Sexual Inequality in the Workforce
Women have had equal rights in the United States for quite a few years now but they
as a society are not used to women being in roles that men traditionally hold. Female
doctors, lawyers, political leaders, judges, law enforcement officers, etc. are still not viewed as the cultural norm. Most women are thrilled when they do see other women in these roles because it continues to be unusual to find them in such positions. Despite the idea that, women do two-thirds of the world’s work, their achievements are very often invisible. Women work hard, but they often receive little credit for their accomplishments. Yet, rarely (relative to men) do they reach high-visibility positions and leadership.
The impact of these prejudices reach into the lives of all women as they make
decisions about what to aim for, what to study, how to support themselves and their families economically, and what they might contribute to their communities at the local, national, and global levels. If they are to grapple successfully with the problem of women and economic development and preparing women to take their place in the employment market, there are a number of patterns to which they must pay attention to carefully. My research will address five of these patterns: Pay Equity, the ‘glass ceiling’, work and family balance, the feminization of poverty, and the role of women in a learning society.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (http://www.bls.gov/)women make
up two-thirds of all minimum wage-earners, and during 1998, women in the United States
earned 76 cents for every dollar earned by men. At the managerial level, the wage gap is
greater and most noticeable for women of color. At this level, white women earned 74 cents
for every dollar earned by men, Asian-American women earned 67 cents, African-American
women earned 58 cents, and Hispanic women earned 48 cents (Catalyst, 1997).
One of the reasons it is so difficult to overcome this wage gap is the habit of thinking
of the work women do as less important and less impressive than that of men. Years of
stereotypes have laid down habits of thinking that allow us to automatically expect less from women, to underestimate their abilities and their work, to categorize each successful woman as an exception. Research has shown that both men and women are prejudiced against women. In studies that do find gender-based differences in the evaluation of work, that difference is usually in favor of men. The tendency to undervalue women and what they can do is so powerful that an influx of women into an occupation or profession is enough to lower its status in the eyes of observers.
In a laboratory demonstration of this phenomenon, a researcher (Touhey, 1974)
gave respondents descriptions of 5 high-status professions: architect, college professor,
lawyer, physician, and scientist. On the information sheet describing each profession, half of the...