Wednesday, May 19, 2010
At seven in the morning at the downtown YMCA the basketball court is scattered with a mix of guys: tall, short, hefty, Black, White, Latino, shirted, shirtless, and so on. Then there’s the feisty 5’2” girl-wonder who plays with them… every. single. day. Though you can tell that they have a great deal of respect for her, she’ll so often be wide open and the guys will either take an improbable shot or pass to one of their male teammates.
Sometimes I think about this scenario as a metaphor for how women are perceived by society. Yes, we’re on the court now…but no one’s passing us the ball.
The number of women-owned businesses has risen by leaps and bounds in the last three decades, however that doesn’t mean that our businesses are on par when it comes to revenue. Researcher Sharon G. Hadary points out in a recent Wall Street Journal article that the average woman–owned business takes in just 27% of the average male-owned business. Hadary cites a litany of theories on why this is the case, including a reluctance to take on debt, a lack of access to capital, and (surprise, surprise) a “self-limiting view of themselves.” As far as fixes for these dilemmas, the best point she makes is this: “The more women who lead, the more women who lead,” which brings us to our next topic…
Washington State is on the progressive side, with three women in relatively high-power positions: The Governorship and both U.S. senate seats (though it’s rumored that Gregoire may be tapped to replace Elena Kagan as Solicitor General if Kagan’s nomination to the Supreme Court is confirmed). However, of the 147 members of the Washington State Legislature, only 48 are female. And the numbers are far worse on a national level – with just over 16% of seats occupied by a woman.
I’m sure there are a lot of theories floating around on why this is the case, but of particular interest is a study done a couple years back, that showed something hopeful, yet perplexing: The general public thinks that women make better leaders than men. Hmm…does this make me hopeful that we’ll soon be electing more women to office, or skeptical of a society who thinks this and still votes primarily for men. I’m not quite sure.
I’m sure you’ve been to see the Seattle Storm, or at least know of their existence (you are, after all, reading a blog concerning women’s rights). The other day we were talking about going to the game last minute and when someone suggested it might be sold out, my friend said “C’mon…it’s a Storm game. There’s no way it’s sold out.” In fact she’s right (with the exception of playoffs). The highest attendance in the 17,072 capacity Seattle Center last season was 9,686. My aunt solidified my hunch that so much of the reason for this is about perception by declaring that “women just look awkward when they play sports.”
This morning someone finally passed to my b-ball heroine and I watched as she sunk a shot from the 3-point line. There are so many smart and talented women out there with 3-pointers in their back pocket. For the good of society, let’s hope they get a chance to make the shot.