Since her appointment in 1993 to the Supreme Court, Ruth Bader Ginsberg has been a warrior for gender equality and LGBTQ+ rights. Her passing leaves many cases open to appeal, putting the rights of many at risk of being lost on the national level. While she was a staunch advocate for gender equality and queer rights, her track record in regards to American Black, Indigenous, People of Color was less than ideal. It is important that Ginsberg’s entirety of a character is remembered, not just what fits in with the idea of a liberal justice who constantly fought for the rights of women, and that included the mention of her less than stellar record on cases regarding racial minorities.
Ginsberg has a tumultuous road to becoming the Justice she is remembered as. From family matters placing her career on hold to caring for her husband Martin through his cancer diagnosis as a law student. Her ascension was a unique one, as a woman, and was wrought with gender discrimination and sexism. This later saw her in teaching and advocacy positions, arguing six separate cases before the highest court in the land on the topic of gender discrimination. This notoriety in both the legal and academic worlds saw her appointment to the US Court of Appeals by President Carter in 1980 and her eventual appointment to Supreme Court Justice in 1993 by President Clinton (Oyez).
From the beginning of her career on the bench, Ginsberg maintained the role of advocate. Her most notable cases regarding gender discrimination include United States v. Virginia Military Institute, Ledbetter v. Goodyear, and Obergefell v. Hodges. These cases all included instances of discrimination on the basis of sex. US v. Virginia Military Institute saw a state owned institution deny women from attending, a clear violation of the fourteenth amendment’s equal protection clause, setting a precedent for all state institutions to not discriminate based on gender. Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire saw Ginsberg in the dissenting minority. Lilly Ledbetter sued her employer, Goodyear Tire, for paying her less than her male counter parts. The case was reversed by the Supreme Court as it occurred outside the 180 day limitation period. She criticized the all male majority, stating “The court does not comprehend or is indifferent to the insidious way in which women can be victims of pay discrimination”. In Obergefell v. Hodges, Justice Ginsberg was in the 5-4 majority, voting to allow same sex couples the right to marry in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The case in and of itself was a case on gender discrimination, as the majority opinion by Justice Kennedy states, as the gender of the two individuals who wished to get married was what blocked them from legal marriage. This again was a violation of the 14th amendment’s equal protection clause (Oyez).
Even when Justice Ginsberg was in the dissenting minority of a case, she was staunch in her opinions and advocacy for gender equality, earning her the nickname “The Notorious RBG”. While she is a hero for feminists, specifically those who identify as Caucasian, Justice Ginsberg held a mixed history on the topics of race. She was a major critic of football player Colin Kaepernick, who chose to kneel during the national anthem in protest of police brutality. Her office, clerking, and general staff lacked much of the diversity that is called for in the modern day. Her decisions regarding indigenous land rights, according to the Ohio State Law Journal, describes how Justice Ginsberg was closed off to the traditions of Native American and their value of the land as a member of the American Civil Liberty Union’s executive committee in Santa Clara Pueblo v. Martinez (The Marshall Project) (Ohio State Law Journal).
Justice Ginsberg is a perfect example appreciating figures in the context of their whole body of work. Was she a warrior for gender equality? Yes. Was she the perfect advocate justice she is often portrayed as in popular culture? No. However, Justice Ginsberg did so much good for the United States, setting precedents that allow for queer people to marry and gender discrimination to be lessened. She was not perfect, but it is impossible to find a player in the production of history that was.
Her dying wish was that she would not be replaced on the bench until after the results of the 2020 election. President Trump has openly stated he will do everything in his power to place a new justice in her place. While the president may not respect Justice Ginsberg’s final wish and legacy, the United States will hold her as an icon of gender equality in its history. May Justice Ginsberg’s memory be eternal and may her legacy never be forgotten.
Within the darkness of the past year, the movement for gender equality in the workplace within the United States has been quite successful in securing the protection of employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in a landmark Supreme Court ruling. Now, several months later, the movement has reached the other side of the pond – the United Kingdom – with a court case that marked a huge victory for the non-binary community, only to be brought down just one week later by a review of previous legislation that only slightly advances the fight for equality, focusing on the smaller grievances of the community rather than on its larger needs.
On September 16th, just a few weeks ago, a U.K. employment tribunal ruled that non-binary and gender-fluid people are covered against workplace discrimination under the Equality Act, a 2010 piece of legislation that “protects people from discrimination on the basis of age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation.” (Wareham) While the legislation has long supported transgender workers, it was not confirmed to apply to the non-binary and gender-fluid community until a gender-fluid engineer, referred to as Ms. Taylor, working at a JLR plant brought up the workplace harassment and gender-based discrimination she experienced, including difficulties with the use for toilet facilities and managerial conflict, to the employment tribunal. Upon hearing how the government referred to gender as a “spectrum” (Wareham) during the initial parliamentary debates regarding the Equality Act back in 2009, the court ruled in her favor, once again confirming that non-binary identity falls under the act’s protection. The ruling has been regarded as revolutionary as it not only confirms protection for one of the most vulnerable groups within the LGBTQ+ community but also creates hope for the future of gender inclusivity in the workplace. Having established a precedent for the protection of the gender-fluid identity, there’s hope that the ruling will extend to cover other more complex gender identities, such as agender, genderqueer, and others, clarifying any potential ambiguity over the Act’s contents.
