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I used to think her excuse was a bit outdated, that gender discrimination doesn’t actually happen nowadays, but apparently I was wrong.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.

Image via Shutterstock

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001322750751 Shahar Dror-tabak

    It’s sad that even today this happens.
    Great article and great way to raise awareness to the problem

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=559203968 Jeff Trigger

    I’m a little confused here, mainly with point number six. Women work part time and make less money because men work full time. I’m not saying it is the woman’s job to take care of the kids, as I think both parents bare responsibility. However, if it is your argument that women make 91 cents to every man’s dollar, doesn’t it indeed make sense, as well as the best interest of the child, for the man to work full time and the woman work part time?

    I’m just waiting for the hate spam.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1525920225 John Fossum

    I have a few points of contention on the article, Tyler.

    You immediately refuted point 2 yourself, and then turned the perceived inequality into a more open-ended “why don’t women gun for the high paying job sectors?” question. If it isn’t really a problem of inequality inside the workplace, what place does it have on your list?

    Point 4 is where I have a real issue. Women face discrimination in the workplace because you think the maternity leave system is a bit wonky? Write about it when even a good fraction of US business have paternity leave systems. Inequality indeed.

    Point 5 is just a re-hashed point 2, except you forgot that you already refuted your point 2.

    Your argument in point 6 is that mothers work part-time to take care of kids while fathers do not. Yet, the manager at Dairy Queen does not decide who in the household takes care of the kids during the day, so don’t peg the labor market with discrimination. Unless, of course, you would like talk about the real reason why men don’t stay home with the kids – they do not get paternity leave! In the end, the only actual workplace discrimination going on in this case is against fathers. That discrimination does have a negative economic impact on mothers too, imagine that.

    Point 7 is flat out not a issue of inequality. In order for it to be “a way that men and women were unequal”, you would have to argue that men’s issues with workplace inequality are taken more seriously than women’s. In point 7 you are just saying that the rest of your points are not being addressed enough.

    So really you have a list of maybe 3 ways women aren’t equal in the workplace.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000298427755 Miniem Goudlicht

    1. Pregnancy simply isn’t a disability, and to consider it as one would be wrong on multiple levels, not to mention needlessly complicate the Act. The example mentioned isn’t an example of the law not protecting women enough, it’s an example of a manager being an asshole and both parties not even trying to find a compromise.

    2. Specific genders being associated with certain professions is not a problem in and of itself, even if there is a significant difference in pay between genders on average. First off, it’s not preventing either gender from doing what they would really want to do, if a woman wants to be a doctor, she can, no problem, and if a man wants to be nurse, he can, not a problem either. Secondly, for something to even be “a problem” there has to be a solution to it, otherwise it’s merely a disliked fact. Since most jobs’ gender connotations come from a specific gender generally being better at it, more invested in it or simply liking it better than the other gender, it’s safe to assume there will always be more people of that gender doing that job. So unless you want to ASSIGN people with jobs, there’s no solution to this and it is thus, not a problem.

    3. This is a direct effect of many occupations being ‘gendered’, since most people are more inclined to connect and network with people of the same gender. So again, yes it’s an inequality, but it’s not something you can really fix, it’s the way people are.

    4. Again with the manager being an asshole? If the employer would’ve been a reasonable and decent person she wouldn’t have gotten fired, it’s that simple. Sure it’s harsh that she was, but if this was about paternity or a man taking extended unpaid leave for another reason he could’ve been fired as well. This isn’t even an inequality.

    5. Well mainly because… of what exactly? Because of the flawed argument about gendered occupations? I would like to think we’ve covered that by now. Or is it because of women working less than men so they can be more at home? If so, that’s their choice. You can’t seriously expect women to be paid more when working less so the total amount of pay equals to that of men.

    6. That’s not even about gender inequality in the workplace but about the roles they take on at home. It’s nice you’re asking for more Mr. Moms but it’s irrelevant to the issue, nor a problem you can (or should) fix with regulations.

