DO MORE, LOOK BETTER: Why Women Are Overworked, Underpaid, And Going Nowhere Fast In Their Fight For Equality & Equity

Laura Miolla

I want women to lead with confidence and power. And I mean really lead, not copycat lead from the male-driven, “dominance and hierarchy” definition. Female leadership requires women to feel authentic, present, and passionate in order to stand out with confidence and to show up in their power. And it is only through our personal, professional, and financial empowerment, we can, as women, create our own equality and equity. Given the lessons learned from the Women’s Movement in the 1970’s, equality and equity won’t be given to us and it won’t be created merely by women uniting together. Do More, Look Better is how we are divided. It's a hamster wheel telling us our hard work will get us where we want to be, when in reality, it is using our hard work to sustain itself and keep us exactly where we are, with the implied and underlying fear that we're not good enough and have to prove ourselves. Fear is a powerful motivator. And women can’t feel authentic, present, and passionate to lead when it still feels unsafe to stand out.

The Women’s Movement opened the doors of Corporate America to women, but it didn’t move the needle very much on equality and equity. It led us to believe that equal work would mean equal pay, equal status, and equal opportunity. It hasn’t. We’re told to work harder. It led us to believe that financial independence would mean equal responsibilities at home. It doesn’t. We’re told men never signed up for that. It led us to believe we would be safe. We aren’t. When have we ever been? And yet, we don’t want to believe it. We don’t want to see ourselves that way. So, we turn a blind eye.

Do More, Look Better exists for two simple reasons. It serves the current, male-defined system we live in and it tells us what we want to hear. If female equality, equity or safety were important in this system, positive change would happen to make it so. It clearly isn’t and so, it hasn’t. Don’t believe me? In the United States today, there are 4 mandatory car safety tests. Female crash test dummies aren’t required in any of them. If only our lives were worth more than the almighty dollar! And beliefs about women, our roles and our worth, are still defined within this system based on our bodies and appearance. And those beliefs are embedded in, reinforced by, and proven in our culture, religion, society, pay stubs, tax codes, media, movies and magazines, families and relationships, and even in our words and language. We consciously and subconsciously receive, absorb, internalize, and actualize those beliefs telling us what we have to be and do for success and safety (which are really two sides of the same coin.) That carrot looks really good, but in reality, it’s a stick that keeps us from success and safety. Systemic gaslighting keeps telling us it’s a carrot though. So, we believe it. We’ve all been brainwashed.

On the hamster wheel of Do More, Look Better, you have to do more than everyone else to prove your worth and look better than other women doing it. It tells you … you don’t have a choice. Go along to get along. Don’t rock the boat. Do what everyone else does. Safety in numbers, right? It tells you … you have to crush those deadlines, follow the rules, and go the extra mile. And now hard work and sacrifice are expected of you. It tells you ... you have to wear a skirt or a dress to be feminine ... but keep your legs closed ... because if you get raped, it will because of what you choose to wear that day. It's your fault. It tells you … you have to keep juggling all the plates all the time. It tells you … you have to be perfect … even though that’s impossible … so, you have to, at the very least, look perfect … so, you have to post meticulously posed, smiling pictures of you and your family on social media. It tells you … you have to make birthday and holidays, like Christmas, magical for everyone. Who does that for you? No one. And what have you achieved? You haven’t proven yourself. You’ve minimized yourself. Now, you’ve taken on all the responsibility, along with the consequence and cost.  And it tells you ... you chose this and you only have yourself to blame.

We’re told traditional beliefs about women don’t exist in today’s world. So, how do I know women aren’t equal, don’t have equity, and are still minimized and unsafe?

