What he said . . .
It’s International Women’s Day in a graduate journalism class at a top institution in the US.
Fifteen students are in a wide circle around the classroom, facing the walls. Ten women. Five men. The teacher is a man.
We’ve rolled our bodies slowly forward into a standing forward bend. Breathing, we roll slowly back up. We’re told to watch a spot on the wall in front of us.
Then we’re all instructed to yell:
“HEY YOU! GET OFF MY CLOUD!”
We all do it, shaking off tension, smiling. Then we yell again, twice more.
It feels good and there is much camaraderie in the room.
Then one of the guys is told by the professor, Hey Charlie! Go! “Hey You …”
And Charlie yells “HEY YOU! GET OFF MY CLOUD!”
And another guy is told, Hey Angelo! Tell them…
And Angelo yells “HEY YOU! GET OFF MY CLOUD!”
Then, hmm, was it Sebastian?
He yells “HEY YOU! GET OFF MY CLOUD!”
And then a fourth guy, maybe Monty? is told.
And he yells “HEY YOU! GET OFF MY CLOUD!”
In case you missed the gender picture here, in a class of 15 students, where only five are men, four out of those five are the only individuals asked to bellow out their frustration. And this, on International Women’s Day.
The teacher isn’t an asshole. Far from it. That’s the problem and really the only reason I’m writing about this. In TrumpLand we’re bombarded with crassness and bigotry. But this professor’s an enthusiastic educator, on top of his game professionally, and the only professor who knew our names when we walked into class the first day.
And truthfully, none of the other women in the class noticed. Seriously. When I brought it up afterwards in the newsroom, there was a consensus that I was right. And that I needed to say something about it to the professor.
OK. Fair enough. Sit-Him-Down-And-Tell-Him-What’s-What. It’s direct, but a little harsh. Better to write about him publicly? No. Or I’d be using his name. And that would be the exact opposite of my point:
It’s not about him. It’s subtle. It’s all over the place. And most women don’t notice.
In “The Simple Truth About the Gender Pay Gap,” published this spring, the American Association of University Women (AAUW) reports that women earn 81% of what men do for the same work and it isn’t going to get better any time soon.
“At the rate of change between 1960 and 2015, women are expected to reach pay equity with men in 2059. But even that slow progress has stalled in recent years. If change continues at the slower rate seen since 2001, women will not reach pay equity with men until 2152,” according to the AAUW.
That means women can’t afford the same housing, take longer to pay off college debt, and will have less money when they retire.
If you’re an African-American or Latina, your pay is even lower. For the same work.
Some of the Gender Pay Gap is related to the choice of careers, but mostly it isn’t: Female software engineers make 84% the pay of their male counterparts.
What would you do with that “extra” 16% in your salary?
Think about the ongoing discussions around “upspeak” and “vocal fry,” two speaking habits most commonly found in women. From Forbes in 2015:
The sound of one’s voice is linked to one’s presence. We expect our leaders to demonstrate it. While presence is more than voice, the sound of one’s voice is what creates the first impression. And when it comes to perception, the male voice — particularly a deeper toned one — is the de facto standard to which women and other men are compared. Judged by this standard, upspeak is a killer.
Teaching women how to project themselves vocally is vitally important to their economic survival.
Nowhere more so than in journalism.