Does Gen­der Bias Still Ex­ist in To­day’s Work­place?

The Washington Post Sunday - - JOBS - This spe­cial ad­ver­tis­ing sec­tion was pre­pared by in­de­pen­dent writer Paige Har­den. The pro­duc­tion of this sec­tion did not in­volve the news or edi­to­rial staff of The Washington Post.

I’ve been binge watch­ing “Mad Men” lately, and, speak­ing as a woman, I can­not imag­ine liv­ing or work­ing in the 1960s or 1970s. I think I’ve told my hus­band dur­ing ev­ery episode how glad I am to be a woman, a wife, a mother and an em­ployee in the 21st cen­tury. The bla­tant dis­re­gard for the value of women in that se­ries is so over­pow­er­ing I some­times find it dif­fi­cult to fin­ish an episode.

Hav­ing been born in the 1980s, I have luck­ily not felt the weight of a ter­ri­bly im­bal­anced work en­vi­ron­ment or home life. In the 13 years since I grad­u­ated col­lege, I’ve heard older women com­plain about their first work ex­pe­ri­ences, but like so many things in life, if you haven’t lived it, it’s nearly im­pos­si­ble to imag­ine.

Be­cause I have never had to strug­gle for a job based on my gen­der and be­cause I have been re­spected and val­ued as a com­mu­nity mem­ber, wife, mother and em­ployee, I never con­sid­ered look­ing into the pos­si­bil­ity that a gen­der gap might still ex­ist. Hon­estly, I was stunned by the sig­nif­i­cant gap that re­mains in both the United States and across the globe.

The Global Gen­der Gap In­dex was in­tro­duced by the World Eco­nomic Fo­rum in 2006 as a frame­work for cap­tur­ing the mag­ni­tude of gen­der-based dis­par­i­ties around the world and for com­par­isons be­tween and within coun­tries. The in­dex bench­marks na­tional gen­der gaps on eco­nomic, po­lit­i­cal, ed­u­ca­tion and health cri­te­ria.

Of the 145 coun­ties in­cluded in the study, the United States ranked 28th. That rank­ing stunned me. I as­sumed the U.S. would be leap years ahead in this area. Wow, was I wrong. Not only is there a dis­par­ity in wages, this study ranks the United States 40th in ed­u­ca­tional at­tain­ment, 64th in health and sur­vival and 72nd in po­lit­i­cal em­pow­er­ment for women.

In purely fi­nan­cial terms, women in the United States make 80 cents for ev­ery dol­lar earned by men, a wage gap of 20 per­cent. Women in Ice­land, the top rank­ing coun­try, make 88 cents for ev­ery dol­lar men make, and the coun­try has im­ple­mented changes that could com­pletely close the gap in the next 10 years. The study is not so op­ti­mistic about the United States, stat­ing that it will be at least 2059 be­fore women earn the same as men.

The In­sti­tute for Women’s Pol­icy Re­search says that women make up half of the U.S. work­force, and are equal, if not the main, bread­win­ner in four out of 10 fam­i­lies. Women re­ceive more col­lege and grad­u­ate de­grees than men, and yet, on av­er­age, con­tinue to make con­sid­er­ably less than men in vir­tu­ally ev­ery oc­cu­pa­tion for which there is suf­fi­cient earn­ings data.

Like the Global Gen­der Gap In­dex, the In­sti­tute for Women’s Pol­icy Re­search also cites a 20 per­cent gen­der wage gap be­tween women and men who work full-time, year-round. The in­sti­tute gath­ers data in a se­ries of fact sheets up­dated twice per year that re­flect a num­ber of dif­fer­ent in­equal­ity fac­tors in­clud­ing dis­crim­i­na­tion in pay, re­cruit­ment, job as­sign­ment and pro­mo­tion, and women’s dis­pro­por­tion­ate share of time spent on fam­ily care.

In April 2016, the U.S. Congress Joint Eco­nomic Com­mit­tee re­leased a re­port ti­tled, “Gen­der Pay In­equal­ity: Con­se­quences for Women, Fam­i­lies and the Econ­omy.” This re­port showed that a woman work­ing full-time, year-round earns $10,800 less per year than a man. This yearly dis­par­ity can add up to nearly a half-mil­lion dol­lars over the span of a ca­reer. This in­equal­ity re­mains true, even when women are more qual­i­fied than men. The study showed the typ­i­cal woman with a grad­u­ate de­gree earns $5,000 less per year than the typ­i­cal man with a bach­e­lor’s de­gree.

While the 1963 Equal Pay Act man­dates men and women re­ceive equal pay for equal work, and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 pro­vides pro­tec­tions against dis­crim­i­na­tion based on an in­di­vid­ual’s na­tional ori­gin, race, reli­gion and gen­der, the com­mit­tee in­sists more must be done to en­sure equal­ity.

In a re­port by the Pew Re­search Cen­ter, all groups of women have made progress in nar­row­ing the wage gap since 1980. How­ever, white and Asian women have nar­rowed the gap with white men at a much greater pace than black and His­panic women. White women have nar­rowed the gap from 60 cents for ev­ery dol­lar in 1980 to earn­ing 82 cents for ev­ery dol­lar in 2015. By com­par­i­son, black women only nar­rowed the gap by nine cents, from earn­ing 56 cents for ev­ery dol­lar in 1980 to 65 cents to­day. His­panic women have only nar­rowed the gap by five cents, earn­ing 58 cents on the dol­lar in 2015.

While re­duc­ing the gen­der wage gap seems to ben­e­fit only women, re­search says oth­er­wise. Ac­cord­ing to the Global Gen­der Gap In­dex re­port, the most im­por­tant de­ter­mi­nant of a coun­try’s com­pet­i­tive­ness is its hu­man tal­ent—the skills and pro­duc­tiv­ity of its work­force. Sim­i­larly, the study showed an or­ga­ni­za­tion’s per­for­mance is de­ter­mined by the hu­man cap­i­tal it pos­sesses and its abil­ity to use this re­source ef­fi­ciently. En­sur­ing the healthy de­vel­op­ment and ap­pro­pri­ate use of half of the world’s avail­able tal­ent pool has a vast bear­ing on how com­pet­i­tive a coun­try may be­come or how ef­fi­cient a com­pany may be.

While strides have been made, a great deal of work re­mains in clos­ing the gen­der gap. It’s sad to think we will have to wait an­other 42 years be­fore the gen­der wage gap be­comes vir­tu­ally nonex­is­tent. Maybe my grand­chil­dren will watch a show about the 2000s and 2010s and feel out­raged by the way women were treated in the work­force.

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