As a young woman who has both faced and witnessed gender discrimination throughout my lifetime, I proudly wear the label of a feminist. Before you roll your eyes or accuse me of being a liberal man-hater, just hear me out.
The very definition of feminism according to Merriam Webster is, “the theory of the political, economic and social equality of the sexes.”
Did you catch that? Equality. Not female supremacy.
I understand there are a few female figures who have grossly contorted the idea of feminism, but I am not speaking on behalf of those individuals. I am speaking, and will always speak, on the behalf of women who believe in gender equality.
With that being said, I am disturbed by recent news from the state of California.
Last month, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill making California the first state to require public companies to have a minimum of one female on their board of directors. The purpose of this bill was to further establish gender equality in the professional sphere and “break the glass ceiling,” but for me, this legislation is a slap in the face.
Why would I be upset? Clearly, this legislation advocates on behalf of women in the workplace––right?
While it may appear this legislation is a win for gender equality movements in our nation, and while I believe perhaps intentions were good, this––this isn’t it.
Women and men are both incredible assets to society as a whole. Both genders are complexly wired, and I hold they were created to be different, but women and men are different in order to complement one another.
I do not have to pull out facts about the wonders women have achieved over the years. Women are powerful, strong, intelligent, worthy––as are men. Females make great contributions to the companies and institutions in which they serve and quite honestly, all companies and institutions would be better to have a woman in a position of leadership.
However, by forcing companies to require a woman on their boards, women elected to these positions will forever question whether they achieved the position by their own merits or by a piece of government-mandated paper.
According to Mercury News, Harmeet Dhillon, committeewoman for the Republican National Committee and a San Francisco lawyer, was strongly opposed to the legislation due to similar reasons, despite the fact she had experienced gender discrimination in the workplace.
While Dhillon agreed it would be beneficial for American businesses to include a higher representation of women on their boards, she said, “having the government mandate that is completely ridiculous and counterproductive to how businesses should be run.”
I agree there is perhaps not as much progress as I would like to see when it comes to females in positions of leadership, but having the government regulate this progress does a grave injustice to the thousands of capable, talented and hardworking women in our nation.
Personally, I never want to be handed anything in my life, and fortunately, as a female, I rarely get the option anyway. My career, my personal success, my legacy––it will all be built on how I earned it. My work ethic. My brains. My ambition. My resilience.
For the women who would rather the government force them into successful careers rather than earn them: shame on you. Because of ideas like these, women in the state of California will never know whether it was their expertise or female identity that led them to a position of leadership.
We have not yet arrived as a nation in which men and women are equal, but we will not get there by forcing legislation down people’s throats.