Unfortunately, riding on the heels of this incredible achievement is a different bittersweet ruling – a revision to the Gender Reassignment Act – prompting a wave of mixed reactions from trans-rights activists and charities. Originally established in 2004, the GRA is a piece of legislation that outlines the procedure by which a person can change their gender on their birth certificate, allowing for recognition of their preferred gender for certain ceremonies, such as marriage. The document, however, has faced a lot of criticisms since its inception, particularly for the requirement of a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria, considered by many to be far too invasive, and a steep price of £140. As a result, only a disproportionately small number of 4,910 out of over 200,000 people identifying as transgender have completed the procedure of obtaining a new certificate (Government Equalities Office).
The public consultation launched in 2018 was supposed to address these concerns, however, after years of waiting, the response by the Women and Equalities Minister, Liz Truss, was quite disappointing. The much-debated existence of a panel reviewing the applicants’ paperwork, including the diagnosis, will continue, and the price will be dropped from £140 to “a nominal amount,” to create a “kinder and more straightforward” process, as stated by Truss herself. While reassuring at first glance, the changes will likely continue to prevent many from obtaining a certificate and financially burden those who choose to apply, particularly considering the difficulties transgender workers continue to face in the job search. Some other unaddressed concerns include the legal age upon which one may apply for a certificate, as well as the legal recognition for non-binary people, which the GRA does not provide. The changes, while perhaps made in goodwill, seem somewhat performative, particularly in a country that, despite many promises of achieving gender equality made by both May and Johnson administrations, ranks only 27th by the Gender Inequality Index (UNDP Report 2019).
So, why has the country’s progress in addressing gender inequality, transgender, and non-binary rights, in particular, has been so slow?
While it is the most recent events and comments that have shaped the struggle for transgender and non-binary rights, the beginnings of Britain’s issues with addressing gender identity can be traced back to its colonial history. The British Age of Enlightenment itself has been previously characterized as having “prized itself on scientific rationality, including with it strict taxonomies of racial and sex categorization,” (Al-Kadhi) subsequently forcing its beliefs upon nations where gender is a much more diverse concept that diverges from the idea of strictly binomial gender determination. An example of such gender erasure is the British treatment of the transgender Hijra people of India, a group almost completely erased by an 1871 law targeting them as a “criminal tribe” (BBC), restricted by police from “wear[ing] female clothing and jewelry or perform[ing] in public and […] threatened with fines or thrown into prison if they did not comply” (BBC). The Hijra have since been recognized under a “third sex” category by the Indian government, but the damage had been done, pushing the population towards extinction, and cementing transphobic ideals in the British society for years to come.
Despite several recent victories for the transgender and non-binary communities, transphobia and other forms of gender discrimination are still prevalent in the British society, as shown by both the administration’s lack of interest in substantial change, as well as the rise of toxicity within the “liberal feminism” movement, as shown by comments made by JK Rowling. Back in 2019, the influential author voiced her support for Maya Forstater, a researcher fired over transphobic comments questioning whether transgender women are women (Brown). Despite the huge backlash faced by the author, she has continued to defend her stance in a 3500-word essay on her blog, appearing to be arguing that transgender people are erasing biological sex and the needs and wishes of those identifying with their assigned gender.
“When you throw open the doors of bathrooms and changing rooms to any man who believes or feels he’s a woman—and, as I’ve said, gender confirmation certificates may now be granted without any need for surgery or hormones—then you open the door to any and all men who wish to come inside. That is the simple truth.” (J.K Rowling)
While her comments have faced criticisms from every corner of the world, unfortunately, they are illustrating a problem of gender discrimination that persists in the U.K. today, revealing a sinister side of “liberal feminism” in the U.K. Oftentimes, followers of the British movement have sided with anti-trans views, more consistent with the far-right. A 2018 article by the Guardian illustrated the issue fairly well when it suggested that “women’s concerns about sharing dormitories or changing rooms with “male-bodied” people must be taken seriously,” causing criticisms from both within the country and overseas.
