Serena Williams is the only Woman on Highest-Paid Athletes List

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.

In June 2019, Serena became the first athlete to be named on Forbes’ list of America’s Richest Self-Made Women. She also featured on the Power Women 2018 List, and most recently, she was named on the Forbes 2019 World’s Highest-Paid Athletes List.

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.

Norwegian Air Reveals Sexist Employee Dress Code

The flight industry has demonstrated, once again, that it’s still a long way from gender equality. A 22-page document on the dress code for Norwegian Air employees was sent out to staff in early April. It has since been widely circulated and criticised in the media due to its old-fashioned and sexist content.

Female employees are required to wear make-up and heels that are at least 2 centimetres high. Male flight attendants cannot wear make-up or have long hair.

It’s a shocking example of how far the industry still has to go to catch up with the rest of society.

It is well-known that aviation has been limited by traditional gender roles in the past. Flight attendants have been female while pilots have been male. In recent decades, the industry has begun to diversify, although female pilots are still a small minority.

Most airline carriers have relaxed their dress codes, and now apply the same rules for men and women. Norwegian Air, however, still impose outdated gender stereotypes on their employees.

The document includes a thorough description of the required make-up – as well as how to apply it. There’s a “minimum” requirement of light foundation and eye makeup. It also specifies that make-up should “compliment the uniform and the skin tone”. Men, on the other hand, can only wear make-up to cover bruises or acne.

Perhaps worst of all, if women don’t want to wear heels to work they need to carry a doctor’s note.

Scandinavian companies are usually praised for being gender equal. Norwegian Air used to be known for being innovative and disruptive. Yet, it seems to be decades behind the rest of the society when it comes to dress codes.

Ingrid Hodnebo is a spokesperson for the Norwegian Socialist Left Party. She told Norwegian newspaper VG that “it is almost comical that we face these issues in 2019.”

“While the rest of society has moved on, Norwegian is stuck in a Mad Men universe from the 1950s and 60s.”

A spokesperson for Norwegian Air noted that it is common for other airlines to impose different dress codes on men and women. “We are a global airline which carries passengers from around the world with different cultures and religions on board. It is vital that our crew’s appearance does not offend or provoke.”

Most comically, perhaps, is the justification that women are asked to wear heels mainly for “health reasons.” SAS, another Scandinavian airline, also requires female employees to wear heels due to “ergonomic reasons”. This seems rather odd to me, given that male employees are not asked to wear heels, and heels are known for being damaging for the back and feet.

The reality is that these dress codes are imposed on sexist and old-fashioned grounds.

Does a flight attendant wearing make-up make the flight safer? No! Will an attendant in heels provide better service? No! In my opinion, the job of a flight attendant is to ensure everyone has a safe flight and to provide in-flight services. These can both be done without enforcing harmful gender stereotypes in the process.

Of course, just as in any industry, airline employees should be expected to dress professionally. As far as I’m concerned, this can be done perfectly well without heels or make-up.

It is disheartening to see this multi-million industry so far from gender equality. I am still waiting for the day when I hear a female pilot over airplane speakers. I did think, however, that companies now knew better than to impose strict and sexist dress codes on their employees.

The airline industry needs to wake up. They must take responsibility for employee diversity and actively work for a more equal workplace.

I call on Norwegian Air to take back and rewrite their framework, and for the industry as a whole to work proactively towards equality. In the world we live in, customers expect companies to act responsibly. The airline industry should be no exception to that.

It’s Time to Confront Sexism in Medicine

I was told often at school that I was “very good at maths…for a girl.”

It’s been a long time since then. I believe that gender stereotypes in science and maths are a little less rife today. We cannot afford to become complacent though, as unconscious biases still exist.

Now, in my work as a doctor, antiquated comments crop up regularly.  Patients will mistake female doctors, residents and students for nurses. This happens regardless of how a female doctor introduces herself. The idea that a woman could only possibly be a nurse is clear evidence of the sexism that pervades society.

In spite of the steadily increasing proportion of women in medicine, the culture of medicine has not caught up. It’s well-documented that women are vastly underrepresented in leadership positions, such as full professors and department heads.

Stereotyping also exists within specialty programs. Many assume that the nature of the work demands detachment from emotions and an ability to withstand long hours and grueling procedures. To be tough, resilient and to soldier on have traditionally been thought of as male traits.

Even though the number of women taking up surgery has significantly risen in recent years, surgery is still very much a male-dominated field.

Sexism in medicine is deeply ingrained.

It is difficult for most young doctors to gain visibility and recognition. The situation is even more complex if you’re a young woman. Misogynist jokes and remarks about physical appearance or potential are obstacles that many have to deal with.

