#SWAAYthenarrative

Why We're Seeing More Self-Made Women

Business

The modern world is driven by technology and digital changes in different sectors. Due to the shifted way of our daily lives, some sectors have become more significant and profitable than others. Yet, they are all united by one thing - vast digitalization that is the main spark for the changing order. As a result of this rapid process, some of the world's largest corporations are now exclusively web-based or work in the sector of digital technologies. Whether it is hardware or software, tech has become the most profitable industry on earth.

Nevertheless, this does not essentially mean that tech companies make the biggest money. Rather, businesses in other industries that heavily use and invest in digital technology and utilize it are known to be highly profitable and successful. In simple terms, tech now has a major influence on numerous sectors and is extremely diverse within itself. eCommerce companies like Amazon and eBay, as well as thousands of other megacorporations benefiting from the highly advanced digital technology.

The financial industry is probably the biggest sector within the global economy. Tens of billions of dollars are traded on some of the world's largest stock exchanges in London, New York and Tokyo. With the digitalization of the financial sector, trading also became much easier. One can easily download trading software on their device and start trying themselves out. Amid the opportunity of making thousands in days, many people start to learn trading for free on the internet. Hundreds of such courses are available across the whole wide web. Nevertheless, only so few make it their actual careers in the end.

Anyways, the point is that the global economy and its structure is shifting significantly. As a result, new types of work positions appear that never existed before. So what is the opportunity that this gives to the general public? Well, besides some of the most obvious ones, there is one very big benefit for women in employment.

Women in employment - the struggle of centuries

Women have been struggling to get decent employment with fair pay for centuries. For a very long time, they were not allowed to work practically anywhere. The vast majority of women were janitors, cooks and later along with the process of vast industrialization, started occupying positions in factories. However, in the manufacturing sector women faced a lot of difficulties. They were overworked constantly, while often getting just a fraction of what their male colleagues did. It is worth mentioning that back then, women did not have the right to vote in almost no nation. Before the suffrage movement in the United Kingdom and later all around the world, women were not seen as an electoral power. Therefore, governments were not afraid of whatever they said or demanded.

As women finally managed to win the right to vote, they as well started being active in almost all sectors of the economy and culture. First female MPs were elected in different parts of the world as women also started occupying positions that they would not even think to take before.

Today, big companies advertise at pride marches and social events for being tolerant, trying their best to offer equal opportunities to women and men. This was widely believed to be true, especially at tech corporations like Google and Apple, where women executives are often sent to events. But what is the reality and why is it so important for tech companies to hire women?

As mentioned above, the structure of labor and the economy as a whole is shifting towards a more digitalized and tech-friendly one. As a result, women have more chances to get involved heavily in these newly-established positions, paving the way for young girls and women who will live in even a more digitalized world. This is an important shift and partly because of this, many women have incredibly succeeded at what they do.

There are so many self-made women with extremely large fortunes now that Forbes even decided to rank them separately from women who acquired wealth from their ancestors. However, is the number significant in comparison to men within the same category? In reality, women continue being a tiny minority among the top 1%. Yet, the few self-made women who make international headlines are so rare that their work is often much more highlighted.

Deep-rooted cultural and social norms

So what is the problem and how deep-rooted is it? First off, we should certainly note that the issue differs from one country to another. Cultures in the modern world are so diverse that one rule can have an alternative that is completely contradictory to another nation. However, when it comes to women and their rights, stereotypes and taboos exist in practically every country. Women still struggle to make it to the top tier of their sector.

There are many cases of women being exploited, even by the government and companies controlled by them. This usually happens in extremely authoritarian nations where social norms are used by governments to reach their goals easily and efficiently. For instance, a sewing factory workers in Azerbaijan, who are mainly women, have not received their salary in almost 6 months. It is worth noting that the factory is state-owned.

Yet, in developed and "progressive" countries, the picture is different. Women and their rights are at the forefront of every political campaign and on the agenda of all companies. Discriminating against women or having a gender pay gap are seen as major deviations from values admired in those nations. However, companies still find the way to exploit women whilst positioning themselves as progressive and fair businesses.

A few years ago, the Times got the spreadsheet from Google employees that showed the pay difference between female and male workers. Moreover, in reality, the number of women employees at this tech giant turned out to be quite insignificant. Later on, Google made a promise to make the situation better by implementing certain measures. However, the 2020 report showed that the state of fairness for women and people of color employees has not changed importantly.

But then why are there more self-made women today?

After more than a century of active feminist movements with different causes and reasons, many positive changes have occurred. Women now have more rights and liberties than ever before, being in politics, business, tech and other sectors. However, this is not enough. Male-dominated industries often use women to make themselves and their businesses more appealing to the general public to which they sell their products and services. Yet, to be fair, we should note that the number of self-made women has indeed increased but this is only a natural increase following decades of the fight for justice. Is this result satisfactory? Not really. Women still represent only a tiny fraction of CEOs, top-tier politicians and public figures. Therefore, we should under no circumstances be satisfied with the current outcome and continue fighting for fairness and equality.