    7. Well that’s just cute, if you want to talk about harassment claims and how they are prioritized by companies, try filing one as a man. Though men get less harassed than women, in the workplace or in general, it’s harder for men to do something about it. They’re less likely to be taken seriously (especially by other men) and usually face more shame and ridicule because they’ll be perceived as ‘weak’ and ‘whiney’ by their peers. And the fact that women get harassed more than men in general isn’t an inequality specific to the workplace.

    Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying there is no gender inequality in the workplace and there’s nothing we can do about it. What I am saying is that the mentioned examples are bad ones, at best, and have many underlying complexities that are completely overlooked in this article. I would also like to point out that not all gender inequality is bad per se. Men and women are different in a vast number of ways, treating them as exact equals would be completely inconsiderate and unfair to both.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004002023189 Bob Jones

    I pretty much agree with most of the comments already posted here, so I won’t rehash what has already been said too much.

    While the pregnancy/maternity examples listed are extreme and I’ll even agree unfair and ridiculous in and of themselves (especially the one about the woman who got married and was let go because should could “become” pregnant… which I’ll have more to say about in a bit), I don’t really see how pregnancy/maternity leave can even be considered an equal rights between the genders issue.

    It’s not like there is anything comparable for men to take time off for. While I did agree with most of what was said in the other comments criticizing this article, and while I see where a couple of people are coming from with the lack of paternity leave being an option, I do also see where it is different for women since they are the ones who actually become pregnant and actually have more of a reason/need to be near the baby for those weeks following birth (i.e. breast feeding) than the father does (not that the father shouldn’t be around, it’s just not that the same).

    But with that being the case, pregnancy and maternity leave is an issue that is completely unique to women. While I do think that work places should have a decent maternity leave policy in place, whether they do or not is not really discriminatory in terms of women not getting equal treatment as men since it is an issue that simply doesn’t effect men in the same way to begin with. Even though I personally wouldn’t agree with it, technically firing a woman for taking maternity leave is equal treatment if they would also fire a man claiming to take time off for maternity leave. I know that sounds like a crazy sentence, and in many ways it is. Like I said earlier, I think work places should have a proper maternity leave policy in place that allows women to take time off to be with their new borns. But it’s simply not an equal rights issue since it’s not an issue that effects both genders equally to begin with. It is something that requires a special exception for one gender over the other. In other words, sometimes there shouldn’t be true equal rights because certain considerations need to be taken for certain things that only effect one gender and not the other.

    The only example related to the issue of pregnancy/maternity leave that I see as being truly discriminatory in treating a woman differently than a man was the woman who got fired because she could “become pregnant.” Granted men can’t become pregnant, so that difference technically exists, but I still see is as discriminatory against women because she was NOT actually pregnant, just like any and all men also working for that company are also not pregnant. And that boss didn’t know what her plans even were. Maybe she and her husband don’t even want kids. Maybe she went so far as to get her tubes tied or something to prevent it from happening (as unlikely as that may be).

    Also, I’m not quite sure exactly how the 91 cents to ever dollar statistic is actually calculated, but to spring board off some other comments made here, it’s really only a valid argument if you are comparing two people with the same qualifications who have been doing the same job for the same company for the same amount of time with the same degree of success at the job (i.e. comparing a woman working part time to a man working full time does not count at all).

    There are varying reasons why 2 people (whether they are the same gender or opposite genders) might do the same job and get different pay. If they work in the same/similar jobs for different companies, one company may pay more than the other. Even if they do work for the same company, one person may have been in the position longer than the other. They may both have started out at similar salaries, but the one who has had more opportunity to get more raises. Sometimes some people are hired at different starting salaries based on their qualifications and how badly the company wants them in that position. While both people may fall well within and above the qualifications required for the job, one person may have a more attractive resume by comparison with more experience, or more of other things the company is looking for. It’s not that they don’t want the other, slightly less qualified person to not work there, but they see the more qualified person as being more desirable and possibly having more options elsewhere, so they will do more to secure that person as an employee, including offering more money to start. Some companies have “pay for performance” policies where they give higher raises to those who excel at the job more. Both people may be doing a fine job overall, but if one person goes above and beyond the call of duty more often than the other, they are going to get bigger raises. Also when it comes to raises and assessing employee performances, that can vary from boss to boss. You could have two people doing the same job, who started at the same salary, who both had almost identical qualifications and who objectively are approximately equal in their job performance, but they report to two different bosses, and one may be more generous and willing to overlook the small stuff while the other likes to nitpick over every minor mistake along the way.

