About 20 years ago, my client and co-author Kathy McKee and I often posed this question to each other and female colleagues: What’s advancing faster these days, technology or opportunities for U.S. women?
Technology always won. Now in 2023, the situation has changed: the two domains are diverging in different directions. Technology continues to advance while women face roadblocks and disparities, especially with health care.
Since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June 2022, the constitutional right to abortion no longer exists. The states now decide what reproductive rights exist within their state lines. The outcome from SCOTUS in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision is inequitable treatment across the U.S.
The treatment patients receive may be physically and mentally unsafe too. In some states politicians and judges are de facto making medical decisions, instead of trusting trained and licensed health care professionals to use their professional judgment in consultation with their patients. And the unintended consequence of abortion ban policies are actions that can harm or even kill women. For example, women who have a miscarriage or other complications in pregnancy can’t get traditional services. And their doctors can face criminal charges for treating them. Looking to the future, if the Supreme Court decides to rule against the FDA in another case before it, the result could ban the medication abortion drug mifepristone across the country.
Meanwhile, technology advancements continue, including easy access to ChatGPT, the artificial intelligence chatbot from OpenAI.
So I posed the question Kathy and I asked about technology vs. women advancements to ChatGPT. As you can read here, it tried to be balanced in its answer (with emphasis added):
“As an AI language model, I don’t have real-time data or personal opinions. But I can provide some general information based on the knowledge available up until September 2021.
“The advancement of women’s rights and technology are two distinct areas of progress, and it can be challenging to directly compare them. However, it’s worth noting that both have experienced significant advancements over the past 20 years.
“In terms of technology, the past two decades have witnessed remarkable advancements. We’ve seen the proliferation of smartphones, the rise of social media platforms, the development of artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies, breakthroughs in renewable energy, significant strides in medical research and treatments, and much more. Technology has become an integral part of our daily lives and has transformed various industries.
“Regarding women’s rights, progress has also been made, although the pace and scope of advancements can vary across different regions and cultures. In the past 20 years, there have been notable achievements in areas such as legal reforms, increased representation of women in politics and leadership roles, improved access to education and healthcare, and greater awareness of gender equality issues. However, it’s important to acknowledge that challenges and disparities still exist in many parts of the world, and the fight for gender equality continues.
“It’s worth noting that advancements in technology can play a role in promoting women’s rights. For example, digital platforms have provided opportunities for women’s voices to be heard, facilitated access to information and resources, and enabled the formation of online communities for support and advocacy. However, technology can also perpetuate or amplify existing gender inequalities, so it’s crucial to address potential biases and ensure inclusivity in technological advancements.”
I then asked ChatGPT directly: “In what ways are women disadvantaged compared with men?” Based on its knowledge as of September 2021, ChatGPT replied (with emphasis added):
Women continue to face various forms of disadvantage compared to men in many areas of life. Here are some ways in which women are often disadvantaged:
- Gender Pay Gap: Women frequently experience lower wages and earning potential than their male counterparts. On average, women are paid less for doing the same work or work of equal value. This pay gap is influenced by factors such as occupational segregation, unconscious bias, and limited opportunities for advancement.
- Employment Opportunities: Women often face discrimination and biases when it comes to employment. They may encounter barriers in accessing certain industries or occupations, limiting their career options. Stereotypes and biases can also impact hiring decisions and limit women’s chances of professional growth.
- Leadership and Representation: Women are underrepresented in leadership positions in various sectors, including politics, business, and academia. This lack of representation hinders their ability to influence decision-making processes, contribute to policy development, and shape societal norms and values.
- Unpaid Care Work: Women continue to bear a disproportionate burden of unpaid care work, such as household chores, childcare, and eldercare. These responsibilities can limit their participation in the workforce, restrict career advancement opportunities, and contribute to economic dependence.
- Gender-Based Violence: Women are more likely to experience gender-based violence, including domestic violence, sexual harassment, assault, and human trafficking. These forms of violence not only cause physical and psychological harm but also restrict women’s freedom, safety, and overall well-being.
- Health Disparities: Women often face unique health challenges and disparities, including limited access to reproductive healthcare, maternal mortality, and higher rates of certain health conditions such as breast cancer. Gender biases in medical research and healthcare delivery can contribute to inadequate treatment and support. (Liz’s note: Reproductive health disparities have become more pronounced after Roe v. Wade was overturned last year, especially for those in states where abortion is illegal and especially for females from traditionally marginalized communities. Earlier this month the United Nations issued a statement about the risks to the health of U.S. women and girls.)
- Cultural and Social Norms: Societal norms and expectations often impose rigid gender roles and stereotypes, which can limit women’s choices and opportunities. These norms can reinforce discrimination, limit access to education, restrict mobility, and perpetuate gender inequality.
“It is important to note that the extent and nature of these disadvantages can vary across different regions, cultures, and socio-economic contexts. Efforts to address these disparities involve challenging societal norms, promoting equal opportunities, and implementing policies that promote gender equality and women’s empowerment.”
There you have it. We women are second-class citizens. It’s not just my opinion. ChatGPT agrees although it’s not as direct as I am.
Considering that we women make up more than half the US population, we need to stand up and claim our rights, starting with health care. Women’s health care is not niche care; it’s health care. And individuals have fundamental rights to make decisions about their health. We also deserve reproductive justice, the right to control our sexuality, our gender, our work, and our reproduction
To stop politicians and judges from interfering in individuals’ health decisions, we women need to register to vote and then vote in all elections. This means casting ballots for candidates who will represent our interests, not those who want to control our bodies and our lives. Plus we need to encourage family and friends to do the same. We should also urge more women who care about women’s issues to run for office.
And we also need to take other actions that are in our best interests to overcome other disparities. This includes supporting businesses and organizations that treat women equitably and avoiding those that don’t. For example, I’ve turned down work with organizations that encourage voter suppression and advocate for abortion bans without any exceptions for rape, incest, or the health of the pregnant person.
What else can we do to stop the erosion of women’s rights? The goal should be to reclaim our freedom to control our bodies and our lives and put ourselves and our families on a healthy path forward. AI recognizes this goal; we humans can champion it.
Connect the dots plus dot the “i”s to be more intentional, inquisitive and inclusive
How well are you tapping into the skills and wisdom you need to lead in a BANI world?
All the old playbooks are out-of-date. Instead, you need to reach inside yourself, tap into your wisdom, and connect the dots for yourself and others.
To start, you can use these 5 tips to embrace your humanity and become a better leader.