Flames of the Torch

There is a new generation of female leaders in the world. According to Newsweek, the 21st century has brought with it a slew of strong, powerful women who are ready to take charge. Yet, women have not always been welcome in such positions of power, and today there are still barriers.

The proverbial glass ceiling is no longer as prominent an issue as it once was. However, as reported by the Census Bureau in 2005, women earn, on average, 76 cents to every dollar earned by their male counterparts, a small improvement over the 63 cents on a dollar earned by women in 1975.

Why the discrepancy? Warren Farrell, author of Why Men Earn More, attributes the difference in pay to the fact that men are more willing to take risky and dangerous jobs, as well as jobs that expose them to stress or bad weather or require transfer to undesirable locales. Women, Farrell told U.S. News and World Report, are more likely to pick “glamorous” jobs, which tend to pay less.

Alice Eagly, Ph.D., in a 1995 study about gender in the workplace cited by the American Psychological Association in their article “When the Boss is a Woman,” said that bias against women begins at the bottom of the ladder and continues upward.

However, women today are overcoming obstacles left and right to make their way to the top of their professions. Women like Danica Patrick (professional race-car driver), Maria Celeste Arraras (broadcast journalist) and Gwen Sykes (chief financial officer of NASA) were named by Newsweek as just a few of the next generation of powerful women. And one of the reasons these women have succeeded is because they refused to allow the world to tell them that being female would affect their success.

“I’m often asked what it’s like to work in such a male-dominated environment,” Sykes said in Newsweek. “I don’t think or see the world as a man’s environment, a woman’s environment, a black environment, a white environment, Hispanic environment. I just see the world.”

Sykes’ view is one that would serve the world well if shared by a majority of the people. As discovered by The Torch society is still adjusting to the new role of women in positions of authority.

Recently, the female leadership of The Torch dealt with this adjustment. After a decision was made on how to handle a staff writer’s unethical journalistic behavior, it was the role of the female editors that was called into question, while the males involved were, for the most part, left out.

The criticisms went so far as to call into question the personal behavior, outside of the office, of one female editor. Worse, the accuser who questioned the editor’s behavior was also female. If women cannot support each other’s success, how can they expect their male counterparts to do so?

As Oscar-winning film producer Cathy Schulman advises in Newsweek, “We don’t have golf so create other communities of support.”

For women to continue to gain ground in the professional arena, they must first learn to support and respect one another.