5 Min Read
Culture

Black Wall Street: The Story of One Black American Superhero

Like so many millions across the globe, I deeply mourn the loss of one of our greatest real-life superheroes, Chadwick Boseman. To pay tribute and homage to him, my family rewatched his amazing performance in Black Panther. T'Challa was one of Boseman's most important roles both on and off the screen, as his portrayal of the heroic warrior and leader of the people of Wakanda inspired viewers of all ages.

Re-visiting the futuristic city of Wakanda on screen caused me to reflect on how Blacks in America once had our own version of Wakanda: Black Wall Street. Black Wall Street was the name given to the wealthy, thriving, Tulsa, Oklahoma neighborhood of Greenwood in the early 1900s. The nearly 40 square-block neighborhood had more than 300 businesses and over 1,000 homes, including several stately mansions. Like Wakanda, Black people in Greenwood built their own hospitals, schools, theaters, newspapers, churches, and everything needed for their community to flourish.

Tragically, he lost everything he built, as did the entire district of Greenwood, in the largest, government-sanctioned race massacre in U.S. history.

With only 42 years separating the moment Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves and Greenwood's founding, the amazing feat of Blacks building Black Wall Street is something that required supernatural acts of real-life superheroes the likes of which we see onscreen in Black Panther.

One of these real-life superheroes and leaders of Black Wall Street was my great-grandfather A.J. Smitherman, owner and editor of the Tulsa Star. The Tulsa Star was the first daily Black newspaper with national distribution and was a source for Black people to stay informed about issues affecting them throughout the US. A member of the first generation of Blacks born free in the late 1800s, Smitherman attended La Salle and Northwestern Universities. After receiving his law degree, A.J. began his career in community activism, politics, and the newspaper business.

A fearless leader in the Black community not just in Tulsa but throughout the nation, he dedicated his life to empowering his race in all categories of life in every way: morally, economically, physically, and politically. A.J. fiercely and courageously used his newspaper and the power of the press to end a myriad of corrupt operations and develop his community. As one of the most influential founding fathers of Black Wall Street, his contribution and investment in Greenwood was and is immeasurable. Tragically, he lost everything he built, as did the entire district of Greenwood, in the largest, government-sanctioned race massacre in U.S. history.

Unlike Wakanda—the fictional land hidden in the mountains of Africa, mostly invisible to the outside world and protected from foreign threats—Greenwood was exposed. Greenwood was not only visible, but the 11,000 residents and their luxurious lifestyle were a constant reminder to their poor white neighbors across the tracks that Black people had surpassed them in economic empowerment and success. Eventually, the jealousy, greed and contempt for the growing Black economic and political power ignited a horrendously evil act of domestic terrorism by white Tulsans.

A.J. fiercely and courageously used his newspaper and the power of the press to end a myriad of corrupt operations and develop his community.

On May 31st, 1921, thousands systematically looted and burned down Greenwood in a 36 hour-long massacre resulting in the murdering of over 300 Blacks. Thousands more were detained in concentration camps where they remained for months through the freezing Oklahoman winter.

In a recent interview, I was asked what goes through my head when I see the racial unrest taking place today and compare it to what was happening 100 years ago leading up to the Tulsa Massacre. The short answer is that I am incredibly sad. I'm sad for so many reasons. One of the things I am saddest about is knowing that my great-grandfather and great-grandmother sacrificed everything for the betterment and empowerment of their race. And after all of these years, the struggle continues.

I believe that now, more than ever, it is so important to maintain not only our hope but our faith.

A.J. Smitherman's writings in both the Tulsa Star, and thereafter in the Empire Star, a paper he founded later in New York, reveal a man full of hope and ambition to make a difference and contribute to his race and his country as part of the first generation of Blacks born free. He worked tirelessly to this end until the day he died in 1961. Tragically, A.J. died still a fugitive of the state of Oklahoma, having been unjustly indicted by a grand jury for inciting the massacre. This is another point of tremendous pain and grief for me and my family. It is a travesty that he never saw justice in his lifetime, and he furthermore never saw his dream of racial equality.

But perhaps what saddens me most is the fact that I truly believe that in his heart, he still had hope that America was on a path to find its way out of its dark past and into the light of a new dawn. He hoped that the nation would one day become a country where his descendants would no longer be subject to racial hatred, discrimination, and economic disenfranchisement. And I'm certain that he believed the days that Black people would fear being lynched would be long gone by now.

One of the things I am saddest about is knowing that my great-grandfather and great-grandmother sacrificed everything for the betterment and empowerment of their race. And after all of these years, the struggle continues.

I can feel A.J.'s blood in my veins, and I feel a responsibility to carry the torch of the light of hope. I believe that now, more than ever, it is so important to maintain not only our hope but our faith. I'm very grateful for the attention being brought to the legacy of Black Wall Street and A.J. Smitherman. Knowing their story of success and triumph and how it tragically turned to massacre and destruction is vital to insuring history doesn't continue to repeat itself 100 years later.

One thing I know for certain is that building a brighter future will require all of us to summon our own inner superhero, like A.J. Smitherman and Chadwick Boseman before us, and work together to continue to fight for our rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.