Gender inequality has been a topic of discussion in the media since the dawn of time. This is because women have had to struggle for their rights to be treated equally to men for a long time, something that was previously unheard of. However, as time passes, the issue’s simplicity has become apparent in some places, although others remain unresolved. When it comes to gender discrimination in the workplace, this is the case. Women still have to work extra hard today to get a fraction of the benefits that men have at work, which should not be the case. We take into consideration some of the factors affecting women in the workplace to fully comprehend gender infertility in this environmental setting and how it can be addressed successfully. Gender inequality in the workplace has to be addressed because it is not only hindering women but economic growth.
To begin women, it should be noted that women first had to earn their place in the work environment. Years back, it was a social taboo for women to work as their place was at home nurturing for the family. Women only found themselves taking up simple roles during the two World Wars and the Great Depression that shock the U.S. economy. Fast forward to today, one element that is an obstacle for women in the workplace is sexism. Bomey (2016) believes that most women are not in a position to thrive because of how they are preserved in reflection to their sex. This means that the workplace tends to depict the kind of roles women can pick up as there are those believed to be for men and women.
This is discriminating in that certain positions or careers are disregarded for women even if they quality. A great example is how Bomey (2016) explains that at the entry level, men and women are almost at the same percentage but as the levels progress, the percentage of women lowers as that for men increases. In the workplace today, only 37% of the population is women at the managerial level and further up, only 29% and 19% make up women in VP and C-suite positions respectively (Bomey, 2016). Apart from the potential promotion, it is also an issue for women in respect to assignments, consultation, and decision-making. Because one is a woman, they are discriminated upon in that they cannot offer sound judgment and contribute effectively towards decisions.
Family responsibilities are also an obstacle that women have to face in the workplace. Just like mentioned above, the society expects the place of a woman to be at home nurturing for the family. Therefore, unlike men, they have the extra baggage of caring for the family. This is particularly true for women who are married and are mothers. Caring for the family and more so where children are involved can be physically and emotionally draining for women. It is just as tedious as any other work but the problem is that it is women more than men who are expected to cater for it. In order to measure gender inequalities in the workplace, UNDP (2015) proposes the Gender Inequality Index (GII) that looks into three aspects, reproductive health, empowerment and economic status. These three factors cab best explain the relationship between women and men as far as the workplace.
To address most of the obstacles as mentioned above, it is the mandate of the workplace to formulate policies that can help to mitigate the problem if not prevent it. Workplace policies help to establish a working culture that employees adopt into. In light to this, policies that reflect on empowering women to be equal to men can be exercised in various ways. For instance, there is the parental leave policy that gives parents extra paid leave days to attend to their children. Consequently, flexibility to female employees can help them a great deal as far as competitive advantage is concerned.
Flexibility can be in regards to part-time work or scheduling to best meet the interest of the mother. Such policies can promote and work-life balance as they given women ample time to do all that they require from both situations. Another great example that most organizations are looking to implement today is that of childcare. Offices can now have a designated area for parents to bring their children to work and have they cared for while they attend to their duties (Stamarski & Hing, 2015). This policy is advantageous mostly for breastfeeding female employees who can find satisfaction in nursing their children while still being able to address work responsibilities.
Most of the workplace policies that are generated to help hinder gender inequality at work impact women in regards to giving them the support they need. Women have had to choose between family and career but with such policies, this should no longer be their reality. Mothers will now be able to retain their jobs and even have career growth after childbirth (Stamarski & Hing, 2015) unlike before when this was considered career killers. The choice to be a mother and still work will not be an emotional burden to most women because of what society requires of them. Waller & Lublin (2015) emphasize that “motherhood, in fact, increases their appetite for winning promotions.” With positive policies, the workplace environment can make it easier for women to balance between work and caring for their families. Basically, this means that through the policies, women will no longer have to compromise on either aspect of life to achieve the other.
