Rocket Girl…and Equality Among the Sexes in 2017

When my youngest son was in kindergarten, I was a middle school principal. My son’s school principal was female. Many of my closest friends were also…you guessed it…female principals. This caused my five-year-old to innocently ask, “Can men also be principals?” “Only when they are very, very good,” I said with a wink.

One of my book clubs is currently reading Rocket Girl. This ‘creative non-fiction biography’ pieces together the life of Mary Sherman Morgan, America’s first female rocket scientist, and ‘unsung heroine of the space age.’ Source.

When introducing this novel at our book club, we also touched on the similarly-themed movie, Hidden Figures. In both works, obstacles to women (often combined with other barriers of racial prejudice, poverty, etc.), in male-dominated fields, sat continually at the surface. This evoked a spirited book club discussion as to how far we truly have come in regards to ‘equality among the sexes’ in 2017. Our group remained divided in their responses to this question.

Stimulated by this discussion, I did some checking.

The Global Gender Gap Report 2016, produced by The World Economic Forum, examines ‘equality’ between men and women in four different areas (education, health, finances, politics) in 144 countries. This document also highlights countries, that within their region and economic group, provide opportunities and distribute resources more equitably among the sexes.

What were the findings?

For the 144 countries studied, in 2016, the gender gap between education and health outcomes had closed 95% and 96% respectively. However, gaps between political attainment and economic participation had only closed 23% and 59%. In summary, this report stated than an average gender gap of 31% remains. Source 1. Source 2.

It is frustrating that the road to gender equity often contains steps forward mixed with several steps back. (68 countries increased their gender equity in 2016, while 74 countries saw decreases. Overall, the economic gender gap reverted to where it was in 2008!). Adding to this discouragement, geographic areas that I consider to be the most liberal (like my own), often ranked far behind other areas regarding this attainment. Iceland, Finland, and Norway took the top three spots of the World Economic Forum’s Gender Equity ranking. Canada placed 35th overall, while the US placed 45th (down from 28th in 2015). Source. Report findings reveal that if the rates of change seen in the past ten years continue as is, South Asia could see a closing of their overall gender gap in the next 46 years. Whereas, due to its slow progress over the past decade, the North American gender gap is currently predicted to take 158 more years to close. Source.

Of course, these projections are just that and cannot be interpreted as conclusive facts. However, by documenting, graphing and highlighting present trends, these stats are an eye-opener and urge a strong call for action.

Do any of the above figures from the World Economic Forum surprise you? What are your thoughts?

Also, if you are interested in finding out more about Mary Sherman Morgan, I found Rocket Girl to be an absorbing, fascinating read…and a great springboard for provocative, engaging discussions!

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36 Replies to “Rocket Girl…and Equality Among the Sexes in 2017”

    1. Hi, Phil – Thanks for reading, commenting and keeping in touch. I’m definitely doing my other ‘real thing’ right now. You and Amanda should come visit soon (open invitation) and watch this in action!

  1. None of the findings surprise me. *sigh* I think that while women have come a long way in the US workforce, they often can be their own worst enemy along the way.

    I support every woman doing whatever it is that she is good at or needs to do to survive. No judgement. But without unconditional support from all women, I cannot imagine how gender equity will happen in this country.

    The patriarchy divides, so women must include. But I don’t see that happening often and fast enough to make the equity happen in my lifetime. *sigh, again*

    1. Hi, Ally – You should be in our book club! The crucial need for women supporting other women was also central to our discussion. In both Rocket Girl and Hidden Figures, I was continually horrified by some of the blatant injustices that happened a relatively short time ago and have now seen dramatic changes. That makes me hopeful for times ahead. But as you say, we all need to ban together and support each other.

    1. Hi, Spencer – Thank you for discussing this topic with TCMF. I believe that it is these discussions, no matter how simple, that lead to change. My hopes are up!

  2. This was a very thought-provoking article, Donna. It is truly discouraging to realize how long it is taking to close the gender equality gap. Look at the pace us, as people are able to attain when it comes to technological advancement and yet men still rule the world. I get so frustrated that our skills, our efforts, our viewpoints and earning power as women are constantly undervalued and underappreciated by society as a whole.

    I am 55 now and given the figures you quoted above I highly doubt I will see gender equality in my lifetime. That fact makes me feel so sad for myself and for the world.

