The Challenges Of Women In The Workplace In The United States

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Although the United States has come a long way throughout history by gaining the right to work and vote, there still exists a gender bias that remains in the workplace. Among these challenges of women in the workplace are the issue of equal pay, sexual harassment in the workplace, the struggle to decide to have children while in the midst of a career, trying to balance the life of work and home responsibilities, and the double-bind stereotype. While these challenges have been standing for women for decades, these issues have improved slightly, but are still considered a major issue among many women. There is evidenced to suggest that companies are attempting strategies to improve women’s pay, decrease the incidence of sexual harassment and support the work-life balance.

Equal Pay

The issue of equal pay has established a lot of attention over the past several years. Currently, women make up for about half of the workforce. In addition to this, they are also the main earners of a household with children for about half of the American families in the country and earn more college and graduate degrees than men. Despite these factors, they still earn significantly less than men. In 2016, women who worked full-time and worked all year made only 80 cents for every dollar that their male counterparts earned, which shows a wage gap of 20%. On average, women earn less than men in almost every profession that has enough earnings data for both men and women in order to find out an earnings ratio. It is reported that sex and race discrimination in the workplace shows that obvious discrimination in pay, hiring or advancements continue to be a noteworthy feature of employed life.

It is also noted that female-associated jobs tend to be undervalued. Jobs with a large number of women who are engaged in certain tasks that are related to reproductive or caring for others are usually paid less. Time spent per day while on the job is also important in understanding why female dominated jobs are lower paying. Since there are more women who work in more place on a part-time basis than working at a place with employees who work more over-time hours, they end up earning less than their male equals. Male-typical working hours in an occupation are supported by society as the ideal time of the day to work, and therefore are culturally valued less than female-typical working hours that are more lenient to give mothers time for unpaid home care work.

Another reason may be because women disproportionally look for occupations, including full-time occupations, that are inclined to be well-suited with child-care and other family responsibilities. Women, more so than men, are even anticipated to have a certain level of flexibility in their jobs such as work hours and shifts that can be changed and rearranged to accommodate emergencies at home. These types of jobs with this level of flexibility tend to be jobs with lower earnings per hour, even when the total number of hours is the same when a male and female work the same job.

Sexual Harassment

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While it may not be obvious to many women exactly how much their pay difference is from that of their male coworker, the issue of sexual harassment is often more blatant. Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination that is due to the person’s gender. There are several most recognized forms of sexual harassment. One includes direct sexual advances or suggestions where an employee, such as one who ranks higher than the individual being harassed, asks for sexual favors. Another in intimidation or barring women employees for the purpose of risking their employment status. Yet another includes creating a hostile work environment for women by using sexist jokes, comments or overtly displaying sexually explicit or pornographic images.

Sexual harassment is not mutual and is not welcomed. It is considered rude demeaning behavior and is usually about the abuse of power. This harassment can also be considered psychological abuse as it hurts the women’s sense of self and the work atmosphere. Other psychological outcomes can include anxiety, depression, headaches, difficulty sleeping, weight fluctuations, nausea and sexual dysfunction. Women are more likely than men to leave their jobs, more likely to move to another location in the company and more likely to lose jobs due to harassment. There can also be serious economic consequences from being sexually harassed since it jeopardizes a woman’s financial security if she feels the need to quit in order to prevent further harm to herself. There is evidence to say that women are more likely than men to become centers of workplace harassments, sexual harassment, gender grounded judgment and assault. These harmful experiences are a symbol of impediments for women’s career fulfillment and development as well as their organizational and individual well-being.

There is still discrimination against women that basically force them into lower-paying jobs such as care-giving positions that are not valued greatly and, in a way, sexual harassment helps keep them in these jobs. Though this may not be the intention of the individual doing the harassing, this tends to be the effect. When taken in this framework, male workers who harass women at work are doing more than being annoying. They are reminding her of her susceptibility and making pressures that make her job more difficult. This in effect can also make her cautious to look for higher paying jobs where she may see the pressure as being even greater. Overall, sexual harassment makes an environment full of intimidation and repression. A woman who is the target of sexual harassment tends to through the same process of victimization as someone who has survived a rape, battering or other gender-related crimes. This leads her to regularly blame herself and distrust her own self-worth.

Women employed in fields that are conventionally seen as “women’s work” such as waitressing and secretarial work, are usually given unskilled and debasing tasks. They tend to be called demeaning names and are led to believe that a certain amount of male domination and sexism is normal. All of this strengthens the idea that women are of little worth in the workplace. Women who attempt to break into traditionally male-dominated work such as construction jobs, medicine or financial investments often go through even more intense harassment obviously intended to compel them to leave. Therefore, sexual harassment tends to informally accomplish what laws against sex-based discrimination is supposed to stop; gender-based requirements for a place of employment. A woman exposed to sexual harassment undergoes degradation, pressure, or hostility that her male-coworkers don’t have to tolerate, which makes it that much harder to compete for the job and for progression.

Decision to have children

While being sexually harassed is not something women decide to have done to them, many do struggle to make the decision of whether to continue working full time and refrain from having children, have children and stay at home, partake in childcare and work part-time or being a full-time mother and full-time worker. Since the 1970’s there have been more and more women who chose to partake in both child care and working to some degree. This tendency has also been seen with a stable increase in the age of women having children and stable decrease in the overall birthrate in the country. Women who spend years in graduate and post graduate level studies in order to succeed in professional careers are not as likely to marry and become parents. Those that do marry and raise children are more likely to continue with their employment in some way after having children. The decision to start a family can be viewed as cost-benefit breakdown when taking into consideration time, money, lifestyle and the importance of having one’s own children. Women with careers have described the benefits of having children as obtaining the opportunity to partake in nurturing and satisfying a parenting role, more control and decision-making in the household, decreased stress from work and more time for the home and partner. Some women value their new sense of self as mothers over their previous identity as professional. The costs of child rearing include decrease or loss of career prospects, reduced assortment of social influences and reduced income as well as changes in identity from professional woman to mother and housewife.

It has been suggested that the decision to have children is based on the symbolic meaning that children have for the couple. In the past, children have been cherished for their capacity to contribute to the family income or take care of their parents as they age. In this age, our society has become more individualistic and the previous expectations of children are no longer expected to the same degree. Children are more likely to be viewed as a drain instead of as strength to the family.

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