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We hear all kinds of things about the wage gap, including that it doesn’t exist. (It does, though the severity depends on various factors.) There’s also all kinds of advice for what women should do about it: negotiate more forcefully, “lean in,” find a different profession, never start a family, never grow old, etc. But like so many systematic issues, telling the people affected to handle things individually has limited results.

It’s easy to get defensive about the wage gap when you’re not robbing women and swimming in a baby pool full of their stolen money. You work hard and get paid more or less appropriately. Your employer isn’t some Mad-Men-style butt pincher who calls every woman “sweetheart” and refers their paychecks as “pin money.” Things seem pretty okay, right?

Lilly Ledbetter thought things were pretty okay until she found that after 19 years with Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. she was making between $559 and $1,509 a month less than her male peers of equal or lesser seniority. Just because people aren’t openly horrible doesn’t mean that unfair practices aren’t going on, and their effects are enormous.

The U.S. GDP has the potential to rise by trillions if the wage gap were closed. Closing the gap could also lift millions of women and children out of poverty or from the brink of poverty. Even beyond the repercussions of what our society and economy would look like from those results alone, the framework we would put in place in regards to work-life balance, salary transparency, and benefit requirements would help men too.

So what can you, a sole dude, do? You’re not some robber baron who just needs to be visited by the three ghosts of Women’s Equality Day (Mary Wollstonecraft, Shirley Chisholm, and the Vagenda of Manocide.)

It’s true that you’re not able to eliminate the pay gap on your own, not even the President can do that. But there are steps you can take to level the playing field.

Company culture

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A corporate structure can keep women, who are often the main the caretakers of kids and elderly relatives, from succeeding or taking higher-level jobs through crappy FMLA policies, “optional” extracurricular events, little to no sick time, etc. But there’s also the sneaky shit, like women “just not fitting in,” the assumption that women aren’t committed or competent, treating a female peer like the office den mother, women being set-up for failure, and low-grade, persistent harassment.

It’s a bit risky, but you can pushback against some of these expectations by defying them. If you have a family member who needs care, take the time off you need. Men often don’t take advantage of family leave because they don’t want to be penalized, but all that does is shift the responsibility to the women in their lives to do that work and take the hit. By taking the leave you need, it shows that a decent work-life balance is everyone’s problem.

Call out misogynist behavior when you see it because I guarantee you will be taken more seriously than a female co-worker in this matter. It’s the decent thing to do, but it also keeps you from having to participate in some asshole’s dick measuring contest when all you want is to get work done.

A company culture that is inclusive and supportive is good for all employees, but especially for those who would be prevented from advancement or driven away all together.

Raise Women Up

Whenever a co-worker does right by you, whether it’s overtime on a joint project or graciously handling your load when you’re out, it’s worth letting the higher ups and that co-worker know it’s appreciated. For one, this person is good and you benefit from them, and two, what goes around comes around. So when that co-worker is a woman, just do the same.

If you’re in a position to suggest competent women for key roles or good opportunities, do it. If you’re in a position to hire or promote qualified women, do it.

This sounds straightforward, but making a conscious decision to hire, promote, and recognize women is much needed because competence and ability isn’t assumed of women the same way it is with men, even by other women. Interviews with transmen illustrate how perceived maleness alone gave them an edge that they didn’t previously have in the work place. (This is, of course, more the case for white transmen.)

Rather than a case of obvious, sweeping sexism, women being overlooked and passed over for opportunities is a sexism of a thousand cuts, and their combined effect is deeply felt across industries.

It may seem like a small thing to send someone a complimentary email and CCing her manager, but small positive actions accumulate too.

Encourage Salary Transparency

Some well-intentioned companies like Apple and Amazon have signed the White House Equal Pay Pledge, which is a promise to review and evaluate hiring and promotion processes to seek out potential bias while “embedding equal pay efforts into broader enterprise-wide equity initiatives.” It’s something, but it’s general AF, doesn’t offer concrete steps, and searching for your own biases is notoriously difficult.

