Marilyn Goldstein, 80
Newspaper Reporter (Retired from work, but not from life)
Marilyn Goldstein found herself at the forefront of a movement that would go on to shape modern feminism as we know it. While working as a reporter at Newsday in the Sixties, she fought through corporate sexism, and ultimately won a court case for women’s right to promotion and fair wages. “Be proud of being a feminist,’ she says. “Feminist is not a dirty word.”
1. What made you choose this career path? What has been your greatest achievement?
This career path was accidental. Out of college I wanted to become an advertising copywriter- which I did. Then came marriage and a baby. It was 1962– in those days most women never even considered working if they could afford to stop – so I quit. After having a second child and realizing my life was missing a work-related center, I started writing humor pieces about life in the suburbs and sending them to Newsday, then the 6th or 7th largest and most respected U.S. paper. To my surprise, they liked my work and offered me a job on what was then called the Women’s Pages – food, fashion, furnishings, and the goings on in women’s volunteer organizations, such as the PTA.
The Women’s Page was a female ghetto, long gone into oblivion. But, since it was about women, I got there just in time to cover a new movement, then called Women’s Lib. There, I witnessed its slow acceptance and world-shaking advances – and watched women’s ghettos like the Women’s Pages disappear. My greatest achievement was not political. It was raising two caring and daring feminist daughters, who are doing the same with their daughters. But every once in awhile I do think about being one very small part of a movement that changed the world, and I smile.
2. What’s the biggest criticism/stereotype/judgement you’ve faced in your career?
In the early 1970s, with the women’s movement in full swing, my female colleagues got together and filed a Title 7 sex discrimination suit against our employer. I was among the leaders in the suit, so I was the designated city room feminist.
Years later, and thanks to our suit, I rose steadily through the ranks. I knew I was being considered for a position as a columnist, the top of the reporter pole, but I didn’t get chosen that time. Later a male colleague of mine who palled around with the top editors told me the then Managing Editor held me responsible for “all the trouble” (including the fact his wife ran away with his best friend, but that’s another story too). My colleague quoted the Managing Editor as saying, “She’ll never get a column as long as I’m here.” And I didn’t. But shortly after he retired I got my column.
"I paid a price for my activism and leadership."
3. What was the hardest part of overcoming this negativity? Do you have an anecdote you can share?
I paid a price for my activism and leadership. I didn’t get the great promotion I deserved until the Managing Editor who seemed to hold me personally responsible for the entire women’s movement retired. And I don’t regret it one bit. So much progress was made after the suit. Today many of Newsday’s top editors are women.
4. As you #SWAAYthenarrative, do you feel empowered? What has been your emotional reaction?
I just kept being the best reporter I could be, while taking an I action that benefitted the myself and many women. I’ve since realized I was standing on shoulders women who started fighting for decades, even centuries, before me.
5. What’s your number one piece of advice to women discouraged by preconceived notions and society’s limitations?
Be brave. Keep fighting for your rights. Be proud of being a feminist. Feminist is not a dirty word. And be a role model for your daughters and sons, show them you can do what you set out to do, and so can they.
"Be brave. Keep fighting for your rights. Be proud of being a feminist. Feminist is not a dirty word."
Women of the Middle East have made significant strides in the past decade in a number of sectors, but huge gaps remain within the labor market, especially in leadership roles.
A huge number of institutions have researched and quantified trends of and obstacles to the full utilization of females in the marketplace. Gabriela Ramos, is the Chief-of-Staff to The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), an alliance of thirty-six governments seeking to improve economic growth and world trade. The OECD reports that increasing participation in the women's labor force could easily result in a $12 trillion jump in the global GDP by the year 2025.
To realize the possibilities, attention needs to be directed toward the most significantly underutilized resource: the women of MENA—the Middle East and North African countries. Educating the men of MENA on the importance of women working and holding leadership roles will improve the economies of those nations and lead to both national and global rewards, such as dissolving cultural stereotypes.
The OECD reports that increasing participation in the women's labor force could easily result in a $12 trillion jump in the global GDP by the year 2025.
