“I gave up early”

I’m a junior in college with early signs and symptoms of severe Senioritis. I’m always looking for motivation, the light at the end of the tunnel. Especially now – the last few weeks of a semester is when I have been known to crash. We receive mountains of assignments all at once (it feels) and I panic. I’ve also been known to call my mom and/or dad in tears and blubber about my stress.

Neither of my parents went to college. Even so, they try their best to comfort my I-have-SO-much-homework-but-I-need-to-workout-and-run-errands-and-get-to-meetings-and-show-up-to-work-but-maybe-I-should-just-sit-here-and-cry breakdowns.

Mom and dad have always said, “go to school, study hard, and you’ll go far; we know you will.” But, will I? Or will I face challenges in the workplace that disregard my hard work and education?

Jennifer Lawrence, aka Katniss Everdeen, recently spoke out about the gender pay gap. If you’ve seen Jennifer Lawrence in the media, you’ll know she’s either talking about food or tripping down the carpet. But on a serious note, she portrays a genuine, down to earth, strong woman aside from her fame and fortune. Forbes magazine ranked her as the highest-paid actress of 2015, yet she doesn’t let that stop her from speaking out about the gender pay gap still occurring in our country.

Jennifer Lawrence

The Guardian posted an article about her activism. Lawrence said, “When the Sony hack happened and I found out how much less I was being paid than the lucky people with dicks, I didn’t get mad at Sony… I got mad at myself. I failed as a negotiator because I gave up early. I didn’t want to keep fighting over millions of dollars that, frankly, due to two franchises, I don’t need.”

She went on to say that she knows she isn’t the only woman who has faced this issue. And, she’s right. Even today, in 2016, women face challenges in the workplace that men do not. This doesn’t just affect women, though. This relates to their families, partners, locations, coworkers, bosses, entire companies, even the government. It’s easy to see this is a widespread issue.

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Gender Pay Gap

To look at a situation like this, we can analyze through cultural theories. Cultural theorists consider biological factors, but focus more on the assumption that ideals are influenced by the surrounding culture.

One of the most important factors of cultural theories of gender, stated by Julia T. Wood, is the element of roles that men and women are expected play. In the workplace, historically and modernly, men are expected to hold a leadership role. On the other hand, women are typically classified into four stereotypical roles:

  • Sex object
    • Judged based on appearance
    • Example: A company who would hire or decline a candidate based on attractiveness or physical appearance could be viewing the candidate as a sex object.
  • Mother
    • Expected to bare emotional support to coworkers
    • Example: Women who have children, or express that they intend to have children, can be viewed as the mother stereotype and be perceived as less professional.
  • Child
    • Viewing a woman as less competent and/or mature
    • Example: “… cute but not to be taken seriously.” – Julia T. Wood
  • Iron maiden
    • The most unfeminine of the stereotypes, direct and tough
    • Example: A female politician who is viewed as powerful, but stern

So – Where do you fall, professionally? How are we going to break the barriers of workplace inequality?

“I gave up early,” is what Jennifer Lawrence said on her argument fighting the gender pay gap.

Don’t be a bystander. Don’t give up early.

I encourage you all to act on equality.

Challenge: Opinions Into Questions

I recently wrote a Gender Watch blog post on how Manny Pacquiao’s contract with Nike was ended based on his religious views of the LGBT community. As the e-mail notifications rolled in of other’s commenting on the post, I kept thinking about the topic. Just like Pacquiao, I am a Christian. I have beliefs on the controversial topic.

But further, if you’re anything like me, many of us have more questions than opinions. Here’s the challenge: let’s try to turn our opinions into questions.

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So, I went back to the basics. In chapter one, Gendered Lives points out three main reasons to educate yourself on how communication, gender, and culture intertwine.

  1. We become more appreciative of how we developed our views of masculinity and femininity, and men and women.
  2. We have a wider view of our own gender.
  3. Education on communication, gender, and culture makes us better communicators.

Since we’re talking about basics, I want to note the differences in sexual orientations. We will reference the acronym LGBT, which means: lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender.

  • Lesbian – a woman who is attracted to other women.
  • Gay – any person who is attracted to the same sex as his or her own.
  • Bisexual – someone who is attracted to both sexes.
  • Transgender – can describe anyone who doesn’t identify with his or her biological gender.

USA News reported on Gallup research that proved the LGBT population in the United States is just 3.6 percent. All opinions or bias aside, whether you identify as LGBT or not, the chances of having a coworker or even just an acquaintance who is different from yourself is high. So, going back to the importance of having an open and accepting mind is vital.

To try to explain why we may question or have opinions on ideas different from our own, we should look at the Standpoint Theory. Standpoint Theory says if you belong to a specific social group, you could perhaps hold unique beliefs about gender norms, rooting from your personal experiences within that specific group.

So, if you grew up in a traditional southern Baptist church, you may hold strong opinions against lifestyles other than heterosexual. On the other hand, if you grew up in a lesbian household, you may hold opinions strongly supporting that lifestyle.

It is important to note that whatever standpoint you may hold is okay – as long as we respect others with an open mind! So – how did you do on the challenge? Have you considered asking yourself “why?” instead of a stern opinion?

Communication and Sarah

Hello! My name is Sarah Toler. From a small town outside of Richmond, I chose to tackle my undergraduate studies in an even smaller town, just a short 35-minute commute from home. I am currently a junior at Longwood University, studying Communication Studies with a concentration in Organizational Communication and Public Relations.

While working on the completion of my bachelor’s degree, I am also an Assistant Manager at a local retailer, Maurices. With three years of experience under my belt, has come the implementation of many Communication Studies principles. A few of the classes that have had the largest impact on my professional experiences this far include Persuasion Theory, Conflict Resolution, and Media and Society. Since I have been in the Communications department at Longwood, I have been surprised at how often I already use this education on and off of the sales floor.

Maurices Store 1784 Team
Maurices Store 1784 Team

Persuasion Theory has allowed me to better connect with the thought process of customers of all different lifestyles and significantly increased my credit card applicant rates, as well as my net sales. Conflict Resolution knowledge has been a vital tool as a member of the management team. Due to my young age, I found it very difficult to communicate reprimands with employees older or more experienced than myself. Now, I am able to conquer challenging scenarios more effectively. Aside from productivity within the four walls of the store, I have used my education from Media and Society to study the demographics of my area and current customers to better appeal to all through media. I personally took the ‘social media reins’ of Maurices, Store 1784, and lead our store’s Facebook and Instagram pages.

This semester, I am enrolled in Gender and Communication, which I can’t wait to learn and practice in the store. Within the first two days of class, my brain has already been exercised and I think about how working in women’s retail connects directly to this class. I see women daily who fit the gendered norms, as well as shy away from the norms. If you Google search Maurices, the description of our corporate website says, “Women’s Fashion Clothing for Sizes 1-26.” But, this doesn’t mean I only shop with female customers. Our loyal customer base also includes men who enjoy our clothes as well. While I feel I am open and acceptant to all customers, as well as properly trained, I hope this class will allow me to even more minimize the barrier that may be present.