The Challenges Faced By Women in The Workplace
I matter. I matter equally. Not 'if only,' not 'as long as'. I matter. Full stop. - Chimamanda Adichie, Nigerian writer
Women have been trying to break away from norms and standards set by society. They have been marching for equal rights and fighting for their rightful place in the world. True, that the #MeToo movement has begun to smash down centuries of patriarchy, but we still have a long way to go. Especially, in corporations, where the adage glass ceiling is still quite prevalent.
For the last four years, Leanin.org and McKinsey have been conducting research on the participation and inclusivity of women in the workplace. While it might seem like the world is progressing and there’s a rising involvement of women in the workplace, the reality is quite different. As the report suggests, “progress isn’t slow. It’s stalled.”
Representation of Women
Women continue to remain underrepresented at every level, starting from entry level jobs to C-suite roles. According to the Women In the Workplace 2018 report, representation of women of color is the least causing them to stay behind white men, men of colour and white women. Women of color comprise only 17% of entry level roles and 4% of C-Suite positions.
This underrepresentation gets worse in senior management positions.Only 22% of C-suite executives are women. In fact, as compared of 62% of men in managerial positions, only 38% of women are promoted to be managers.
What’s interesting to see is that the number of women and men leaving their companies is almost the same. Therefore, attrition can’t be blamed for this inequality and misogyny.
Gender Pay Gap
Women earn 77.9 cents for every dollar earned by men. Research by Payscale says that in 2018, the median salary for women is roughly 22 percent lower than the median salary for men.
In India too, the fight for equal wages continues. The Labour Bureau in India has found that in rural areas in the agricultural sector, the daily wage for men is ₹264.05 and ₹205.32 for women. In non-agricultural sects, the average daily wage rate for men is ₹271.17, while for women it is ₹205.90.
The #MeToo movement brought out numerous cases of women facing sexual and non-sexual harassment in the workplace.These cases ranged from unwelcome verbal, visual, non-verbal or physical harassment.
The Women in the Workplace report found that 35% of women in full time corporate sector jobs have experienced sexual harassment. Another study by EEOC estimates that 75% of women who are subject to such hostile situations will not report their harassment. And especially when the abuser is someone in senior positions.
People often ask “why did the victim not report?” The primary reason for this is for the fear of being fired. The same research by EEOC found that “75% of harassment victims experienced retaliation when they reported it.”
During child rearing years, the unemployment penalty for women is longer. What this means is that when women take longer leaves, they have a much harder time to get rehired.
The report by Payscale that I have mentioned about earlier, also says that “someone unemployed for less than three months faces only a 3.4 percent penalty while someone who has not worked in over a year experiences a 7.3 percent penalty.”
The report shows that the percentage of men unemployed for 12+ months between the age of 20-29 is 4% while for women it’s 11%. Between the age group 30-44, the number of unemployed men and women is 10% and 20% respectively. This ultimately reflects in the gender pay gap making it harder for women to hold senior level positions.
Race and Ethnicity
64 percent of Americans say that racism continues to be a major problem in society. In the workplaces too, it continues to be a problem. White men and women continue to get hired over people of color, women who come from diverse ethnicities.
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) 2017 workplace discrimination claims found that race discrimination claims accounted for 33.9 percent. A report published by the UK govt in 2017 shows that if black and minority ethnic (BME) talent was fully utilised in the UK, their economy could be boosted by upto $29 billion.
A common example of racial and ethnic discrimination faced by women in the workplace is telling them that they won’t fit in with the culture and work ethics and hiring a white person over them.
The Guardian reports that over 50,000 women lose their jobs over maternity discrimination.
A type of employment discrimination, pregnancy discrimination refers to when women in the workplace are fired, not hired or discriminated against their pregnancy or are expecting.
The discrimination can occur in the form of offensive comments by senior officials, clients, peers and customers regarding their physical and medical condition. Some other ways are employers reducing a female employee’s working hours, pay, changing her benefits, refusing to promote her or forcing her to take time off (paid or unpaid).
‘That Time Of The Month’
Women all over the world have at least once in their life have been subject to prejudice when on their periods. When they show emotions like anger or irritation, they are mocked by comments like, “stop fussing. Are you on your periods?”
Women undergo grueling physical pain while on their periods. A classic example of everyday sexism is male employees considering women taking leaves while menstruating as an excuse to not come to work.
A ridiculous incident occurred in 2017 when a woman in Georgia was fired for, believe it or not, menstruating. Her “offense” was that on a heavy flow day, she stained her office chair.
Lots of men feel threatened by female bosses. There are countless studies which show that men prefer male over female bosses. In recorded Gallup polls since 1950s, the number of respondents saying they would prefer working for a woman has never exceeded 25%.
This is the reason for the lack of representation of women in the workplace. Because there is a lack of powerful female leaders at the top, there's nobody to encourage and support women who have just started working and are in entry level positions.
It is 2019. The world talks about progression and creating an environment where all people are treated equally. But, why does it stop when it comes to women? Why does it happen that women are expected to balance between their career and home while men are supposed to be the breadwinners of the family? While there are men who have come forward to support women in all their endeavors, why is the word “feminism” branded with so much hatred and contempt? It’s time we shatter toxic masculinity and make people understand that feminism’s goal is to reduce gender gaps and achieve political, economic, personal, and social gender equality.