The “victory of equality” in the Fortune 500 is a joke

How can we hail such a miniscule number as a massive victory for womenkind?

Last week, the company Rite Aid made a monumental and controversial decision: they hired a female CEO.

This move puts the number of Fortune 500 female CEOs at an all-time high. Yes folks, 33 of 500 CEOs on that list are now women. Not that anyone is keeping track, but that’s about six and a half per cent! Hold onto your purses ladies, because known one per cent-er Heyward Donigan is paving the way for equality.

I have no real problem with Donigan, apart from her extravagant wealth. She’s been a CEO before. I’m sure she’ll be just as good, if not better, at suppressing dissent among vulnerable minimum wage workers as any other CEO might have been. My problem with this particular announcement is how everyone is treating it.

I’m glad women are being put in more roles they previously couldn’t pursue. I love a good lady carpenter, or a strong she-engineer, or even a female CEO like Donigan. But when it comes to the Fortune 500, this really isn’t that big of a leap forward. Are we really excited that 33 of 500 companies have female CEOs in 2019? Am I living on Earth right now?

I’m opposed to what the Fortune 500 stand for. I tend to believe they exploit disadvantaged workers both locally and abroad, but that’s not what this is about. If we’re going to talk about position equality, why are we hailing this as a huge victory? Are women meant to beg for any morsel of equality like dogs underneath the table, then roll over and pant uncontrollably every time some Wall Street suit crunches his sandwich too hard and decides we’re allowed to lick the crumbs from his jacket?

Make no mistake, this is a distraction. Though Donigan’s hire is technically a step forward in equality, it is unbelievably miniscule. How long until there are 34 women on that list? 40? 250? I assure you, every time we whoop and cry over a tiny inch of space like this, that wait time gets longer. Less than seven per cent is not a number to celebrate, it’s a number to write an exposé about.

If the Fortune 500 really cared about equality as they claim to, they’d be working on more initiatives for female executives. There’s clearly a disparity between men and women in these companies, and it isn’t that difficult to promote their female employees to apply for higher positions. There are now statistically more educated women than men in the US, so there really is no excuse for the numbers to be so dramatically different.

I wish Donigan the best in her position, and I wish the worst to the machine that celebrates mediocrity and bare-minimumship. Strive to be better, Fortune 500.

Payton Ferguson

Payton Ferguson is a second-year English major by day, 2019-20 Opinion Editor for The Gateway by night (and also day). She enjoys long walks to the fridge, writing until her wrists ache, and bombarding social media with pictures of her chihuahuas.

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