Gender inequality in the workplace has been a prevalent ethical issue in American history for decades. Not only is it rooted in society’s gender stereotypes, the workplace equality is further skewed by education level, preferred hours of work, potential pregnancy and maternity leave, and differs based on occupation. Inequality is highly affected by human resource departments of organizations and appears to promote institutional and personal discrimination towards women. Hostile and benevolent sexism make workplaces an unsafe environment for women to advance and negatively impact women’s performance. Solutions to gender inequality are extremely complex and will take decades to fully diminish into an issue of the past.
The history of gender inequality in the workplace begins with the ideas of women being the caretakers of the family, while men are expected to be the family’s financial support system. The gender roles were implemented during the 19th century and have yet to be removed from American society. Women were expected to cook, clean, and care for children, while the men worked hard during the day and came home to a cooked meal and children that were already taken care of by their mother. These gender roles provided a base for gender stereotypes, including ideas about women not being as strong as men, women being more emotional, and even that women should not hold power positions. (1) These gender stereotypes are still prevalent in our society because young girls are learning what is expected of them through the stereotypes, which are being reinforced in schools and at home. (1)
Women have been fighting for equality through the judicial system since the 1900s and are still being faced with daily challenges. Before the 19th Amendment in 1920 that granted women the right to vote, women were paying taxes into a system that they had no voice in and were not being granted the full privileges of an American citizen. In 1923, Alice Paul proposed the Equal Rights Amendment that stated, “Equality of rights under the law shall not be abridged by the United States of by any State on account of sex”. This amendment has been brought to every congress since 1982 and has yet to be ratified. (2) This provides proof that despite women’s hard work, they are still battling for legal equality.
The gender pay gap is continuously the largest quantitative example of gender-based discrimination in the American workplace. As of 2014, women made roughly 77 cents per every full dollar a man made. This is a 16 cent increase that resulted from narrowing of the pay gap through the hard work of feminists in 1980. (1) The average full-time working male makes roughly $42,000 per year compared to the $34,700 that a full-time working female makes. The gender pay gap results in a loss of potentially $8,100 per year for women. (1) The gap is detrimental to a woman’s future because starting salaries directly determine lifetime earnings. The pay difference causes a lack of financial support and poorer living conditions that women are able to provide for their families. Women are blatantly underpaid for their equal contributions to a company. This is even more prevalent in highly paid, executive level jobs that are considered a “male role”. (1) Gender bias is the unequal treatment in employment opportunities and higher expectations towards women because of attitudes based upon their sex.
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