Personal Development
Gender Inequality in the Workplace: The Fight Against Bias

Gender Inequality in the Workplace: The Fight Against Bias

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Gender Inequality in the Workplace: A Stubborn Persistence

Since the implementation of the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which declared equal rights for women in all areas of employment, gender and racial discrimination in the workplace has been a constant issue. Evidence of discriminatory practices and policies persists today, from unequal pay and fewer opportunities for mothers, to high rates of sexual harassment, disparities in promotion, and limited access to educational resources.

A History of Gender Inequality

The battle for gender inclusivity began in the 19th century when Belva Ann Lockwood - an attorney- successfully persuaded Congress to pass a law that guaranteed equal pay for women who worked in federal roles. Over a hundred years later, the Equal Pay Act of 1963 was set into place, formalizing the national law for gender pay equality for both men and women in any given workplace. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 reiterated the right to equal access to employment for women, and was later amended in 1991 to include suits against employers for sexual harassment.

Unequal Pay

Though the Equal Pay Act states otherwise, the gender pay gap has continued to persist. In 2020, women earned 84% of what men earned for the same job, with Black and Latina women earning even less. This pay inequity has only seen a slight improvement in the past 25 years, shrinking by just 8 cents. Furthermore, gender bias is seen in the promotion process, with 100 white men promoted to managerial roles for every 86 women promoted, and white men comprising 62% of the C-suite compared to 20% held by white women and just 4% by women of color.

One contributor to this enduring form of gender inequality is the gender bias found in hiring practices; managers often pull from their own personal networks when selecting applicants, which is often composed of people they identify most with, thus leading to a lack of diversity and inclusion.

Mothers Disadvantaged

Mothers, and women of childbearing age, are often overlooked for employment opportunities even when their resumes are identical to those of male applicants or childless women. This points to the pervasive 'work/family narrative,' which views women primarily through the lens of caregiver/motherhood, the (erroneous) conclusion being that women with children are deemed less reliable and committed to the workforce.

The 'gender effect' of the pandemic has had a grave impact, with nearly 2 million women, particularly mothers with young children, forced to rethink their career paths or leave the workforce.

Burnout in Women

Women, particularly in higher positions are more likely to experience burnout and higher work-related stress than men. With the arrival of the pandemic, the gap of burnout between genders has nearly doubled. This burnout drives women to accept less favorable work arrangements such as part-time roles or lower-level jobs, further pushing them back in their career paths and creating an unequal playing field.

Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is still a pressing issue, with 35% of women in the U.S. having experienced it at some point in their career. The #MeToo movement has seen a decline in sexual coercion and unwanted sexual attention since its launch in 2017, however there has been a sharp increase in gender harassment, with 92% of women in 2018 experiencing sexist remarks and inappropriate stories from their male counterparts - up from 76% in 2016.

Experiences in Racism

The microaggressions faced by women of color and those with marginalized identities are often deeper and more impactful than those faced by white women. Between the lack of active allies in the workplace and the difference of opinions between white 'allies' and women of color on what constitutes helpfulness, it can be difficult to find comfort and support in the workplace.

Steps Managers Can Take to Eliminate Gender Inequality in Organizations

According to the Global Gender Gap Report 2020, it is predicted that it would take us up to 135.6 years to reach gender parity. Although this is a daunting thought, organizations and managers alike can make strides towards closing this gap.

  • Educate Employees on Unconscious Gender Bias

Everyone has unconscious biases and prejudices that they may not be aware of. Managers should actively educate themselves and their employees of these biases, and they can do this by taking the Implicit Association Test (IAT). This can help to make sure that employees are aware of any gender bias and that it is eliminated from the workplace.

  • Appoint Diverse Interviewers and Implement Longer Shortlists to Hire More Women in Top Positions

Including gender diversity in the interview process can help to create a more balanced workplace. Research has showcased that longer shortlists encouraged managers to think beyond any gender stereotypes that may have been associated with the role. This will also give women a greater opportunity to attain positions in the top positions. Furthermore, research has shown that women are more likely to want a role if a woman is the interviewer.

  • Conduct an Audit and Make Salaries Transparent

To ensure equality, companies should conduct regular audits to make sure that men and women are being paid the same. Managers should also consider providing more flexibility for remote work and providing women greater technological literacy. In turn, this could lead to more innovation, higher revenue growth, and more contented customers. Additionally, women should have access to coaching, mentorship, and generous maternity leave policies.

  • Employees Can Also Play An Active Role

Employees, too, can help to make gender equality a priority in their workplaces. This could include becoming involved in their company's DEIB initiatives and standing up against gender inequality or discrimination. Employees could also form Employee Resource Groups to provide a psychologically safe environment for marginalized women. Furthermore, becoming a mentor can help to advance gender equality on a personal level.

"All inequality is not created equal," Kimberle Crenshaw said, referring to the fact that varied and overlapping identities compound experiences of discrimination.

The Ongoing Fight for Gender Equality in the Workplace

Women of all backgrounds and walks of life are subject to gender-based discrimination in the workplace. In 2020, it is estimated that white women would have had to work until March 24 to make as much as their male counterparts, black women until August 3, and Latina women until October 21. Fighting for equality in today's workplace is still a difficult battle, even with the countless ways work has changed.

Issues Women Face in the Workplace

Women often face numerous issues in the workplace, such as increased stress in male-dominated industries, a gender gap when it comes to coaching and other opportunities, and a higher incidence of burnout. Discrimination, unequal pay, and fewer promotional opportunities are yet another factor that poses a roadblock for women in their careers. Working mothers are especially more likely to suffer from feelings of guilt, as well as a heightened risk of not progressing in their career (often referred to as the ‘sticky floor'). In addition, immigrant and transgender women are even more vulnerable to sexual harassment in the workplace.

Making Change toward Gender Equality

The Equal Pay Act and Civil Rights Act are two significant steps taken to protect the rights of all workers, though traditional social norms still hinder progress in achieving workplace gender equality. Belva Ann Lockwood was a prominent figure who fought for equal rights in the workplace. To create positive change, organizations must become aware of the difficulties women face and actively work to address them. Gender inclusive language and policies are also necessary to promote equity in the workplace. Furthermore, training and educational opportunities should be provided as well as honest feedback on initiatives that support gender equality.

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