    That’s not to say that true gender discrimination doesn’t happen at all. I’m sure that it still does and it is very unfortunate when it truly does occur. But as I have illustrated here, there are many other factors to be considered that aren’t necessarily gender specific. And in cases of higher paying jobs where there just happen to be more men than women holding those positions than women because more men just tend to gravitate towards them, based on this varying criteria that I’ve outlined above, of course it’s more likely for men on average to make more money than women because there’s simply more of them. If 3 out of 4 people holding the same job are male, with the 4th person being female, then there’s a 75% chance that the top performing person out of those 4 is going to be male. Not because women are any less smart on average, it’s just that when there are fewer women even competing in the first place, then statistically the odds of a woman being the “winner” in these cases is reduced. It’s no different than if I have a bag full of marbles that contains 75 blue marbles and 25 red ones all randomly mixed together. If I reach in without looking and randomly pick out one marble at a time, odds are I’m going to be pulling blue ones out far more frequently than red ones. It’s the same basic principle.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1016710235 Michelle Vendetti

    Personally I find it quite interesting that all of the people bitching and Moaning about what a bad article this is are men. Coincidence? I think not!

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=772287519 Sarah Feldman

      Thank you for saying what I was thinking.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1525920225 John Fossum

      Interesting that the only person discriminating on gender in the comments is you

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1016710235 Michelle Vendetti

        Not true now is it??! HA!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=772287519 Sarah Feldman

    Great article. Shame that some people respond with negativity!
    Such as claiming that two wrongs make a right (men get harassed too & are ridiculed if they report it so everyone should learn to suck it up?). Or that this has nothing to do with equal rights between genders because pregnancy is unique to women. Prostate cancer is unique to men so women stop donating or aiding in any way to find a cure. Or straight allies, quit fighting for LGBT rights (because that will get results). Do you not have a wife, daughter, mother, aunt? What if we all became aware, understanding, and made an effort to hold people responsible for their stupid behavior without lawsuits & the like? Both genders should care for each other, equally.

    I am an engineer working in the maritime industry (maybe 10% women in that field). Number 7 really hits home. Making a working environment that is professional, safe, and unbiased towards gender/race/etc is not a priority for many. I’ve worked on plenty of ships since I was 18 & most of the time the rest of the crew is male, aged 35-68. (Yes, I sailed with a very salty 68 year old sailor.) Once someone has that experience, I would say they are qualified to try to dispute this article…
    Thick skin only works so well… until examples like the above happen (… too many men exposing themselves hm).

    I would highly recommend watching the documentary, Miss Representation (Netflix!). That is a real eye opener.
    Watch it now.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=625480040 Johanna Sch

    Like Michelle mentioned, it is FASCINATING that all the people disputing what is said above (and in such detail, oh my!) are men. Because whenever someone dares to talk about inequality, many men are quick to rush in and say “no no, dear women, you’ve got that wrong!”. The best ones are the sentences starting with “I’m not saying that..”, inevitably to be followed by a huge “BUT”.. yes, yes you are saying that. If you’d at least be honest about it, I could take you more seriously.

    Anywho! That example of the lady in Düsseldorf is sadly not entirely an anomaly here in Germany, but parental leave is actually pretty decent; my neighbors are both taking a year off at the moment (yes, BOTH) to be with their baby, and are both going to be heading back into their jobs after. A much bigger problem we have here, aside from the male-female inequality, is the east-west inequality… the USSR really did a number on the 5 states it influenced during the Cold War, and they’ve never bounced back.
    Either way: great article!!

