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Gender Inequality in the WorkforceGender Inequality in the Workforce

By: Andrew Anastasio

Gender inequality has been a prevalent worldwide issue for centuries, with the United States and Europe being no exception to the list of countries that continue to experience wage gaps and subtle gender discrimination. Despite gradual progress being made, most of which occurred in the last one hundred years or less, varying degrees of inequality remain in multiple aspects of modern society. Arguably the most prominent area of societal inequality in today’s world occurs in the workforce, where wages have persisted in being less for women. Updated national studies have shown that females consistently earn less than their male counterparts regardless of equal education levels, experience, or whether their job positions bear the same level of responsibility. 

Workplace and wage inequality is not some arbitrary occurrence, however; these issues largely stem from certain societal attitudes regarding women and their roles. The McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) found that there was a strong link “between gender equality in society, attitudes and beliefs about the role of women, and gender equality in work” (1). The MGI study concluded that workforce gender equality “is not achievable without the former two elements. We found virtually no countries with high gender equality in society but low gender equality in work. ” (1). Additionally, a study completed by the American Association of University Women found that in 2013 ““women working full time in the United States typically were paid just 78 percent of what men were paid, a gap of 22 percent” (The American Association of University Women, 2015, p.3)” (2). The 22% gap, albeit still unfair and discriminatory, is actually an improvement over what the wage difference was 40 years ago, when there was an estimated 43% differential in pay between the genders (2).

This improvement was largely accomplished through increased awareness of the gender gap. In 1963, a good amount of attention toward the workforce wage gap was created by the passing of the Equal Pay Act of 1963 (EPA). This act essentially prohibited gender-based discrimination in any capacity in a place of employment where both male and female employees shared equal roles. According to a dissertation on gender discrimination in society written by Wedad Andrada Quffa, the EPA Act “prohibits employers from paying lower wages to one gender then it does to another gender for the same work and under the same condition, through this allowing both men and women protection in their workplace against a discriminating employer” (2). Quffa continues by writing that the law “was passed as part of John F. Kennedy’s New Frontier Program and was based on the Peterson Report drafted by the Presidential Commission on the Status of Women, which proposed paid maternity leave, equality for women in the workplace – both regarding wage and hiring practice, better education and counseling and affordable childcare” (2).

Despite this and other initial steps being taken legally to diminish the amount of gender discrimination occurring in society, we have not yet reached true equality on any level. According to the MGI, “favoritism of men over women is everywhere in European and American businesses, from maternity-related discrimination in hiring choices to structural barriers that make it easier for a man than a woman to start their own business” (3). The MGI study also concluded that pure gender equality in the workforce would have important consequences in relation to international GDP, with one published report “estimating that a worldwide leveling of the gender gap could add as much as $12 trillion to the global economy in just one decade” (3). Therefore, closing the wage gap would be beneficial to all people in the international community and should be an issue at the forefront of modern society. The world needs to more consistently and emphatically recognize the important role women play in the workforce and how treating them with equal levels of respect will go a long way toward solving some of the world’s most pressing issues.

Citations

(1) Woetzel, Jonathan, et al. “How Advancing Women's Equality Can Add $12 Trillion to Global Growth.” McKinsey Global Institute, McKinsey & Company, Sept. 2015.}

(2) Quffa, Wedad Andrada. A Review of the History of Gender Equality in the United States of America. Social Sciences and Education Research Review.

(3) O'Sullivan, David. “Toward Gender Equality: We Must Change the Working Mindset.” Medium.com, A Medium Corporation, 8 Mar. 2018.

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