Beyond #MeToo, Women Still Face The Difficult Job Of Being Included

Justin Trudeau’s original cabinet in 2015.

Monday night, I settled to watch a PBS documentary about Martin Luther King Jr. and James Earl Ray, and noticed something missing: women.

And it wasn’t the first time lately, or in fact, throughout my professional lifetime, that my gender has been excluded — from panels, talk shows and films.

Remember the Academy Awards telecast, when Frances McDormand displayed her solidarity with the women of Hollywood by asking those nominated to rise?

Unfortunately, her loving gesture also pointed out how few female nominees there were in the audience.

Recently, a young male journalist friend proudly posted a list on Facebook of notables who had agreed to provide blurbs for his newest book.

I read the names, and tears came into my eyes. Out of six names, all six were men. Not one woman.

I’ve lined up plenty of blurbs for my books, and I know what publishers want: authors who sell books, and public figures who might mention your book to their friends, seemingly spurring some sales.

But, my heart sank to see that women were not on the list. Women were not included.

And that’s one of my fears as #MeToo and #TimesUp do their very necessary job of rooting out sexual harassment.

We can do our best to make the workplace free of threats and bullying. But we still have another job after that: making sure that we get equal opportunities and as important, an equal voice.

Late last year, I wrote about the grumbling among high powered men that erupted in the wake of #MeToo.

Some of them threatened privately to respond by not bringing women into their companies, or promoting them into positions of authority.

And yet, if they don’t, they’ll be missing out on half the talent base in the country.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addressed the subject head on when he named his first cabinet in 2015. It was made up of equal numbers of men and women, 15 of each.

Asked why he had placed such an emphasis on diversity, Trudeau responded simply, “Because it’s 2015.”

I can’t stop thinking about those beautiful, talented women standing like willows on a Kansas plain in that Oscar audience.

And I can’t stop thinking how I felt to see a page full of male names.

I also can’t stop thinking of the missed opportunity by PBS in its American Experience broadcast, Roads to Memphis, showing the parallel paths of King and Ray that converged on the terrible night of April 4, 1968.

By my count, only two women were interviewed during the hour-long program.

One had been among the marchers in the sanitation workers’ strike, which brought King to Memphis. Another was his executive assistant.

Everyone else interviewed was male, whether historian, civil rights leader, or a participant in King’s protests.

You saw a few women pop up in the historic footage, both in the marches, and at his speeches, so you knew that they weren’t excluded from the movement.

What, I wonder, was it like to have been one of the key women involved in the civil rights movement? What perspective could women have offered about the impact of his assassination on their lives?

I realized as I watched the program that all the books I own about the civil rights movement are by men, too. So, I decided to ask my Twitter followers a simple question.

Within 12 hours, I had seven names of women professors, writers and authors, from all kinds of backgrounds.

To be sure, PBS is not alone in leaning heavily on male experts in its documentaries. As a history buff, I constantly watch films about every topic under the sun, and the people interviewed are overwhelmingly male.

This isn’t as true for BBC and other British documentaries, in part because Britain has some prominent women historians who are producing their own films, and who are regularly called upon to appear in them.

As I’ve always known throughout my career as a journalist, it isn’t that hard to find people to add variety to a subject. You may have to scroll through several pages of Google links, and you may have to refine your search terms.

But you can find women, if you try. And you can equal out the numbers in your story, or film, or book, if you try.

There is another topic that I’m going to address in a future Medium post: the challenges of becoming one of those women who is included in the conversation.

However, there’s no reason that we shouldn’t be invited to take part. And, now, when women are raising their voices, it is time to listen.

Micheline Maynard writes on women and society for Medium. Follow her on Twitter @mickimaynard

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