Beyond that, the same problem persists in the British workplace. Currently, about 41% of trans people and 31% of non-binary people have experienced a hate crime because of their gender identity in the past year, and half of the trans and non-binary employees have hidden or disguised their identity at work for fear of discrimination (Stonewall UK). The government, unfortunately, has been of little help either, the Johnson administration had scrapped their plans for easier gender change in favor of “safeguarding female-only spaces, including refuges and public lavatories, to stop them being used by those with male anatomy.” (Shipman)
Threatened by both the implications of British colonial history and the political movements emerging in the U.K, the movement for gender equality in the workplace and elsewhere has a long way to go before making meaningful change. However, despite the many obstacles hindering its progress, change has already started, as seen by the victory against discrimination of non-binary and gender fluid workers. Perhaps, these small steps will create larger implications within the entirety of Europe, defeating the toxicity surrounding the fight for trans and non-binary rights
Wareham. “Non-Binary People Protected By U.K. Equality Act, Says Landmark Ruling Against Jaguar Land Rover.” Forbes. September 17, 2020. September 27th, 2020.
Homophily is a sociological theory that suggests that individuals have the tendency to seek out those who are most similar to them in socially significant ways (Retica). This phenomenon is present in many aspects of our lives, such as in our friend groups and who we find ourselves attracted to. Unfortunately, this theory also comes into play in the workplace, specifically the hiring process. This idea can present itself in either strictly discriminating against certain ethnic and gender categories or it can be evident in favoritism towards in-group members (members of a group with a shared identity) (Edo).
Several studies have shown that there is a high prevalence of racial discrimination in against minority applicants in countries with a diverse immigration history such as the United States, Canada, Australia and Sweden (Edo). Implicit or explicit biases can be acted upon by the employer as soon as a name is tied to the applicant applying for a position. In terms of race, many minority individuals applying for jobs opt to “whiten” their resumes, essential scrubbing racial cues from their resumes by changing foreign sounding names to stereotypically American names or removing words such as “Black” or “Asian” from past memberships or organizational involvements in fear of revealing their race. A common concern for Asian applicants is hurdling the language barrier which is why some choose to change their name or edit the rhetoric in their resumes to be more “westernized” (Gerdeman).
Similar actions are taken by women applying to jobs to prevent from being screened out immediately. Since men still dominate more than 70% of top managerial positions, guidelines in the hiring process can be reflective of the company values and workplace culture itself (Mitchell). Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 addressed the unlawfulness of issues such as sex discrimination in the hiring process as well as pregnancy discrimination, which is a common concern for women seeking secure jobs and expect to have children (EEOC). Although this drastically improved and combated intentional discrimination based on gender, inherent biases still exist preventing women from advancing in their careers through promotions.
Addressing hiring discrimination practices is important in workplace and must start with employers understanding their implicit and explicit biases and the discriminatory nature of traditional hiring practices. Although blind recruitment is an option, some applicants may feel that their race, gender, sex, or social class is an important part of their identity or life experiences and wouldn’t want to exclude it from their application as it would give a better picture of who they are. Being cognoscente of fostering a diverse company culture through diversity recruiting initiatives is an important way to expand applicant pools and help applicants feel included and wanted. Homogeneity is not the answer when it comes to hiring; Diversity in hiring leads to a more productive, more creative and more empathetic workplace.
When most people think of Japan, they think of a country highly advanced in technology, rich in culture, and notorious for various characters and plotlines in anime. Ranked third as “best country” by U.S News, Japan continues to dominate over the rest of the world in quality of life, technological expertise, and entrepreneurship. However, the failure to empower women in government, workplace, and society, has inevitably exposed Japan to be a beautiful yet unprogressive country.
The United States and Japan have both ranked high in several categories. For example, they were only one place away from Japan in both qualities of life and entrepreneurship (US News). Yet, while the US has progressively improved in closing the gender inequality gap and has ranked 51st overall in the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Gender Gap Index, Japan fails to resolve any of these issues and has ranked 121st (U.S. News)
So why has Japan fallen short in fixing the gender inequality issue?
Gender inequality in Japan has been a persistent issue ever since social constructs were placed. The prototype family was defined as a two-person household, where women took on the housewife and caregiver role, while men took on the leadership role. Concepts of gender equality were never implemented into Japan’s constitution until post-World War II when Article 24, “The Gender Equality Clause” was introduced (North). Article 24 states, “With regard to choice of spouse, property rights, inheritance, choice of domicile, divorce and other matters pertaining to marriage and the family, laws shall be enacted from the standpoint of individual dignity and the essential equality of the sexes.” This clause aimed at introducing reforms that would provide women with more autonomy regarding property ownership and marriage.
However, the gender and family norms that were deeply rooted in Japanese communities led to extreme resistance against Article 24 and the culture remained this way until the 2010s. (North). It was only after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s election into office that allowed for some change. Abe’s push for gender equality throughout his time in office indicates the need for serious change, however, his efforts have always been faced with pushback. In 2014, the Abe administration included five women into political roles, only three kept their positions in office because of scandals relating to workplace sexism (Assman).
