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Editorial: More equality measures needed

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | AUGUST 27, 2014 5:00 AM

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Aug. 26 has been designated by President Obama as Women’s Equality Day in honor of the date on which the 19th Amendment was certified. The amendment guaranteed all women the right to vote, which had historically been denied to them. Even though this landmark legislation was ratified 94 years ago, just as much emphasis should be placed on the issues that threaten sex equality today. It is important to celebrate past victories as well as ensuring there will be many more to come.

The Obama administration has made great strides in securing equal treatment for women across the board. But while the Constitution guarantees women the right to vote, it does nothing to protect them from the subtle forms of discrimination that exist today.

Women today still make less money than their male counterparts and face unfair treatment from employers for gender-specific circumstances such as pregnancie. This pay gap even exists at the University of Iowa.

According to an April report by the American Association of University Professors, women who are full professors at the UI make 85.3 percent of what men do in the same position. The UI has the largest gap among the three regent universities and Big Ten institutions for full professors.

Another area of unequal representation in higher education is in STEM careers. While the UI contends it has made a push in the past decade to encourage women in these fields, a disparity still exists across the nation. Women make up half of college-educated workers in the United States, yet they were just 28 percent of science and engineering workers in 2010.

Granted, subtle discrimination and unequal representation at this level cannot be solved by simply amending the Constitution; it is going to require comprehensive evaluation and preventive measures.

The first step to enact safeguards that would ensure sex equality would be to change the cultural perceptions of the contributions women make to society.

Instances of women achieving great things should receive just as much attention as instances of discrimination to keep from painting a one-sided portrait of women in our society as victims. If the only coverage sex equality receives are the examples in which we as a society fall short, it will serve only to perpetuate these failures. What we see on a daily basis forms our expectations.

The only way we can ensure discrimination against women will eventually be a thing of the past is not by trying to create a genderless society and trying to treat everyone the same. There are differences between men and women, but instead of trying to ignore them, we must learn to accept and accommodate them. As we have seen simply guaranteeing the same rights to both sexes is not enough.

The foundations of equality do not live in the ink on paper but rather in the mentality and emotions of the people who are writing on it. A written declaration cannot fulfill its promise until the people are ready to hold up their end of the bargain.

It is great to celebrate milestones, and in the opinion of the Daily Iowan Editorial Board, it is important to recognize these events. Our only hope is that in the future we will have more to celebrate on this day.  


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