Editorial: NBA hiring milestone shows more needs to be done
During the press conference announcing her hiring by the San Antonio Spurs as the National Basketball Association's first female assistant coach, Becky Hammon was asked her feelings about making history.
"Obviously that's great and it's a tremendous honor," she said. "But I think the bigger point is I'm getting hired because I'm capable."
Not to make some kind of statement. Not to fill some sort of quota.
Because she's capable.
It's a dream we have for all our daughters, that they simply be given the opportunity to succeed on an equal level with men, based strictly on their ability to do the job.
Even with major milestones like this — a woman breaking into a leadership role in the traditionally male-chauvinistic realm of professional sports — it's more than a little disturbing that nearly 100 years after women got the right to vote, something like Becky Hammon's elevation is big news.
Every such milestone moves us forward. We just need more of them.
According to the Center for American Progress — an independent, nonpartisan educational research group based in Washington, D.C. — women make up 50.8 percent of the country's population, earn 60 percent of its undergraduate degrees, 60 percent of its master's degrees and control 80 percent of consumer spending. Yet they still continue to trail their male counterparts in executive and management positions, law firm partnerships, corporate board memberships and high-ranking political positions. If you're a woman of color, your chances of busting through the glass ceiling is even more difficult.
New York, a state that's already had a black and a blind governor, has never had a female executive in its 226-year history. Women are outnumbered in New York's congressional delegation 20-7, in the state Senate 52-11, and in the state Assembly 116-34.
Women also continue to lag behind men in employment compensation. Currently, women earn about 77 cents for every dollar earned by a man. In the Capital Region, women earn an average of $122 less per week than men.
Kirsten Gillibrand, only the second female U.S. senator in New York history (her predecessor, Hillary Clinton, was the first), is pushing to close that gap through the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would empower women to negotiate for better pay and create incentives for employers.
On the state level, Gov. Andrew Cuomo introduced the Women's Equality Act last June in an effort to reduce pay inequity, sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace, and domestic violence, as well as to ensure women's reproductive rights.
State legislators supported parts of the 10-point package, but could not reach a compromise on the most volatile element concerning abortion rights.
The bill should be broken up into its individual components when lawmakers return to Albany after the election so that some of the inequalities can be erased. Voters should press them on it when the candidates come around campaigning for election this summer and fall.
Becky Hammon's achievement in the NBA is notable because it shows once again that women can achieve what they deserve. But the real achievement will come when equality is not the news, but the norm.