  • Women live in a world of negative clothing sizes. Literally, shrinking and being self-less is the prize you get after paying through the nose for all those weight loss pills, powders, and programs. So, if we're so equal, why don't men have negative clothing sizes?
  • The Bechdel Test measures the representation of women in the movies and other forms of fiction by asking 3 questions … does it have at least 2 women in it? Who talk to one another? About something other than a man? A 2022 study found that of the 1,200 most popular movies worldwide in the past 40 years, only 49.6% passed that test. Not even half. And 50% of those that did, only did so because the women were talking about marriage or babies.
  • The Equal Rights Amendment was passed in 1971 extending equal protection to sex-based discrimination. Yay! It was never fully ratified by all of the individual states. Boo! And in 1976, in Craig v. Boren 429 U.S. 190., The Supreme Court rescinded those protections. Ouch! And now, by overturning the constitutional right to abortion, the Supreme Court gave individual states the power to interpret, enforce, and create their own abortion legislation. Yikes! And since abortion is basic healthcare for women, it has opened the floodgates to eroding what few rights women think they have. And women are dying. These legal decisions were all rooted in beliefs about women, their role and their worth.
  • Only 8.2% of CEOs in the United States are women.
  • In 2019, Ernst & Young was in the news … and not in a good way. They had hired a female, self-styled “leadership” coach the year before to give a presentation on self-improvement to approximately 30 female executives in the firm. It detailed how women should fix themselves to fit into a male-dominated environment. Those female executives learned things like … “wear well-cut attire that complements your body type. Clothing must flatter, but short skirts are a no-no. The most important thing a woman can do is signal fitness and wellness, with a good haircut and manicured nails. Don’t directly confront men in meetings, because men perceive this as threatening. Meet before or after the meeting. And when you are having a conversation with a man, cross your legs and sit at an angle. Don’t talk to him face to face. Men see that as threatening.” These women were asked to rate themselves on a worksheet of Masculine/Feminine traits. The masculine traits included: acts like a leader, aggressive, ambitious, analytical, has leadership abilities and willing to take a stand. The feminine traits were: affectionate, cheerful, childlike, compassionate, gullible, loves children and yielding. They were also told that women’s brains are 6% - 11% smaller than men’s. And that women’s brains absorb information like pancakes. So, their brains soak up all the syrup which make it hard for them to focus. Men’s brains however, were like waffles, which makes them better able to focus since the information collects in each of the little waffle squares. That was less than 6 years ago. I started my corporate career, back in the ‘90s, at The Ernst & Young Center for Business Innovation. Apparently, nothing has changed.
  • In 2022, just under half a million women and girls over the age of 12 were sexually assaulted or raped in the United States. 30% of the female victims of attempted or completed rape experienced it for the first time between the ages of 11 and 17. And according to UN Women, nearly 89,000 women and girls were murdered in 2022 worldwide. The number of female homicides increased that year, despite a decrease in the number of homicides overall. 55% of all female homicides are primarily committed by intimate partners, and to a far lesser extent, family members … meaning that, in 2022, on average, 133 women or girls were murdered every day by someone in their own home. Clearly, love is And we all turn a blind eye.
  • Women tend to believe that what is familiar is safe. In reality, it is the exact opposite. Those women and girls were murdered in their own homes. They were following the rules, going along to get along, and were murdered anyway. When safety is at stake, people typically choose the devil they know versus the devil they don’t, regardless of how bad the circumstances are. It takes an average of 7 attempts for a survivor to leave their abuser and stay separated for good. And women still insist we are safe.
  • Women have a lower lifetime earning potential than men and yet, we live longer. Currently, white women, like me, are paid 84 cents to every man’s dollar. The gender pay gap is far greater for Hispanic, black and indigenous women, but if we just take that 16-cent difference and extrapolate it over a 45-year career, without any retroactive adjustments, women earn just under $1.5 million dollars that they will never receive, can’t save, invest or accrue compound interest over time. The United States is the only high-income nation that doesn’t provide guaranteed or paid maternity leave, which also means we aren’t paying into Social Security during those gaps or when we choose to leave work for any period of time to raise the children. And if you choose that, you are lowering your chances of ever getting back into the workforce, which speaks to the limited opportunities women have in general related to work. Less income. Less money going into Social Security. Fewer promotions. Fewer raises. Less money overall. We are leaving a lot of money on the table. Why give women equal pay when we work just as hard without it?
  • The only place where women are equal is divorce court, where all assets accrued during the term of the marriage are equalized. It doesn’t matter who earned it or whose name is on the bank account or mortgage. And contrary to popular belief, assets are not divided. Whoever has more in their financial accounts has to transfer money to the spouse who has less in theirs, so they both walk out with the same amount. So, for the 40% of women who are the breadwinners in their marriage, they’ve had to work a lot harder for the same dollar as their husband, still shoulder the bulk of the responsibilities at home, and now they have to turn over their hard-earned cash. The women’s movement opened the door to financial independence for women, but it also gave men an excuse not to work so hard … or at all. And in family law court, you will be told it’s because you chose this.
  • Women also drive 70%-80% of all consumer purchasing. So, even though women receive less income, we buy more. And it’s not just the groceries and household items. We buy more … clothes, make-up, shoes, handbags, and accessories … because we are on the hamster wheel of do more, look better. And of course, everything we buy that is marketed specifically to women, especially anything that comes in pink, costs more … approximately 13% more.

The evidence is clear. What’s old is new again because it never went away. Women are meant to be controlled because men can't control themselves. Our financial independence has led to a backlash where the few rights women do have are being rolled back … based on our bodies. Rising toxic masculinity is OK  because clearly, women have “emasculated” men. It’s our fault. And if we’re treated badly, assaulted, or murdered, it’s still our fault. Do More, Look Better convinces us to make our lives harder to make everyone else’s easier. It convinces us to keep buying to make corporations more money. It convinces us to keep bankrupting ourselves and our future. Those corporations are making record profits because they pay us less and charge us more. Women are literally fueling the economy. This system relies on us being complicit and complacent. And it wouldn’t work without us.

And yet, where there is challenge, there is opportunity. With awareness, each of us can do the inner work to release those beliefs, define our inherent worth and our authentic value for ourselves, and unite in our individual power. Collectively, we have the power in numbers and the purchasing power, not to change the system, but to create whatever system we want; one that values, embraces and prioritizes the quality of life over money. We are fundamentally connected and interdependent, so why don’t we live that way?  Until we reach that tipping point though, I will keep working with women to define and create success on their own terms; to confidently show up, stand out, play by their own rules and make bank … one small step at a time … with authenticity, presence and passion.

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