How would you feel if you had to outperform most of your peers just to be treated as an equal? Welcome to the world of many women today in today’s workforce. I know you might be thinking, this is one of those touchy-feely articles that paint women as victims and to some extent you might be correct. I am 57 and have been working since the age of 16. I have to confess that spending 20 years in the Marine Corps did not improve my awareness of this disparity. I really started noticing the gulf between men and women after my military career was over. Here are some of the problems I have observed.
- Women do not have the same opportunity as men
It does not take long to figure out many higher office positions and occupations are male-dominated. If you are a woman and fortunate enough to work your way up into an upper echelon position, you will likely find it primarily dominated by men. The Huffington Post wrote an article about women’s opportunities in business compared to men: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/womenas-ilab/the-status-of-women-in-le_b_10842506.html. Women hit an all-time high number in 2017 with 32% making it to CEO positions in Fortune 500 companies. That number is correct, less than one third and that is the best year ever for women. I think the numbers speak for themselves.
2. Women do not make the same pay as their peers
This cannot happen in the workforce today, can it? In minimum wage jobs, not as likely, but in jobs where a salary is negotiated, it happens all too often. Business Insider has an article about wage inequality: https://www.businessinsider.com/gender-wage-pay-gap-charts-2017-3. You would think with the evidence of these statistics, things could be done to improve the situation. The pressure that is put on a woman is palpable. Many times, women are made to feel if they do not take the position at a lower wage, they will “miss” their opportunity for upward mobility. It is surprising when we think about the first two reasons for workforce inequality for women. What could be worse?
3. Sexual harassment
I am not going to venture into the “MeToo” movement. This blog stays away from religion, politics and other politically charged subjects. What we do not stay away from are facts. NPR has done many surveys on this subject, the most recent was February 2018 https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2018/02/21/587671849/a-new-survey-finds-eighty-percent-of-women-have-experienced-sexual-harassment. The survey found 81% of women have experienced some type of sexual harassment on their jobs. The same survey found only 43% of men experiencing this same harassment. The numbers are hard to believe in a draconian period of time, let alone 2018. I think we are heading toward the real problem with this inequality discussion.
4. Stereotypes linger from the “Good old days”
We only need to watch prime time television shows from any time in the last 50 years to see these stereotypes played out on popular sitcoms, news broadcasts and don’t even get me started on parading women around on the News stations today. We have these stereotypes and still, men will tell me “They make their own choices”. Are the same decisions being presented to men? We all know that sex sells and this is just a license to treat women as objects. Women are forced to take the low road in order to reach the high one. This is not equality, and the more we support organizations that do such things, the more we promote inequality.
5. Last but not least, we do not look at women as equals
Today, to say racism, sexism, and biases are not running ramped is to bury our heads in the sand. Think of two successful people off the top of your head. Here are some of the names that came to my mind: Warren Buffet, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates. Did you think of Oprah Winfrey or Sheryl Sandberg? What if I told you Oprah has a net worth of 2.9 billion dollars or Sheryl Sandberg is at 1.5 billion dollars. We don’t hear nearly as much about the success of women holding top positions in their respective organizations even though they are common buzzwords in your daily vocabulary. Sheryl Sandberg said it best “We cannot change what we are not aware of, and once we are aware, we cannot help but change”.
6. In conclusion
It is sad we have people on this planet that cannot treat others as equals, but with women, we are talking about half the planet. When I was in the Marine Corps, they would tell us “You are either part of the solution or part of the problem”. We have much work to do in leveling the playing field for women in the workforce. It all starts with how we look at them and what we see. I look and see my daughters, my beautiful wife and want them to have equal opportunities for happiness and success. Look around this week. Is the playing field level? What are you doing to change the environment?