There’s never been a better time in the history of the human race to be a woman. More opportunities and more rights are open to more women in more parts of the world. But it’s not enough. Centuries of inequality have a lingering effect that leaves its marks on more than just the law. More women are going into work than ever and reaching higher than ever. But the boundaries that stop many more are still there. So, what are the issues still making it difficult on women in the workplace? How do we beat them and what can we expect from the future?
Discrimination is a very real occurrence, particularly when it comes to being hired for work. Gender, race. attractiveness and more play a big part in someone’s chances of successful job interviews. Regardless of whether it’s admitted or not. Discrimination occurs a lot in employment and it can take a keen eye to spot it. But when it does, don’t let it lie. We have laws and rights to protect us from workplace discrimination. Visit http://www.dcemploymentattorney.com/Employment-Discrimination/ to find out more about your rights. If you can show evidence that you’re suffering employment discrimination, you need to speak up. Not just for yourself, but any other woman that might have to deal with that same treatment.
As more women get into work and we change our ideas about families, maternity leave becomes a bigger issue. Not enough companies offer real benefits when it comes to taking maternity leave. This puts the burden unfairly on the mother to have to resort to other short-term benefits. It’s far from unheard of that office politics suffer from maternity leave, too. A woman may return to a job after maternity only to find out that her role has been restructured or reduced. Some women even face the danger of being phased out of employment entirely. Supporting groups that lobby for protection of pregnant mothers and maternity leave is more important than ever.
It’s not just becoming pregnant that can have a huge impact on your work life. There’s still a large societal (and often personal) expectation that women need to be the hands-on parent. Sometimes, there isn’t a choice involved in the matter. Of course, most people would choose family over work if forced. But it’s not entirely necessary. Women have balancing work and children for a long time now and found ways to make it easier. Sometimes it can require a change in career or the kind of work you need to do but mums of all kinds are finding ways to make that balance work. Sometimes it just requires being more flexible.
In the US alone, it’s a stone cold fact that women make 79 cents to a man’s dollar on average. There has been a lot of discussion on the wage gap over the past couple years. But it requires a closer look at the root causes if we really want a remedy. It’s not necessarily something that needs legal steps to fix. Instead, look at the infographic on http://blogs.randstadusa.com/womenpoweringbusiness/infographic-a-closer-look-at-the-wage-gap. It highlights the same issues we do here. Expectations and stereotypes. Work vs. home balance. Children and goals. The industries we choose. If we look at the root causes of what’s really behind the wage gap, we can spot ways to make this change organically.
The glass ceiling
The concept of a glass ceiling is one that became increasingly prevalent in the late 2000s and early 2010s. It doesn’t see quite as much reporting now as it did once, but it’s still a significant issue. Women face more barriers in trying to reach the top positions in companies of all kinds. Men find it easier to network with and accept one another organically. As a woman, it can be significantly more difficult. There are sites like http://www.womenatworknetwork.com/ that aim to create new paths. Still, it can be said that a professional woman certainly needs to work harder to get higher.
Harassment exists in all kinds of forms in all kinds of work relationships. From the denial of opportunities to the ‘silent treatment’. We’re understanding new ways that harassment can seriously affect the work life of those targeted. Women are the predominant target of sexual harassment in the office and it’s important to stamp out that behaviour. Know the rules of your workplace and the law regarding sexual harassment. Use your knowledge to spot harassment and make a record of it. Know that your employers and your HR department do not have to immediately be predisposed to help you in the matter. If you believe there might be bias at play, it may be important to go to higher channels.
As the infographic on the pay gap indicates, the choice of majors and education paths plays a big difference on the career of a person. One of the sectors of employment that see a disproportionate amount of men to women is STEM. STEM degrees are those in sciences, technology, engineering and math. These degrees also tend to lead to more lucrative career paths. There’s no inherent reason that women should be unable to go into these careers, yet more choose ‘pink collar’ jobs. That’s why there’s more of a push now to introduce more young women to STEM early. http://www.edutopia.org/blog/5-ways-girls-involved-STEM-karen-purcell shows a few ways to do just that.
We’ve already talked about family above. Family is one of the key aspects of finding a work-life balance. Women are noted to have more difficulty in finding this. It can be said that the societal and personal ideas of responsibility make it so. Many women see a pressure to not only act as befits their situation, but to reach perfection so as to act as a role model. While important, it’s good to know what is good enough. You don’t necessarily have to do everything in your life to perfection. Draw your lines and work from there.
Even if women do reach the heights of their career, there is a huge amount of bias in certain industries. https://hbr.org/2015/03/the-5-biases-pushing-women-out-of-stem looks at some cases of those faced in the aforementioned STEM careers. More strain is put on women to prove competence, experience and knowledge. Less credit is given to women. Assumptions are made that it was not their skills that got them in their current position. There is also a bias that women are expected to take on traditional ‘feminine’ roles. A lot of these bias operate on an unconscious level for both men and women.
The pressures on women in the workplace can sometimes be intense. Being silent against bias and discrimination is sometimes a choice made so as to not ‘rock the boat’. Which takes fortitude worthy of applause. Others are afraid of recrimination. Yet silence should no longer be seen as a strength with which to shield yourself. With all the issues plaguing women, assuming that the system will correct things for you will lead to nothing but a very long wait. It can take strategy and no small amount of wiles to navigate any gender based argument in the workplace. But you can’t doubt that action is necessary to make change.
Stress can affect just about anyone. But it’s been recorded that women are more likely to suffer from stress, anxiety and other kinds of mental imbalances. With all the different kinds of pressures on women, it’s not difficult to see how one might become stressed, either. This again goes to the idea of the woman that has to ‘do-it-all’. Anyone who puts too much pressure on themselves is destined to fail some of their expectations. Middle aged women are two thirds more likely to suffer work related stress than men. Stress can easily have a knock-on effect on performance in the workplace, as well.
One of the factors we’ve already been making some mention of is the idea of work flexibility. It is true that women are adapting to more forms of work that ever. Still, women trail behind men in how much they choose to work their job into new parts of their life. http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2014/02/24/3322131/men-work-remote/ states that men are more likely to work remote than women. While this is true, we have seen more of a push from women to fill these roles than ever.
One of the points with more troubling implications is the effect of a woman’s romantic choices. We have seen lots of studies with results showing bias in a woman’s love life. That women prefer men who show more success or intelligence. It has even been suggested that these desires negatively impact a woman’s attitudes towards degrees like STEM. Though there are women of all kinds with different factors that they find attractive, it raises a valid point. We must look inward as well as outward if we want to truly divine what holds us back and what attitudes we need to change.