One challenge I have frequently faced is assumed incompetence. As a woman, I have had to fight for people to take me seriously. I hear doubts like ‘Can she provide medical care or take critical decisions when required?’ Often, a patient asks to see ‘the real doctor’. Translation? The male doctor.

There is no easy fix. On one side, you should not let any of the gender stereotypes thrown at you affect you. But neither can you ignore the bias.

The #MeToo movement has shined a light on the many places in our society where insidious or obvious sexism have long gone unremarked.

Medicine is no exception. There have been moments when I have been interrupted by an irrelevant comment and I have had to listen to sexist jokes. I have had to work hard to be heard and recognized. I’ve had to go the extra mile to earn the trust of patients, and even to identify with the scientific community.

I am learning that the most important thing is never to lose confidence. I try to stay focused on what’s important: doing great medicine.

What the medical profession needs is a drastic culture shift.

Sexist comments and inappropriate behavior in the medical field are evidence of a much larger problem. They show the insidious misogyny in our culture.

Doctors do not exist in a bubble. We are, to a large extent, products of our society. This includes people who make sexist jokes or commit sexual harassment. It also includes people who laugh along or accept sexism as normal. A shift this great requires courage and concerted efforts.

As one of the underrepresented populations in STEM, I believe I am making a difference simply by existing. I believe that it is really important to #balanceforbetter. We must put forward diverse, inclusive visions of the kind of future we would like medicine to create.

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A Different Take on Inclusion

My new job requires me to do a lot of research on teacher preparation programs in the United States. The need for diversity – in this case, specifically racial diversity – is mentioned in numerous reports on the current state of the teaching profession.

Being a woman of color, I had become kind of numb to the idea as the term is thrown around so much and I often feel as though I serve as the only marker of ‘diversity’ in various spaces. 

As I continued my research, the word just kept jumping out at me. Diversity was in almost every report, spoken at every seminar, and used by every university education program. Then the statistical data behind why diversity is necessary began to come to light. In 2012, 49% of secondary students in the US were of color but only 12% of their teachers were. That’s a huge disparity, right? This statistic also made me reflect on my own secondary education career and realize I only ever had one teacher who looked like me. Even with this knowledge, I was still not fully ready for what I was to find next…

Researchers at the Institute of Labor Economics found that low-income Black male students in North Carolina who have just one Black teacher in third, fourth, or fifth grade are less likely to drop out of high school and more likely to consider attending college.

As I continued to search, I kept seeing different iterations of this phrase, ‘students of color perform better academically and are suspended at lower rates when exposed to at least one educator of their own ethnicity,’ but I still hadn’t wondered why that was the case.

Next, I read a report which stated students of color have higher levels of achievement when they have a teacher of color because those teachers hold a more positive perception of their students both academically and behaviorally compared to non-minority teachers.

As I read this, I had such a tough time grasping what was being said. Basically, a lot of the reports on the need for diversity were showing that non-minority teachers let their prejudice and stereotypes of minority students get in the way of their teaching ability – to such an extent that it negatively affects students of color – and the proposed solution is to hire more minority teachers. Not to call non-minority teachers to task or equip them to better serve their ALL of their students.

I was appalled by the proposed solution of merely diversifying the teaching profession. That lets so many people in our society out of doing the real work that is necessary to overcome racial stereotypes and prejudices – as these issues cannot be solved by people of color themselves.

At the same time, I was seeing the same idea being used in a social movement – the latest wave of the #MeToo campaign. Over the past few weeks, I have watched #MeToo take over my Facebook, Twitter and Instagram feeds as so many – too many – female celebrities, activists, colleagues, and even close friends have all experienced varying degrees of sexual harassment or assault, most often at the hands of men.

As more and more stories of #MeToo are shared, I find it interesting that when it comes to the issue of sexual harassment of assault against women, it is the women we focus on the most, rather than the men who help to perpetuate this culture of abuse.

In the same way racism is not just an issue for people of color, sexual assault and harassment is not just an issue for women. But too often, these issues are labeled as the responsibility of those being harmed by them the most. The idea of inclusion needs to be applied to all actors who have a stake in an issue and not just to those who feel the direct and immediate effects of racism or sexual harassment or assault. We all share the responsibility of creating a more equitable and safe society.

Girls: It’s Okay To Come Out of the Videogame Closet

When I was nine, I stumbled upon a gaming section in a store for the first time. After rummaging through space games and shooter games and building games, I held up The Legend of Zelda to my mother and asked if I could get it for Christmas. “No,” she said. “Girls don’t play videogames.” I asked her why not and she said, “Because videogames are for boys.”