While the Abe administration efforts to enforce gender equality in the workplace failed, many of the citizens are also critically at fault for Japan falling short. According to a 2018 study by Women Political Leaders, only 24% of the Japanese population felt comfortable working under a female CEO compared to 63% in the US (Eda, Zahidi). Ironically, however, while many Japanese people don’t feel comfortable working under female authority, around 70% agree that gender inequality still exists within Japanese society and also agree that progressive change must take place.
The wage gap between men and women has also shown significant issues in Japan’s labor force. For part-time workers, women only earn 59.4% of the wage that men earn. For full-time workers, women earn 73.4% of the wage that men earn (Gender Equality Bureau Cabinet Office). The drastic difference between the salaries of men and women in Japan has made it difficult for this systemic issue to change. Unfortunately, this reality is not just seen within the workforce– in 2018, several university medical schools such as Tokyo Medical University, Juntendo University, and Kitasato University favored male applicants by setting different passing marks for women and men (McCurry). When the success of students in higher education is partially determined by gender in Japanese culture, it only makes sense that a similar mindset would carry over into the workplace.
For the last thirty years, Japan has been greatly behind resolving gender disparity issues. Other countries have been able to build frameworks and enforce changes to respect diversity and provide women with equal opportunities (Asahi). With the recent news of Shinzo Abe resigning his position as Prime Minister, Japan’s current system remains uncertain and unstable in solving issues regarding gender inequality. The hope for creating new policies to provide more opportunities for women certainly exists in Japan and must be closely observed in the coming years.
Assmann, Stephanie. “25 Years After the Enactment of the Equal Employment Opportunity Law (EEOL): Online Access to Gender Equality in Japan.” Asian Politics & Policy, vol. 4, no. 2, 2012, pp. 280–285., doi:10.1111/j.1943-0787.2012.01347.x.
“The Best Countries in the World.” U.S. News & World Report, U.S. News & World Report, 2020,.
THE CONSTITUTION OF JAPAN, Prime Minister of Japan and His Cabinet, 1947, japan.kantei.go.jp/constitution_and_government_of_japan/constitution_e.html.
“Japan Ranks 121st in Gender Equality among 153 Countries：The Asahi Shimbun.” The Asahi Shimbun, Asahi Shinbun, 18 Dec. 2019,.
McCurry, Justin. “Two More Japanese Medical Schools Admit Discriminating against Women.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 12 Dec. 2018,
North, S. “Negotiating What’s ‘Natural’: Persistent Domestic Gender Role Inequality in Japan.” Social Science Japan Journal, vol. 12, no. 1, 2009, pp. 23–44., doi:10.1093/ssjj/jyp009.
“Women and Men in Japan 2019: Gender Equality Bureau Cabinet Office.” Women and Men in Japan 2019 | Gender Equality Bureau Cabinet Office, Gender Equality Bureau Cabinet Office, 2019,.
Saadia Zahidi, Managing Director. “How to Narrow Japan’s Widening Gender Gap.” World Economic Forum, 8 Mar. 2020,.
The American Dream is a statement that perpetuates the ideals in which freedom and hard work provide for opportunities of prosperity, success, and good health. However, the fragility of the American system proves that this statement mainly applies to those who face few social and economic barriers in the first place. While the United States’ brand of capitalism continues to be exposed, one big issue lies in the healthcare system being directly tied to employment and how women, minorities, and LGBTQ continue to face discrimination.
Employment tied health insurance originated during the timeline of World War II. The demand for labor increased due to the amount of men stationed abroad, and consequently, wages and prices climbed. To prevent the turnover of employee’s due to salary preferences, the National War Labor Board implemented a wage cap, preventing employers from raising worker’s salaries. In addition, health insurance was used as a benefit by employers to attract the best job candidates (Gorenstein). Finally, the IRS decided that employer contributions to healthcare insurance premiums were tax free, giving the wealthy a loophole to Roosevelt’s New Deal Taxes. From its origin, the integration of healthcare and employment was meant to benefit the wealthy and uphold the American ideals of capitalism under the guise of access to health benefits. In reality, health insurance should not be an added bonus, but a necessity for all regardless of employment status, race, gender, and sexual orientation. Over the past decades, methods to combat the exclusive nature of health insurance have been implemented such as Medicare, Medicaid, and The Affordable Care Act.
As of July, amidst a worldwide pandemic, nearly 50 million American’s have filed for unemployment (Kelly). This means that not only have many American’s lost their source of income, but also their employer-based health insurance. On top of this, the Trump Administration has asked the Supreme Court to overturn the Affordable Care Act. According to a recent analysis by the Center for American Progress, more than 23 million people would lose health coverage if the ACA were repealed during the pandemic (Gee).