In order to put this issue in perspective, the MENA region has the second highest unemployment rate in the world. According to the World Bank, more women than men go to universities, but for many in this region the journey ends with a degree. After graduating, women tend to stay at home due to social and cultural pressures. In 2017, the OECD estimated that unemployment among women is costing some $575 billion annually.
Forbes and Arabian Business have each published lists of the 100 most powerful Arab businesswomen, yet most female entrepreneurs in the Middle East run family businesses. When it comes to managerial positions, the MENA region ranks last with only 13 percent women among the total number of CEOs according to the Swiss-based International Labor Organization (ILO.org publication "Women Business Management – Gaining Momentum in the Middle East and Africa.")
The lopsided tendency that keeps women in family business—remaining tethered to the home even if they are prepared and capable of moving "into the world"—is noted in a report prepared by OECD. The survey provides factual support for the intuitive concern of cultural and political imbalance impeding the progression of women into the workplace who are otherwise fully capable. The nations of Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Libya, Jordan and Egypt all prohibit gender discrimination and legislate equal pay for men and women, but the progressive-sounding checklist of their rights fails to impact on "hiring, wages or women's labor force participation." In fact, the report continues, "Women in the six countries receive inferior wages for equal work… and in the private sector women rarely hold management positions or sit on the boards of companies."
This is more than a feminist mantra; MENA's males must learn that they, too, will benefit from accelerating the entry of women into the workforce on all levels. Some projections of value lost because women are unable to work; or conversely the amount of potential revenue are significant.
Elissa Freiha, founder of Womena, the leading empowerment platform in the Middle East, emphasizes the financial benefit of having women in high positions when communicating with men's groups. From a business perspective it has been proven through the market Index provider MSCI.com that companies with more women on their boards deliver 36% better equity than those lacking board diversity.
She challenges companies with the knowledge that, "From a business level, you can have a potential of 63% by incorporating the female perspective on the executive team and the boards of companies."
Freiha agrees that educating MENA's men will turn the tide. "It is difficult to argue culturally that a woman can disconnect herself from the household and community." Her own father, a United Arab Emirates native of Lebanese descent, preferred she get a job in the government, but after one month she quit and went on to create Womena. The fact that this win-lose situation was supported by an open-minded father, further propelled Freiha to start her own business.
"From a business level, you can have a potential of 63% by incorporating the female perspective on the executive team and the boards of companies." - Elissa Frei
While not all men share the open-mindedness of Freiha's dad, a striking number of MENA's women have convincingly demonstrated that the talent pool is skilled, capable and all-around impressive. One such woman is the prominent Sheikha Lubna bint Khalid bin Sultan Al-Qasimi, who is currently serving as a cabinet minister in the United Arab Emirates and previously headed a successful IT strategy company.
Al-Qasimi exemplifies the potential for MENA women in leadership, but how can one example become a cultural norm? Marcello Bonatto, who runs Re: Coded, a program that teaches young people in Turkey, Iraq and Yemen to become technology leaders, believes that multigenerational education is the key. He believes in the importance of educating the parent along with their offspring, "particularly when it comes to women." Bonatto notes the number of conflict-affected youth who have succeeded through his program—a boot camp training in technology.
The United Nations Women alongside Promundo—a Brazil-based NGO that promotes gender-equality and non-violence—sponsored a study titled, "International Men and Gender Equality Survey of the Middle East and North Africa in 2017."
This study surveyed ten thousand men and women between the ages of 18 and 59 across both rural and urban areas in Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco and the Palestinian Authority. It reports that, "Men expected to control their wives' personal freedoms from what they wear to when the couple has sex." Additionally, a mere one-tenth to one-third of men reported having recently carried out a more conventionally "female task" in their home.
Although the MENA region is steeped in historical tribal culture, the current conflict of gender roles is at a crucial turning point. Masculine power structures still play a huge role in these countries, and despite this obstacle, women are on the rise. But without the support of their nations' men this will continue to be an uphill battle. And if change won't come from the culture, maybe it can come from money. By educating MENA's men about these issues, the estimated $27 trillion that women could bring to their economies might not be a dream. Women have been empowering themselves for years, but it's time for MENA's men to empower its women.