#WomenSpeak: Rethinking work, equality of value

I am Carla Siegel. I have been an attorney with the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, and our Woodworker Division, for 18 years. In addition to serving as the IAM’s General Counsel, two years ago I had the distinction of also becoming the Women’s and Human Rights Director. Outside of work, I spend my time raising our three boys with my husband and chasing after our Beagle, Peanut.

The biggest challenge still today is women do not have a true voice at the table.  While more and more companies are promoting women, very few women sit in the Boardroom or where the real decisions are made.  This is harmful to all workers, but especially to women, as the lack of diversity of voices in decision-making limits the possibilities for workers.

Through the Women’s and Human Rights Department, the IAMAW has developed a mentoring program for female workers throughout the United States and Canada.  Almost 200 women from industries such as woodworking, transportation, manufacturing, health care, and defense are enrolled in our Leadership Excellence Assembly of Dedicated Sisters (LEADS) program, which will train these union sisters on leadership skills that can be used both within and outside of the Union.  Once this group of 200 women have graduated from the class, we will welcome another 200, so we can continually help to ensure that female workers have all the tools necessary to take their rightful seat at the table, whether it is a bargaining table or a boardroom table.

A better future means not just equality of opportunity, but equality of value.  Women’s work, women’s ideas, women’s skills need to be valued at the same level as men’s.  Women tend to approach some things differently than a man; like problem-solving, conflict resolution and teamwork. Women can bring a different perspective to the table, one that a man may not have thought of. But, our “different” ways are not yet equally valued to those of men.  In a better future, they will be.

Women play a vital role in the recovery from the COVID-19 crisis.  Women today are still the primary care takers more often than not.  Women are crucial to our ability to overcome this crisis and care for those stuck at home due to illness or quarantine.  Yet, all too often, this means sacrificing their paying job, their career.  So part of the recovery from COVID-19 has to involve rethinking what we value as a society and to redefine work. This is an opportunity for women, and the unions that represent them, to innovate and rethink how we can balance home life and work life in a meaningful way and how we can value all the work that women contribute to society. 

#WomenSpeak is a monthly article on gender issues and concerns authored by BWI’s different affiliate women workers. It seeks to provide women workers more spaces and platforms to express their thoughts and concerns on a variety of issues that are important to them as workers and most especially, as women.