After a robust National Women’s History Month, many professions are stepping up their game to recognize women’s achievements. Previously male-dominated industries from the medical to legal fields are showering women with praises. In this boom of female empowerment, awards for the “top women,” “the first woman,” and “women’s achievement” are being granted.
Your Inbox is most likely inundated with emails throwing around phrases such as “women’s success,” “paving the way for women,” and “making strides for women.” Likewise, your Inbox is probably equally flooded with gender inequality in the workforce news, such as the recent article “Study Shows Gender Diversity Varies Widely Across Practice Areas”. The proliferation of women’s awards in boy club professions seems entirely at odds with the overwhelming amount of the gender workforce gap articles. Although, are the two as incompatible as they may seem? Does the wave in women’s recognition and awards cover up the still pressing gender inequality? To phrase it another way, are the recent awards for the top women proof of female advancement in traditionally male industries or are they telling of the long road ahead women must travel to reach equality?
Take for example, the honor of becoming the first women to head a Fortune 500 company. Is it really an honor becoming one of the first women to dominate a stereotypical masculine field in the 21st century? Being the first women, though working towards changing the gender ratio in the workforce, signals that women are in the beginning phase of becoming the power players of large corporations run by men. Ironically and sadly, the prize of becoming the “first woman” points to the historical and contemporary minority of women to hold high positions in large corporations.
Similarly, nominations that attempt to showcase women and bring them to the forefront of the corporate world reveal that women have not previously been recognized to the degree that men have. In other words, contests such as the most influential women in technology attempt to overcompensate for past failure to acknowledge women’s influence in technology. Moreover, the acknowledgment of a few women in technology may act as a gilded facade to cover up the gender inequality that is still present in this male-centric profession.
Likewise, in 2004, Forbes began complying a list of the 100 most powerful women. Forbes’ list recognizes women who previously may have slipped through the pages of history books and works to integrate women into the realm of corporate success. While it can be viewed as a move in the right direction, the Forbes list cannot serve as grounds for equality. Rather, it does quite the opposite. When conducting a Google search on “Forbes list of The Most Powerful Men” the first link that is generated in the search is “Forbes list of The World’s Most Powerful People.” While women still have a place in the list, namely “the third most powerful person in the world also happens to be the most powerful woman, Angela Merkel, the chancellor of Germany and the backbone of the European Union,” the list has a higher percentage of men. There also is no equivalent to the “Forbes list of The Most Powerful Women;” the “Forbes list of The Most Powerful Men” is unnecessary as men have been recognized throughout history and still hold a larger presence in the workforce.
Until women become equally included in the “Forbes list of The Most Powerful People” and no longer are given a separate list of their own, equality is not achieved. Unfortunately, the current fad of allocating women their own special awards and recognition works to make up for the neglect of past praise and to act as cover for the present-day inequality.