The modern workplace is the first sign that the world has changed for the better. Now everybody has the chance to become who they want to be, from astronaut to businessperson.
People get hired by companies located on the other side of the planet, which seems amazing, but it is all thanks to the power of the Internet. However, no matter how far we step into the future, the modern workplace still holds tight to gender inequality.
In this article, we take a look at the status of professional women in the workplace today.
1. The Wage Gap
During the past decades, there has been a clear rise of women in the workplace. It has only been 200 years since women started to earn an income on their own and that happened because of First World War.
When the cruel times came to an end, things were already changed completely, so the female force work remained active. However, they only received petty jobs like nurses or secretaries and their wages were much lower than men’s.
So, today, when we see women in higher positions such as CEOs or even Presidents and inspirational leaders, we are actually witnessing the results of the 19th movement that tried to balance the men’s and women’s rights within the workplace. However, the question remains to what extent things have changed.
Let’s take a look at how much women earn today in comparison to men. Studies show that in any professional field, there is a ubiquitous gap between the paycheck a woman receives at the end of the month and the much higher revenue a man that occupies the same job makes.
Women represent around 51% of the present workforce. However, in 2014, they were active within full-time jobs yet they earned on average only 79% of men’s annual income.
In the last 10 years – between 2005 and 2014 – India has witnessed a massive decline in the number of women workers, the highest in the world. One reason for this could be the massive gap in salaries of men and women, with female techies earning 29% less than men in IT companies.
On the 24th of October, 2016, around 2:38 PM, thousands of women left work early and headed to Austurvollur square in the Icelandic capital of Reykjavik. They were trimming a typical 9-to-5 workday by precisely two hours and 22 minutes, or around 30 percent, which also happens to be the gap in average annual income for men and women in Iceland.
While symbolic, this action demonstrated to the world that, even in a relatively progressive nation like Iceland, where women make up almost half of Parliament, there is still progress to be made in terms of the wage gap.
Economists have been trying to explain this phenomenon as the influence of personal choices when it comes to lifestyle. Many women choose careers that have a higher percentage of women and men do the same. This is how some fields remain dominated by women and others by men. However, it is much simpler for men to enter female career choices than the other way around.
Coming back to the influence of lifestyle, economists stated that women choose careers with flexible schedules while men are more willing to sacrifice their spare time for professional success. However, the choice of conducting one’s life seems a too big a generalization while the worldwide news displays a different story.
Lilly Ledbetter is a woman that sued her company because she noticed that her male colleague, who performs the same chores as she has, actually earns better than she. Her case became so strong, that the President of United States, Barack Obama, signed a pact that has her name, which gives anyone the right to sue for pay discrimination.
While this is a major step forward for the women rights at the modern workplace, this kind of inequality persists all over the world.
2. Descriptive Gender Stereotypes
The modern workplace shows an evolution of gender discrimination through two methods, namely descriptive and prescriptive gender stereotypes. The descriptive bias regards the set of preconceptions that are attached to a certain group of people.
Professionals seem to see working women in a certain way such as calm, careful, kind, and other attributes that together form a motherly picture. This description seems more to fit the responsibilities of a dental hygienist than the ones of authoritative positions.
However, by replacing objective criticism with this unconfirmed image, women are suffering in male-dominated professions. These careers usually require determination, logical thinking, decision making, and problem-solving skills which the character of a loving mother lacks. This is why in India, only 7.7% of board seats are occupied by women.
However, there are just a few traces of descriptive gender stereotypes in the system of a company, which makes them invisible in the face of justice.
For example, job descriptions are offering a hiring opportunity both for men and for women in an equal way. When the employers read in a resume that a woman made a monumental breakthrough in her field, she becomes competent in their eyes.
On the other hand, when the recruiters study an extremely impressive resume belonging to a certain man, they find him both competent and likable. It is easy to assume that the company will prefer the presence of a both competent and likable new employee.
3. Prescriptive Gender Stereotypes
When a woman shows a violation of her stereotype of a mother figure, she will not break free from wrong judgments. On the contrary, she will fall in a deeper layer of discrimination, also called as prescriptive bias.
For example, when a woman becomes angry at the workplace, she violates a general woman’s attribute as warm. Her anger is seen as a result of her feelings. This means that her reasons are internal and have nothing to do with the situation in question.
On the other hand, when a man gets angry, his intentions are described as a natural reaction to a stressful issue. Thus, his motives are legit and professional.
Prescriptive gender stereotypes start right from the resumes. When women create a self-image in their professional achievements that goes against the gender perceptions they are more likely to obtain an interview than men.
This is because the recruiters see them less likable, but more competent and with better social skills. However, when the resumes describe a woman that resembles the prescriptive stereotypes, they are evaluated the same as the men’s CVs.
4. Covert and Overt Harassment
It seems strange that workplace sexual harassment is still a real issue in our modern world. However, many companies had to pay a high price in many lawsuits where female employees won the case against obnoxious managers or colleagues.
Due to laws that protect women at their workplace and the programs hosted by companies, that teach about how to avoid harassment while at job, overt harassment has seen a substantial decrease.
However, while a direct sexual addressing is now a serious problem and can be sanctioned with losing one’s job, a new form of sexual harassment has appeared.
This toxic trend takes a covert form, which makes it less noticeable thus harder to call it to justice. These can be sexist jokes or remarks, and asking for favors from female colleagues that can exempt men from extra workload.
All these types of covert harassment can contribute to a hostile work environment where women have to deal with bigger challenges than men. This can lead to serious damages that affect self-esteem.
Women can come to consider that they are not worthy of higher positions or job promotions. This makes women a weaker competition for men, which can be one of the explanations why there is such a small number of female CEOs.
While the covert harassment takes less obvious forms than overt forms, the repercussions can be equally damaging. Open gender sexism can harm women’s health and character, but the low-intensity maltreatment can lead to stressful working conditions and work overload.
Unfortunately, even though this overt harassment has been present in the modern workplace for quite a while, there has not been yet a movement against it as effective as the one for the open harassment.
Specialists state that if things continue to change this slowly, it will take another 53 years to obtain full gender equality in the workplace.
5. Then and Now
In order to fully comprehend the state of women in the modern workforce, it requires a journey to the past to observe that women are nonetheless in a better place right now.
For the last 60 years, women have conquered the job market little by little, and they continue to fight to obtain gender equality. Records show that 63.3% of women age 16 to 24 worked in 1998 while there was only a 43.9% presence in 1950.
Moreover, in 1979 women earned only 58% as much as men did, while they decreased the gap by 73% in 1993. Also, there is a current trend that sees women are enrolling in greater number for higher education than men, which makes them more prepared for the job market.
However, even though things look better for women in the modern workplace, there is still a lot of work left to be done in the sector of equal rights. Employers continue to respect more the market revenue trends which clearly set a gap between the how much men and women earn.
Instead, HR recruiting efforts should be persuaded to conform to Equal Employment Opportunity. Authorities should also encourage women to pursue educational programs that offer them opportunities for higher paying careers that are usually dominated by men, such as technicians, architects, movie directors or programmers.
In conclusion, the state of women in the modern workplace has much improved in the last two decades. However, gender inequality is a social phenomenon that still dictates the differences in wages and perception between men and women.
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