Marching for Equality

ARKANSAS
BY

RICHARD MASON

MARCHING FOR EQUALITY
After watching several million women march for equal rights, I decided to write this column. Yes, it’s for women, but maybe, if you’re a guy, you should also read it. After all men are the ones who are discriminating against over half our population; the women. Sure, women have equal rights, but that doesn’t keep men from openly discriminating against them. You can say, “There’s no discrimination.” until you are blue in the face, but it doesn’t change things. Here are a few relevant facts: Women don’t get equal pay for doing the same job as men, and there are thousands of corporation boards and public commissions that are 100% men, or with just a token woman.
There is worldwide discrimination directed against women. For example, in Saudi Arabia women can’t even drive a car unless accompanied by a man. Yes, it clearly is a worldwide problem, but it can best be tackled locally. The discrimination is not caused by Republicans or Democrats. That’s right. Take a look at the local and state appointed boards and commissions. In Arkansas, former Democratic governors discriminated against women just as much as the current Republican governor is. When a governor or a mayor continues to stack commissions and boards with men, they are actively participating in discrimination against women.
Across our country there are thousands of all male boards and commissions. Can anyone say the only qualified candidates for these positions are men? Of course not! So why do our male elected officials continue to appoint a much higher percentage of men, and only appoint men to certain boards? Of course, it’s discrimination! There is no other word for it. It is discrimination as sure as the South’s Jim Crow laws were.
Now let’s focus on our state. There are hundreds of boards and commissions, but I can’t name a one with a majority of women. However, I sure can name some of the most prominent that women aren’t even represented. How about Game and Fish, or the Highway Department, or the Oil and Gas Commissions? Governor after governor keeps them all male. It is blatant discrimination, but we put up with it. Oh, yes, we have a token woman here and there, but is less discrimination okay? Of course not!
Well, all of the above is just the way things are today, and of course it needs to change, but it is not going to change unless we force change? Let’s take a look at how change happens. To do that we need look back at history. How did women achieve the right to vote? Of course we know, they marched in the street, as well as numerous other ways, but it took years to push through the constitutional amendment that finally allowed women to vote. The battle for equal representation on commissions, boards, and equal pay for equal work will not happen overnight. However, since the cause is right and just, it will happen, so our job is to make it happen sooner than later. What can we do? Actually, marching in the street is a great way to call attention to the problem, but that’s only a start. We need to confront those in charge of making the appointments, from mayors to congressmen, all the way to the White House and to the corporate boardrooms. One massive march certainly helps, but the daily push to confront those who make appointment decisions will ultimately win the day.
We see our politicians frequently, and every time we do the question: “Why don’t you promote equal opportunities for women?” should be part of your conversation. Of course, they will tell you they support equal rights, but pin them down with specifics. “Do you support equal pay for women?” Or, if you are talking to a company president, “Will you commit to equal representation on your company board?”
Yes, most of them will point to having a woman on their board. When they do, accuse them of just putting a token woman on the board where they can say, women have representation. Push for equal representation. But we can go a step further, our corporations are very sensitive to public opinion and the price of their stock. Letters to company boards stating “I will cease to buy your products unless women have equal representation, and I will sell the stock I own in your company.” That letter will make a difference, but when a thousand similar letters come in, it makes a huge difference. And then, when the Governor, Mayor, or any other elected official comes campaigning, tell them you won’t give them any money or vote for them unless they make more women appointments. The Governor should be hit constantly while he campaigns for reelection in 2018 to appoint a woman to the all-male commissions—Highway, Game and Fish, Oil and Gas.
We can’t just sit passively by and expect things to change. Every letter, every pointed conversation, and yes, every embarrassing encounter will move gender equality closer to a reality. Remember this; elected officials and corporations that sell to the public are especially sensitive to the charge of discrimination. If we want change, we should demand it, or it won’t happen. Yeah, that means, “Get in their face.”

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Governor, Tear Down That Wall!

ARKANSAS

BY

RICHARD MASON

Governor, Tear Down That Wall!

Governor, I know you’re wondering, “What wall?” so, I’ll tell you: It’s the wall that keeps you from putting a woman on the Highway Commission, the Game and Fish Commission, the Oil and Gas Commission and numerous other state commissions. Well, Governor, I guess, if we’re honest there are several “walls” that keep you from putting a woman on these commissions. Of course, the first wall is “There aren’t any qualified women.” Can you say that with a straight face to over a million and a half women in the state? Of course not! There are thousands of women in our state that are well qualified to be members of those or any commissions in the state. Then, if we agree that there are plenty of qualified women, the only other reason to not put women on these and other commissions is that they are “male only” commissions. Yes, it seems, that has been the primary reason to not place qualified women on these commissions. But “male only?” That sounds about as right as “colored restrooms.” If we can have women serving in a Marine Rifle Squad and other women working at Los Alamos to design nuclear weapons, it would seem a “male only” commission is a holdover from the 1950 or earlier.
When we read the newspaper and see another man being appointed to the Highway Commission or the Game and Fish Commission, we barely shrug our shoulders. Yes, that’s the way it has been as long as I can remember. But Governor, this isn’t Saudi Arabia. Arkansas women drive, and yes there are plenty of women who are civil engineers in our state, and of course, Arkansas women are as aware of our highway needs as any man in the state. But maybe are there other reasons certain commissions are male only? Do you think, these commissions, which are plum appointments, are passed out to big Republican or Democrat donors—uh, no Governor, I know you wouldn’t put a man on a particular commission just because he anted up some big bucks to the party—would you?
Yes, I’m speaking out for gender equality, because it’s the right thing to do. After all, if we believe in equal representation, every commission in the state should have at least equal representation by women. Actually, a recent national sturdy showed commissions that had women serving on them were, more successful than all male commissions.
Of course, I know women have made great strides in serving on commissions and other appointed position. But if we look back at history, the United Stated really hasn’t been a leader in gender equality. A hundred years ago women couldn’t even vote, and if you compare us with Western Europe, we fall way behind. Almost all of the countries in Western Europe have made significantly more progress in treating women equally than the United States. Some of these countries have even mandated legislatures and commissions have an equal number of women serving.
A recent study in the United States said, based on the slow progress being made in this county, it would be 2030 before we reach gender equality.
Governor, let’s lead the nation is gender equality, and not brag because we’re one step ahead of Mississippi.
Tear down that wall, Governor!