Closing the Gap for Women’s Inequality in the Workplace
November 27, 2015 12:00 AM EST | 6 min read
There is a natural gender gap that tends to be created by the difference between men and women in many areas of life.
Given our society and the difference in how the genders are treated socially and professionally, some gaps are no longer natural and are created by various causes that stem from the treatment of each gender.
Women, specifically, have seen the most change in the gender gap from being seen as the weaker sex to pushing for an equal position with their male counterparts.
The obvious inequalities of gender in the working world have developed from the social inequality of women in other areas of society.
Despite the advancements made for women throughout history, there is still a long way to go to obtain equal pay, social standing, and education for women.
Careers and men
Traditionally in the United States men were seen as the breadwinners and women were seen as the homemakers.
This has since changed and both men and women are commonly seen bringing home the bacon.
Unfortunately, one gender seems to bring home a bigger pig than the other.
It is no secret that women are statistically paid less than men.
In 2014, women working full-time in the U.S. were typically paid 79 percent of what men were paid.
Not only that, but there are many careers that are very male-centric.
Most careers in technology, engineering, professional cooking, law enforcement, emergency services, sports, math, politics, and manual labor have an overtly male workforce and tend to pay more than the careers dominated by women.
Careers and women
When women were introduced to the working world it was a long crawl to get where we are today.
It took generations for women to obtain the education and standing in many careers to claw their way to equal standing with their male counterparts.
And once they got there they still weren’t paid as much as the men were.
Computer science, for instance, is vastly skewed gender-wise with only 17.6 percent of programmers being female in 2011 compared to 37 percent in the mid 1980’s.
Furthermore, the careers dominated by men are difficult careers to obtain when you aren’t a member of the boys club.
The careers dominated by women are nurses, teachers, social workers, counselors, human resource managers, and advertisers.
The difference between many of the male versus female-dominated jobs tends to be the physical, science, and math versus the maternal and caring.
This may seem like a natural gap in careers based on each gender’s natural interests, but many of these preferences do not exist naturally and are a product of social norms, not our biology.
The rise of women
It’s not all bad news for women, though, as some industries are seeing a rise in women in previously male-dominated positions.
CPA’s, that used to be mainly men, have flipped and women have the percentage of CPA positions in the United States.
This is a great thing for the financial industry, especially as accounting was the most profitable private business sector in the U.S. in 2014.
In Washington, D.C. and Maryland the gender pay gap is the smallest due in large part to the number of people working for the government.
The pay for men and women isn’t equal just yet, but the gap has shrunk considerably at 15 percent over the past 20 years.
According to the Pew Research Center, today’s young women are starting their careers better educated than their male counterparts and the gender gap has lessened considerably since our mothers and grandmothers joined the workforce.
The lack of women in leadership positions
One giant area of inequality among the working world is the lack of women in leadership positions.
The fact of the matter is that men hold the majority of the leadership positions in most of the career spectrums across the map.
According to Deborah Rhode and Barbara Kellerman in their book Women and Leadership, “In management, women account for about a third of M.B.A. classes, but only 2 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs, 6 percent of top earners, 8 percent of top leadership positions, and 16 percent of board directors and corporate officers.
In law, women constitute about half of new entrants to the profession, but less than a fifth of law firm partners, federal judges, law school deans, and Fortune 500 general counsels.
Half the students in divinity school are women, but they account for only 3 percent of the pastors of large congregations in protestant churches that have been ordaining women for decades.”
The importance of STEM
Among the jobs listed where men are more prevalent are the jobs in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields.
There has been a growing need for women to be represented in each of these fields because they make up such a small percentage of each sector.
As mentioned before, it is not necessarily a matter of women being uninterested in the topic, but rather an issue of education and social norms.
Little girls tend to spend their childhood being given interests that mesh to society’s view of their genders such as dolls and stuffed animals.
Boys are given the same interests, the difference being that their interests, like Lego’s and toy cars, tend to appeal to the problem-solving parts of the brain.
Education and social expectation for each gender is beginning to change for many young people to promote different interests.
The result should be a more varied skillset for both genders, with girls feeling accepted and interested in the STEM courses and boys feeling the same way about being maternal and artistic.
Women have seen many great positive changes in the workplace since the beginning of the women’s movement.
It is important to celebrate those wins while still pushing for the overall goal of equality.
Women in the workplace have come a long way from staying home while their husbands were the breadwinners.
It’s important to acknowledge the careers heavily female or male based and understand what each of those careers offers for each sex.
The idea of gender normativity needs to disband along with the notion that men should be paid more than women and that it’s normal for the gender gap in leadership positions to be so vast.
With women becoming more interested and encouraged to participate in STEM learning, job options will expand and help create a more equal workplace for both sexes.