We've come a long way as a society in the last year in how we value women. The #MeToo and #TimesUp movements have put people on notice that we no longer will tolerate sexual harassment in the entertainment industry or in any business. Unequal pay, underrepresentation at the top of the economy and workplace practices that penalize women for having children also are under a spotlight.
So it's fitting that if we're going to value women for who they are and what they bring to the table rather than how they look, we should consider first how we value our girls.
Schaumburg's Septemberfest Committee this year is switching up its decades-old Miss Septemberfest scholarship competition to make it a Septemberfest Court competition that includes both young men and young women. The goal is to move away from appearing simply to value pageantry and toward the qualities of leadership and character that the scholarship program aims to recognize.
During the Septemberfest Parade on Labor Day, you'll no longer see five girls in dresses waving from a float. You'll see five young men and women marching the parade route in matching golf shirts.
The groundwork for this change came about before #MeToo first entered the zeitgeist. Last year, the committee introduced a Septemberfest Ambassador -- a young man -- to the program, and considered the result a hit.
Eliminating the pageant portion of the competition doesn't take away from the girls. Instead, it emphasizes that they are on an even footing with boys and that success is based on more than appearance. It should also have the same lesson for boys and with any luck will help them value what girls have to offer as people.
Two past Miss Septemberfest winners -- Natalie Bryeans and Laura Jensen -- endorse the changes and are overseeing things.
"Really, the purpose behind the change in the program is that Laura and I felt that a lot of the emphasis on community involvement and character of the individuals that were being awarded the scholarships was being overlooked by a perception of Miss Septemberfest being more of a pageant than a scholarship program, Bryeans said. "In addition, we have opened it up to young men in the community ... The reason for that is that every year it's so refreshing to see how great these young people are and see how much they're involved in, and we felt strongly that shouldn't be limited to young women."
The change isn't popular with everyone, including last year's winner, Krislyn Cardoza, who as a member of the Daily Herald leadership team qualified for more than just her looks. "Right now, it makes me cherish those memories more," she said. "If I was the last one, I'll wear that title proudly."
As will, we're sure, the young men and women who wear their titles in the new program.