    Thank you for putting this article out there, Donna, to keep the discussion going further. 🙂

    1. Hi, Susan – You are correct – we are capable of making enormous changes at fast paces. My biggest takeaway from both Rocket Girl and Hidden Figures was that throughout history, there are endless examples of individuals and groups, who despite their gender/race/background rose above the obstacles and fought for what they believed in. As a world, we have major inequities to address. Ongoing discussion, awareness creation, and individuals banning together to make our voices heard are key to continuing to break down these barriers.

  3. I’m not surprised at the top three countries – smaller countries often seem to do better. Here in Scotland (a small, but not yet independent, country) three of five leaders of the parties in our parliament are women and gender parity of members is not too far off, certainly better than in the U.K. parliament. But as our First Minister recently said, getting women into power is not enough. They have to do the right things with it – we also have a woman Prime Minister who is the most illiberal for many years. Despite all these women at the top, women further down the chain are still not approaching equality. But it IS getting better. Slowly.
    Anabel Marsh recently posted…Pikes Peak with Claudia and ScottMy Profile

    1. Hi, Anabel – These are excellent, encouraging examples of positive changes. I especially like the important reminder from your First Member of Parliament that women in power need to do the ‘right things.’
      I’ve recently read about Scotland’s ‘Close the Gap’ program and economic strategy that recognizes promoting growth and tackling inequality go hand in hand. If my understanding is correct, this initiative also recognizes that maximizing women’s potential is key to a country’s overall economic performance. Similarly, the Scottish Business Pledge and Partnership for Change 50/50 by 2020 campaigns is also encouraging regarding gender equality and diversity. Thanks for stopping by and sharing this example.

        1. Thanks, Anabel – Other than the occasional movie, I don’t watch television…so reading (and blogging) are my usual alternatives! 😀

  4. Sounds like an interesting book. We recently saw “Hidden Figures” in the movie theater and enjoyed watching it. Hard to really touch on the whole experience in one short movie, but I find it sad that the gap is still so big. Mark and I have said often that we think the world would be a better, more sensitive, caring, responsible and focused place, where power and money are less important, if more women are in charge.
    Liesbet recently posted…Monthly Expenses – March 2017My Profile

    1. Hi, Liesbet – I love your and Mark’s inspiration of a “more sensitive, caring, responsible world where power and money are less important.” I also believe that equity, diversity and truly listening to each other are keys to this vision.

  5. As always Donna a thought provoking article….I loved Hidden Figures…and was again reminded of the sixties…a few marches that I did to protest! I have always thought I would go into politics after retirement….but I seem to have fallen into retirement mode at full speed ahead….but will always believe and fight for equal rights and equality! Enjoyed as always!!

    1. Hi, Georgia – I always appreciate your thoughtful comments. Interesting about your interest in politics…it is never ‘too late’!!

  6. I have to admit that I’ve never given a great deal of thought to gender equity, perhaps because I’ve always achieved whatever I wanted to achieve. However, when I was complaining about something recently and taking a fairly assertive stand, a man said to me, “You know, you’ll get more flies with honey.” I repeated this comment to a woman friend. Her reply? “He never would have said that to a man.” That gave me pause because she was absolutely right and I hadn’t noticed. So I guess there’s lots still to do in many aspects of this issue.
    158 years to close the gap in North America is truly brutal.

    1. Hi, Karen – I agree, many barriers often stand unnoticed. Then a book, a movie, a comment…gives us pause. The issue of gender equity has layers of complicating factors. Remaining aware, and standing up for equitable and fair treatment for all will helpfully close this gap in less than the time currently predicted.


    I was going to comment about how we as women have not progressed as far as might have been expected when we first fought this fight back in the 70’s, and 80’s. Then I read this article in the Star. I am so impressed with Malala and am happy that she keeps fighting and creating awareness. It is mind boggling to think about what some woman have had to live with. Its is time for a world wide shift in thinking about gender equality.

    1. Hi, Fran – Thank you so much for including this link to Malala’s speech to Canadian Parliament. Her words, and most importantly, her example, are very powerful. If others have missed it, I greatly encourage them to check out your link above!

  8. Wow, Donna, this post got a lot of comments! I love your two book choices, Rocket Girl and Hidden Figures, I think because my oldest daughter broke her own barriers at a young age and is now an Aerospace Engineer with a level 3 security clearance. She has even presented to a 3 star general in DC! In some ways, I think women decide that they have multiple roles in life and can easily slip into one of them, perhaps leaving other roles (in leadership or management) behind. I do not miss the stress I had in my years as Aquatics Director, and dearly love writing and teaching college. I’m sure you don’t miss the stress either (and how cool you were a school principal!!–so is my cousin in Oregon). Sometimes I think women (dare I say) “choose” the inequity in favor of better and wise choices in midlife and beyond, and maybe why we live longer than our men who still have to prove their value with work.