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=698521791 Robert Horan

      So by not agreeing with you we are part of the problem? All men treat women with inequity? That sound more like bigotry than wisdom. We all need to look in the mirror to solve our problems. Blaming others never solves anything, it only makes it a pissing match between us and them. You aren’t going to change peoples mind about things, you can only change your own mind.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002456468215 Reich Erruschach

    “7 Ways Women Still Aren’t Equal in the Workplace”

    1) Pregnancy Discrimination
    4) Flawed Maternity-Leave Policies

    Because women can’t get leave for being pregnant and men can?

    Hardly see how this falls under the “equality” tag. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not disputing that pregnant women should be allowed maternity leave… but as men are unable to get pregnant (at least according to what I remember from biology class) it isn’t an equality issue here and it probably never will be able to equate to one. So to bring them up in comparison to “equality” is just ridiculous.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1508315169 Giannis Maimaris

    Well let’s see… In my country (Greece) women get to retire 5 or more years sooner than men, get pregnancy leaves (while being paid) while men cannot and can take more money if they are single parents. If you count 1 year of military service (which is involuntary for men and is required if you want to find ANY job) women get possibly 1 year of experience more than men… I can go on with this but you get the point…

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1508315169 Giannis Maimaris
  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100006498410980 Hazel Mae Hansen

    I’m making $86 an hour working from home. I was shocked when my neighbour told me she was averaging $95 but I see how it works now. I feel so much freedom now that I’m my own boss. This is what I do, http://www.Best96.com

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1503392624 Denice Laws Davies

    Up until roughly 100 years ago, and after hundreds of years of oppression, women didn’t have any public choices: They couldn’t vote; own property; hold public office; go to college; have a professional career; seek divorce; keep their children after a divorce; couldn’t have a legal, safe abortion; couldn’t be represented by an official in a court of law that was their own gender; couldn’t go to a medical doctor that was their own gender; etc., etc., etc..

    Generation after generation of women (and men) have chipped away at institutionalized gender discrimination and oppression so that all women could begin to protect themselves and their children from an oppressive patriarchy that often plowed them under – women who otherwise had no way of protecting their own interests.

    So, how do responsible, empowered women ‘feel’ about the shameful, hateful male-centered comments on here? It comes with the territory. We are proud of what women have already achieved in our laws and no petty sniping through anonymous comment threads can ever take that away. Maternity leave, sexual harassment and equal pay is just another push in a long line of victories for women.

    My advice for women everywhere: don’t tolerate that kind of behavior, and don’t bother trying to engage someone in conversation (male or female) who deep down hates women and has no empathy for our struggles (and there are just as many women who discriminate against their own gender as the men do, so beware). Last but not least, hold your heads up high and keep moving forward.

    • meribast

      When you advocate against injustice and inequity regardless of gender then you will be promoting gender equality. When you seek to reserve certain rights to a specific gender and not another, then you have inequality, no matter for whom the gender.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1073045857 Carina Kchira-Glauser

    I also get fired in Switzerland two month ago because my boss (45, german woman, no kids) thought I would want to get pregnant. Just because I wanted a antique babyshoe which I found sweet. How wired is that?!? Unfortunately I didnt have the insurance which I needed to take proceedings against. In Switzerland woman also get less money for the same job.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1199727602 Joy Schindler

    When the economy collapsed and it was time to make cuts, the retail store I worked for laid off 4 female middle managers and 1 male. Also let me not forget to mention the fact that the General Manager pulled a female manager into his office, cussed her out, call her a bitch (which is sooo inappropriate I can’t stand it). She sooned resigned. (btw, she was a super sweet person)

    The company I work for was ALSO under investigation for routinely discriminating against minorities in its hiring practices.

    To say that there is not inequalities in the work place is silly, to try and refute this post is silly. It truly happens. Come live in the south my friends.

Need more Giggles?
Like us on Facebook!

Want more Giggles?
Sign up for our newsletter!