In the way that most people, no matter how awful, think of themselves as kind and fair, companies generally don’t have “be unfair and sexist” in their mission statement. While harm isn’t intentional, it gets a lot harder to call out when there’s a knowledge discrepancy between employers and employees.

Despite some employers discouraging or banning salary talk, employees (except supervisors and HR personnel) have the legal right to discuss their pay with each other. There’s also a growing trend of businesses choosing to make employee pay or pay ranges available to everyone. These employers generally see pay discrepancies shrink with minimal negative outcomes. Salary transparency not only allows employees to negotiate better, but it forces business to explain why they pay what they do and to whom, which helps root out unconscious bias in the process of pay decisions.

If you’re a straight, white guy, you’re in a good position to pitch the idea of salary transparency because you’re unlikely to be coming from a position of grievance. Not that being screwed over should negate the validity of what someone says, but you can spell out all the potential positives of increased trust, retention, and better hiring without seeming all:

Men's Life

What Every Man Should Know About Feminism

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When I was in my last semester of college, I took a class in American History after 1950. One of the first subjects we covered was the social movements of the 1960’s. Chief among them, of course, was the birth of modern feminism. The teacher began the class by asking everyone who considered themselves a feminist to raise their hands. This being a small liberal arts school, all the girls’ hands shot straight up. I was one of only two men in the class and both of us kept our hands down. The teacher asked why the two of us didn’t consider ourselves feminists. I answered that honestly I didn’t really know anything about feminism except for images of women burning bras and complaining about being oppressed. I admit to being a little ignorant about the issue. It seemed crazy to me to hear affluent, young white women complaining about being subjected to oppression when you compared it to the African-American marchers who were having dogs sicced on them and being sprayed down with high-powered hoses. How oppressed could they be really? The answer, as I would come to learn, is that women were and continue to be discriminated against to a degree that you would find shocking if you had really taken the time to think about it. To circle back to my original point, I didn’t raise my hand because I didn’t really know much about Feminism. So what is Feminism? Is it just affluent 19 year old girls seeing the dark hand of the patriarchy everywhere, or are there some very real issues that the movement seeks to address? And why, as men, should we care?

When trying to understand Feminism, you first have to have a little empathy for how hard it has always been to be a woman. From some of the earliest days of Western cultures, women have been regarded as property more than as people. A woman had little to no say in public affairs, no legal ownership of her children, and no form of agency against an abusive husband. Though we decry how often marriages end in divorce today, the availability of divorce was once almost non-existent to women. Regardless of how abusive a woman’s husband was, once they were married she was legally unable to get away from him. It wasn’t until 1993 (looking at you Oklahoma and North Carolina) that a man raping his wife was ruled illegal in all 50 states. Before then the view of many courts was once you married a man, you had no right to not have sex with him.

For the entirety of democratic history up until the early 20th century, women had no right to cast a vote. Imagine, as a man, that you lived in a society where you were not allowed to vote because the prevailing opinion was that you couldn’t be trusted with it and your spouse already spoke for you with their vote. Anyone regrettably married to a Trump supporter will realize what a load of bullshit that is. It took years of long, hard protests and civil disobedience before the United States, which prides itself as a beacon of democracy, extended the vote to over half of its citizens. Even the right to vote didn’t ensure that women were treated on the same basis of men. Women still earned less than men, and were effectively barred from the most prestigious occupations.

Feminism is divided by a lot of scholars into three “waves”. The first was the fight for the vote, when women began to take an active voice in politics en-masse. The second wave of Feminism is the traditional 60’s Feminism that I alluded to earlier. The second wave feminists took issue with the cultural stigmas that continued to ensure that women didn’t have the same rights as men. They fought against unequal wages and legal discrimination for women. In addition, most of the theories of patriarchy and culture-based discrimination dates from this era. This movement won a number of victories in addressing the rights of a woman to work outside the home and to retain legal custody of her children in a divorce.

