Updated: Nov 6, 2020
By Ally Gilboa
Social inequality among race, gender, class, and background is a very pronounced issue in many western societies, an enormous and much-discussed problem that many, from sociologists to wage earners, struggle to address in a satisfactory way. Despite making much progress towards gender equilibrium in the workplace in the past few decades, women still possess several unfair inherent disadvantages when it comes to matching the benefits their male counterparts receive. Whether it be the ever-discussed wage gap, discriminatory workplace roles, or office social norms,
There is still much to be done to remedy the glaring issues fueling gender inequality in the workplace.
More In-Depth Look
Some Stories of Female Entrepreneurs that have Experienced Inequality.
There are many blatant issues of gender equality even in the most prestigious and recognizable corporations in the United States. Erika Joy Baker, a former engineer at Google, now working as a senior engineering manager at Patreon, describes some disheartening discoveries she made after collaborating with her fellow employees before she left the country in the spring of 2015. After much debate with her peers about the issues of employers being transparently hostile towards a discussion of compensation among their workers, Baker decided to gather the salaries of all her coworkers willing to disclose them and create a spreadsheet to gain a statistical view of Google’s wage distribution. She was shocked to find that the tech giant was obviously undercutting their female employees in her office.
Suddenly, the insistence of silencing discussions of salary in the office became all the more clear to Baker, which ultimately contributed to her decision to leave Google.
In a similar vein, many of those who are outspoken regarding the gender wage-gap argue that there is an even bigger issue when it comes to a certain demographic of women: Mothers.
At the 2015 Academy Awards, Patricia Arquette, during her acceptance speech for the award, described the inequality facing mothers who chose to return to the workplace. After careful research, economists were able to break down a more intensive analysis of wages based on demographics. They found that while unmarried and childless women still do make less money than their male counterparts, mothers fall at the very bottom of the spectrum, and there appears to be a correlation with decreasing wages and each subsequent child.
Arquette is not the only recognizable personality to raise the issue of gender inequality in wages. A recent piece by Jennifer Lawrence underlined that even in the film industry, actresses make less money than actors. Lawrence, initially hesitant to bring up the issue, being conscious that her situation may not be relatable to most women, explained in “Why Do These Dudes Make More Than Me?” what transpired in regards to wages for the film, 'American Hustle'.
Statistics and Facts
The recent statistical analysis gives a more in-depth look at the exact numbers behind the gender wage gap.
In a study on parenthood and the gender gap in pay, by the think tank Third Way, it was found that unmarried young women between the ages of 25 to 34 can expect the closest distance in wages between themselves and their male counterparts, coming in at 96% of a man’s average salary. Married mothers fared the worst, reaching an average of 76% of a man’s wage. Coming in at the middle, single mothers and divorced women both shared an average of 83% of men’s total earnings.
Another shocking fact found out that in most countries, women only earn between 60 and 75% of men’s wages - for the same work. The discrimination is not strictly financial, either. Several western nations, the United States included, continue to offer little to no services for new mothers, and in the United States, there is no financial compensation during maternity leave.
A staggering 113 countries do not have laws that ensure men and women receive equal pay (among the nations of the West, the Scandinavian countries are often cited as a prime example of gender equality in the workplace). A further 104 territories make certain occupations completely inaccessible to females, ensuring a perpetual male monopoly in the field.
Focusing once again on the situation in the US, women’s safety and security remain appallingly unaddressed in 48% of companies. Equileap, an institution for gender equality, found that these companies, or nearly half of US firms, do not have any policies that punish sexual harassment in the workplace. Furthermore, many companies have been shown to favor male candidates over females for advanced or executive roles.
For the latter point, if one diverts their attention to the east, they will find trends much worse in various Asian nations. Even in Japan, considered to be the powerhouse of progress in the continent, has several discriminatory measures imposed on women, whether blatantly or discreetly. Many Japanese women in the workplace are perpetually regulated to more basic office roles, and the progress of growth is comparatively more tedious than it is for Japanese men.
