For much of history, gender inequality has been a heavily debated topic of discussion. Traditionally, men have been the dominant gender in society and have received benefits to reflect that, no matter how much people stand up and fight for equal treatment.
The workplace is an environment where this division is often most pronounced. From promotions to pay rate to general gender representation, some places are simply better for women to work than others. In this case, places can mean place of work, city, or industry. While an ideal world would be one in which all industries and cities are perfectly equal, this is simply not the case.
Unfortunately, different industries (and the companies that operate in those industries) treat women differently, both in pay and attitude. When it comes to working in different cities, the pay wage gap that many women face is often more pronounced. As more women join the workforce and make up a higher percentage of different industries, this gap will hopefully decrease until it is non existent.
Breaking Down Gender Inequality
The gender pay gap in America has shrunk recently, but there is still much room for improvement. This is more prominent for working mothers or women who have left the workforce for some amount of time.
Additionally, there is significant variation in equality depending where you are. For example, three cities in California (Long Beach, Fresno and Oakland) are among the top 10 cities with the lowest wage gap. California is also home to the city with the highest wage gap of 38% – Sacramento.
The highest paying jobs for women are chief executive positions, pharmacists and nurse practitioners. Even still, these average salaries fail to break six figures. The highest paying job for males is the same chief executive position, but their average salary is over a quarter of a hundred thousand dollars higher than it is for women at an estimated $125,600.
As far as representation in the workforce, women outnumber men in the business management/sales, education, healthcare, legal, and public service industries. Men significantly dominate the computer engineering, construction/manual labor, and first responder fields – alluding to the expectations of each gender to perform certain tasks.
Progress is Progress
Across America, working conditions have fortunately improved as time has advanced. Despite the lack of equality, all of the activism movements have not gone unnoticed. A short 80 years ago in the 1960s, the average woman made 60% of what the average man would make.
On top of that, in the 1940s women occupied only a third of the labor force and very few earned college degrees or sought out any form of higher education. Since then, women have shattered the normative expectation of the stay-at-home mom that’s expected to do all of the cooking and cleaning while her husband goes off to work to support the family.
This is not to say that gender norms and biases aren’t still problematic – they very much are. Just as women are still underpaid in the workforce, they are still expected to do much of household and childcare labor in what sociologists have coined ‘the second shift’. When they come home from their long days of work, they continue to perform work-like tasks to support their family. However, the male breadwinner model is no longer controlling families.
And while at work, women continue to face internal and external issues. As author Sheryl Sandberg discusses in her book, Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead, how women face pressure from domestic responsibilities as well as from themselves. One of her controversial arguments is that women hold themselves back because of lack of self-confidence. Her evidence boils down to: when a man is successful, he is well liked. When a woman does well, people like her less. No matter where you stand on Sandberg’s position, it’s important for women to build their self-confidence. This can come through the way they communicate, the responsibilities they ask for, and how they act in the workplace, such as leading effective meetings and being leaders of their team.
The million dollar question is – where do we go from here? Though the progress in equality has been remarkable, there is definitely still room for growth. Equality is a slow moving process that requires significant patience and perseverance. It’s frustrating to watch the countless campaigns and protests end up with no instant results despite the hours of planning and large scale participation. However, change arrives little by little making each and every fight for equality worth it.
Raising awareness of the severity of this issue is a key to confronting gender inequality head on. Inequality is perpetuated by each and every individual, so people should be taught to recognize and overcome their inherent biases. Eventually, women will earn the wages they rightfully deserve.