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As I uttered the words, I knew what I had done wrong. My daughter had just finished an hour of swimming laps with her team. She relayed how two boys were laughing and blocking the lane as she, the faster swimmer, tried to go around them, as is protocol.

I said, “well, you just have to be way better than them. If you get stronger you can always be in front of them.”

Why, indeed, after unfairness, do some women think the remedy is to work even harder to show that we do really deserve it? That’s what I was transmitting to my daughter.

My husband, a former national medalist swimmer, showed my daughter some tricks on passing “uncooperative” fellow swimmers. Given that her nickname is “sassypants,” I know she won’t be deterred.

However, another girl in the same group had been scratched by the boys and was ready to quit. Luckily they both were fast enough to move into another lane and, for now, the issue was resolved.

Is the answer that the girl who didn’t like being scratched needs to “toughen up?” Or that just by working extra hard they can get away from people who pester them?

This experience reminds me of why we need the recent International Women’s Day, celebrated on March 8, during Women’s History Month.

Social media had some great quotes and celebratory messages on International Women’s Day. Sadly, there was also a sprinkling of the usual slights.

Women activists were paradoxically either called “privileged” or told to “get a job.” We were reminded we really had nothing to complain about because women in other countries have it far worse.

Sophie Trudeau, wife of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, thanked men who supported gender equality, but that oddly morphed into discussions about women being grateful to men who keep them comfortable. Even in the privileged U.S., there is a long way to go.

Slights serve but one purpose, and that is to keep women where they are “supposed to be” – not in men’s way.

True, in foreign countries women risk their lives to attend school, own property, or resist mandatory marriage. But much like racism, sexism still is pervasive even in developed countries, and it continues to do harm.

The American Association of University Women study “Barriers and Bias (2016)” details what is called implicit bias: pervasive and often unintentionally different treatment of women.

For example, women with identical or better qualifications continually lose out to men in hiring, but when resumes are scrubbed of male and female names, the females do better, as commensurate with their qualifications.

Women also face what is called the “double bind” of discomfort with females in power because of a conflict between the idea that women “should” be nurturing and kind and the idea that you have to be strong and tough to be a leader.

One of my heroes, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, advises that women pretend we didn’t hear the snide comment du jour, at least when coming from colleagues.

I agree. However, women’s equality follows an imperfect path, like other social gains. Segregation was replaced by racism, but that clearly doesn’t mean all is OK.

Immigrants were treated poorly when our parents arrived here, and injustice toward “others” continues today. Gay and transgender rights are won, and lost, each year.

No matter how innocently ignorant a slight against women is, it feeds a continuing cultural bias. Not all slights are small.

Abused women are victim shamed for going out with the wrong guy. They “should have known better!”

Women athletes are paid far less than men of lower caliber, all the while raking in far more gold medals.

There’s always a “good reason” why women are not on corporate boards or elected office or speaking at tech conferences.

In America, our philosophy is always to improve, to make things a little better. We need to chip away at limiting biases.

It was bias that prevented our grandmothers from voting and our mothers from having a bank account. It is bias that makes it common for working women to be asked “what about your kids” when the men with kids are not asked the same.

And it’s bias that makes little boys think it’s hilarious to keep faster girls behind them. With due respect to the groundbreaking Justice Ginsburg, may our generation be the one that stops turning a blind eye when women are treated as “other” than what they rightfully deserve.

Maria Gutzeit is a chemical engineer, business owner, elected water official, and mom living in Santa Clarita.

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  • Gil Mertz

    Thanks Maria. Your columns are always respectful and thought provoking which is a welcome change for Democratic Voices. I have just two thoughts.

    First, you mentioned that “…in foreign countries women risk their lives to attend school, own property, or resist mandatory marriage…” These are countries dominated by the Muslim faith which we dare not mention lest we be branded as hateful xenophobes and bigots.

