My daughter’s all-girl high school recently had a screening of the film Escalation hosted by the One Love Foundation, an educational effort directed at “relationship violence,” or domestic violence, or intimate partner violence. The film portrays a romantic relationship between two college students as it moves from the rush of euphoria to manipulation, control, intimidation, and ultimately physical brutality. I applaud the decision of the Administration to make time in the school day for discussion of gender violence, especially with college sexual assault so much in the news, as it will touch all our children in some way, even if indirectly. As important as this subject is, I wish the school would see fit to educate its young women in other, even more pervasive aspects of gender disparity they will face. That’s what prompted my letter below.
To the Administration:
I was very pleased that the Escalation movie was presented this week. I heard from my daughter that it sparked meaningful discussions, and then everyone moved on with their day.
I feel very strongly that the school has an obligation to include in its mission other stark realities the girls will encounter after graduation. Intimate partner violence is a part of this, but there is considerably more relevant information they must have to be adequately prepared to take their place in the world, leverage their education and make the most of their innate talents and abilities.
The salient points to my mind are the following:
- Upon graduation, they will immediately encounter a pay gap. “The American Association of University Women released a new study showing that just one year out of college, millennial women are paid 82 cents for every dollar paid to their male peers.
- Men earn more than women regardless of educational attainment. “At every level, a woman will make less than a man with the same degree.”
- The pay gap between men and women actually increases as educational attainment rises. “The gap in earnings is largest for those with the highest levels of educational attainment: women with a graduate degree earn only 69.1 percent of what comparable men earn, and women with a bachelor’s degree earn 71.4 percent of the amount their male counterparts earn.“
- The gender pay gap for college graduates grows over time. “(W)orking women’s earnings 10 years after they first enrolled in college are lower than working men’s earnings only six years after enrolling at public and private nonprofit four-year colleges.“
- Because of women’s lower earnings, it takes them longer to pay off student loans. Their degrees actually cost them more. “As more young people take out larger loans than ever, the pay gap means that men will have more resources to pay their way out of debt much faster than their female classmates.“
- More than 80% of US women have at least one child by age 40. As the US lacks paid family leave and other policies that blend earning a living with caring for loved ones, women find themselves paying a hefty ‘motherhood penalty.’ Men, on the other hand, can expect an uptick in income when they become fathers. “Mothers are less likely to be hired for jobs, to be perceived as competent at work or to be paid as much as their male colleagues with the same qualifications.”
- The pay gap exists in all professions. “The gender pay gap for partners at big US law firms is an astounding 44%.” “But while the degree may provide a gender-blind boost, the fact that the pay differential grows as female alumnae rise up the ranks is clear evidence that an MBA is not enough to blunt the factors that drive the gap.” “Being a man helps too. Even though half of all medical school graduates are now women, male doctors can expect to earn an average of 8% more than their female counterparts, a salary bump of about $20,000, according to a new study published in JAMA Internal Medicine. The wage gap is so wide that women physicians teaching at medical schools as full professors make roughly the same as male associate professors.”
Aside from paid employment, our daughters can expect to do the lion’s share of unpaid domestic labor. Even though women earn more degrees than men at every level, “traditional” women’s work that will be uncompensated, and doesn’t even figure in our national metrics of economic productivity, will consume a significant amount of their time. “Over a lifetime, the average American woman will spend about 40,000 more hours cleaning, cooking, and caring for children than the average American man.”
Such is the state of our society in which they will soon take their place. It troubles me that they have been taught they will be rewarded on their merits. When they fail to achieve it, through no fault of their own, they will assume their shortcomings are the cause. They will not look for the institutionalized sexism so deeply embedded in our public and private institutions. It will remain largely invisible to them, as it is now. And remaining ignorant, the cycle will repeat with their own daughters. As it threatens to do with mine.
“Education” by definition is the bringing out, or leading forth, through inquiry and critical analysis. Surely the students should be led to the truth. The truth is that the gender will impact their lives as much or more than their particular attributes and abilities. They ought to know that before they walk right into it.
Thank you both for all you do – and I know it is a very great deal – for my daughter, her classmates, and all the student body.
Signed, A Feminist Mother
‘Til next time,
Your (Wo)Man in Washington