Seeing as though unemployment rates are highest for Black or African Americans and Hispanic or Latino people, these demographics are less likely to have access to employment issued health insurance and are more likely to resort to health care covered by the ACA (E-16, Unemployment Rates). Furthermore, as of June 12, 2020 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that age adjusted COVID-19 associated hospitalization rates for Hispanic and black persons rate are 4 and 5 times that of non-Hispanic white persons respectively (Centers for Disease Control). The absence of the Affordable Care Act would disproportionately affect these groups, further instilling the notion that minorities suffer from long standing systemic health and social inequalities.
The Trump administration also recently ruled that they would remove nondiscrimination protections when it comes to health insurance and health care for LGBTQ individuals. This ruling focuses on Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act. Federal law states that it is illegal to discriminate on the basis of “race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability in certain health programs and activities”. In 2016, a rule proposed during the Obama-era explained that protections regarding “sex” encompass those based on gender identity: male, female, neither, or a combination of male and female (Simmons-Duffin). However, the rule recently finalized by the HHS Office for Civil Rights under Trump reverses the previous ruling from the Obama Administration, meaning that the term “sex” only covers biological sex. Under this ruling, transgender people could be refused at a doctors’ office for something as rudimentary as an annual check-up (Simmons-Duffin). Another possible scenario is a transgender man being denied treatment for ovarian cancer or uncovered costs relating to gender transition. This rule goes beyond the ACA, but also could mean the denial and limitations of access to employment based insurance and cost-sharing. Women are also negatively impacted by this ruling, as they can now be denied access to abortions or birth control if the act goes against the employers/insurers moral or religious beliefs. The government estimates that between 70,500 and 126,400 women would immediately lose access to no-cost contraceptive services (Dwyer).
Although these rulings and the negative effects of employment linked health insurance impact these demographics separately, fighting for the health rights of one of these groups is not exclusive. The intersection of these demographics collectively makes up the most marginalized group in the U.S: black, transgender women. Drawing on intersectionality emphasizes the importance of seeking justice through disrupting systems that perpetuate racialize, gendered inequalities in all facets, not just healthcare. The healthcare system in the U.S was built to benefit corporate America and continues to be upheld by white, cis-gendered men. Understanding how social and economic factors and stressors impact marginalized demographics will help the public better understand viewpoints outside of the upheld status quo. Expanding resources to further research the issues faced by black, transgender women will not only help the group as a whole, but also black communities, transgender and LGBTQ communities, as well as women respectively.
With the recent murders of Breonna Taylor, Ahmed Arburry, and George Floyd, protests have broken out calling for justice for the victims of police brutality, police reform, and tangible action to improve the lives and status of black Americans through policy and police reform. As Scholar Simon Hall states, “A model of patriotic dissent has emerged in which activists have sought to narrow the gap between America’s lofty promise of liberty and justice for all and the actual experience of oppressed peoples…” (Hall). Only this statement was aimed at the Gay Rights movement, originating from the mid-twentieth century, not the modern day Black Lives Matter movement. These communities were and continue to be exhausted from the mistreatment by law enforcement and the lack of tangible policy protecting them. Many similarities can be drawn between the Gay Rights movement and the modern day Black Lives Matter movement (Hall 2010).
Americans have taken to the streets to protest the killings of George Floyd, Ahmed Arburry, Breonna Taylor, in a similar fashion to the protests held for Trayvon Martin in 2012 and Rodney King in 1992. Much like the 1992 protests, 2020 has seen the escalation to riots in major American cities. Frustrations and anger toward the police have boiled over as tear gas, rubber bullets, and the brutal militarization of law enforcement were sent at Americans utilizing the first amendment’s right to protest. Little support has come from the executive branch in Washington DC as Donald Trump tweeted out “…when the looting starts, the shooting starts”.
What is often forgotten is the long history of rioting in America and its connection to civil rights (Daks 2020).
From the Boston Tea Party to Stonewall itself, riots have historically been the catalyst for change in American social ideology. Stonewall has historically been credited with being the foundation of the gay rights movement but a deeper look into Stonewall reveals a striking similarity with the modern Black Lives Matter movement. These riots and/or protests both were not spurred by a singular event, they were a boiling over point for two highly marginalized communities who were consistently victims of oppressive legislation and police brutality (Martin Duberman).
