Gender Inequality in the Workplace

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Women have faced numerous obstacles in order to succeed in American society. Historically speaking, women have been held at low standards by their male counterparts, which at some point, became perceived as acceptable by them. From not being able to vote or being able to pursue an education, to being considered nothing by child bearers- women have had their roles in society unfairly decided by everyone but themselves. Our society has always been set up in the realm of misogyny and patriarchy. In “Threatening Women” Kate Manne defines misogyny as “…the system that operated within a patriarchal social order to police and enforce women’s subordinations and to uphold male dominance.” These foundations of male dominance established by our ancestors have been major factors in the struggles of women and continue to affect them even today. It is no mystery that inequality amongst men and women is still very much alive in our time. The “traditional” family model in this country, is still holds up to be made up of the father who works and provides, and the mother who cleans, cooks and takes care of the home and children. Additionally, for the most part, men are still considered the heads of household and decision makers for their family regardless of their actual role or contribution. These examples shape and affect the way women are perceived in society, specifically in the workplace.

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Allowing women in the workplace was a huge step in American history. After the feminist movement in the 1960’s, women became closer to balancing the scale of equality by obtaining the right to work. However, some problems still prevailed that prevented for real equality in the workplace. In 1963, The Commission on the Status of Women report led directly to the passage of the Equal Pay Act. The Equal Pay Act made it illegal to pay different wages to men and women who performed the same job. However, the new law had little effect on narrowing the wage gap between the sexes. The reason being, is that most female workers remained in jobs traditionally held by women only, which offered very low wages and little prospect for advancement. This again stemmed from the idea that men were the ones meant to earn money and to be the more dominant sex, and although women were allowed to work, their contribution in the workplace was perceived as minimal.

The gender pay gap is a social problem that has been controversial and is very much present despite the many efforts to close it. Although the pay gap is narrowing, women in the U.S. working full-time and part-time are still making significantly less money than men. Even in the highest ranked professions women are falling short despite their level of skills and experience. In medicine specifically, there is an extremely wide gap in pay which is not just an issue in the United States but in European countries as well. Women are receiving less in terms of compensation and career advancement in the medical field which has been reported by many physicians themselves. Studies have documented that women make significantly less money than their male counterparts- even after taking into account factors such as hours worked, experience and educational background. According to a study by Susan Read, in 2017, the median annual salary for men was $50, 000 higher than that for women ($250,000 vs. $200,000, respectively), indicating that women earned 80 cents for every dollar earned by men (Read, 2017.) This is just a national average however, the inequality in pay is much greater if looked at through a smaller scale. For example, Doximity’s second annual report showed that the gender pay gap was most pronounced in Charleston, South Carolina, where women doctors earned 37%, or $134,499, less than male doctors last year (Doximity). That was followed by Kansas City, Missouri, where the gap was 32%, or $131,996. Men also own approximately 85 percent of private practices, which tend to pay better than working at a hospital or university- according to the same report. Even so, female owners or partners of private practices were still out-earned. Male partners and owners made $420,629, on average, while women made $306,039 (Levingston, 2018.) As mentioned, this disparity is not only seen within the United States, countries overseas present similar numbers in regard to this wage disparity. The National Health Society (NHS) in the United Kingdom reported that male doctors receive an average £67,788 in basic pay, compared with £57,569 for female doctors – a difference of £10,219 or 15% (National Health Society.) Even though many approaches are currently being discussed, it is quite shocking that these numbers are still being reported in 2018. Moreover, the top leadership positions in medicine remain predominantly occupied by males. Only 15% of department chairs are women, and only 16% of medical school deans are female (Sklar, 2016.) For the past 10 years, according to an Association of American Medical Colleges report, women in academic medicine have received only 30% of new tenured positions (AAMC.)

In her article “Gender Pay Gaps in Medicine” Brita Roy expresses the reasons for the wage gap in American medicine are attributed to fewer women in leadership roles and in senior positions, and also a lack of mentorship and sponsorship for women to promote career advancement. Some experts argue however, that women are bad negotiators and therefore do not have the ability to request better pay. Others agree that our perception of men being always the “head of households” gives them a priority and ultimately a better salary and more opportunities. Additionally, the fact that the medical field in 2018 is predominated by men, is another possible factor of why men are compensated better. Today females account for around 23.1% of physicians in the in the United States. That figure is set to change however, because more females are reported to be attending medical school. According to records from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), 2017 was the first year that more women enrolled in U.S. medical schools than men. The association reported that women comprised 50.7 percent of 21,338 enrollees in 2017, compared to 49.8 percent of 19,254 enrollees in 2016. Perhaps more women in medicine will be help achieve a more balanced ratio of men and women in senior positions and provide better pay.

