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Letter from the Editor: Changing Policy While Changing Diapers

Editor in Chief Erin Meanley Glenny dishes on the September issue of San Diego Magazine


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From left: Susie Harborth, COO at BioLabs; Janice Brown, Founding Partner at Brown Law Group; Barbara Bry, Councilmember; Leah Kirpalani, Founder at Shop Good; and Reema Poddar, SVP at Teradata

When we put together the 2018 editorial calendar last year, we decided we’d commit to doing a story called “What Women Earn” this month. We thought the topic fit the zeitgeist then—and that was before Me Too became a hashtag, Time’s Up took off, and talking about harassment became less embarrassing and more empowering.

I’ve always been interested in social equality, but I’ve become even more invested over the past year. In that time, I had a daughter, joined the San Diego Symphony Notables (a sorority of sorts that raises money for music education), and started talking to more and more women about their experiences at work.

Where do you begin? You can’t talk about pay equity without talking about salary transparency, negotiating, building confidence, and understanding your worth. You can’t talk about gender discrimination without getting into company culture and boardroom politics. You want to crack the code on work/life balance, you’ve got to dig into caregiving responsibilities, maternity leave, and flexible schedules. You want to talk about change? What do you change first—policy, attitudes, perceptions, society, corporate best practices, or all of the above? What’s holding women back—societal pressures and internal struggles? Unconscious bias? Not to mention the babies. And the elderly many of us care for. And the dishes. How can we modernize the workforce to accommodate modern life?

In search of some answers, I interviewed 21 women over the phone, 26 others via email, and assigned stories about another two dozen.

There are no male voices in our cover story, just a chorus of diverse females. I wanted to give local women the space to speak, not so much about their work, but about the experience of working. Don’t tell me about your company’s products, tell me what it’s like to sit in your conference room. You’ll find funny anecdotes you can relate to, and serious advice you can use. It’s all about women helping and celebrating women in the workplace—the struggles, the challenges, the triumphs. It’s for you, your mom, your daughter, your neighbor. And for men! They stand to benefit, too.

Reports from McKinsey, Merrill Lynch, and more show that companies improve their bottom line when they have women in leadership positions. “The numbers don’t lie,” says Holly Smithson, CEO of Athena. “If women aren’t running the company, you’re leaving money on the table.”

The Kim Center for Social Balance, a local nonprofit, says workplace gender equity could increase San Diego’s productivity by $23 billion in 10 years. In partnership with the USD Center for Women’s Leadership, they’re putting together a Community Benchmark Report to study and help change the workplace, starting right here in San Diego.

There’s a lot of work to be done. I learned from the CEO of the American Association of University Women that in other cities, the mayor’s office has a department for women’s advancement or empowerment. They have free salary negotiation workshops. They have stricter laws about pay equity and better parental leave policies. Five US cities employ a higher percentage of women in STEM than San Diego does, even though UC San Diego produces the most female STEM grads in the nation.

It’s going to take a village. And everyone, as I discovered, is bringing something to the table. I hope you pick up on the energy, and join us at our Celebrating Women event on Sep­tember 25 at The Westgate Hotel, where we’ll toast some of the city’s most inspiring female movers, shakers, leaders, and entrepreneurs.

You know what else Holly thinks? This is “the decade of the woman.” Me too.

 

Erin Meanley Glenny, Editor In Chief
erinm@sdmag.com emeanley

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