Kevin Mumford in his article “Lessons of Stonewall Fifty Years Later” cites stonewall as an important, widely publicized moment in queer history, therefore it was more of a uniting moment in history. Mumford writes how stonewall expanded the idea of the queer community to encompass the entire nation, “More so than local activism or the proliferation of bars, I believe that this expanding queer public space continues to bind LGBT lives across the nation”. (Mumford 2019)
Scholars Martin Duberman and Andrew Kopkind see the riots at stonewall were a reaction to years of homophobic and transphobic policy that suffocated queer individuals, expressed in their 1993 randition of the event “The Night They Raided Stonewall”. They speak to how women were required to wear at least three articles of feminine clothing and how it was a crime to be caught intimately with a member of the same sex acccording to Section 887(7) of the New York Criminal Conduct Code. Stonewall existed in a network of underground queer spaces, pioneered by the ball scene of New York. On June 28, 1969 in the early morning when the police entered the bar and began arresting patrons for their gender expression, anger grew in the crowd. These patrons were forced to heels, were thrown from the queens in the paddy wagon, and a mob that was forming outside of the bar evolved into a riot. The police were forced inside of the bar as patrons began breaking glass and throwing molotov cocktails. The violence escalated from and stretched through the following five days until July 3, 1969 (Duberman 1993).
The Black Lives Matter protests in 2020 are similar to the Stonewall riots in the fact that they are a response to decades of mistreatment by law enforcement. The movement grew as a new generation of black Americans and allies continued to witness mistreatment of the black community within police precincts. According to researcher Russel Rickford, the movement is technologically savvy and millennial based, tending to vote democratic in local and federal elections. 2020 sees the movement to be more aggressive and widespread than previously, as protests spread across major American cities, several of which turning to riots. Like Stonewall, these protests and riots represent the point of frustration the black community has been forced to, with peaceful means not working to create lasting policy and reform (Rickford 2017).
George Floyd, who has become the face of the movement after his murder was filmed in May of 2020, was not the sole reason for these protests and riots. He, along with Breonna Taylor, Ahmed Arburry, Trayvon Martin, and Rodney King were victims of a system that disproportionately harms black Americans. Their murders were the catalyst, the point of exhaustion that could no longer be tolerated by the black community (Berman 2020).
Stonewall did not become a riot because queer people were kicked out of their favorite bar. Stonewall became a riot due to years of mistreatment of the queer community by law enforcement. Squad cars in Seattle, Los Angeles, New York, and Minneapolis are not burning because of the death of one man. Squad cars are burning because, sadly, George Floyd is one name on a list of one thousand unarmed black americans killed by the police every year, according to the Washington Post. Reports from CNN tell of police attacking peaceful protesters, inciting riots. The social contract has been broken in the eyes of scholar Russel Rickford, as the police are not seen as public servants and protectors, but as antagonistic enforcers (Macaya 2020).
Riots may be disturbing. Looting of department stores may be disturbing. But merchandise can be replaced by the large corporations who sell them. A human life can never be replaced. Violence is never and never was the intention of any protest, whether for gay rights or Black Lives Matter. Violence comes as a response to years of mistreatment. Stonewall is seen as a heroic moment in queer history but at the time was seen as a violent, disproportionate response. History has shown that in the moment, riots are terrifying to those outside of the marginalized community, but are remembered as landmark moments of progress in the American Consciousness. Only time will tell how Black Lives Matter is remembered but it exists in the “Great American Tradition” of riots against an oppressive system.
In this article, I want to challenge our readers to pursue a deeper understanding of queer bodies of color who have been omitted from the narrative and excluded from the notions of progress for the LGBT+ community. In 2020, drag icons like RuPaul can achieve a net worth of $60million. However, before ascending to mainstream appeal, this multimillion-dollar industry had a long history of marginalization and criminalization. Until this year, William Dorsey Swann was a name unbeknownst to queer academia; but his legacy to the LGBT+ community is indisputable. Swann was the first, “queen of drag.” He was born a slave around 1858 in Maryland; and while he saw the end of the Civil War and the issuing of the Emancipation Proclamation, his life is a testament that systemic oppression of black bodies was far from over. Being a former slave, compounded with being queer, made William Dorsey Swann the target of police surveillance, public scorn, and violence. Following the first police raids of Swann’s dances in the 1880’s, the queen of drag and her guests entered the court of public opinion and were labeled: freaks, colored erotopaths, and a lecherous gang of sexual perverts.
In the opening lines of “Paris is Burning,” we are reminded that the oppression experienced by Swann was still a reality for queens of color over a century later in 1990:
“You have three strikes against you in this world. Every black man has two-that they’re just black and that they are male. But you’re black, and you’re male, and you’re gay. You are going to have a hard fucking time.” (Freddie Pendavis, 1990).
These later iterations of Swann’s drag ball culture have heavily influenced the palatable pageantry displayed in RuPaul’s Drag Race; but it would be remiss to ignore their tumultuous origins and their less agreeable counterparts. To indulge in queer culture without recognizing issues of homelessness, race, prostitution, and police violence is superficial.
