7 Ways Women Still Aren't Equal in the Workplace

As children without filters are always quick to point out, I have a slightly unusual name. I’ll admit, it’s no “Adolf” or “Hashtag.” It does not have any unnecessary silent letters or an obscure spelling (though, that doesn’t stop the people at Starbucks from writing “Taylee” on my coffee cup). No, I just have a boy’s name. While I jokingly blame my mother for every problem it has caused, in her defense, she had a pretty good excuse. Namely, that she didn’t want anyone to look at my resume and discriminate against me because I was a woman.

I used to think her excuse was a bit outdated, that gender discrimination doesn’t actually happen nowadays, but apparently I was wrong. In a story coming out of Germany, a woman was fired by her employer because there was the possibility that she could get pregnant after marrying her boyfriend. In an email to the woman, the employer noted:

For a woman of your age it is ‘normal’ to become pregnant and have children…but we must take consideration of our business concerns. We would be happy to embark upon the ‘re-establishment’ of our business in Düsseldorf – but that will obviously not work if you are absent in 2012 due to a pregnancy.

So, to recap, this woman was fired for something that hadn’t even happened yet. Almost as ridiculous as Carly Rae Jepsen’s claim that, “Before you came into my life, I missed you so bad,” the situation resulted in a lawsuit that granted the woman in question over € 10,000.

As much as I want to say that this is not the norm (and I really, really do), statistics prove that inequality in the workplace still exists, in a number of ways.

1) Pregnancy Discrimination

While amendments to the Americans With Disabilities Act demand that employers accommodate workers with medical complications from pregnancy, pregnancy itself is not considered a disability. Therefore, employers don’t have to legally accommodate pregnant workers, even for the most minor requests. In one case, a woman who worked at a Walmart in Kansas was fired for asking to carry a bottle of water with her as she stocked the shelves. Even after providing a doctor’s note, the woman was plainly told to ditch the water or leave.

2) Pay Inequality

I’m not going to say that women make 77 cents to every man’s dollar because, contrary to popular belief, that is not actually true. (After adjusting for vacation time and profession choice, statistics show that women make 91 cents to every man’s dollar.)  I will, however, question why this percentage had to be adjusted. Many occupations are “gendered,” meaning they are associated with masculine or feminine connotations. For example, female nurses are considered “normal” while male nurses are usually not. In many cases, men are associated with the higher paying versions of such jobs, like a doctor. This problem begs the question: How do we strip the higher paying jobs of their gender connotations?

3) Overmentored, Undersponsored

According to Harvard Business Review, surveys show that “high-potential women are overmentored and undersponsored relative to their male peers.” What does this mean? It means that women are awarded multiple mentors, who will send them to more presentations and meetings, but not sponsors, who can “[use their] influence with senior executives to advocate for the mentee.” This translates to more work, but less connections, which doesn’t really seem like a fair balance.

4) Flawed Maternity-Leave Policies

Under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), workers are eligible for up to 12 weeks of maternity leave. That is, unless they work at a small company or have been employed for less than a year. Otherwise, 8 weeks is the maximum length of time. As it stands, this law only protects one half of the workforce from unlawful termination. In one report, a woman who agreed to get a C-section in exchange for having 11 weeks of maternity leave was fired because the agreement was not put in writing. As if new mothers didn’t already have enough problems.

5) More Grads, Less Money

Recently, the Washington Post reported that although nearly 60 percent of each year’s class of college graduates are women (a number which exceeds that of men), the guys still rake in the larger paychecks once they emerge from college. And why? Well mainly because…

6) …children. (Motherly Expectations)

Despite the growing number of female bread-winners, women are often still expected to handle the classic motherly duties. In fact, while 40 percent of moms work part-time to take care of their children, only 3 percent of men do the same. I guess what I’m trying to say is that we need more Mr. Moms.

7) Equality is not considered a priority.

In 2012, when a female executive at the Computer Sciences Corporation filed a sexual harassment case against one of her coworkers, she was told to “quit complaining” and was later fired. Earlier, in 2011, a day spa worker informed her boss that many male customers had exposed themselves to her, but the company did nothing to stop it, claiming that reporting the incident would drive away customers. This year, an airline pilot filed a sex discrimination suit against Delta Airlines, claiming they “ignored her complaints about being harassed in the cockpit.”

There is a pattern here: negative behavior toward women in the workplace is ignored because it is not a priority. A sweeping statement? Perhaps. But if these stories (and the movie Jaws) has taught me anything, it’s that hiding a problem for the sake of publicity or money doesn’t end well for anyone.

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