By Marsha Bailey, WEV CEO & Founder
I had an interesting interview this morning with a recent WEV graduate, Darlene Anderson, who is producing a video for us. She asked me questions I’ve been asked by others over the years about why we started WEV, but the question I liked best was, “What is WEV for?” In other words, why do we exist? I told her our mission: WEV is dedicated to creating an equitable and just society through the economic empowerment of women.
I explained to Darlene, that as Boomer, I’ve seen a lot of change in my lifetime. Title IX was passed in 1972 – the year I graduated from college. So, essentially, there were no sports for women when I was in high school and few in college. Think Busby Berkeley and synchronized swimming. The classified ads listed jobs under “Help Wanted – Female” and “Help Wanted – Male.” Discrimination was not only rampant – it was legal. I had to go to the mat with the Lazarus Department Store to get a credit card in my own name in 1973.
Although many things have changed since I was a younger woman, we still have a ways to go to truly achieve social and economic equality. Women still earn 77% of what men earn for comparable work. Women compose only 20% of the Senate and 18% of Congress. The number of women heading up Fortune 500 companies is at a new high of 20. Excuse me if I don’t get all giddy about that meager 4%. At the same time, everybody is talking about the “new” “Mommy Debate” stoked by Sheryl Sandberg’s new book, Lean In, and the everlasting question: Can Women Have it All?
To many of the women we work with at WEV, the question of “having it all” isn’t even on the radar screen. They’d be happy with a fair-sized piece of the pie. Woman-owned businesses generate only 25% of the annual revenues of their male counterparts, yet we have to fight with Congress every year to justify the existence of Women’s Business Centers and to preserve our $14 million in federal funding – that’s for the entire country.
That equitable and just society we’re striving for? We’re not there yet.