The negative long-term effects that disparities in the workplace have on women, reach higher levels than simply unfairness. For example, failure to pay women equally limits their ability to attain economic stability. If women were paid the same as men, for instance, the poverty rate among working women would decrease from 8.0% to 3.8%, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. This is specifically crucial for women who are on their own, or have responsibilities of children. This does not only have a tremendous effect on women presently but also in their future when they seek retirement. Such disparities only project that women will be working longer than men because they are receiving less money throughout their life. The obstacles faced by women will also have an impact on their families, especially if they are the only ones providing for them. Lastly, the lack of career advancement opportunities and unequal pay are huge factor that can lead women to abandon their professions or reconsidered going into the medical field.

According to Natelege Whaley, the gender pay gap is expected to close by the year 2059, based on the rate it narrowed between 1960 and 2016. Other racial groups however, will likely require a longer timeframe to achieve this. Black women for example, who make 63 cents for every dollar white men receive, would not see equal pay until 2124. It would take Hispanic women until 2248 to hit the same benchmark since they make 54 cents to the dollar. Women of color are at a higher disadvantage because not only do they face gender bias, they also encounter racial bias. Creating paths for women will create them for all kinds of women nonetheless.

Gender disparities in medicine are not caused by fewer hours worked or by performance amongst men and women. Women are simply being underpaid because of their sex and because what they represent in American society. As mentioned, this injustice is due to the fact that women are not yet viewed as authoritative figures in the workplace. Men still make up most of the senior positions in hospitals, private clinics and even medical schools which can have long term negative impacts of women’s careers and their outlooks of their future. I think as a society, we will not start seeing change in the workplace unless women are given the same opportunities as men. A woman physician has the same training and possesses the same skills any men physician does. We need to start by placing more women in leadership positions and providing them with the same mentorship and support. Whether it is to promote them as chief of surgery or the dean of a medical institution, a rise in the number of strong women in power would help promote a broader and more positive public perceptions. Furthermore, I believe senior women in medicine need to reach out to those starting their careers and share their experiences, advice and mentor them but ultimately support them.

It is important to recognize how gender greatly affects our lives in the personal, professional, and political spectrums, and how important it is to work to eliminate sexism in our culture, but it is also important not to become discouraged in the process. Despite the substantial efforts that have been made for women to achieve equality in society, we still have a long way to go. It is admirable how far women have come by speaking out for themselves and I hope we keep up the momentum to achieve bigger things for them. Even though expectations for women leaders will much higher than for men, who seem to be accepted regardless, I hope we can find a way to look at women based on their capabilities and expertise rather than their sex. It is absolutely unreasonable that after undergoing college and medical school, the skills and intelligence that women have acquired is being undermined due to patriarchal values and misogynistic ideas.

References

Levingston, I. (2018) Female Doctors Make $105,000 Less Than Male Peers, Review Finds. Retrieved from: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-03-14/female-doctors make-105-000-less-than-male-peers-review-finds

Manne, Kate. “Threatening Women”. Down Girl: Logic of Misogyny. New York: Oxford

University Press, 2018. Print 31-54.

Read, S., Butkus, R., Weissman, A., & Moyer, D. (2018). Compensation Disparities by Gender in Internal Medicine. Annals of Internal Medicine, 169(9), 658–661

Roy, B. (2018). Gender Pay Gaps in Medicine: Moving from Explanations to Action. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 33(9), 1413–1414.

Sklar, D. P. (2016). Women in Medicine: Enormous Progress, Stubborn Challenges. Academic Medicine, 91(8), 1033-1035.

Whaley. N. (2018) 3 Long-Term Effects the Gender Pay Gap Has on Women. Retrieved

from: https://mic.com/articles/188833/3-long-term-effects-the-gender-pay-gap-has-on-women   

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Gender Inequality in the Workplace. (2020, May 13). Retrieved September 25, 2022 , from
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