    Second, compare how your political party treated Hillary Clinton vs Sarah Palin. Both women, both political leaders of their parties. But one rode the coattails of her husband and had a long history of documented deceit and corruption. The other became Governor totally on her own merit while raising young children as a mom. Which woman did your fellow Democrats lift up as a hero and which woman did your party try to destroy with the most hateful, vile and toxic rhetoric rarely seen by politicians?

    So, does your column refer to all women are just certain women?

    • Maria Gutzeit

      Hi Gil: Thanks for the feedback. In short, yes, all women. There are groups that work with overseas women and good for them. My comments were more to local/US circles.

      And, a bit to the other comments….I do not support unqualified women over more qualified men. I do not vote for someone just because they are female – though there are some that ONLY support women because there is such a gap. It’s a long discussion but some of the gap is that it is harder for women to learn leadership if they aren’t learning it anywhere else and some would argue it grows on them (as I suppose it grows on men – and there are certainly some unqualified men in high ranks both in business and politics from what I see.)

      Nor did all democrats support Hillary….a lot of them bashed her. I liked her and would disagree she was only there “on her husbands coattails” though his name ID certainly helped. I would say Secretary of State and a law background was good qualifications to me. That said, I didn’t like her in her first race so…who knows.

      Gotta run. Sorry for any typos – I rushed this as I don’t often get to the website. I look at the paper copy most of the time. Thank you.

  • Brian Baker

    This issue is nowhere as clear-cut as simply being racial or gender bias, Maria. There are far more complex issues in play.

    You mentioned that female athletes are paid less than their male counterparts, but didn’t consider why that might be so. But that goes to the heart of the matter.

    Who pays athletes? Generally, companies that use them for endorsements in advertising. But what determines any athlete’s value? How much the manufacturer can realize in an increase in sales revenue for that athlete’s endorsement. So, a Michael Jordan, who has a very high profile in a wildly popular sport and generates a great deal of media attention is going to enjoy a very high value and get paid an astronomical sum. As will his female equivalent, a person such as….. whom?

    You see, right there’s the problem with your example. I can’t think of any female equivalent. Can you? Is that because of any actual “bias”, or simply because there’s no such equivalent who can bring a Jordan-like value to an ad campaign? And please note in that example that Jordan isn’t a white guy, so at the same time he’s pretty much deflating the “racial bias” aspect of your column, too.

    If I’m a business owner, and I know I can hire a woman with the exact same skills, abilities, work ethic, etcetera as some white guy, and pay her 25% less, wouldn’t I be pretty much a fool to hire a guy just because he’s a guy, and penalize myself financially? Who would do that?

    There must be other factors in play, and actually there are. Over the long term women as a group tend to spend less time on their career path over the course of that career, taking time out for other endeavors such as raising a family. Naturally, this difference will be reflected in their
    statistical earnings difference, because we’re talking macro. But in the micro, when women and men follow the actual same career paths in all relevant respects, that pay discrepancy isn’t there.

    As to your daughter’s experience with the other kids blocking her swimming lanes, trust me. Young guys do the same kinds of things to other young guys, too. Part of actual equality is the realization and acceptance that there are some things in life that aren’t actually reflective of some kind of “bias”.

    I’m not saying that actual bias doesn’t exist. Of course it does. That’s just part of human nature. But we must be careful in how we consider it, and try to make sure there is actual discrimination involved rather than some other factor influencing actions and outcomes. Only then can we address it, and try to come up with solutions that are meaningful and relevant.

    • Ron Bischof

      Excellent comment, Brian. You make a number of points I intended to write in response to Maria’s column.

      Instead, I’ll underscore the pernicious distortion of a gender gap in compensation with this excellent video:

      • Brian Baker

        Thanks, Ron. That really is a very on-point and excellent video. More fully explains the point I try to make in my comment.

        If you’re planning to send a response in to Lila, you’d better hurry up. I sent in my comment as a submittal!

        • Ron Bischof

          No worries as I figured you already had due to the quality of your comment, Brian. 😀

          • Brian Baker

            Ron, that was a very kind thing to say. Thank you.