Third-wave Feminism is in many ways a step back from the Feminism of the 60’s. It attempted to address criticism of second wave Feminism as being too militant and excluding women of color from the movement. It came of age in the 90’s to address the increasing visibility of issues like homosexuality and non-fluid gender roles. It also is in a lot of ways a movement that says women should not be expected to assume the responsibilities traditionally associated with men if they don’t want to. Where the movement of the 60’s would say a woman should work outside the home, the third wave feminists say “it’s up to you”.

So what is Feminism? Put simply it is the belief that a person’s gender should in no way subject them to unequal treatment, either deliberate or subconscious.  It challenges traditional assumptions of a male dominated culture that leads to that unequal treatment. It’s something that everyone should embrace. So where does that leave you, my penis-swinging brother? Hopefully, right where you were. Take a minute and consider whether, what I hope is, your desire to treat everyone fairly extends to women too. Ask, on some level, whether you have been making assumptions about what a woman can or should do based on gender. If so, consider how you can correct those  attitudes. Ask yourself how you can be part of the solution to the fact that women still make 70% of what a man does for doing the same job. If you can do that, you might just find that you are a feminist too.

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Health

Scientists Develop New Type of Cell That Could Revolutionize the Treatment of Heart Disease

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Heart disease has consistently been one of the biggest killers of both men and women, with hundreds of thousands of families losing loved ones to the condition every year. But now a new study published in the journal Cell Stem Cell has identified a possible breakthrough in the treatment of heart disease, offering hope to anyone suffering from a dodgy ticker. The study was conducted by a team of researchers from the Gladstones Institutes, who have discovered a way to make a remarkable new type of cell that could help damaged hearts repair themselves.

Heart failure occurs when the heart is overworked or the supply of oxygen is too low. A sudden attack can cause the loss of huge amounts of important muscle cells known as cardiomyocytes (CMs). These CMs cannot regenerate by themselves, nor can they be replaced because transplanted heart cells tend not to survive in the patient’s body. As you can imagine, this makes the treatment of heart disease quite tricky; since heart cells can’t regenerate or be replaced, the damage is usually irreversible. “Scientists have tried for decades to treat heart failure by transplanting adult heart cells, but these cells cannot reproduce themselves, and so they do not survive in the damaged heart,” said Yu Zhang, MD, PhD, one of the lead authors of the study.

To overcome this dilemma, the team investigated the possibility of regenerating the heart using progenitors—stem cells that have already been programmed to develop into a specific type of cell. In this case, they targeted cardiovascular progenitor cells (CPCs), which are produced as the heart begins to form within the embryo. Using a revolutionary technique, the team were able to produce CPCs in the lab and halt their development so the cells remained effectively “frozen” until use. They called these lab-grown cells “induced expandable CPCs,” or ieCPCs.

Unlike adult heart cells, ieCPCs have the ability to replicate. If transplanted successfully, they could replace a patient’s damaged heart cells and possibly continue to self-repair. “Our generated ieCPCs can prolifically replicate and reliably mature into the three types of cells in the heart, which makes them a very promising potential treatment for heart failure,” said Zhang. To test this theory, the team injected some of the cells into a mouse that had suffered a heart attack. Remarkably, most of the cells transformed into functioning heart cells, generating new muscle tissue and blood vessels and improving the mouse’s overall heart function.

So what does all this mean for the treatment of heart disease? Well, it’s definitely big news. The cells used to treat the mouse were derived from skin cells, which means a patient’s own cells could potentially be used to treat their heart disease. The next step is to try and form human ieCPCs in the lab, and then follow up with human trials to see if the method is as effective. All going well, this could be a viable treatment for heart disease patients within the next few years.

