On the eve of the United Nations Rio+20 conference on sustainable development, it seems appropriate to look at where women are at in the world. More than 130 heads of state, and 50,000 business leaders, investors and politicians will gather to discuss securing the future of this planet and setting transformative agendas for change in areas like economic development, environmental responsibility and human rights. The idea is to look for ways to achieve (as a planet) dynamic and sustainable growth (an idea which may seem far-reaching if you’ve tuned into the ridiculous polarity of American politics anytime in the past decade.)
Nevertheless, hope is the greatest of all virtues, inspiring millions of people around the world to keep on keeping on with their daily lives and work, and at the Media Awareness Project, we hope at least some of the discussion centers around how we can keep growing and expanding women’s access to healthcare, education, and the power of their voice.
Sadly, in America, men still do most of the talking. In a study of 7,000 op-ed columns (web, print & collegiate) over a 12-week period in 2011, women wrote less than 33% of opinion columns on the web, less than 20% of columns in print, and about 38% of columns on college campuses.
In discussions on women’s issues, men are quoted about 5x more than women, but the impact of the lack of women’s voice in this world extends far beyond issues of reproductive health care. Where are the women’s voices in discussions about the economy, foreign policy, environmental sustainability?
The women of Generation X (that’s my generation–women between the age of 33 and 46) were brought up by parents who focussed on being something. Among the college educated, almost half of us are childless…a profound change from previous generations. Yet in spite of our economic advances…the fact that more of us finish school, go to college, get Ph.Ds and earn considerably more than some of our male counterparts, our voices are still severely under-represented. To make matters worse, when you look at the worst ideas about what it means to be a woman (think Real Housewives – gossip, competition, fairy-tale weddings, facelifts) most of them are made in America by American media.
Awareness is our middle name…why? Because nothing changes until something changes and nothing can change until people begin to recognize the issues.