Monday, March 30, 2015

About those statistics

It was announced today that South African comedian Trevor Noah will be taking over Jon Stewart's The Daily Show soon. What does he have to do with financial literacy?

I came across one of his stand-up comedy shows where he talks about America's obsession with football. He reminds viewers that this obsession has now become more accurate than our analysis of the economy, where you would expect discussions to center around numbers. Looking through my Twitter feed today, I found several articles on gender equality: all centered around research and statistics ranging from how inaccurate a lot of the information released is to how executive representation of women is lacking much more than the public has anticipated.

Now, statistics and inequality does go hand in hand. We must know how much women are trailing men socially, financially, even professionally to work toward a balance in the near future. Because we wouldn't want women to start earning more than men somewhere down the line, right? Frankly, it would be about time we did but that wouldn't be fair, right? But sometimes reading through all the available literature on gender studies and inequality can be irritating. As Americans, we do try to quantify everything to the point where the numbers become blurred in our minds. Does it really matter if women are earning only seventy-five cents on every dollar a man makes as compared to eighty-six cents as some reports show (yes, it was a point of contention in one article)? The more we talk statistics, the less human the problem becomes. We start arguing over the value of a number than we do the value of a woman and why the struggle to elevate her status is important.

Rather than discuss the latest findings that usually just make the headlines briefly, we need to focus on why the women's rights movement ever evolved. It's not about how much less women make than men, but why as an advanced society it still happens. There is something in the fiber of our thinking, deep in the enclaves of our brain. Maybe it's chemical, or environmental, or maybe physiological, but something warped has persuaded society that women are less valued than males. We can accept the notion that it goes back to that Neanderthal period when men hunted and women stayed behind to finish up the domestic work. But that was so long ago, and unfortunately in many parts of the world today - the 21st century - this division of duty is still normal in some cultures.

I also mentioned in a prior post how hypocritical women can be at times. We want the independence and the career, but secretly wish someone else would make the money decisions. In my mind, this ties back to another survey I recently read where women in many parts of the world still think it's okay to physically abuse women. Something is contaminating our minds if women still find their female peers lacking the competence and respect we all need to control our own destinies. It is these topics we should be tackling out there. We need to uncover this bias that holds women at an inferior level than men. Arguing about how much less women make and how many are represented in the executive office will never bring women to the level they should be, because these statistics are isolating women who choose to stay at home or out of the executive suite altogether. We need to get to that place where we discuss improvements in the standards of lives of all women - corporate leaders or not. Statistics that focus on one population at a time will never help the millions of women worldwide with distinct needs and preferences - all of whom deserve the same consideration and rights as men.

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