Q: Is this the most important breakthrough yet in the field of heart disease research? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Copyright 2016 David Carroll

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Sex & Relationships

Is Chivalry Dead? If it is, Good Riddance

The idea that (certain) men are noble protectors comes from the eras of rigid hierarchy. From the Middle Ages to the Victorian era and later, being a woman, a child, or poor meant having almost no power, which was a feature, not a bug. A chivalrous man believed that this situation made him responsible for those who couldn’t care for themselves.

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If you want to get technical (and who doesn’t?!) chivalry went out of style in about the 15th century when cheaper professional armies and gunpowder replaced knights as the standard for warfare. Nevertheless, we like to hearken back to days when being a gentleman meant avoiding your lady’s seductive advances and wearing plate armor. Good times.

Image: GIPHY

Okay, I’m being facetious. Being kind and considerate to fellow humans should always be encouraged, and it can overlap with what is regarded as chivalrous behavior.

However, the idea that (certain) men are noble protectors comes from the eras of rigid hierarchy. From the Middle Ages to the Victorian era and later, being a woman, a child, or poor meant having almost no power, which was a feature, not a bug. A chivalrous man believed that this situation made him responsible for those who couldn’t care for themselves. It is honorable all things considered, but better than the relief that the person controlling your life is a decent guy is the ability to control your own person and property.

The concept of chivalry seems to exist in the hazy past, like how the 1950s were the good old days instead of the days of potential nuclear annihilation. There’s this idea that once upon a time men were gentleman, women were ladies, and various behaviors underscored a more genteel way of living. What’s left out of this daydream is all the people who don’t neatly fit into the simplistic boxes of what manhood and womanhood are “supposed” to look like.

It turns out living in the present has its perks, including no longer having to adhere to crushingly rigid social and gender norms. We still have a long way to go, but in general it has become more okay to be who we are instead of following prescribed roles. Men can be primary caregivers, and women can be primary breadwinners. Men can be soft-spoken and abhor violence, and Ronda Rousey is a household name.

LGBTQ people are especially left out when it comes to chivalry. If you’re not part of a heterosexual gender binary, it’s hard to see how some of these rules are supposed to apply or make sense. Even if you are cis and straight, the rules of chivalry have become muddied.

Does it indicate a lack of respect if a man doesn’t stand when a butch lesbian enters a room?

What about a trans woman? Is there a threshold for how feminine she is perceived before you pull a chair out for her?
How old does a man have to be before giving up your seat on the bus is welcome instead of emasculating? If a young man with a cane, a female athlete, and a mumbling bag lady all get to a door at once, who’s responsible for holding it and who should go through first? Does this question even matter if it’s an automatic door (that vile aperture, creator of anarchy and vehicle of the breakdown of everything we as a society hold dear, that is, the importance of proper-door-holding proceedings)?

Despite what manners websites may say, there aren’t actually any solid answers because if chivalry were solely about consideration and good behavior it wouldn’t be so damn confusing. People wouldn’t be so pissed off if it were simply about being kind to each other. (Well, maybe pissed off differently.)

In some ways, chivalry is a way to reinforce gender roles under the guise of refined behavior. But we simply don’t have the same expectations anymore. A man picking up the tab for a date made sense when women’s earnings were severely limited (instead of just limited.) Opening doors and providing a steadying arm made sense when even sensible women’s wear was difficult to move in. Men providing jackets, holding umbrellas, and carrying heavy bags made sense when male physical weakness, especially compared to women, was a great source of shame. Making all the rules for courtship about straight people made sense when queerness was unspeakable.

I’m not saying that we live in a magical, accepting world or that the inequalities that made chivalrous behavior make sense are gone. That much is obvious, and perhaps that’s why there are those who insist it’s still necessary. But as we focus more on achieving equality and we open our eyes to the full spectrum of humanity instead of just “respectable” straight people, the rituals that soften inequality and shore-up outdated ideas have begun to fall away. That’s a good thing.

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