The Feminist movement which started in the 1960s has achieved wonderful things that women today continue to enjoy. Many of us may not but aware of it, but before the movement, women had to face unbelievable hurdles that may now be considered downright shocking.
For example, before the Pregnancy Discrimination Act was passed in 1978, women could be fired for getting pregnant. And before the Equal Credit Opportunity Act in 1974, women could not even apply for a credit card. They also could not report sexual harassment cases, refuse to have sex with their husbands, or join the Boston Marathon,.
Indeed, women have come a long way since the days before the Feminist movement. And while today’s female population enjoy much greater freedom and more rights and privileges, the battle for equality and fair treatment is not yet over.
Society today is more acknowledging of the important role that women play – in the household, the workplace, and even in government. But some old habits and attitudes refuse to die. Even in today’s more enlightened environment, society has held on to ways to keep women down.
Being aware of these issues is an important step in overcoming them. Sometimes, when things have become commonplace, it’s easy to simply ignore them and go with the status quo. But as the heroes of the Feminist movement have shown us, vigilant steps and actions can lead to fa- reaching positive changes that may impact not only ourselves and other women today but the next generations as well.
Unequal wages and work-life balance
Perhaps the most prevalent issue women still face today is the salary gap between genders. More than just a question of money or recognition, this problem encompasses deeper issues that go to the traditional roles of men and women in society.
Numerous efforts have been undertaken to achieve equal pay for men and women, but women continue to make less than men at a ratio of 77 cents to one dollar. Despite being better-qualified or -skilled than their male counterparts, many women still receive lower salaries.
Several studies have shown that this inequity in wages is the result not so much of discrimination but is a consequence of the type of jobs women choose to have. Women dominate the lowest-paying jobs and are not well represented in the highest professional tiers. According to studies, women tend to sacrifice higher salaries in exchange for other perks, such as more flexible schedules that would allow them to spend more time with their families.
On the other hand, employers put much premium on long working hours and employees’ availability even during weekends and odd hours. This puts women with families or who are starting a family at a clear disadvantage. Of course, men and women are equally responsible for putting in the needed time for family, but it’s the women, perhaps dictated by tradition or simply by personal conviction, who often end up choosing to give up job opportunities to spend more time with the family.
In addition to this, there are still reports of women facing discrimination when it comes to recruitment, job promotions, wage hikes and others. In male dominated industries, such as the tech sector, aggressiveness in women is often seen as a negative quality, even as it is prized in men. Female employees in the tech sector have complained that they are often assessed for their personalities and such factors as approachability and attitude rather than their tangible achievements.
It is also not uncommon for women to undermine their own value by accepting tasks and roles that some male employees deem to be beneath their stature. Female employees often feel they have to take on these jobs to prove their worth.
Overcoming the hurdle
First, it has to be pointed out that the wage gap between genders has considerably narrowed from the 1970s, and discrimination issues against women in the workplace have decreased within the same time frame. However, there’s still a lot that needs to be done.
Experts on women’s studies and women who have made it to the top of their profession have weighed in on the issue to come up with possible solutions to the problem.
- Have self confidence
At the top of the list of solutions is the call for women to have more confidence in themselves and to know their rights. By knowing what you’re capable of doing and how you should be treated, you can assert yourself in the workplace. Improve your eligibility for better paying jobs with the right education and training, and be bold enough to go after what you want.
- Reach out to your HR Department
Keep in mind that there are now numerous laws that address discrimination against women in the workplace. If you feel that you’re not getting the respect you deserve, seek help from within your company, particularly the HR Department, which should serve as your primary source of redress in the office.
- Join a network of women in similar professions
Seek women who are in the same field of work as you and learn from their experiences, just as they can learn from your experiences. Find out how these women are able to find success in their companies and overcome the hurdles they face. If no such network is in place, consider starting one.
- Join the call for better working conditions for women
There’s strength in numbers. We should all take our cue from our Feminist predecessors and lend our voices to the call for women-friendly workplaces. This includes recognizing the need of women for more flexible working hours without penalizing them with lower wages. The choice to be a mother and/or primary household manager should not mean women have to make do with low paying part-time jobs. Join social action campaigns, attend women’s forums, and explore other means to let your own voice be heard.
These all boil down to one thing: Starting with the right attitude.
By recognizing the challenges that face us and and resolving to overcome them, we can help remove the obstacles that continue to prevent women from making the most of their skills and talents.