Over 5,000 businesswomen (and a few brave men) gathered this week in San Francisco for the 27th Annual Conference for Women in Business conducted by Professional Business Women of California (PBWC), a nonprofit organization founded in 1989 by U.S. Congresswoman, Jackie Speier. This year's theme -- "Changing the Game" -- provided a platform for presentations and workshops about diversity, equality, inclusion and leadership in business.
PBWC founding President, Judy Bloom, thought that by the year 2000, there would be no need for a conference because women would have achieved equality in the workplace by then. While much has improved in the last three decades, women are still fighting to be heard, paid and promoted equally.
According to the White House, women are earning 78 percent of what men earn for the same jobs, and that gap increases for Latina and African-American women. In a recent Glassdoor snapshot of the top ten jobs where women earn less, C-Suite jobs landed fourth on the list. Glassdoor also listed ten jobs where women earned more, however, the base pay difference was much lower (5 percent-7.8 percent) vs. the difference where women earned less (16 percent - 28.3 percent).
PBWC keynote speaker and tennis champion, Venus Williams, recalled meeting with executives at Wimbledon where she asked everyone if they had a daughter, would they want her to be paid the same as a man, regardless of what career she chose. In 2007, Williams' request for equal pay resulted in a game changing moment when she became the first woman to benefit from the equalization of prize money at Wimbledon.
Not all women feel comfortable asking for what they're worth. It takes self-confidence, courage and a willingness to risk it all -- qualities necessary for any personal or societal change. In a recent 10-minute radio segment on the "Valerie Smaldone and Friends" show, I spoke about the importance of getting paid what you're worth, and how you can make it happen.
Women still need to fight for equality not only because of the pay gap but also because inequality exists for many people on many different levels in the workplace. There will always be those who are different than the majority, who are considered less than, who are not treated equality, included or promoted. Yes, women make up a big part of those groups but so do men of color, the disabled, older or younger generations and the LBGTQ community. All of these groups are subject to discrimination in the workplace.
Women's organizations and conferences like PBWC can bring these issues to the forefront for discussion and resolution. Today that means including all parties in that discussion. This is no longer a fight against men. It's not the "Battle of the Sexes" tennis match with Billy Jean King and Bobby Riggs in 1973. Forty-three years later, we should be inviting men to the women's table in the spirit of full transparency and collaboration. They might not all accept the invitation, but those that do can help create a powerful force for change in the workplace. Women's equality is not only about being a woman. It's about being a human.