5 Top Issues Fueling Gender Inequality in the Workplace
Let’s face it. Women make the world go around, literally. Yet despite juggling all of life’s crazy demands — birthing and raising children, providing financial stability and preparing healthy, home-cooked meals while also trying to find time for exercise, time with friends, and the occasional moment of relaxation — women are still treated as “less than” in the workforce. Here are five major challenges still facing women in the workplace.
1. Unequal pay
On average, American women are more educated than men. For decades, women have earned more bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees, and doctorate degrees than men. Yet women in the U.S. workforce still earn less than their male counterparts. How much less?
While some statistics show that women earn 80 percent of what men are paid, new data published in November 2018 suggests the pay gap between men and women may even be greater.
According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, women earn 49 cents compared to every $1 men earn. Unlike other research, the new data considers part-time workers and women who have taken time off from work to shoulder the demands of having and raising children or other family obligations. More than half of women leave the workforce for at least a year, which is twice the rate of men.
To help curb this discrepancy, experts say new policies are needed, including more paid parental leave, support for child care, and other pro-family policies.
2. Sexual harassment
An obstacle that many women face in the workforce is sexual harassment. While the #MeToo movement has helped to shed light on the issue, little had been known, until now, about how many women are subjected to this type of mistreatment.
A survey conducted in January 2018 by the nonprofit Stop Street Harassment found 38 percent of women have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace, and 81 percent reported experiencing some form of sexual harassment in their lifetime, including verbal or physical assault.
Data also links work-related factors to an increased risk of sexual harassment or assault in the workplace. Women restaurant workers who rely on tips for their main source of income are twice as likely to experience sexual harassment. Women lacking legal immigration status or having only a temporary work visa are also at an increased risk of sexual harassment or assault.
Unfortunately, race seems to play a major role in how women are treated and compensated in the workplace. The pay a woman receives may vary depending on her race and ethnicity. Data from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research found that Asian/Pacific Islander women have the highest median annual earnings and are compensated $46,000. White women follow at $40,000, while Native American and Hispanic women have the lowest pay, earning $31,000 and $28,000 per year. Earnings also vary by race when compared to what men are compensated.
4. Women are promoted less often than men
Despite being more educated than men and constituting nearly half of the workforce, women are promoted at work far less often than men. We know this because women make up less than 5 percent of CEOs and less than 10 percent of women are top earners in the S&P 500. Women of color are even worse off, as they are nearly invisible on both S&P 500 boards and Fortune 500 boards.
One reason cited for why more women aren’t moving into higher-up executive-type roles is the lack of female role models in the workplace. Catalyst.org says that not having a visible role model can make women feel as if moving into a leadership-type role is simply unattainable.
5. Fear of asking to be paid what you’re worth
Women often struggle with asking for higher pay in a job. While related to the issue of unequal pay, fear of discussing money is a separate issue that affects women more significantly than men. For women, negotiating pay is often viewed as being greedy or desperate, which leads to hesitation when it comes to asking for their worth in the workplace.
New research from Glassdoor found women negotiated their pay less often than their male counterparts. The poll found nearly 70 percent of women accepted the salary they were offered without negotiating, while only 52 percent of men did the same.
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Julie Wilson is a writer based in Austin, Texas with a focus on health, the environment, gender inequality and other social justice issues.