Less than a century after William Dorsey Swann’s first acts of queer resistance, the Stonewall Riots in 1969 inspired queer people to demand liberation. A central figure to the events at Stonewall was Marsha P. Johnson. The exact details of her involvement that night have been mythologized and disputed, yet there is a consensus that Marsha was a fixture on Christopher St. where she advocated for protections of LGBT+ bodies affected by homelessness and racism. Similar to William Dorsey Swann, Marsha had witnessed a liberation for black Americans. She is famously quoted as saying, “I got my civil rights!” then throwing a shot glass against a Stonewall mirror. The simple fact that we celebrate Pride each year at the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots is a testament to the impacts of daring to be black, trans, and rebellious.
While Marsha P. Johnson would undoubtedly smile at the progress that has been achieved on the gay liberation front, she would be disappointed at its incompletion. Her work with Sylvia Rivera as the mothers of Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR) called for the support of homeless queer youth and sex workers. Still, in 2019, at least 27 transgender or gender-nonconforming people were killed because of fatal violence, the majority of which were black trans women (Human Rights Campaign, 2020). LGBT+ liberation demands more than just symbolic gestures, it demands that the most vulnerable queer bodies be seen.
Marsha’s friends tell stories of when she used to stand on the street corner asking a passerby for a dollar only to turn around and give it to someone else in need. Even though she was homeless for extended periods of time, relied on sex work for an unstable income, and didn’t have money to fashion herself in glamorous drag attire, Marsha would happily hand her last two dollars to a friend.
Despite being born in shackles or of little consequence to the white majority, Swann and Marsha advocated for their community. In the context of our mission in Eye2Eye, Swann, and Marsha’s actions are a reminder that the barriers for gender parity in the workplace are more complex than a glass ceiling. The reality is, not all glass ceilings reach the same height and upward velocities are not equal. The intersectionality we advocate for encourages readers to consider their current position in society relative to all other bodies. Rather than just looking up at our white male counterparts, we need to look around for others who we can help advance.
Imagine having the perfect resume for a competitive job opportunity. You have amazing credentials, the necessary skills, and fit the ideal description of the new hiree. Everything is in place and you feel confident about getting the job, except that someone else essentially has the same resume as you. The decision narrows down to you and him, and sure enough, he gets the job. Why? Because he is a man, and you are a woman.
Unfortunately, this is the sad reality of much of the workforce. According to a recent study, men are three times more likely to get the job than women when considered under the exact same circumstance. Researchers claim that this is often due to the “motherhood penalty”, a pre-notion that women will leave the workforce to become a stay at home mother.
Is it fair to make this assumption? Is it fair to base a decision on the unknown future and simply one’s ability to give birth?
The fact of the matter is that it’s wrong to assume anything based on gender, and the stigma that women will drop everything to become a stay at home mother is simply outdated. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the amount of stay at home mothers has seen an overall decline from 49% in 1967 to 29% in 2012. While many women continue to become mothers, today’s society has made it more than possible to balance work life and motherhood.
It is also important to note that not all women even become mothers; and if they do, not all become stay at home mothers. What about the fathers? Studies show that society has seen an overall increase in stay at home fathers, but you don’t see them getting a “fatherhood penalty”. This leaves us with one question: is it really motherhood that is causing employer hesitation or is it womanhood and its corresponding stereotypes?
Imagine you’re applying for that same job, only this time there is no indication of whether or not you are a woman. Just by excluding the gender factor, you are three times more likely to have an equal chance at getting the job over the man who is applying against you. You still may not get the job, but at the end of the day it will be about the person, not the gender.
In the 20th century after the suffragettes had met their goals, many women left the Feminist movement with the feeling that they had achieved equality. However, on the social front, women have yet to overcome the essentialist mentality that females are inherently less suited for professional careers than men.
A recent survey conducted by Gallup evaluated whether people of both genders believed women should be part of the paid workforce. In North America, 71% of males and 76% of females concur that women should be part of the paid workforce and the majority further agrees that women should also be able to participate in domestic life. This study reveals how acknowledging the Motherhood Penalty is desired by both men and women. If we aim to address gender inequality in the workplace, it is vital that we cultivate a professional environment that doesn’t force women to compromise between career and family.
One essential difference between men and women is the female’s role to deliver and nurture the child. Women have attempted to remedy the stunted growth of female career development by proposing legislation for paid maternity leave; but a principle that is less commonly discussed is paternity leave. Right now, the Family and Medical Leave Act guarantees twelve unpaid weeks of paternity leave. However, only a handful of states have enacted paid paternity leave. Part of having women achieve equality in the workplace, is changing the way society and employment views childcare. Rather than having the responsibility fall solely on the woman, by enacting paid paternity leave policies, more egalitarian gender norms will emerge.
