Women and Employment Discrimination
In the 21st century, some may still wonder if gender discrimination in the workplace still exists. Over the past 50 years, women have entered the workforce and increasingly participated in higher education (where now 55% of college students are women). We may wonder if women and discrimination in the workplace is still an important issue. As the previously expected roles for men and women continue to blur, do men still earn more than women across occupations and educational status? Is there still a need to fight for pay equity?
Facts About Equal Pay and Equal Opportunity for AdvancementThe equal pay for equal work movement culminated in the passage of the Equal Pay Act, signed by President Kennedy in 1963. In 1964, with the passage of the Civil Rights Act, Title VII prohibited discrimination based on sex in education, government, public employers and private companies with more than 15 employees.
Gender discrimination in the workforce can take on many forms. It may be in the form of fewer benefits, lower pay, or less opportunity for advancement. Historically, in 1963 women earned 59% of what men earned while in 2008, the disparity in pay was still 23%, meaning women earned 77% of what men earned.
Some have argued that discrimination against women in the workplace is overstated because overall statistics do not take into account education, number of hours worked, seniority and choice of occupation. Statistics comparing pay equity based on education have actually shown the largest disparities are between men and women with professional degrees. Women earn 60% of the salary awarded their male colleagues among professional degree holders. The gap between men and women who work between 41 and 44 hours was 15%. At the same time, women working over 60 hours a week earned 78% of what men earned working the same number of hours.
Of over 100 occupations, there are only 4 where women out-earn men. These occupations are teacher assistants, where women make 105% of men, bakers, (104%), dining room/bartender/cafeteria attendants (111%), and other life, physical, and social science technicians (102%).
There is less disparity among workers under 25 years of age. Women make 92% of what men make in this age range. Even though this statistic is encouraging on its face, unless changes in the workplace continue to eliminate sex discrimination, the gap will widen as these younger workers get older. Wages for the under 25 group are relatively low and don’t take into account the gaps that widen as workers get older in an unequal system.
There are also disparities across gender and race. Statistics show that women across all racial groups earn less than men in those same racial groups. In addition, when compared to white men, Asian women made 83%, Black women made 62%, and Hispanic/Latino women made 53% as of 2009.
When trying to address pay equity, employers must raise the pay of those who have been discriminated against rather than lower pay of those who have benefited from the disparity. Individuals who feel they have been discriminated against on the basis of sex (men or women) can file a claim with their employer, with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or your state's fair employment agency. It is important to know the deadlines for filing such complaints as they vary from state to state and the federal government.