Workplace policies differ from country to country. In the United States, most of the policies revolved around equal work pay and opportunities. According to the International Labor Organization (2017), women as from 2010 now earn 81% of what men earn in America however, when it comes to being employed, the percentage as fallen to 46.7%. This is a first time low that has been recorded ever since women started getting employed during the 1980s. This drop is yet to be understood because as International Labor Organization (2017) explains, women are today more educated than most men in the workplace and are competitively seeking employment in different industries given the policies in place.
In comparing the above to Sweden, it appears that even though the latter is yet to realize more effective results with their policies, they are far much ahead of the United States. Sweden Institute (2017) explains gender equality is well integrated into the Swedish culture such that it is a right and obligation in every area of life. More so that it is emphasized in school thus nurturing the younger populations to be accommodative of others. The Education Act ensures that gender equality is incorporated in studies right from the pre-school level (Sweden Institute, 2017) by encouraging every student to be participating and take up different gender roles. This lowers the risk of bringing up a generation that has the stereotype characteristic that traditional and modern society still maintains more so in regards to men and women roles. This is then transferred to the workplace setting through the leadership of the gender equality ministry.
Another added advantage in Sweden is that it is a policy for every organization to given 480 days of paid leave to parents with a newborn or adopted child (Sweden Institute, 2017). These days are to be shared between parents and are not necessarily taken at one go. Most parents will use them for emergency cases and just as Sweden Institute (2017) explains; it is women who end up taking most of the leave days. Comparing this policy practice to U.S. reveals that women in Sweden have an ample time when it comes to work and family care in that they are given a leeway to still care for their families and yet manage their careers effectively.
By comparing the work policies for gender equality in the U.S. and Sweden, it can be said that for the latter, the gender stratification and inequality appear to be diminishing in some way. Women are becoming equal to men in terms of employment opportunities but the pay gap remains the same as for the United States. In both countries, it can be argued that the stratification in the workplace is gradually improving just as Jaffee (1989) points out females are now having opportunities to exercise some authority in leadership positions.
In conclusion, the findings of the research work carried out for this paper shows that gender inequality in the workplace has to be addressed because it is not only hindering women but economic growth. It is surprising to read on how women still have a difficult time competing in an environment that has massive opportunities for everyone to explore. It is also surprising to read that countries such as the U.S. do not have workplace policies that mitigate gender inequality such as parental leave as is the case for Sweden. Gender inequality is a global problem that requires both individual and state policies to address effectively. As such, removing most of the obstacles that women face in the workplace can only be done through smart policies that are accommodative to their work-life balance needs.
Bomey, N. (2016). Sexism in the workplace is worse than you thought. Retrieved from http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2016/09/27/lean-in-study-women-in-the-workplace/91157026/
Jaffee, D. (1989). “Gender Inequality in Workplace Autonomy and Authority.” Social Science Quarterly 70(2). Retrieved from http://s3.amazonaws.com/academia.edu.documents/34348092/Jaffee-Gender_Inequality_in_Worplace.pdf?AWSAccessKeyId=AKIAIWOWYYGZ2Y53UL3A&Expires=1489406064&Signature=cZJtcDj1ZDRxcNhRypwTGuvdslE%3D&response-content-disposition=inline%3B%20filename%3DGender_inequality_in_workplace_autonomy.pdf
International Labour Organization (2017). Gender Inequality and Women in the US Labor Force. Retrieved from http://www.ilo.org/washington/areas/gender-equality-in-the-workplace/WCMS_159496/lang–en/index.htm
Stamarski, C. & Hing, L. (2015). “Gender inequalities in the workplace: the effects of organizational structures, processes, practices, and decision makers’ sexism.” Front Psychology 6(1400). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4584998/
Swedish Institute (2017). Gender Equality in Sweden. Retrieved from https://sweden.se/society/gender-equality-in-sweden/
UNDP (2015). Human Development Reports. Retrieved from http://hdr.undp.org/en/content/gender-inequality-index-gii
Waller, N. & Lublin, J. (2015). What’s Holding Women Back in the Workplace? Retrieved from https://www.wsj.com/articles/whats-holding-women-back-in-the-workplace-1443600242