The First Women’s Convention in 1848 Launched the Women’s Suffrage Movement
Following the monumental achievement of the right to vote in 1920, the movement lost momentum until the 1960s. In 1963 and 1964, the Equal Pay Act and Title IV of the Civil Rights Act banned discrimination in the workplace. The Equal Rights Amendment was formed in 1972, but was defeated because states did not want to ratify it. Although much progress has been made, women still face far too much discrimination in the workplace such as unequal pay, sexual harassment, and gender bias.
It is 2018 and women still do not make as much money as men. Women are almost half the workforce, are the sole or co-money maker in half of US families with children, and have more college graduate degrees than men. Yet in 2017, it was recorded that women make 80.5 cents for every dollar a man makes. According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWRP) at that rate the wage gap is closing, it will take until 2059 until women achieve equal pay. The numbers are harsher for African American women and Hispanic women. Black women may not receive equal pay until 2119 and Hispanic women until 2224.
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The reasons for the wage gap are multi-faceted. According to IWRP research, “irrespective of the level of qualification, jobs predominantly done by women pay less on average than jobs predominantly done by men” (Pay, N/A). There has been little progress on gender integration in the workplace. Construction has not made any strides in 40 years. This dominant occupational segregation is the primary cause of the wage gap. Closing the wage gap would be extremely beneficial to not only women, but to the economy as well. Achieving equal pay would relieve over half of women and their families of poverty and would add $513 billion to the national economy. Society would benefit immensely from the closing of the wage gap.
In the workplace, women experience what is called the “glass ceiling”. The glass ceiling is the “invisible barrier to advancement that women face at top levels of the workplace” (What, 2018). It could also be described as a lateral movement in an environment which prevents further upward movement. The University of Chicago states that talent is left on the table when women aren’t given leadership positions. Family-friendly policies provide maternity and parental leaves, part-time and shorter hours, and will help with flexibility. However, they do not address the wage gap. It is said that no one policy would be able to crack the glass ceiling.
There have been countless examples of the glass ceiling throughout history. During early space exploration, women tested very well for capsule life, but the space programs would be exclusively for men. Why? NASA required pilots with lots of flight time and the only way to get that was in the military. However, only men could get flight training because women were not allowed in combat duty. In the 1970s, many women graduated college and major companies said they would hire them “if they’re qualified.”
This brought on heavy requirements, so if a woman met them, the company did not know what to do. However, some men would have lesser qualifications than the women applying for the same position and would move up with ease. Finally, Hewlett-Packard (HP)’s policy for hiring and promoting women was brutal. Women were hired out of the top technical schools, then could advance to manager, but could not get director. Meanwhile, men entering in the same kindred would get the job. There are blatantly obvious trends throughout companies that highlight the issue of the glass ceiling.
There are of course many reasons as to why the glass ceiling is so persistent. Still sticking to the timeless stereotype, child care and housework fall more heavily on women than men.
Higher paying jobs are inflexible and a disadvantage to women because they have to balance the work with taking care of the home and children as well. Psychological differences between men and women could make up 10% of the gap because men tend to take more business risks than women. Correlating with the wage gap, these women who have 30%-40% more college degrees than men often avoid majors that lead to jobs with more money. The glass ceiling profoundly impacts women and does not allow them to reach their full potential.
Another pressing type of discrimination women face in any workplace is sexual harassment. To lay out sexual harassment by the numbers, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released eye-opening statistics. At least one in four women are sexually harassed in the workplace, with some companies reporting 85%. Simply reporting an encounter is different from filing a formal complaint. Sexually coercive behavior was reported 30% of the time and physical only 8%. Even worse, 87-94% of sexual harassment victims do not file a formal complaint. 75% of victims experience retaliation when reporting and are scared they will not be believed or scared they will be fired. Sexual harassment costs companies millions, too. In 2015, EEOC recovered $164.5 million for workers alleging harassment claims.
Sexual harassment does not just happen in the typical office space. In October of 2017, allegations of sexual harassment incited in the entertainment industry and have spread throughout business and politics. Most notable in the industry is former film producer Harvey Weinstein, who was accused of sexual harassment by women such as Gwenyth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie, and Rose McGowan. Weinstein was fired, and thus the Weinstein ripple effect began.
