Imagine, for a moment, the University suddenly devoid of women. All female students, professors, staff members and administrators vanish from campus. A multitude of seats in lecture halls and classrooms would be vacant. A number of classes would lack instruction from professors. Administrative issues would remain unresolved. The progress of research projects and initiatives would slacken. Dining halls would operate understaffed. Portions of on-campus residences — without the contributions of staff members — would remain unkempt. Student organizations and committees across campus would struggle to function without a vast portion of their members and their leadership. Without its female writers, copy editors, videographers, designers, photographers and editors, the publication you’re currently reading would lack content to provide to the student population. In short, the University, as it currently stands, would struggle to function during this hypothetical scenario.

Although the scenario I describe above is merely my own personal musing, March 8, on International Women’s Day, women vanished from advertisements, posters, publications and billboards throughout New York City in an effort to raise awareness of the gender inequality continuing to permeate our society. Sponsored by the Clinton Foundation, the disappearance of female bodies, in combination with displaying the web address Not-There.org, was meant to call attention to data compiled by the foundation’s No Ceilings initiative to measure and gauge the worldwide condition of all women. By entering the web address into a browser, members of the public were able to view a female celebrity-filled YouTube video explaining the disappearances, and they were presented with the opportunity to discover alarming facts and figures regarding the contemporary magnitude of gender inequality.

Aptly titled, the campaign illustrates that gender equality remains out of reach for women throughout the globe. Of the numerous facts given to describe the current state of inequality, the website notes that the United States stands as “one of nine countries worldwide that doesn’t provide for paid maternity leave.” Highlighting the dangerous prevalence of violence against women, the No Ceilings initiative provides the statistic that “one in three women suffers physical or sexual violence” within society. The site also addresses issues surrounding the gender pay gap, inaccessibility to education, Internet service and child marriage. According to an estimate from the Clinton Foundation, “the Not There website had been viewed at least 104, 680 times” as of the evening of March 8.

Gathering data and promoting a forum of discussion is crucial to making progress for women’s rights. Succeeding in its attempt to capture attention and garner support for equality among genders, the Not There campaign is certainly a poignant and powerful one. Katie Dowd, the director of digital strategy at the Clinton Foundation, noted in an interview that one of the goals of the campaign was “to create a moment that feels meaningful.” However, no matter how revolutionary the campaign was in its commencement last week, the commitment to dismantling gender inequality must not remain limited to a single day. The effect of this campaign shouldn’t just be a noteworthy news event with a notoriety that fizzles out over time.

In addition to the mysterious departure of women from newsstands and advertisements, another component of the campaign featured erasing the voices of females from contemporary music featured across roughly 186 radio stations owned by iHeartMedia across the nation. As a heavy critic of the usually oversexualized and over-photoshopped manner in which women are often portrayed in ads and magazines anyway, I found this removal of voices to be more significant. In my opinion, demonstrating the lack of voices is more important than a lack of today’s societal depictions.

Providing spaces for women’s voices to be heard is instrumental to achieving true equality. In regards to remedying the ridiculous pay gap between men and women, I have often heard cultivating a larger number of women in STEM fields proposed as a solution. More women in STEM careers, as suggested by an article on the No Ceilings initiative’s website, would propel women into “some of the fastest growing, best paying, and highest-need fields in today’s economy.” Increasing the number of women in these careers would most likely aid in alleviating the pay gap as women with STEM careers earn 33 percent more than their female counterparts in other sections of the workforce.

However, the pay gap is merely one issue, and equality isn’t obtained from the shifting of a comma on a paycheck. Women, in numerous fields, are absent from positions of leadership. According to the Center for American Progress, they possess 52 percent of all professional-level jobs, yet only 14.6 percent of American women hold executive officer positions. Women, in a profitable sector of the economy such as the legal field, consist of 45.4 percent of associates. Yet just 25 percent of women maintain the status of non-equity partners, while a mere 15 percent of women are equity partners at a firm. Returning once again to the influential market of advertising, women constitute three percent of creative directors. In other fields where shaping messages and opinion is at the forefront, men continue to dominate. Women in the film industry comprise only 16 percent of the directors, executive producers, producers, writers, cinematographers and actors responsible for creating the most profitable films in 2013. If this percentage were increased, more complex, intriguing and independent female characters would appear in our narratives.

To move women toward our desired destination in society, we absolutely need to understand the data, raise awareness of the issues to both men and women and recognize the role women play in our world. However, rather than take away images of women, the next step needs to involve re-imagining the role women play in our society. We need women in the advertising, marketing and communication realms to continue redefining societal notions of womanhood. We need female representation in government and public policy to enact legislation necessary to improve overall living conditions for women. We need women with vast technological knowledge to continue advancing society. To achieve equality, society, overall, needs women in sectors and roles that are diverse.

Melissa Scholke can be reached at melikaye@umich.edu.

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