The World Economic Forum puts the length of time it will take before we achieve gender parity globally at 217 years. In North America this figure stands at 168 years—making us the worst performing region out of seven global regions.
Think about that for a minute: North America is the worst performing region in the world.
America, we can do better. I know we can because I’ve experienced it.
My Family History
I AM THE daughter of an immigrant and a refugee who came to America for the promise of a better life—a life filled with hope, freedom, and limitless opportunity. They entered this country believing that their opportunities and the opportunities of their children would not be restricted by history, birthplace, or gender.
My family’s story echoes the promise of immigrant daughters and sons from the past through today.
The Daughter and Sister of Refugees
AMID THE AFTERMATH of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, my father and my three eldest sisters escaped. After living in a refugee camp in Austria for nearly two months they were granted safe passage to the U.S. by way of President Eisenhower’s personal plane, the iconic Air Force One.
It was Christmas Day 1956 and while children across the United States gleefully opened presents, a world away my father and sisters quietly left a homeland in turmoil.
Reflecting on this moment in my family’s history, I’m flooded with feelings of gratitude. In the midst of upheaval and uncertainty President Eisenhower showed my family grace and gave more than the gift of safe passage—he gave us the enduring gift of hope and freedom; the belief that we mattered, that we could be part of America’s story.
My father, an entrepreneur and one of the smartest people I’ve known, imparted countless lessons to his children.
Of all the things he taught, the most powerful lesson was to never give up; nothing can be achieved without persistence and grit.
The Daughter of an Immigrant
MY MOTHER, BORN on the isle of Guernsey in 1939, the year World War II began, started her life amid the chaos and uncertainty of conflict. As one of the channel islands of England, Guernsey sits in close proximity to France, making it an attractive target for enemy activity.
In 1940, following the fall of France to German forces, Prime Minister Winston Churchill, doubting his ability to defend the channel isles, evacuated 5,000 children to the mainland—my mother was one of those children.
Separated from her mother and four siblings, placed in an orphanage at 18 months old and adopted within a year’s time, my mother would never see her own mother again.
Two decades later, as a young woman seeking the promise of equality and opportunity, my mother emigrated to the United States. Like my father, my mother instilled in me many powerful lessons. She taught me to never wait for anyone—if you desire to make something happen, do it. Also because of my mother, I recognized the value and legacy of education because no one can take your education away from you.
The seeds of Pipeline were planted.
GROWING UP THE youngest of six children—five girls and one boy—and with a substantial age gap between us, I watched as my intelligent, capable and eternally hard-working sisters moved through a school system and workplace that wasn’t equal or equitable to women.
Despite my age, I was made keenly aware through the observance of my sisters experience that navigating the world as a woman was inequitable and I resolved to make change.
The journey to Pipeline had begun.
In college, as a political science major and student of legal studies, I was exposed to the topics surrounding women’s rights. I engaged in volunteer work on behalf of women’s rights. I wrote letters to my congressional representatives on the topic of women’s issues—arguing for the equitable treatment of women.
As a 19 year old intern in Washington, D.C., I remember vividly being inspired by Senator Tom Harkin who fought so fiercely for women’s right to equal pay.
In spite of all I had been taught and observed, the concept of disparity between the genders seemed outdated and irrelevant. In my mind the world appeared equal and I shifted focus from advancing women’s rights to building my own career with the belief that my gender would not impact my opportunities. I realized later the naivety of my youth—experience is the greatest teacher.
LIKE MANY WOMEN, for me the path to professional success was fulfilling and enjoyable until I reached a defining moment unique to the female experience: childbirth. A shifting of roles exposed the reality of inequity within my company and post-leave I discovered a male colleague with less education, experience, and fewer teams to manage than I had, was being paid a higher salary.
I brought the pay discrepancy to the attention of my manager and HR and heard nothing back. I did my research and found the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which changed the statute of limitations for equal pay.
Lilly Ledbetter, who through an anonymous letter, learned that a male coworker in her same role at Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company was for decades being paid thousands more than she earned. Lilly took a stand. Because of her courage, on January 29th, 2009, as the first act of his new administration, President Obama signed into the law the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.
Citing the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, I stood up for my equal pay. To their credit, the company I worked for adjusted my title, increased my salary, and gave me back pay.
It was in this moment however that my commitment to ending the gender equity gap solidified and the journey toward Pipeline renewed.
My Commitment to Future Generations
LIKE MOST WOMEN, with each new role and step up the ladder, I was relentless in my pursuit. The experience of negotiating salaries, asking for transparency and equal pay is shared among us, and now it’s because of this shared experience we have the opportunity to make a change.
It’s time to create a new reality and transform the narrative surrounding gender equity so that future generations—men and women, boys and girls—have equitable access to opportunities and a pathway to success. The opportunity to step into a life the size of their dreams.
Gender equity is not only a social issue, it is a massive economic opportunity- there is the potential to increase our GDP by $2T in the U.S. by closing the gender equity gap. We are leaving money on the table.
