As we move forward on our global timeline, people’s opinions on certain social issues have changed.
Usually, when we discuss hot-button topics within society race and sexual orientation are brought up. But there is a large-scale issue that has been a common one alongside racism for centuries: sexism. The issue of gender still hasn’t ceased.
There have been countless movements, protests, and riots regarding women’s rights throughout history. All these have led to great achievements for women and equality, yet we still find ourselves questioning how much attitudes may have truly changed when discrimination remains inside workplaces and homes alike.
Sexism in the workplace has become something ingrained in work culture and permeates many individuals’ attitudes towards women due to the way they were socialized throughout their lives. What “being socialized” means, in this case, is the way someone was taught to think growing up and the examples they saw in their environment.
The issues women face in the workplace are many, ranging from receiving more criticism than their counterparts would average to getting fewer leadership roles or even less pay. We will be trying to tackle all these problems within this article.
The History of Women in the Workplace
Looking at American statistics on the workforce from the 20th century, it becomes apparent that many impactful factors for women weren’t taken into account. The statistics of the time were used to categorize workers who worked outside of the home as “gainful workers” and 20% of women were counted as such.
What wasn’t accounted for was the fact that many women who counted as ‘housewives’ did more than just bear children. They also worked for the family business and made home-production goods to equally increase the household’s revenue whilst also maintaining the household and raising children.
The statistics also don’t account for the fact that there were double the women of color working compared to white women in the United States in that century. The number of overall working women increased to around 50%, but the widespread sentiment of negativity towards women persists to this day.
Women penetrating the education system was the reason behind their increasing abundance in the workforce since companies were looking for educated workers. There was also an increase in clerical work, which allowed women who were married to work without the large barrier of it being dangerous. Women weren’t allowed to study for a long time, adding to this issue.
Discrimination from pregnancy
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act was passed in 1978 and allowed for women to be protected from any discrimination during hiring, work, pay, training, fringe benefits, and so on. The efficacy of the act did ease this issue but hasn’t truly solved it to this day.
Women still experience discrimination in the workplace regarding pregnancy and in general, leading to toxic work environments. Let’s start with the subjective reason as to why.
Women are societally expected to reproduce in contradiction to men, thus why there have still been recent conflicts regarding women’s reproductive rights in various countries. This technically means that if you have a uterus, you should use it.
The discrepancy in opinion arises when women are still less likely to get hired due to owning a uterus and “being at risk” of taking maternity leave (decreasing productivity in a technical sense). Though maternity leave is allowed and sponsored by most companies, it all remains superficial because women are then not given superior positions just for taking the benefit.
Gender stereotypes, wage gaps & critiques
We’ve touched upon how promotions are less likely to be given to women due to their gender but let’s also touch upon gender stereotypes, how these affect women’s wages, and general social interactions women receive in the workplace.
It is safe to say that gender segregation is the primary contributor to why women are still being paid less in countless career fields. Male-dominant fields also have higher salaries and are not only harder for women to penetrate, but women receive discrimination and overall salary goes down once they’re there.
This is also why small things in the workplace matter, such as proper human resources that pay attention to such gender issues occurring.
Women also have been statistically shown to receive less constructive feedback in the workplace, meaning comments on their appearance or personality traits are unsolicited and they are doubted in their accomplishments such as the female pilot who had a passenger refuse the flight due to gender.
There is also the stereotype that women are more emotional, which has led evaluators to link more relationship-related adjectives to female employees rather than task-oriented ones.
Overall, women are perceived as delicate, submissive, less competent, and emotional beings, when the case is completely opposite. Even when someone is trying to not have these predetermined biases, the way society has been formed still allows them to influence the economy and work culture.
Harassment in the workplace shows up in many forms, especially as belittlement and segregation, though there isn’t one cognizant way to define it. This harassment tends to happen most often to minorities, with women making up a majority of statistics, and can range from cyberbullying to physical harassment as well.