The gender pay gap persists stubbornly. What needs to be done to close it?
It’s no secret that the gender pay gap is a legacy of structures and systems that degrade and devalue the work that women have historically done. It therefore goes without saying that it is systems and structures such as the media, government and corporations, not individuals, that should drive change.
But if the rate of violence against women has not improved, if the vilification of women in the media remains the order of the day, if our most legendary institutions remain under the control of white men, how can we claim that women have equal dignity, opportunity and security with men?
This is clearly not true.
You can try to solve a stubborn social problem just where it appears. It seems logical and efficient. But again and again we find such a solution unreliable, often just cosmetic and usually ephemeral. It takes a journey upstream to where the problems began to understand the history, dynamics and injustices that have brought men and women to this point.
Of all the forces against women’s dignity, the media—and by that I mean Hollywood, journalism, the gaming industry, and so on—are the ones that block the advancement of women the most. Words matter; images matter, and the more they are meant to be vivid and memorable, the more often they are repeated, the greater their influence on our spiritual, moral, intellectual and political formation.
Given the climate in which even the best of us are shaped, how can we expect anything more than the pay gap we have?
Please, by all means, we must pass laws, enforce them and hold companies accountable. But while we’re at it, we should take the time to go upstream and deal with the problems at their source. This is where the real change lies.
Abigail Disney is a documentary filmmaker, co-founder of Fork Films, and host of the All Ears podcast.