She wasn’t scolding me, or trying to be mean. She had the tone she did when she was explaining fundamental concepts: that water evaporates and turns into rain; that I shouldn’t buy the shoes that were snug because they’d hurt my feet after I’d been walking around in them all day; that my father would always forget something if he went to the supermarket by himself. And so, I put Zelda back on the shelf, and watched a little enviously at school when the boys hovered over their gameboys and talked about Super Mario Bros.

The barrier between femininity and gaming is a cultural construct that’s remained surprisingly strong, even in 2017. When it comes to women, gaming has a terrible reputation. Games themselves have traditionally been populated by women characters with bizarre proportions in barely enough clothing to cover them. Gamergate is one of the first things people talk about when discussing the culture. Women make up the minority of developers because of sexism in the workplace.

At the same time, the old belief of ‘only boys play videogames’ is now patently untrue. In the United States, 48% of the 190 million gamers are women. You’d never know, however, because most don’t talk about it. In the realm of the video game world itself, for those girl gamers who are logging on online, they’re hesitant to open their mouths and identify as female. A Pew Research Study found that while 60% of teenage girls play videogames, less than 10% will speak on a mic in a video game space.*

Even Google has yet to catch up. A search of ‘why women don’t say they play videogames‘ brings up suggested searches: girlfriend hates video games, why do guys play video games all the time, my boyfriend plays video games all the time, why do guys play video games so much, adults who play video games immature, men video games relationships, how to get your boyfriend to stop playing video games.

Furthermore, gaming itself – for men and women – is still stigmatized.

It’s a shame. Gaming as an industry has flourished, and games themselves can run the gamut from battlefields to massive open worlds to rebuilding ancient civilizations to time traveling through meticulously reconstructed historical eras. Games can showcase incredible achievements in imagination, design and storytelling.

In moderate doses, games have been proven to be beneficial. They decrease stress and can sometimes soothe anxiety and depression; they’ve been shown to increase resilience; they’re an easy gateway to communities with similar interests, and they even increase executive function. Gaming should never replace exercise, work or socializing, but it undoubtedly has value for building a community, or simply as an escape.

Gamers are programmers, students, engineers, politicians, doctors, lawyers and journalists – men and women. For all those who support gamergate, there are other communities thrilled to embrace women. Even video games themselves are adapting to a more women-powered world; just look at the original Lara Croft vs the newest Lara Croft for proof.

Girls – it’s okay to come out of the videogame closet. (And when you do, look up my gamertag. I hear Destiny‘s multiplayer is great.)

Is My Body Truly Mine? Thoughts from CSW

At the moment I am part of The Girl Child Platform’s delegation at CSW, the United Nations’ yearly conference on the status of women, in New York. This week thousands of women and girl activists from all around the world are gathered to raise awareness about women’s and girls’ rights. We come from different cultures and backgrounds but what the majority of all the discussions has been about this week is the right to one’s own body.

This has made me wonder if my body has ever been mine at all. As a girl, no matter where in the world you live, you are being taught from day one that your body exists for someone else and that your body should be shaped, formed and used for others.

The first time my body was kidnapped I was 13. My body was changing, growing, and turning into – what my mother called – more feminine shapes. But for me my body was not turning more feminine because I did not look like the women on the magazines or in the movies. I did however understand that femininity was “good” and something that could offer me happiness according to society. So I began the strive for the magazine version of femininity. What it gave me was three years of depression and countless of hours at the hospital.

The second time my body was taken away from me I was 17. I had never had sex before and was not really interested in it either, but the boy I was seeing was. At the time I did not understand what had happened. I did not even reflect over the fact that someone had taken my body and done whatever he wanted with it, because society had never made me feel that I had the right over my own body in the first place. It took years of therapy to achieve the understanding that my body actually could be mine.

My story is not unique, it is a story that girls today are more likely to tell than not. The fact that most girls today are taught that their bodies are not for them, and that they have no say in how their bodies should look like or how they should be used, is a massive violation of basic human rights. The RIGHT to one’s own body. This prohibits girls to reach their full potential and to bring out the power that is inside every girl. Societal kidnapping of girls’ bodies leads to gender inequality, and so much effort and time is need to take back what should have always been ours, OUR BODIES.

I believe the only way this struggle will end is when states take their responsibility and invite girls to the decision making table. In most seminars and discussions here at CSW decision makers talk about girls, but not with us. Policies and resolutions will never be able to address and capture the true issues if the ones who carry the experiences are never invited to speak and to be listened to. The Girl Child Platform is here just because of this, to make sure that girls are included. We represent over 30 organizations and I believe that through this partnership our voice is strengthened, and by continued cooperation we will be able to smash patriarchy and put ourselves at the decision making table.

What do you say, how do we get decision makers to include girls?

Written by Emma Blomdahl, The Girl Child Platform and Föreningen Tillsammans (The Togetherness Association)

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