    • Maria Gutzeit

      Ron, regarding the athletes I’m speaking more of the gold medal winning athletes like swimmers and cyclists and soccer players. Women had to beg, and still beg, through Title IX, to get equal support in amateur sports yet that is continually being bemoaned. Also, as personal experience competing all the way up to the Olympic trials, in races almost every weekend, men in a very beginning/entry level category, wanted and demanded more money, arguing their was “more of them” than the women’s races which had fields of national and sometimes international riders. It was really frankly a joke that women who traveled all over the county (often on annual salaries of 20K at best, if they were paid at all) had to convince promoters that they, just arrived back from the world championships, were worth paying more than weekend warriors. Quite disrespectful. It is a wonder that women compete at all and a miracle they do as well as they do. I have no doubt you can google as well as I so look at amateur athlete pay gap and medal count.

      I saw a fascinating show on racial bias. It was amazing. In short, even black people were biased against black people, and that was because of the overwhelming media portrayal that just sunk into everyone’s brains.

      Much as what has sunk into everyone’s brains about women….

      One solution (which I alluded to in the column) is to scrub names off resumes when reviewing. Studies show that that results in far higher percentage of women getting selected, as do blind auditions in orchestras. In both of those cases it is clear there is some subliminal bias that goes away when the reviewer does not know if the person is male or female.

      • Brian Baker

        Maria, as to the athletes, I think you’re again ignoring the economic reality of why there’s an “inequity” between women’s and men’s sports even at the amateur level. The principle is still the same: men’s sports simply attract more spectator interest than women’s sports. That’s just a fact. That translates into more dollars for the men’s sports, both in general funding and in advertising dollars, because basically it ALL boils down to advertising dollars: in merchandise endorsements by the athletes, and sales by the organizers of advertising time on telecasts and in other media.

        The only way to change THAT would be to change the viewing habits of the fans as a whole.

        As to the “scrubbing of resumes”, it again ignores the basic reality of why there’s an alleged “pay gap” between men and women. You should watch the short video Ron linked, because it more fully explains my own point.

        Your “scrubbing” only works on the micro level, something I already mentioned. It’s the macro level issues that create the false impression of any inequity.

  • Frank Rizzo

    Every one is a victim these days. I’m sorry, but a lot of the issues are more myth than reality in today’s world. Is it perfect? No. And yes, we should 100% treat everyone fairly.

    Now I know this will be a shocker: But woman and men are not the same! ::gasp!!:: I know, crazy stuff here. Women are better in some areas. Men are better in others. In some things they are relatively even. (This of course an Extremely general statement).

    So let’s PLEASE stop playing the victim. Statements like “And it’s bias that makes little boys think it’s hilarious to keep faster girls behind them” are ridiculous. It isn’t bias. It isn’t. Really, it’s not.

    The “Equal pay” argument has been debunked over and over ad nauseum, but it is still used to show victimhood today. If you are not succeeding at something, stop trying to blame others. It could just mean you aren’t as good at it. Regardless of gender.

  • lois eisenberg

    Marie a very insightful letter to the editor.
    You should be proud of yourself and a woman in a man’s world is very perplexing !
    “And it’s bias that makes little boys think it’s hilarious to keep faster girls behind them.”
    But as the old saying goes by the older males ” Boys will be Boys”
    Like being a racist or a bigot there is this disdain for women.

  • lois eisenberg

    “Maria Gutzeit is a chemical engineer, business owner, elected water official, and mom living in Santa Clarita”
    Marie with all those attributes the one I like best is “mom living in Santa Clarita”

  • Bill Reynolds

    I think these “Women’s Day” type events, don’t actually help people to get along with each other. Learning to treat each other with respect starts at home.

    • lois eisenberg

      “I think these “Women’s Day” type events, don’t actually help people to get along with each other.”
      “As of today 10,000 plus women have commented that they want to run for office including all 50 stated plus D.C.”

      • Bill Reynolds

        That maybe so, but that is a different subject than what I asserted.

  • lois eisenberg

    Marie this should give you some satisfaction about “Women’s Day: a work in progress”
    As of today 10,000 plus women have commented that they want to run for office including all 50 stated plus D.C.