Is gender inequality really still an issue?
With the recent monumental women’s marches that took place around the world, some people have been questioning whether this action is even necessary. Does inequality for women still exist in the U.S. today? A very good question, as for many, it doesn’t appear to be an issue. You may not have experienced it yourself or know of anyone who has.
After all, we are much better off than decades ago when women were told that their place was at home in the kitchen (definitely not in the workplace), were legally fired for being pregnant, or were not able to apply for their own credit cards or attend college or graduate school. And certainly we are better off than many other countries (although the U.S. is still one of three countries out of 180 in the world and the only industrialized country that does not provide paid maternity leave).
I wish I could say yes, we have finally eradicated every ounce of gender bias, but unfortunately discrimination against women is still real. It is apparent in the working world as well as in healthcare and beyond. While I am not an expert in women’s rights and discrimination, I can speak from experience of working with women. I have seen the existence of gender bias from coaching thousands of women on their career paths, from those in rural areas to the big cities, from big jobs to entry-level jobs, from those with associate degrees to PhDs. Below are just a few examples of the gender biases that exist today.
Hiring and Gender Bias
Consider the hiring process, one in which we are not always aware if we didn’t get the job due to our gender or some other factor. A recent study – highlighted in a Harvard Business Review article – shows that gender still influences hiring decisions. In fact, the study set out to investigate class biases with the well-established resume audit method, but uncovered a gender bias as well.
“Even though all educational and work-related histories were the same, employers overwhelmingly favored the higher-class man. He had a callback rate more than four times of other applicants and received more invitations to interview than all other applicants in our study combined. But most strikingly, he did significantly better than the higher-class woman, whose resume was identical to his, other than the first name.”
You can read more about this study at How Subtle Class Cues Can Backfire on Your Resume. This gender effect has been found in similar studies focusing on mothers, resulting in employers being more likely to choose the male applicants, even when there are signs of him being a father.
Gender Discrimination Lawsuits
Another indicator of gender discrimination occurrences is through lawsuits. A recent article by The Atlantic reports that the number of job discrimination lawsuits has increased over the past several years, including groups of women suing for gender and caregiver discrimination. In these cases, some of the women were told by their supervisors, “Let’s face it. It’s a man’s world. The woman always stays home with the child.” The article states,
“The subtle—and sometimes overt—perception illustrated by these statements—that mothers are less devoted to their jobs than childless workers—has been dubbed “the Maternal Wall” or “the New Glass Ceiling.” This has led to a wave of claims of gender discrimination based on parental responsibilities, which now make up a growing number of lawsuits against American employers.”
Furthermore, take note of the recent wave of pregnancy (a 315% increase) and breastfeeding (an 800% increase) discrimination lawsuits over the past decade. You can visit The Revolt of Working Parents and Caregiver Discrimination Lawsuits Increased 269% in the Last Decade for more information on caregiver, pregnancy, and breastfeeding cases.
Gender Bias in Scientific Careers
Or contemplate an article from Public Radio International regarding gender bias in scientific careers that my scientist friend recently shared on Facebook.
“A series of high-profile sexual misconduct investigations have sent waves through the scientific academy this year. The cases have shed light on the sexual harassment and assault that many scientists say has long been a pervasive, poorly addressed issue in the field — and one that systematically affects women scientists. In a 2014 survey of field researchers, 26 percent of female respondents reported that they had been assaulted at field research sites, and another 71 percent reported experiencing harassment. But in 2016, sexual harassment isn’t the only major hurdle that female scientists still face: Systemic gender bias is keeping many women from advancing their scientific careers, and there are studies to prove it. In a Science Friday panel, scientists discussed how gender bias manifests in myriad ways over the course of a career — and what should be done to address it.”
You can read more about these issues at The Weight of Gender Bias in Women’s Scientific Careers.
So yes, unfortunately gender discrimination (as well as other biases such as the motherhood penalty, caregiving stigma, and flexibility stigma) is still with us today, even though we have made incredible advances in the last decades. As historian and professor Stephanie Coontz states in an article celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, “Women have come a long way, but still have far to go.” We need to continue moving forward and protecting the progress we have already made. One day I sincerely hope we can all agree that it isn’t necessary to march for women’s inequality (or anyone else’s for that matter). Until then, we will march on, let voices be heard, and take action.