One of the more visible signs of the inequalities women face in the workplace is the wage gap. In 2017, the state with the largest wage gap was Louisiana, with a gender pay ratio of women’s median earnings to men’s of 69%, while the smallest wage gap was still only 89% in the state of California (Vagins). In some occupations, women are receiving billions less than they would with equal pay. For example, women working as physicians and surgeons are paid $19 billion less annually than men in that same occupation are (Ibid).
In the United States, half of all households with children under 18 have a breadwinner mother, who is either a single mother who heads a household, or a married mother who provides at least 40% of the couple’s joint earnings (Anderson). Therefore, inequality in wages for working women translates into lower pay, less family income, and more children and families in poverty (Milli et al). By providing equal pay, the poverty rate for all working women would be cut in half (Ibid). The wage gap that women face in the workplace shows how women have not yet become equal to men.
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In the workplace, another inequality that women have to deal with is the presence of a glass ceiling. A glass ceiling represents an invisible barrier that keeps women from rising beyond a certain level in the workplace, whether these barriers be not being considered for a promotion or having their opinion be dismissed because they are female. As of the 2018 Fortune list, only 24 women (4.8%) were CEOs of Fortune 500 companies (“Quick Take: Women in the Workforce – Global”). A national survey done by Pew Research Center showed that 48% of women in STEM jobs felt that in workplaces where most employees are men, their gender made it harder for them to succeed in their job (Funk, Parker).
One woman who participated in the survey said “People automatically assume I am the secretary … because I am female. This makes it difficult for me to build a technical network to get my work done. People will call on my male co-workers, but not call on me” (Ibid). Even on a more formal level, women report there are “certain kinds of meetings” they don’t get invited to because they are not seen as policy makers (“Empowering Women in Business”). This glass ceiling that prevents women from reaching their full potential in the workplace is another example of the inequalities they face today.
Women of color suffer from not only gender inequality, but also from racial inequality in the workplace. In comparison to white women, whose median usual weekly earnings are $703, African American women only earn $595 and Hispanic women just $518 (Kerby). In 2012, African American and Hispanic women saw rates of unemployment at 13.3% and 11.4% respectively, which were much higher than the 7.2% unemployment rate for white women (Ibid). Only about one in five senior leaders in companies are women, and every one in twenty-five is a woman of color (Thomas).
In 2017, the gender pay gap ratio of white men to women of color was 61% for African American women and 53% for Hispanic women (Vagins). A report published in 2018 by the Network of Executive Women showed that only 47% of Hispanic women, 41% of African American women, and 38% of Asian women said that they felt good about their ability to reach their long-term goals in regards to where they were in their workplace at that time (“Advancing All Women”). With women already dealing with inequality today, for women of color the added racial inequality tips the balance in the workplace against their favor even more.
Sexual harassment is a constant struggle that women face in the workplace. In 2017, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunities Commission received 6,696 claims of workplace sexual harassment, of which 80% were made by women (Shaw et al). Anita Hill, an American attorney, worked at the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (Tikkanen). There she served as legal adviser to Clarence Thomas, the assistant secretary, who she claimed made unwanted sexual advances and repeatedly asked her on dates despite her refusals (Ibid).
In 1991, after Thomas was nominated to be a replacement on the Supreme Court, she came forward with her allegations, but in the end Thomas’ nomination was confirmed and Hill was accused of being an attention seeker (Ibid). A more specific type of sexual harassment in the workplace is quid pro quo sexual harassment, which occurs when a job benefit is directly tied to an employee submitting to unwelcome sexual advances (“The Law and Your Job”).
An example of this is shown in the case of Tillett v. AutoZoners LLC, in which Rochelle Tillett experienced unwanted sexual advances from a superior co-worker, who subsequently cut her work hours from 40 a week to 32 after she filed a complaint against him (Rochelle Tillett v. AutoZoners). The sexual harassment these two women, and many others, had to endure further shows the inequality and imbalance of power in the workplace between men and women.
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