Women in Our Society
Hopefully we can all agree that absent exceptional circumstances, we should strive for a society that treats men and women fairly. However, it would be a mistake to think that the only sort of unfairness that matters is gender inequity. It’s unfair that tall people and pretty people earn more money than average. It’s unfair that more personable individuals are more likely to get hired or promoted even for jobs where these skills are not essentials. Human interactions are rife with unfairness. We make generalizations based on the clothes people wear, the language they use and the objects they own. As decisions about jobs and pay require humans judgment they are infested with all kinds of unfairness.
April 24th is national Equal Pay Day, an auspicious day to have a hearing about proposed legislation addressing pay equity. Equal Pay Day is observed in April to indicate how far into the next year a woman must work to earn as much as a man earned in the previous year. Because women on average earn less, they must work longer for the same pay. For women of color, the wage gap is even greater. Nationally, women’s average wage is 77 per cent of men’s average wage according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Just why is there a wage gap between men and women? Basically, the wage gap is the result of a variety of forms of sex stereotyping and segregation left over from a pre-industrial age, which steering girls to certain limited education and vocational choices; sex stereotyping and discrimination in the workplace, including discrimination in hiring, promotion and pay setting; occupational segregation and steering by employers; bias against mothers and care-takers in employer leave and attendance policies not cured by the Family; undervaluing women workers and traditional women’s work. In the field of pay equity studies, “it is generally accepted that a gender-dominated occupation is one in which 70% of one-sex hold jobs in the occupation. In 2007, two-thirds of all U.S. working women were still crowded into twenty-one of the largest 500 occupational categories” according to U.S. Census Bureau Figures. These female-dominated occupations are fairly consistently paid less than male-dominated or mixed occupations. Thus, for example, doorkeepers are paid more than nurses’ aides, parking lot attendants are paid more than childcare workers, and construction laborers are paid more than bookkeepers and cashiers. One of the ways some women have responded to wage inequities is by choosing to integrate male-dominated, highly paid occupations such as engineering, skilled trades, doctors, lawyers, accountants, pharmacists, and many others. Indeed, over the past few years, there has been notable progress in attracting women to many non-traditional occupations. But most women workers are still in traditional jobs where wages are lower than traditional male occupations. So now there is a question of why don’t women complain about this? Fear of retaliation was expressed time and time again. Based on the WAGE Project, issued the results of their informal poll of working women. Here are some of their findings: “I was afraid to fight for fear of losing my job,” said one. “I was told that if I acted on what I found out (about being paid less than a man) I would be fired,” another woman said. One middle-aged woman in the information technology industry explained: “I did nothing. I need my job and medical benefits since my husband is ill…. The senior director has no compunction about firing people she perceives as ‘toxic’. So I remain mute.” Another woman supporting other family members made a similar comment: “I did nothing. I did not want to jeopardize my position; I am a single parent and need the pay.” One woman spoke for many others: “We have to keep quiet or we lose our jobs.” Seven out of ten women who participated in the survey reported experiences with inequitable treatment and pay that woman of all ages, working...
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