Gender in the Workforce

Since the earliest times in our history men and women were not granted the same rights as one another.  Women were seen as inferior having no right to vote, and their husband dominated their property as soon as she married.  It was believed that the mother’s role was to be a housewife raising her children, cooking, cleaning the house, and tending to their every need.  However, this view has evolved over time primarily with first-wave feminism, known as the women’s suffrage movement and second-wave feminism that fought workplace discrimination and successfully achieved equality legislation such as the Equal Rights Amendment.  These movements led women to question their roles in the nuclear family households and they started to object to the traditional roles of being a stay-at-home parent and started to reenter the work force.  Interestingly, studies conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that “Women’s labor force participation, which was at a rate of 33.9 percent in 1950, increased significantly during the ‘70s and ‘80s, climbing to 57.5 percent in 1990.  In 1999, the women’s participation rate reached a peak of 60 percent” (“Women in the Labor Force”).  Also, this was when the cost of living went up and both family members were striving to buy bigger houses and cars for their families.  Even though there still is an existing wage gap between the two genders, women have come a long way in achieving equality in the workplace—as now they are able to get educated, receive professional degrees and obtain high-level positions.

It is interesting to look into how educational levels have shifted and affected the work place over the past few decades.  On Wednesday evening at 6 pm, I sat down with my mother, Maria, to find out her perspective on being a stay-at-home parent in the ‘90s and how she slowly transitioned into a working parent of two children for many years.  Maria has been working in the dental field for over 24 years taking care of billing and dental insurance.  When talking about gender in the workplace she believes, “the stereotype that women should stay at home with their children is changing as more women are back at work—with a small percentage staying at home— to alleviate the financial burdens of having a family since the cost of living has gone up.”  From here on, she believes that more women than ever before are graduating from college at alarming rates—even more so than men.  Surprisingly, the U.S. Department of Education found that “from 2005-2006 men earned 42 percent of bachelor’s degrees and 40 percent of masters degrees and women attained 60 percent of bachelor’s degrees, 63 percent of masters degrees, and additionally 54 percent of doctorate and professional degrees” (“Digest”). 

As I conducted another interview over the phone with my uncle, who wanted to remain anonymous, on Thursday evening at 8 pm, he explained his stance on educational levels between men and women by saying, “Men are still able to obtain higher levels of education when it comes down to master’s degrees and Ph.D’s.”  He has worked in the field of cosmetology for 17 years.  He noted that “men have more freedom to pursue higher education because a lot of women get married and have children which prevent them from furthering their education.”  He continues, “men work more hours and make more money than women that work part-time and have children.”  Moreover, economist Claudia Goldin elaborates in her book, A Grand Gender Convergence that, “The impact of hours on the gender gap is large and goes far to explain much of the gender gap earnings.  Individuals who work long hours in certain occupations receive a disproportionate increase in earnings compared to those that work fewer hours” (p. 1110).  Additionally, in 2015, Time Magazine reported that women were more likely to have bachelor’s degrees than their male counterparts.  In 2014 data conducted by the Census Bureau found that almost 30 percent of men had bachelor’s degrees, while a little over 30 percent of women did, ten years earlier almost 29 percent of men had bachelor’s degrees, while only 26 percent of women did.

Knowing that women thirty years ago did not have the opportunity to be a leader in the labor force, women have poised preeminent positions surpassing their male counterparts.  More women are fulfilling leadership roles in business as managers, ceos, and executives.  It is present that today more women are receiving recognition in administrative roles; for example, the ceos of PepsiCo, the Hershey’s Company, Campbell Soup Co., Progressive Corp. and General Motors all are women. In 2016, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported “an astounding 40 percent of all managers made up women.  But in some management occupations, the percentage of women was even higher than that.”  For example, the data presented a little over 70 percent of women made up managers in the following positions: Public Relations, Medical and Health services, Social and Community Service (“Women in Management”).  When discussing the role of women in leadership positions, he explained, “since I am in the field of cosmetology the managers, assistant managers, executives, and CEO’s predominately consist of females.”  Accordingly, he felt that he would rather work for a female than male since women have more compassion and understanding clarifying, “they do not get angry quickly and have more reasoning.”  But if he had to choose which gender he prefers as a boss he declared, “I would not choose either because what matters is if they meet the requirements in filling the positions and are both able to fulfill the responsibilities without distractions and if they are both morally and ethically equal in the way they do business.”  On the other hand, Maria has had many experiences working for both male and female bosses.  Meanwhile, she points out that she prefers working for a male boss as opposed to being led by a woman and goes on to indicate, “In my experience females can be harder to work for by having to prove that they can do a man’s job.” 

