“We’ve come a long way on gender equality in the last century”
by Patricia Wyatt-Harris, MD
“Look around, look around at how lucky we are to be alive right now.” That line is from the musical “Hamilton” and may not seem to apply to the world with COVID-19, but from the standpoint of gender equality, I think it is appropriate.
Recently we celebrated the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote in the United States. I can’t imagine a world where women were thought to be unfit to vote.
Apparently, women in the U.S. were considered physically and mentally inferior to men until the first World War. Women were working to attain economic and political equality even before this time. When they started working in munition factories, men took note of their abilities. Suffice it to say that granting women the right to vote was a huge step in the path to gender equality.
On Sept. 18, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died. She played a major role in cases that have led to gender equality. After graduating at the top of her class, she was not offered a job in a top law firm nor a Supreme Court clerkship like some men who ranked lower in her class.
Instead of letting that stop her, she taught law and eventually became a tenured professor. At that time she worked for the ACLU and co-founded the Women’s Rights Project. She used a legal strategy that included challenging discrimination against men. She felt that there shouldn’t be discrimination against women or men.
When she became a Supreme Court justice, one of her dissenting arguments actually led to congressional action regarding pay discrimination. I don’t have time to chronicle all of her accomplishments, but I am grateful to her for helping to pave my way in what was a primarily male career when I started.
I know there are still instances of pay discrimination that need to be remedied. The #MeToo movement has gone a long way to fight injustices in the workplace, but these still exist.
I am just glad I am alive now and have been able to practice medicine. I am happy to be able to vote without worrying about discrimination because I am female.
We are lucky to be alive right now!