Letter: We Should be Gender-blind in Reading BOS Election

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Gender issues seem to dominate news cycles today. The Women’s Marches, presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s shocking presidential loss, and the #MeToo movement, where sexual abuse victims find strength in other victims’ stories, have all put women’s issues at center-stage.

In Reading we have a local election coming up on April 3rd; Board of Selectman John Arena is running for re-election against Vanessa Alvaredo, a fellow Reading resident. Some have suggested to me that gender will play a role in our election, mimicking what is happening on the national scene.

I hope not. I would not want Ms. Alvaredo to win her seat just because she is a woman any more than I want Mr. Arena to win simply because he is a man. I’m hoping we can throw gender completely out the window, and vote based on character, experience, and ability to serve in this important town role.

Many say that women have been held back for too long at work and in society when in fact, women have made huge gains in the last few decades. Women now earn most associate, bachelor, masters and doctoral degrees. Women made up 56 percent of students on campuses nation according to the U.S. Department of Education, and some 2.2 million fewer men than women will be enrolled in college this year (https://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d16/tables/dt16_303.70.asp). And the trend shows no sign of slowing; 57 percent of college students will be women by the year 2026, according to the Dept. of Education.

Add to this the fact that the ballyhoo-ed “wage gap” virtually disappears to about 5 cents when analyzed appropriately. “The 23-cent gender pay gap is simply the difference between the average earnings of all men and women working full-time,” reported The Daily Beast. “It does not account for differences in occupations, positions, education, job tenure, or hours worked per week.” Boiled down further, despite the push for girls to advance in STEM careers, often they are more innately drawn to other careers that pay less than STEM occupations, exercising their right to choose their own destiny.

“There is clearly a wage gap, but differences in the life choices of men and women… make it difficult to make simple comparisons,” explained The Washington Post.

Boys who will be tomorrow’s young men also struggle more in school today. When it comes to reading, math and the sciences, “boys are 50% more likely than girls to fall short of basic standards in all three areas,” according to the global think-tank Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, which tracks data for many developed nations.

Males and females both have their obstacles in today’s modern world. While we work hard to eradicate problems for each gender, let’s not make the mistake of imbuing gender with attributes it does not, in fact, possess. Gender cannot make anyone brighter, more articulate, more invested, or more capable of serving others.

Success in any election comes when we are gender-blind. Pick the best candidate — or lawyer, or doctor, or plumber — based on their merits and past work product. This is how we will show our children that brains and character will take us farther than any characteristic we do not, in fact, have any control over. This in turn will create industrious, caring adults that we will be proud to call Reading’s best.

Deirdre Reilly

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