Discrimination is an ugly self-perpetuating cycle. Once society establishes social norms it is extremely difficult to break out of the mold. There is a common misconception that the days of sexual discrimination are over. Comments like “we are not in the days of mad men “or “that’s ancient history” undermine women’s struggle for equality. Women have the same mental capacity as men but often are paid less for doing the same work.
“Back in the day”
There was a day when the workplace deemed womanhood a liability and a handicap. Many believed that women were ill-suited for leadership positions because they are “too emotional.” Work that women performed was tainted by the murky belief that their work is somehow substandard. People believed women should be at home taking care of children. Employers feared pregnancy disruption.
The workplace is a different world for women today. However, they often still only get paid 77 cents for every dollar men make, are met with more suspicion and wait longer to get promoted. Women are sometimes passed up for promotions solely because of their gender. FedEx Freight Inc. was charged $115,000 because of its discriminatory practices. They hired an unqualified man over three qualified women applicants. Unfortunately injustice like this sometimes still happen. Women are passed over for promotions in lieu of men simply because of their gender. A glass ceiling is where all possibilities for promotion become eliminated based on factors such as sex or race. Sometimes when women make it to high ranking levels they hit a glass ceiling and are no longer able to advance.
Some argue that there is a common thread among most sectors of employment and that is lower pay for women. This is even true in fields where women dominant the workforce. The only exception is in the fashion and adult film industries where women are routinely and notoriously exploited. Female models make two to three times more than their male counterparts. In all other industries, women are paid less. In the past, women were paid less because “they do not support families.” Now, even this flimsy excuse has clear holes. Today, half of women are the family bread winners, but women’s pay does not reflect their additional responsibilities.
Women have a precarious position within the workforce because the world is fixated on women’s looks. If you are young, beautiful and skinny you receive higher pay. Some women may feel that if they are unattractive or overweight that their pay is reduced. Women have to walk a fine line. If they are perceived as too dowdy or reserved, they are ignored and accused of trying to be masculine. On the other hand, if women are too flashy and wear clothing that is deemed inappropriate, they are labeled as trouble makers or seducers. These women “deserve what they get” might be a common rebuff. When they get a promotion or other forms of positive recognition, there is doubt cast upon the origin of the praise. “She dresses provocatively to get ahead” are typical sayings. Some men have an imbalanced control over their workforce. Sometimes, men take advantage of this power at work by pressuring female subordinates to debase themselves for promotions or job security. Estimates vary as to the percent of women experiencing forms of sexual harassment while on the job. The number is hard to quantify because so many women do not report their abuse. Many deal with the shame alone and suffer in silence.
Sadly, we all have to face the truth that gender discrimination in the workplace is real. Women deserve to be treated with respect. The battle for equality is far from over. Women deserve “equal pay for equal work.” By reducing women’s pay, families suffer because they bring in less money which affects their quality of life. Women don’t have to take harassment lying down. There are legal remedies available to victims of discrimination at work. For example, in 2012 a San Francisco Superior Court, a jury gave Maria Bojorquez $812,001 in reparations in a sexual harassment suit brought against ABM Industries Incorporated.
A proactive approach to employee training and publishing of guidelines is a good first step in preventing discrimination in the workplace. Nathan McCoy, who firm Wilson McCoy, P.A. includes employment law, union representation and labor practices advises client employers to train managers and key personnel on equal employment opportunity (EEO) policies and procedures, especially on discrimination. A published policy statement against discrimination and enforcement measures is an important component of EEOC guidelines.
If you believe that you may have been discriminated against based on your sex or gender or if you are an employer that has questions about this issue, we encourage you to seek the counsel of Wilson McCoy, P.A.