Originally published on February 27, 2012 on Beyond the Elms: Scripps College Career Planning & Resources Blog.
The facts surrounding the gender gap in the professional world have been drilled into my head repeatedly through attending Scripps and through my regular reading of online feminist media like Jezebel and Feministing. However, despite my disgust with the information I was reading and my desire to take action, I had never absorbed the statistics I read as applying directly to me.
My brain had somehow compartmentalized the gender gap information into a folder of interesting information that didn’t affect my life. My career, my dreams, my goals, they couldn’t possibly be limited by percentages quoted in articles.
I never paused to consider that each factor in those percentages was a career full of hopes and dreams just like mine until I read “Promote Women: Use Your Network to Solve the Gender Gap” by Ann Friedman and Amanda Hess (an article posted on Good News, which I discovered via Feministing). This article focused directly on the media industry – the exact field I’m looking to enter – and indirectly referenced statistics from the Women’s Media Center, which found that the media world is overwhelmingly male, and the gap is only growing.
However, instead of sharing the statistics and moving on, like I had allowed myself to do so many times before, the article placed me (and every other reader) in the center of the problem, stating that, “Reading big statistics, it’s easy to place yourself in a bystander role. You acknowledge that women are underrepresented in your industry … You know that they are far less visible, and probably paid less, than men of equal experience. You’re frustrated … But what have you ever done about it?”
The article then walks readers through steps to help alleviate the gender gap. First, think of three women in your industry who are under recognized. Then, think of three powerful contacts in your industry who could assist them. Finally, email the influential professionals and recommend your female friends.
Admittedly, it’s not an overnight solution. It’s not even a solution I can contribute to at the moment, as I’m lacking in influential friends. But it’s a solution that can work.
For now, I’m going to take advantage of the process by forgoing the middleman. In my search for a summer internship, I discovered that I’m only two degrees removed from an education writer at the San Jose Mercury News. When I found out they don’t offer traditional summer internships, I was going to let the chance for contact drop. Now, I’m preparing an email to initiate communication. Because, who knows? Maybe she’ll be the professional who knows a professional who can help me do my part to help end the gender gap.