Despite the massive strides that have been made toward gender equality in the workplace, we still have a way to go. Is that the understatement of the century?
According to a report by the Pew Research Center, about 75 percent of young women think the United States needs to do more to create workplace equality. The pay gap is narrowing and women have a better shot at high-level employment than they once did, but that doesn’t mean the playing field is level just yet. Not surprisingly, lots of young women are just as skeptical about workplace equality as their moms and grandmothers were.
Researchers analyzed census and labor data and interviewed over 2,000 working adults and found that young women under 32 earn 93 percent of what young men make. A lot of this could have to do with more women seeking higher education — about 38 percent of women who are 25-32 hold bachelor’s degrees, whereas only 31 percent of men do. However, in the past three decades, the gender pay gap has widened for women by the time they reach their mid-30s. Much of this has to do with the fact that so many women take time away from work or reduce their hours when children are born. On top of that, the report also cited plenty of other unfair culprits, like discrimination and gender stereotyping, as well as women’s hesitation to be aggressive in pursuing raises and promotions.
Despite all this, only 15 percent of women said they’ve faced gender discrimination at work. Could this be because gender discrimination has become less overt in the past few generations? Rather than the kind of over-the-top sexism we see in “Mad Men,” modern discrimination is more of a quiet undertaking. It is subtle, and often so socially ingrained that it’s hardly recognized as wrong or even noticed at all, even by its victims.
Women do make up almost half the workforce, which is pretty exciting in itself compared to the situation our grandmothers faced. That said, according to the Pew report, women only hold 4.5 percent of Fortune 1000 CEO positions.
The study also notes that often a woman’s job advancement hits a ceiling, partially because of the competing needs of the workplace and her family (let’s not dare even tough the phrase “having it all,” or my eyeballs are going to roll back into my head). Women are twice as likely as men to work part-time, and more likely to take time off work to care for kids. A whopping 59 percent of young women say that being a working parent makes it harder to advance a career, where was only 19 percent of young men said the same!
According to Pamela Smock, a sociology professor at the University of Michigan quoted by the Guardian said, “This report shows that we are still very much in a ‘stalled revolution’ when it comes to gender equality in the workplace – and young women see it. When we see our male CEOs taking off a day to care for a sick child, then we will be working in a more gender-equal workplace – and a more gender-equal world.” A “stalled revolution” seems to be like the perfect way to put it. I’m grateful to be part of a generation that has the kind of freedom our predecessors could only dream of, but that doesn’t mean we have to stop now and settle for “almost equal” to men in the workplace when we have come so close to achieving equal opportunities.
[Woman at the office via Shutterstock]