Other famous film producers and stars such as Louis C.K., Kevin Spacey, and Dustin Hoffman were also fired due to their wrongdoings. In the restaurant business, celebrity chef Mario Batali was found guilty of sexual harassment. Standing by his victims, ABC took these allegations seriously and fired Batali and cancelled his shows. Even the political world was impacted with accusations against senators Al Franken and Trent Franks, both of which resigned from office. Senator Ray Moore was guilty of having sex with teenagers and countless women came out against Donald Trump and Bill Clinton. Professor Julian Zelizar sums up this train of allegations by saying “It is extraordinary that the story that started about a movie producer has hit Capitol Hill in a big way… and this is just the start of it” (Admissions, 2018).
The #MeToo movement created by Tarana Burke in 2006 gained tons of momentum on social media in 2017, due to the growing rate of accusations against powerful men. #MeToo encouraged women to speak out against and brought attention to assault and sexual harassment. These “Silence Breakers” became the 2017 Time Magazine’s Person of the Year winners. As more and more scandals emerged, Hollywood took a stand. Three hundred actresses and entertainment executives joined Time’s Up in October 2017. This group addresses the systemic inequality and injustice in the workplace and has a legal definitive fund to women.
They also advocate for legislation for companies that tolerate harassment to be punished. 700,000 female farmworkers brought their support in November 2017 by writing a letter proclaiming their support for the abused actresses. The 2018 Golden Globes was filled with women dressed in black to honor the women who have spoken up and Oprah Winfrey delivered a tantalizing acceptance speech for the Cecile B. DeMille award. Winfrey spoke out against sexual abuse saying, “Speaking your truth is the most powerful tool you all have…. For too long, women have not been heard or believed if they dared to speak the truth to the power of those men. But their time is up.” Sexual harassment awareness has spread through industries and workplaces nationwide, and will not halt until change has been made.
Workplace stereotypes heavily contribute to gender bias in the workplace. How women self-characterize themselves runs parallel with their characterization of women wholly. Women’s self-evaluations are typically more communal while men’s are more agentic, so when women look at their “fit” for male jobs, they have a negative verdict. Research states that women who take on male-type tasks often do it with less confidence and negative performance. One study even showed that women’s self-ratings of their expected task competence was equal to the self-ratings of people who had gotten negative feedback about their task ability. Even women themselves assume that they cannot succeed in a “a man’s job’ simply because it is deemed “a man’s job’.
Another women’s stereotype is their “lack of fit” when they do not have the attributes required for a traditionally male job. Two examples would be management and executive positions, which coincide with the male stereotype of being emotionally tough and aggressive. Research was conducted to study perceived lack of fit. Participants were asked to identify male and female attributes, then to identify the attributes of a good manager. The characterizations of a good manager were more linked to the male characterizations; “think manager, think male”. Stereotypes limit women’s opportunities and chances of success in the workplace.
A study was led by Sophie Soklaridis and others to find out the experiences of gender bias among hospital CEOs. Twelve women CEOs throughout Ontario, Canada were selected. “Purposeful sampling techniques and in-depth interview methods were used to facilitate discussion around experiences of gender and leadership” (Gender, N/A). Two groups came out of this experiment. The first group experienced much gender inequality with their issues ranging from individual to systemic. The second group did not experience any significant inequality and said that gender was a factor impacting leadership trajectories. Representations of women’s leadership have been pulled apart from feminism, resulting in consequences for women. Some of the women found it difficult to identify gender bias in the study. However, gender bias is just the norm in many workplaces now.
Arthur Miller’s The Crucible portrays women as weak creatures. Abigail Williams and the gaggle of witchcraft accusers were only driven by their feelings and were selfish. Ann Putnam, who had lost seven of her babies, was deemed emotionally weak, and Mary Warren was simply a doormat. The play portrays women as weak creatures and as behaving irrationally and rashly, basically describing them from extreme to extreme. Ironically, the actually good and pure of heart women in the town were the ones who ultimately went to the Gallows. Elizabeth Proctor and Rebecca Nurse served their families and did right, but their community betrays them. This correlates with women working hard in an occupation, only to be limited to a certain promotional level.
It is astonishing how in this day and age, women are still heavily discriminated against in the workplace. The wage gap, sexual harassment, and gender bias and stereotypes heavily contribute to the problem. Every one of these issues does not even just occur in the stereotypical workplace, but in politics and the entertainment industry as well. However, companies, women, and men alike are standing up against this prejudice and are advocating for change.