Female executives and entrepreneurs are uniformly underrepresented throughout the world.
Equileap, ever vigilant of the issue, once again published a study that shows that in the US, of the 20 largest firms of the country, only one has an equal representation of male and female executives: taking that single spot was General Motors (GM). Equality among higher up positions peaked in Northern and Western European nations and started a downward in the more underdeveloped parts of the world.
Among the companies with the greatest index of gender equality, the aforementioned GM took first place, followed by two French firms, Merck and Starhub of Singapore. Other factors can also partially explain the unfortunate conditions in the more troubled parts of the world. In Sub-Saharan Africa, the majority of girls do not complete their secondary education.
Education remains elusive or out of reach for many young women in various parts of the world. In Western Asia, many state laws and regulations prevent girls from receiving an education that is competitive with men. To spark some hope, however, there have been recent pushes in these parts of the world by activists to make education, especially higher education, more accessible to women, vis a vis noble prize laureate Malala Yousafzai.
Addressing the Issue!
Despite the rampant issues, many sociologists, think tanks and activists continue to search for ways to address the problems of gender inequality in the workplace. Several institutions and think tanks for equality advocate that all companies should strive for a 50-50 balance in male and female workers in company positions. Employment coaching and mentoring programs tailored more towards the needs of a woman are also rightfully regarded to be a benefit to overall equality in the labor market.
In terms of wages, many argue that a company’s salary statistics should be made transparent and visible to both prospective employees and the public. The discreet promotion of higher wages among men leads to the perpetuation of the wage gap. Furthermore, methods of social research can be employed to alleviate the issue as well. It has been shown that when asked about the desired salary, women consistently ask for less than men, leading employers to take advantage of passive negotiating.
Because childcare, irregardless of culture, is often done in its majority by females, a more flexible work-life schedule and balance would also benefit in giving parents (regardless of gender) a leg up in procuring more assets. We have already seen that, among women, those with children suffer the most in their ability to secure equal pay.
It can also be easily inferred that, in addition to this blow to wages, the responsibilities of child-rearing create further duress for women more so than men, compromising workplace efficiency.
The social situation in the workplace, as already mentioned, reminds tragically unaddressed in just under half of US companies. Stricter penalization for sexual harassment, whether the aggressor and recipient be male or female, should be adopted or made outright mandatory for all accredited firms.
Education also has the potential to play a key role in undermining the issues with gender equality. Making mandatory classes and/or lectures on the importance of equality in the workplace has a place in fighting gender discrimination. A university curriculum tailoring to these issues will help graduating students understand the underlying causes and issues of workplace social equality and create a greater sense of confidence among prospective female employees.
Global inequality will not end until universal education becomes accessible. Therefore, world leaders, influencers, activists, and all global citizens, who believe in equality, have to help in providing education to every girl.
Another way is improved policies related to child-care affordability, differential taxation for single mothers, and young couples, to improve that macroeconomic issue and thus decrease gender inequality.
It is important to acknowledge the great strides in progress towards gender equality, not only in the workplace but in all walks of life, that have been made in the past several decades. However, just because fantastic progress has been made, doesn’t automatically entitle it to a feeling of adequacy.
With each single step towards equality, the plans to make the next two steps should be lined up beforehand.
In other words, the rapid progress society has made can come off as a double-edged sword; it does overall improve the workplace environment for all demographics, but it also makes ever-increasing and more rapid progress necessary.
Mediocrity or “good enough” attitudes should never be held when it comes to promoting equality, especially when a woman's career and livelihood is contingent on that equality.
Ally Gilboa is an innovative entrepreneur, speaker, author, and the founder of A.Q Group- Language Solutions. As an expert in translation and localization for the past 25 years, Ally has helped multinational companies, startups, and authors grow and expand globally by translating their work into over 30 foreign languages. Her mission is to create a "bridge" to help people convey their story and share it with the world.
* Visit Ally Gilboa author/blog website: https://www.allygilboa.com/