I thank my father, who fought to keep his family safe and became an example of the ‘American dream.’ I thank my mother, who as an infant and against all odds escaped a war-torn country, suffered, sacrificed, and persevered to create a better life for their family.
They broke down walls and navigated adversity to ensure our family would have opportunities that otherwise were out of reach. They believed America would offer their children equitable opportunities—the ability to overcome an inequitable cultural and economic system.
My story is unique only insofar as it is my own. It’s the experience of women across America and globally; a shared reality that begins in childhood, grows with adolescence, and matures as we grow into adulthood.
Our Shared Gender Equity History
IN MY LIFETIME, it was legal to:
- Discriminate against women for housing on the basis of gender.
- Force pregnant women to take maternity leave on the assumption they are incapable of working in their physical condition.
- Exclude women from juries.
- Discriminate against pregnant women in employment.
- For a husband as “head and master” to have unilateral control of property owned jointly with his wife.
- Charge higher healthcare premiums on the basis of gender.
- Deny women business loans without a male cosigner.
- Deny women credit cards without a male cosigner.
Overturning these inequitable practices was a partnership between women and men who worked together to bend the arc of history toward inclusion and fix a broken system: a system that held women back simply because of their gender and constricted the economic pie for all.
The entrepreneurs and business women of today stand on their shoulders.
America, We Can Do this Again
THE TIME IS now. We must embrace not only what is right, but what is smart. Our system is broken at a great economic cost: $2T in the U.S. Closing the gender equity gap is not only the right thing to do, it is the smart thing to do.
Now isn’t the time to sit back surprised or angry and watch our social and financial opportunities evaporate. We’ve got to work together, women and men, to achieve the equitable treatment due to every human, regardless of gender.
For businesses, eliminating the gender equity gap requires buy-in and active participation from the top. The potential for positive financial outcomes is unparalleled.
Those still operating under the outdated idea that improved business outcomes can result from inequitable human capital practices, rather than equitable decisions, will at best find themselves falling behind in financial growth or at worst, will suffer complete disruption at the hands of forward-thinking organizations that seize the opportunities available to them through closing the gender equity gap.
I founded Pipeline with the goal of closing the gender equity gap, once and for all.
Given my family history, I was informed by the sense of opportunity and innovation so deeply ingrained in the spirit of America, to create a platform that uses advanced technologies to discover, monetize, and eliminate the gender equity gap inside of business.
Together with technology, I believe we can close this gap within our lifetime—ensuring equitable opportunities for women and men, girls and boys.
Our Unfinished Business
AMERICA, WE CAN close the gender equity gap in this lifetime, once and for all.
I believe we can close this gap because we are a nation of hope, and belief, and one of limitless possibilities.
The question today isn’t whether or not we CAN close the gap—it’s whether or not we will CHOOSE to close it.
We need to find our collective courage, hope, and belief in the power of what’s possible, and rediscover the grit and pioneering spirit that has always been at the heart of America.
Today we stand on the shoulders of trailblazers like Lilly Ledbetter who stood up against all odds and paved the way for women to be paid equitably, including me.
It’s time now for women and men to pick up the baton.
Closing the gender equity gap is the dream of the 48% of fathers who would like to stay home with their children, but can’t.
It is the dream of mothers who are the primary or sole breadwinners in 40% of households with children under the age of 18, and who want their children to have equitable opportunities regardless of the fact their mother is the breadwinner.
It is also the dream of a father risking his daughters’ lives for freedom and it is the dream of an orphan who believed that America held a better life for her.
And it is the dream of a first generation American that she too, might be able to bend the arc of history toward inclusion in service of all those who came before her and all who will come after.
The Time is Now
IN THE PATH toward gender equity, we hold on our shoulders the 8.2 million children living in poverty who are living in households headed by women, and the 2.9 million women over 65 who are also living in poverty.
We also hold on our shoulders the 60 million employees in the United States who are subjected to binding arbitration agreements–agreements that strip them of their 7th amendment rights and obstruct the labor laws designed to protect them.
In fact, all 50 state attorneys general have recently filed, asking Congress to remove sexual harassment from binding arbitration agreements.
Whether or not you believe gender equity is an issue, it is a massive economic opportunity.
The time is now.
Imagine a world where women and men run companies in equal percentage. Where women are equal partners in venture capital firms and hold equal seats in Congress. Where men are free from the stigma associated with being stay-at-home dads and take an active role in the conversations surrounding gender equity.
In that world we can cut the rate of suicides and domestic violence, drastically reduce instances of sexual harassment and assault, and unlock massive economic potential to the tune of $2T in the U.S.
The time for us to work together to achieve gender equity is now.
Ready to make gender equity a quantifiable, data-driven, economic opportunity rather than a confusing and controversial social issue? Experience the Pipeline platform first hand by scheduling a demo today.
© 2018 Pipeline Equity Inc.