When doing research I came across the phrase “glass ceiling”— which is the belief that there is a barrier that prevents women and minorities from climbing up in the corporate ladder.  Amazed to know this phrase even existed, I explained this term to my interviewees and told them it was first used in the ‘80s.  Having given them background information on this, they both claim it is a myth.  Incidentally, my second interviewee, stated that in knowing the context of this phrase and taking into consideration the work environment, “women and minorities are promoted in certain positions and companies, but usually in larger corporations because they are setting an example and meeting a quota as well.  If women and minorities meet the same qualifications as the man, they would choose them before the man to meet a quota unless there is favoritism in the company.”

Putting aside the misconception of “Glass ceiling,” times are changing as we are progressing towards equality in the workplace for both sexes.  Many politicians and contemporary feminists have pushed the notion that women are paid 77 cents to a man’s dollar which would mean that if a woman’s median earnings were 30,800 and a man’s median earnings were 40,000 and one divides those numbers that would equal 77 cents.  Just imagine, if this were true, would not businesses and firms hire women instead of men since it would save more money?  But this calculation does not represent a “gender wage gap” because they do not consider the occupation, type of position, hours worked per week or education level.  Even a study by the feminist organization, American Association of University Women, presents that the existing wage disparity reduces to 6.6 cents when you take into account the differences in “individual career choices” men and women make (“New Wage Gap”).  However, the Department of Labor pronounced that when one takes all of these factors into consideration for all occupations that the wage gap is somewhere between 4.8-7 percent aiming close to 6.6 percent (Perry 3).  Economist Thomas Sowell, who has extensively looked at income disparity, makes a outstanding point when he pronounces that, “the underlying factors that play a role in the economic differences between the two genders is not employment discrimination, it is marriage and childbearing, as it alters, women in the participation rate in high levels also alters.”  He declares that “women past child bearing years and work continuously their incomes were higher than men.”  He continues, “It is not that the employer pays them differently but that they have different characteristics” (FORA.tv). 

In order to work on eliminating this gap for all occupations, industries, and companies, places need to start adopting workplace strategies that are more flexible around these problems.  Employers should look into how their employees time is allocated and how they are being compensated, this will prompt employers to change the structure of work—having more flexibility—so that the costs can continue to diminish.  Several firms in retail sales, health care, real estate and banking have made steps in improving work practices by having more flexibilities for both men and women when substituting for each other in spite of their “temporal demands.”  Another example, pharmacists women, and men earn equal pay on a “per-hour basis” when taking into account their skills, knowledge, and experience in relation to the organization.

                                                Work Cited

Anonymous. Personal Interview. 20 July, 2017.

“Digest of Education Statistics, 1995.” National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) Home Page, a part of the U.S. Department of Education, nces.ed.gov/programs/ digest/d95/dtab236.asp. Accessed 20 July 2017.

Feeney, Nolan. “Women More Likely Than Men to Get College Degree.” Time, Time, 7 Oct. 2015, time.com/4064665/women-college-degree/. Accessed 25 July 2017.

FORA.tv. “Gender Bias and Income Disparity: A Myth?” Youtube, 2 Apr. 2008,

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8EK6Y1X_xa4

Goldin, Claudia. “A grand gender convergence: Its last chapter.” The American Economic Review, 104.4 (2014): 1109-1110.

“New Wage Gap Numbers Aren’t So New.” AAUW: Empowering Women Since 1881, 17 Sept. 2013, http://www.aauw.org/2013/09/17/new-wage-gap-numbers/. Accessed 25 July 2017.

Perry, Mark J. “2009 DOL Report Found That Gender Wage Differences Are Explained by Individual Choices of Male and Female Workers.” AEIdeas, 9 Apr. 2014, www.aei.org/publication/2009-dol-report-found-that-gender-wage-differences- are-explained-by-individual-choices-of-male-and-female-workers/. Accessed 24 July 2017.

Salice, Maria. Personal Interview. 19 July, 2017.

“Women in the Labor Force.”  Bureau of Labor Statistics, www.bing.com/cr?IG=D2D CE29E53644666AA1D8628E0931D1A&CID=15C2362D5089644103263CE B518F65CB&rd=1&h=6ECjaK4XPUbzAfC3-Pkeq7fCet-HkBpmNYBYl UpzprE&v=1&r=https%3a%2f%2fwww.bls.gov%2fopub%2freports%2fwomens- databook%2farchive%2fwomen-in-the-labor-force-a-databook-2015.pdf&p=De vEx,5062.1. Accessed 21 July 2017.

“Women in Management : Career Outlook.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, www.bls.gov/careeroutlook/2017/data-on-display/women- managers.htm. Accessed 21 July 2017.

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