Furthermore, I would like to address the Motherhood Penalty with scientific advances. Although healthcare and sexual education have made significant progress in teaching women about birth control, these contraceptive strategies do not slow the biological clock. A second essential difference between men and women, is the ability for males to delay paternity. However, women aren’t free to have children at any point in their career, as they understand the viability of eggs diminishes overtime. This can affect female ambitions by constricting career options to those that permit breaks for family. I would urge women to explore options for Fertility Preservation, and for businesses and the government to improve standards in women’s health coverage. The harvesting of eggs has an initial cost of about $10,000 and an annual storage cost of $500. This is a heavy initial financial burden for a young woman, but it can save money for later, less effective, fertility treatments in the future and evens the biological inequalities between men and women.
Science and legislation have already offered solutions for the Motherhood Penalty. Society must decide how highly they value gender equality. By guaranteeing both paid maternity and paternity leave, as well as making Fertility Preservation more accessible to women, we can find the balance between professional and parental equality.
Last March 8th, during International Women’s Day, a statue of a girl defiantly standing in front of the iconic bull statue in Wall street sparked conversation regarding the huge misrepresentation of women in certain fields like finance.
This statue was part of a campaign ignited by State Street, an asset management firm that manages around 11% of the world’s assets, that seeks to get more women in corporate boards. This action was followed up with a letter directed to all of the companies that comprised the Russell 3000 index, persuading them to take action and add women to their boards.
It is a fact that women are clearly underrepresented in this industry, a Morningstar study showed that “Less than 10% of all U.S. fund managers are women; women exclusively run about 2% of the industry’s assets and open-end funds. By contrast, men exclusively run about 74% of the industry’s assets and 78% of funds, with mixed-gender teams accounting for the balance.” This phenomenon is true not only in senior levels, but all across the industry. According to a Harvard Business Review research, in other specific areas in finance like private equity, venture capital, and real estate women make up only 17 percent to 23 percent of all employees.
So, there is clearly a ratio that shows the reluctance of this industry to welcome women, but is it fundamentally an issue? Is there anything else, besides the strong misogynist underlying of the industry, and a politically incorrect dynamic that is detrimental to anyone? Well, actually there is. In an industry where for obvious reasons, there is a strong focus on the ultimate bottom line – profits-, financial performance is being affected by this dynamic that we see as inherent to the industry. Various studies led by firms like McKinsey & Co. and Catalyst, show that, in general, the increase in number of women in boards is associated with better financial performance. Not only this shows the need to pursue a benefit, but also various studies show that men’s wrongdoings in this industry are proportionally way more frequent and catastrophic that women’s. A research lead by Stanford University and the University of Chicago studied the cause and impact of misconduct in financial services. Males are three times more likely than women to engage in risky investments, negligence, and fraud. These misconducts are not only more frequent but in a higher degree; male errors are 30% more expensive for firms. The median of male errors being $40,000, and for female errors being $31,000.
Some studies, like the one led by Goldman Sachs, suggests that this a physiological consequence since higher levels of testosterone is correlated with more frequent trading, increasing the risk of losses.
Now, if having a more reasonable ratio of women is not only fair and logical, but also beneficial; why is there still such a huge gap between a woman’s potential in this industry and that of a man? The roots of this issue could reside in the origins and nature of the industry itself, it has always been a predominantly male industry in which a factor for people’s success is the degree of comradery and their connections. As we know from social psychology, the similarity/attraction bias explains how we are inherently attracted to favor those who are similar to us, which could have led men to perpetuate this bias towards women
Moving forward from the origins of this dynamic, the importance of discussing this topic is to create a response and consciously change biases in order to benefit society and the industry. State Street in not the only firm calling for change, a myriad of other firms worldwide echoed these concerns and have stepped up. Some of them are BBVA Spanish financial services company, with their maternity initiatives – of the women 2,273 that went on maternity leave in 2012, 100% came back to their same jobs-. Also, in 2008 Calver Investments launched a Gender Equality Principles (GEP) campaign that provides resources for companies to guide them step by step in the implementation of processes that promote gender equality in their policies, practices, and culture. And other companies such as Pax Investments have even directly leverage from these findings. They created the Pax Global Women’s Leadership Index in which investors can invest in companies where there are tangible actions towards gender equality. They have also sent letters to the SEC urging them to request companies to disclose gender-related information such as pay equity data.
This is certainly a movement that is shaping the financial services industry, directing it to a more egalitarian future in which everyone can benefit from equality, fairness, and diversity. All the aforementioned actions are inspiring and show a great response from firms that feel the social obligation to shape societies and improving their own performance along the way. There is so much more to do and high expectations to meet. For instance, some other organizations like 20/20 WOB expect that by 2020 women make up of at least 20% of directors in boards. Others more ambitious like Girls Who Invest, are aiming for 30% of the world’s investable capital to be managed by women by 2030. Whether we get there by that time, or even exceed these expectations is up to everyone who can make a difference; meaning, anyone.