To every woman,
For the past few days, I have been thinking about inspirational women, which led my mind to wondering about the depth of inequality and discrimination we as women face, starting at a young age.
As a child, I heard peers try to insult their friends by saying,”You play like a girl.” Growing up, my school principals, my president and the CEOs I saw in the media were all men. By the time I got to high school, I realized boys were “cool” for exploring their sexuality while girls received demeaning and offensive labels, like “slut” or “whore.”
Whether you recognized it or not, as young girls society sent us many messages indicating that we did not and would not receive the same respect as men in this world. Sadly, today, the facts and figures further demonstrate the ongoing inequality.
According to the Census Bureau, in 2018, women of all races earned 82 cents on every $1 made by men. And the gap widens for women of color.
According to the Pew Research Center, four in ten women say they have faced discrimination on the job because of their gender.
And according to RAINN, one out of every six American women have been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime.
These stats are sad and discouraging but not at all surprising. Yet, there are still so many strong women who persevere in this unjust and unfair world.
As a child, my mother always worked. She told me she liked making her own money. In college, I met a girl my freshman year who told me that when a guy approaches you, he needs to “come correct.” If he doesn’t come correct and treat you respectfully, don’t bother to even speak to him.
That same year, I met a young woman who, in a short amount of time, had several sexual partners.
My 17-year-old self asked her, “What are you doing? Aren’t you afraid of what people will think?”
She was smart and wise.
With a smile, she responded, “Lauren, I am not hurting anyone – quite the opposite. I am doing with my body what I want to do BECAUSE I want to do it. I am not a whore. I am a feminist.”
When I started working as a TV reporter, a woman took me under her wings and day-by-day story-by-story, passed along her advice and tips so I could grow as a journalist.
In 2016, I met sports reporter Gab Kreuz, who shared with me and the world her story about loving a man who physically and emotionally abused her.
When I asked why she decided to share her story publicly, she told me, “Lauren, it’s the silence of victims that allow predators to continue their predatory behavior.”
A few short months later, I came out and shared my personal experience with sexual violence.
Through the stories I have told as a journalist, I have met women, like Angela Dennis, who were struggling single moms, but, no matter their circumstance, they found ways to provide resources, love and opportunities to their children.
From a distance, I witnessed Serena Williams and Kim Clijsters return to the top of women’s professional tennis after giving birth to their children. Also, I watched women occupy more seats in politics and C-level positions.
Through Instagram, Sports Illustrated and other platforms, women are shedding the shame that seems to follow their bodies and instead, posing proudly.
The world wants to tell us to be curvy and skinny and to have children but not too much sex. It tells us it’s OK if to work but not to expect equal treatment or compensation. Every day that we walk out into the world, pursue our dreams, follow our passions and simply be ourselves, we, as women, are being bold, brave and even resistant to the world in which we live.
Today, I am proud to say that I started my own business. I have not been complacent with this idea of women being paid less. I am confident in my skin and comfortable with my sexuality.
While the world is set up to hold us back, I have managed to propel myself forward.
I have been able to do so because there aren’t just a few inspirational women in this world, but rather all of us are inspirational. And as I have been able to draw strength and power from the women I have encountered, I have simultaneously discovered the strength and power within myself.
During Women’s History Month, I honor each of you, as together, we will change the world, as we continue to inspire each other.
With love and hope,