the problem Glasgow has.”
But it’s not just Glasgow. The view that work carried out by women holds lower economic value than work carried out by men is a global problem. Our perception of jobs that have traditionally been more female-dominated – cleaning, cooking, looking after children and the elderly – is tightly interwoven with cultural norms of a woman’s ‘natural’ role in families, communities and wider society.
Ensuring everyone else is fed, watered, warm, safe, educated and comfortable – these are things we continue to expect women to bear responsibility for, and do for free, in their personal lives. It’s therefore not hugely surprising that we don’t take it seriously when women carry out similar roles in a professional capacity.
And yet, despite being undervalued, under-acknowledged and underpaid, society would grind to a halt if women stopped doing this work professionally. “We’re the ones that make this city come alive in the morning: we get children fed, we get elderly vulnerable people up and out of their beds so that other people can go to work. We go into schools at 5AM to clean them so that children can get an education,” says Shona Thompson, an at-home carer.
This week, after years of being dismissed and diminished, women across Glasgow withdrew their labour for 48 hours and suddenly, as if by magic, there was a newfound mass-recognition of their worth. “Schools and home care disrupted by Glasgow equal pay strike,”said BBC News. “Thousands of women bring city ‘to standstill’,”announced the Independent. Women spoke of the immense guilt they were being made to feel, as though “because of the job we do…we don’t really have the right to strike.”
Gender, Class & Equal Pay
Equal pay is rarely far from UK headlines at the moment. The BBC came under intense scrutiny over pay inequalities at the end of 2017, and over the summer the pay gap among professional tennis players received widespread media attention. We learnt that female actors earn thousands and sometimes millions of dollars less than their male co-stars, and Ryanair’s pay gap report led to intensely infuriating debates about whether men are perhaps just naturally more suited to being pilots than women are.
The salaries in the stories at the forefront of the equal pay conversation have tended to share two common threads – a disparity linked to gender, yes, but also a multi-figured nature. The equal pay debate seems to interest us a little less, and make fewer headlines, when discrimination affects women whose annual salary falls below the national average.
And so Glasgow’s working women haven’t, up until now, received the coverage or the solidarity I think they deserve. As one Scottish journalist commented: “Compared with the rightfully extensive coverage of Birmingham’s refuse strikers or Hollywood’s abuse scandal, is it that they are too female to be a proper workers’ rights story, and too working class to be a proper feminist one?”
If this week’s strike has proven anything, it’s that the jobs most of us want neither to do nor to talk about are the ones holding our communities and cities together. It’s that equality and fairness are for everyone, regardless of hourly wage. It’s that equal pay is a very present issue facing women in Scotland today. It’s that if a job is so essential that a city will cease to function without it, we should pay the person doing it fairly.
Imagine losing $241,600. What if I told you that this number is the estimated median lifetime loss of income for many survivors of childhood sexual abuse. This disparity is keeping survivors, a significant percentage of our population, from reaching their full economic potential.
Success in the United States is often synonymous with fulfilling the aspiration to earn a six-figure salary, but according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, a woman is likely to earn $500,000 less than a male colleague over the course of her career. Even more troubling, 1 in 4 of these women were sexually abused in childhood, leaving them to earn close to $800,000 less than their non-affected male counterparts.
You might wonder why this is so. The answer is that long-term emotional and psychological effects of this childhood trauma directly impact feelings of self-worth, which may translate to an increased risk of dropping out of high school or a lower likelihood of pursuing higher education or applying for better paying positions within the job market.
From a legal perspective, economic damages play a key role in litigation proceedings as they project the impact an individual has experienced financially. Unfortunately, a large percentage of survivors of childhood sexual abuse (CSA) are likely to hide their stories, therefore many will never recuperate this lost income.
20% of adult females can recall an instance of childhood sexual abuse
12.5% of rape is perpetrated by a family member
Sexual violence results in approximately 32,000 unintended pregnancies per year
* The accuracy of CSA statistics can be contested due to low instances of self-reporting.
While this post aims to highlight the relationship between female survivors of abuse and lost earnings, it would be myopic to neglect the reality of the sexual abuse of 1 in 6 boys, whose incomes can also be affected.
Young adult males who were sexually abused are five times more likely to cause teen pregnancy and make risky sexual decisions as a result of their trauma. As for girls under the age of 18, 4.5 out of 10 pregnant adolescents may have a prior history of CSA. How much does teen pregnancy cost US taxpayers each year? Estimates are as high as $21 billion annually.
In the interest of being fiscally conservative, government-implemented programs seeking to prevent and address instances of violence are often underfunded and grossly understaffed. According to the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence,
“Approximately $14.8 billion in victimization costs are averted due to [the Violence Against Women Act] VAWA, which only costs $1.6 billion to implement. At the individual level, VAWA is estimated to cost $15.50 per U.S. woman, yet saves $159 per U.S. woman in averted victimization costs.”
In a report published in Economic Impact Study, it is estimated that “the total annual cost of child abuse in the US to be $103.8 billion (in 2007 dollars). The largest cost driver was lost productivity (32%) followed by adult criminality (27%).”
How can we positively influence this phenomenon?
The pay gap is not expected to close until 2152, but we should not have to wait until then for economic justice to be served.