    1. Hi, Terri – It’s very cool that your daughter is an Aerospace Engineer! I agree with you that choices are important. It’s the remaining barriers that are frustrating. Congratulations to your daughter for being one of the barrier (and stereotype) breakers! Thanks for sharing this.

  9. Such an interesting post, generating thoughtful comments. I wish I had been braver as a young women. I am very happy where I have ended up (I love my life now), but I know I could have achieved more in my working life. I was fortunate not to experience overt pushback, but I am aware how subtle it can be. Thanks for the book suggestion… I will add it to my list.
    Janis recently posted…GratiTuesday: Public Broadcasting and Its SupportersMy Profile

    1. Hi, Janis – I am sure that you were braver than you think. I’m so glad that you are in a great place.
      Well deserved! I’m also pleased that you liked the book (and movie) suggestions. I think that you would greatly enjoy both of them.

  10. My sister has battled this for years in her job. She sees it every day. Most of us don’t realize how bad it is, I think… But the results of last year’s election didn’t surprise her at ALL. She said people would rather elect Kermit the Frog as President than a woman. She may be right about that.
    Stephanie Faris recently posted…What IS Invasion of Privacy?My Profile

    1. I’m sorry to hear about your sister’s struggles with this, Stephanie. I agree that many people do not realize the truth behind the stats. I greatly appreciate your comment.

  11. A very interesting topic that will always elicit lively conversation. I haven’t read the book, but watching Hidden Figures really made me cringe. I can’t imagine living in that kind of misogynistic environment.
    It does make me sad though when it often feels like women’s rights are moving backwards rather than forwards.
    Joanne Sisco recently posted…Back to SchoolMy Profile

    1. Hi, Joanne – I also ‘cringed’ through parts of Hidden Figures…realizing that much of the movie only took place fifty years ago. While there remain many areas of significant progress regarding gender equity, the sections that are currently moving backward are particularly mind-boggling. Thanks for stopping by and commenting — I greatly appreciate you sharing your point of view.

  12. I attended college two years until I was 20 and could apply for airline”stewardess.” The year was 1964. During that time, an amendment, Title VII, largely concerned with equal rights also targeted women’s rights, was passed stating that employers couldn’t mandate that women had to remain unmarried to keep their jobs. This was a time when airline travel was still a bit glamorous. I was made to quit to get married after Title VII passed along with many other young women. Weight checks, “girdle checks” and other demeaning discrepancies still endured. A class action suit lasted for 20 years and was finally settled.
    Recently, for National Women’s History, I wrote a guest blog regarding this issue. See Pen and Prosper.

    Later, 1968, I was turned down for a position as programmer when I had attended night school, aced the aptitude test and been awarded by my big aerospace company as a Pride employee. All because I was a women without a four year college degree and was told that the waive that restriction for men, but not women.

    Still later, with two kids and a dog, I graduated from University of Texas summa cum laud.My career ended with me retiring as Senior Vice President,Marketing Director. I am a 73 year old grandmother and started started a blog with my good friend of 43 years to promote positive aging.

    With regard to equality, please remember where we started. My mother was born in 1920, one year before women got the vote.
    It’s slow progress, but those of us who marched for progress in the late sixties still see it as progress. Keep on keepin’ on.

    1. Hi, Dixie – Thank you so much for stopping by and sharing your fascinating story.
      You make a good point about remembering and respecting where we started. It is with that respect that I encourage all not to bury their heads in the sand, be aware of the current equity issues, and not let the hard work of many go in reverse.
      I have taken a look at your blog, and I am already hooked. I look forward to reading more of your posts. I am so glad that you found this blog, which has led me to yours!

      1. Donna, thanks for the approval on the comment. One clarification. I didn’t in any way want to negate progress on equal pa for equal work.I have two professional women in my family ,daughter and daughter-in-law who by all standards deserve equal pay. Three of my grandchildren are girls in their teens who should expect equality. The wheels turn slowly, but they do turn. No one should put their head in the sand on many issues.

        Pam and I will continue to visit your insightful blog and continue to age positively in our journey.
        Glad we found each other’s site.

        Dixie Shaw recently posted…Building Extraordinary RelationshipsMy Profile

        1. Hi, Dixie – I greatly appreciated your last comment and did not take it the wrong way. As long as we are all working towards equity, and the wheels are turning, I am happy.
          Thank you and Pam for following my posts. I have just commented on one of your recent posts on travel. I found it very inspiring with a great take away tip. I look forward to reading more!

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