Saturday marked the passing of Actress Barbara Billingsley. In her signature role as June Cleaver in "Leave It to Beaver," which ran for six seasons, Billingsley personified the ideal middle-class mother and housewife in an era when relatively few American women with children worked outside the home.
My, have things changed. Or have they.
As I reported yesterday, Sister Mary MacKillop was canonized by The Catholic Church and became Australia's first Saint. Also known as Saint Mary of The Cross, she was a 19th century "whistleblower" nun who activists say should be the patron of victims of sexual abuse by priests because she was punished for exposing it.
Together with Father Julian Tenison Woods, Sister Mary founded the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart and a number of schools and welfare institutions throughout Australasia with an emphasis on education for the poor, particularly in country areas.
Most of the world's women and children live in poverty. Efforts such as those of Sister Mary, and her canonization will no doubt raise awareness around the plight of women and their children around the globe.
Growing up in the 1960's, I watched Leave it to Beaver, and other popular TV shows of the period such as Father Knows Best, My Three Sons, and Dennis The Menace.
My mother worked her way up the corporate ladder before choosing to become a "stay-at-home-mom". But she never bought into the June Cleaver lifestyle. Perhaps this is why I believe in co-investment by women and men in the duties of house, parenting, and career.
Here are some frightening statistics I came across recently that show that as a global team (women and men) we have a long way to go to before poverty is eradicated, and gender equality is more than lip service:
# In 2004, women in the United States were paid 76 cents for every dollar men received for comparable work.
# African American women earn only 71 cents and Latinas 59 cents for every dollar men are paid. Asian Pacific American women earn 86 cents for every dollar men make.
# Nationwide, working families lose $200 billion in income annually due to the wage gap between men and women.
# If married women were paid the same as men in comparable jobs, their family incomes would rise by nearly 6 percent, and their families' poverty rates would fall from 2.1 percent to 0.8 percent.
# If single working mothers earned as much as men in comparable jobs, their family incomes would increase by nearly 17 percent and their poverty rates would be cut in half, from 25.3 percent to 12.6 percent.
# If single women earned as much as men in comparable jobs, their incomes would rise by 13.4 percent and their poverty rates would be reduced from 6.3 percent to 1 percent.
# Half of all women with income from a pension in 2002 received less than $5,600 per year, compared with $10,340 per year for men.
# The 25.6 million women who work in predominantly male jobs lose an average of $3,446 each per year; the 4 million men who work in predominately female occupations lose an average of $6,259 each per year—a total $114 billion loss for men and women in predominately female jobs.
# In the global economy, women account for 60 percent of the world’s 550 million working poor—even though they make up 40 percent of the world’s workforce.
If you are in a position of influence at your company, organization, or school, please take this opportunity to reach out to a woman who may be struggling with burdens of poverty or raising children in a single parent home.Provide them the motivation and support they need to overcome these burdens. The worst thing you can do is ignore the problems that face them, and perhaps someday you.
For as Sister Mary MacKillop often said, "never see a need without doing something about it". (1871).