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Equal Play = Equal Pay

In the summer of 2019, my family decided to make the journey to “The Big Apple.”  We jumped on the train and before you knew it, we arrived in New York City.  To my surprise, one of the unexpected highlights of the trip was that the United States Women’s National Soccer Team (USWNT) had just won the World Cup and the city was throwing a ticker tape parade to celebrate.  We decided this was something that we couldn’t miss and headed out to be a part of the excitement.  When we arrived to the packed sidewalks, many of those in attendance and those in the parade, held up signs stating “Equal Play = Equal Pay!”  My son, who was 8 at the time, asked what this meant and my wife and I tried to explain to him why these women, who were the world champs, were paid 4 million dollars less than their male counterparts for winning the world championship.  It’s hard to break it to your children that sometimes the world isn’t fair.

Still today, the team is fighting for equality in the courts, but you wouldn’t know it by watching the news, as their fight rarely gets appropriate coverage in the press.  You probably didn’t know that the team filed a gender discrimination lawsuit against the United States Soccer Federation three months BEFORE their 2019 world cup championship (https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/u-s-women-s-soccer-team-files-gender-discrimination-suit-n980981).  You probably also didn’t know that the team reached a settlement with the federation last December over working conditions, but the settlement still didn’t address pay inequities (https://www.nbcnews.com/news/sports/u-s-soccer-reaches-settlement-world-cup-women-s-team-n1249603).  Still, I’m sure you definitely didn’t know about the “GOALS Act,” a bill was introduced in Congress last March to ensure equal pay for the USWNT when compared to the men’s team (https://matsui.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=2058).  Justice has still not been served for the USWNT and their battles will continue both on, and off the field, to make change.

Change is never easy, but always worth it when fighting for freedom and fairness.  In examining women’s rights, we look back to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as the document that started much of the change, but change only occurs when resilient people refuse to accept the status quo.  At the same time, we have to examine the possibility and rate of change in a realistic manner.  Going through the court system to create policy change is a necessary task, but one that in the realm of educational leader, I have little influence over.  So, how can I can work to create change when it comes to gender equity within the realm of my position as a school leader?

Perhaps the first step is to ask myself, what kind of leader do I need to be to make change?  I believe that to be an effective leader you have to lead by example and stay true to your vision and mission.  If I truly believe in equity for all, I have to practice working to be a more equitable leader by my example.  This means making conscious decisions that influence and encourage equity.  For example, when creating teams, I have to work to be intentional in my groupings and individual team selection.  I have to practice kindness and appropriate communication processes to know that everyone is on the same page when it comes to our mission and vision.  I have to work to develop partnerships with allies that can improve our practices and move our vision of equity forward. I need to find ways to either change opinions or repurpose individuals who are not on board with our vision.  Often this means allowing space to have meaningful dialogue and honest conversations that encourage self-reflection.  If the team can get on the same page in terms of our vision, we can create more leaders to spread our message and create action plans.

Overall, creating change means making equity a priority; a core value in our organization.  Like the USWNT, it comes down to being dedicated to the cause we believe in.  Creating change is not an easy task, but perhaps is the most important part of being a leader. If we accept the current norm when it comes to gender equality, we will continue to make decisions, both micro and macro, that advocate for discrimination.

In my first year as a school administrator, I read the book “A Sense of Urgency” by John Kotter.  In his book, he talks about the importance of staying focused on goals and not getting distracted from completing a task due to new emergencies that arise.  He also shares five ways to help your organization develop a sense of urgency:

  1. Top Management Commitment – If you want to provide gender equity, leaders at the top have to get on board. If they are not on board, you have to find a way to convince them to believe in your vision.
  2. Challenge your Team – If this is a priority, the team has to believe in it as well.
  3. Measure the Outcome – What is slowing down the process? What skill set are we lacking?  How can we work smarter, not harder?
  4. Be Transparent – Communication is key to keep your team focused on the goal.
  5. Be a leader, not a manager – This has personally been a difficult task for me to achieve as a leader because being a manager is much easier than being a leader. Being a leader takes buy-in and finding ways to inspire others to join in your fight.  If you are manager, change will not be sustainable.

Using Kotter’s method, to guide my leadership style, I believe I can create teams that not only deal with change, but embrace change.  Creating and reinforcing practices that provide for equity not only benefits those that are marginalized.  It benefits all.  It creates a culture of acceptance and kindness.  It creates a culture of positivity.  Most beneficial to academic progress, it creates a culture of high expectations and shared beliefs.

Kotter, J. (2008). A sense of urgency. Harvard Business Press.

2 Comments

  1. Thank you for teaching me about content with the USWNT! There is a club that discusses diversity in the school, and I am going to forward this information to the sponsor for when they have zoom discussions on equality issues.

  2. What a wonderful opportunity you stumbled upon and what a beautiful teaching moment you were able to have with your child.

    You will come across Kotter again in this program. It’s a useful framework for thinking about change and I hadn’t seen it applied to the work of gender equity. So, well done.

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