Written by: Catherine Pesta
In the mid–nineteenth century, states began to pass married women’s property acts, but until passage of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920, little action was taken to do away with discriminatory laws against women. In the 1920s, some states eliminated prohibitions against women holding public office and serving on juries; school board positions, for example, were among the first local municipalities permitted women to occupy. Until the passing of the Equal Pay Act in 1963, it was legal to pay different rates to women and men performing the same job, and until the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it was legal to refuse to hire a woman for a job based on her sex (Ankler, 1997).
Today women have made a move in almost every field that was earlier known as being male-only. However, gender discrimination still exists and doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon. Sex discrimination has a negative affect on how men view women, and how women view themselves. Gender discrimination also impacts men’s career trajectory, choice of job and career, and discrimination in traditionally female occupations. In turn, directly affecting women’s status and income (Anker, 1997). Women today still find themselves being stopped by the invisible barrier known as the “glass ceiling.” The glass ceiling prevents women from obtaining or moving up in a job because a man with equal credentials is advanced instead of her. A recent study by US Bureau of Labor shows that women working 41 to 44 hours a week earn 84.6% of what their male counterparts do (O’dea, 2006).
In 2011, a $100 million lawsuit was filed against Japanese technology giant, Toshiba. The complaint claims Toshiba regularly failed to pay women equal salaries and bonuses as men who do similar work, segregates women into lower pay-grade positions and favors men for promotion (Bray, 2011). The lawsuit represented about 8,000 female Toshiba employees in the United States and was filed by a human resource manager who faced pushback when returning to work after medical leave. The Family and Medical Leave Act prevents pushback from happening. For example, when women are pregnant, employers are to accommodate as necessary. According to a 2009 survey, just 1.2% of executives at listed Japanese firms are female, compared to 13.5% at American Fortune 500 companies (Bray, 2011). The outcome of this case is still being decided in the U.S. District Court in New York, New York.
Gender discrimination affects men as well. An example of this would be an employer making a male employee who works at a makeup counter wear a business suit even though this male employee is working around makeup which can ruin his personal clothing. While the same company provides special clothing to the female employees that work at the same counter. Unlike women, workplace discrimination with men rarely involves Income but other issues instead. Administrative jobs are often hard for men to obtain because a “secretary” is most often a female in the workplace. A man that wants a less demanding work life to pursue other endeavors may encounter organizational and societal resistance. Men planning for lower paying or caregiving oriented careers may be criticized, receive less mentoring or support from the organization.
The companies where gender discrimination takes place are also negatively affected. Gender discrimination results in lost productivity because victims lose motivation and the morale necessary to perform jobs effectively (O’dea, 2006). Supervisors sometimes pass over individuals for promotion due to preconceived notions about their roles and abilities. For example, a police chief may pass over a female police officer for promotion, due to a belief that men inherently perform better in these positions. Supervisors sometimes pass over qualified males for promotions in industries that employ a high percentage of women compared to men, such as teaching and jobs involving care of children.
Sometimes women who have young children experience pushback when interviewing because of their heavy load of family responsibilities. There is a law prohibiting a prospective employer from asking about family responsibility but usually happens anyway. This could result in less responsibility because managers may think she can’t handle anything more on her plate. In some cases discrimination is subconscious or unintentional. Some managers socialize and mentor employees that have a similar background or similar age as them; this discriminates unintentionally to those who do not fall within the manger’s characteristics.
The topic relates to the discrimination concepts we discussed in class recently. I learned of the Equal Opportunity Employers rules and regulations. The Equal Opportunity Employment Act protects Americans against discrimination based upon that employee's (or applicant's) race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. As a female looking to obtain a successful career in finance, studying gender discrimination has really alerted me to this complex issue. Not only did I learn the current statistics of discriminated employees in the workforce, but also I learned ways to notice and hopefully prevent discrimination based on my sex in the future. If an employee is experiencing discrimination it is best to immediately report the issue to the Human Resources department so they can take the need actions to remedy the problem.
Anker, R. (1997). Theories of occupational segregation by sex: An overview. International Labour Review, 136(3), 315
Bray, C. (2011, February 1). Toshiba's U.S. unit faces $100 million gender-discrimination suit . The Wall Street Journal, p. 10.
O'Dea, S. (2006). From suffrage to the Senate: America's political women: an encyclopedia of leaders, causes & issues. Millerton, New York: Grey House Pub.