International Women’s Day 2022 – “Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow”

March 8, 2022
By Jeanne Leong

As we celebrate International Women’s Day (March 8), recognizing the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women – strides made recently have elevated women to new heights, but a Rutgers University‒Camden scholar says there is a long way to go to overcome gender equality hurdles.

Started in 1911, the mission of International Women’s Day aims to create a gender-equal world, celebrate women’s achievements, and increase visibility, while calling out inequality.

But, how can you be equal if you aren’t paid equally? It’s an accepted fact that women earn approximately 82 cents for each dollar men earn for similar work. But there’s more to the conundrum than just dollars and cents.

Joan Maya Mazelis

Joan Maya Mazelis

“Legal protections that ensure people of all genders are paid fairly and equitably are key to pay parity,” says Joan Maya Mazelis, the Acting Director of the Rutgers‒Camden gender studies program and Associate Professor of Sociology at Rutgers University–Camden.

Nowhere is that more prominently on display than with women’s professional soccer. A settlement with Major League Soccer will close the gender pay gap for United States women professional soccer players. Following a lawsuit over unequal pay U.S. Major League Soccer reached a settlement in February to pay men and women at an equal rate in the future in all tournaments, including the World Cup.

Yet, Mazelis continued, equality extends beyond a persisting pay gap between men and women. Household work and caring for children are more often the responsibility of women, even those who work full-time jobs.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, women working from home were also handling day-to-day scheduling, schooling, and making family health decisions, which can add to an already stressful situation, and result in burnout. When offices began to reopen to in-person work, many women—the ones in charge of caring for children—were unable to find access to child care. That left women unable to return to work, regardless of how equally they were or were not paid.

Mazelis says women have internalized these notions about their obligations as mothers, and have found these ideas validated by economic realities. “Center-based child care has long been prohibitively expensive, leading some parents—usually mothers—to leave the workforce as a result. During the pandemic, when childcare is unavailable as it has been for many families it has been women who’ve juggled work responsibilities and parenting to care for their children. And it’s women who too often feel like failures when they can’t do it all.”

“U.S. society doesn’t value child care, a fact rooted in deeply entrenched sexism and racism,” says Mazelis. “Americans tend to resist the notion of universal child care provided outside of the family unit, and inside the family unit. It’s mothers who people expect to provide care for their children. The reasoning centers in part on moral arguments and gendered expectations of what mothers should do.”

Mazelis said that if men took on more child care duties, it would ease the burden. She says that if employers normalized taking paternity leave and allowed taking time off to pick up a sick child, or taking a child to an appointment, it would encourage more men to participate in childcare. As it is now, women bear the brunt of this responsibility, which has no bearing on equal pay. It’s about equity and parity in a much broader sense.

Mazelis pointed out that treating both parents equally, and expecting them to live up to the responsibilities of parenthood equally, would go a long way towards creating true equity in the workplace.