3 Unfair Practices Women Face in the Workplace & How to Fight Them
“They go to the same meetings, have the same colleagues, strive for the same promotions. So why are their perspectives—and experiences—so dissimilar?” asks the Wall Street Journal’s Nikki Waller.
By “they,” she means “men” and “women,” of course.
The question’s assertion — that men and women experience the workplace in fundamentally different ways — is not controversial. Any worker who pays attention to what’s happening around them is aware that, decades after the passage of Title IX and countless other civil right protections for women and people of color, inequality remains very much alive in the workplace.
Still, for the uninitiated, the larger truth about workplace gender disparities is shocking.
Here’s a look at three workplace gender disparities and unfair practices that each affect millions of hardworking women — and what women can do to address them.
The Pay Gap
Though the gender pay gap has slowly narrowed since the late 20th century, it remains stark. On average, women earn about 80% of their male counterparts in similar roles. It’s not expected to close completely until the second half of this century — and that’s far from assured.
On an individual and collective basis, women can negotiate for better pay or band together and engage in collective bargaining with their employers. On the employer side, bosses should commit to paying the same wage for the same work, full stop.
Workplace wage theft affects men and women alike, but it hits lower-wage service industry employees — a disproportionately female cohort — particularly hard. Examples of wage theft include:
- Being forced to clock out early and continue working
- Being forced to work off the books
- Denial of legally mandated breaks and meals
- Being denied rightfully acquired tips
- Illegal paycheck deductions
Women affected by wage theft can file complaints under the Fair Labor Standards Act, or FLSA. Unfortunately, the U.S. Department of Labor has limited resources, and not all employees are protected by the full measure of FLSA. Any comprehensive solution demands policy changes, such as harsher wage-theft penalties for employers and higher baseline wages for tipped employees.
The “pipeline problem,” wherein representation of women in the workplace winnows in inverse proportion to seniority, is at least partly down to gender-divergent expectations about working women’s priorities: namely, that career advancement is secondary to family matters.
Problematic as it is, the pipeline problem is just one manifestation of the “expectations gap.” Another is role gendering — the process by which professional roles become associated with one gender or another in the broader culture.
Gendering affects clients’ perceptions, sometimes with noticeable impact: A recent study found that male bank loan officers were more likely to receive on-time loan payments than female managers. These effects persisted even after the accounts were transferred to managers of the opposite sex.
Unfortunately, cultural connotations don’t disappear overnight. The fight against gendered roles will take time and require buy-in from everyone — including those who don’t feel they have a direct stake in the outcome.
Have you experienced any of these disparities firsthand? Please share your experiences and suggestions in the comments section below.