Women in the Workplace: Is the Playing Field Level Yet?

After an examination of facts and statistics, it’s clear that the playing field is not yet level for women in the workplace. When you look at participation and pay, the patriarchy is still exerting its dominance in workspaces across all industries. Research confirms it: The pay gap is real, women suffer in male-dominated spaces, and most men do not make the effort to actively invite and recruit women in the workplace. 

The Gender Pay Gap: Not a Myth

While the United Kingdom can claim it provides superior healthcare than some other developed nations, there’s more to women’s equality than medical and home care support. Although our government created rules to ensure the closure of the gender wage gap in the U.K., rates remain stagnant. A follow-up study revealed that companies with the largest wage gap problems improved slightly, but elsewhere there was limited improvement.

Women are closing the gap in other ways. In the United States, women are just as likely as men to have college degrees — and in cities, women are more likely. However, when it comes to other rates of measure, such as home ownership or participation in the tech industry, women still fall behind in success.

Especially in Allied nations in World War II, when men went to war, women worked men’s usual  jobs to keep nations going. In the 1970s and 1980s, 37% of those pursuing tech degrees were women — but the birth of Silicon Valley subculture drove that number down to 24% in 2017, despite the need for technical proficiency rising worldwide. 

Currently, in the United Kingdom, only 16% of tech workers are women, and they have an average salary of £39,300.There is a 16% pay gap for women in tech, leaving females trailing behind male coworkers of similar proficiency. 

Offices: Made for Men

If you believe that modern workplaces are fair to women, consider what they have to go through: 

  • Rampant sexism and harassment.
  • Being expected to organize social gatherings for the office. 
  • Taking on the emotional labor of ensuring teams get along, including supporting coworkers after hours via text message. 
  • The extra 30 minutes it takes to do makeup in the morning because it’s expected of women on the job. 
  • Lack of remote work opportunities, so that duties at home can more easily be completed. 
  • Dealing with frigid temperatures so men are comfortable. There have even been studies showing that women actually perform poorer on tests after being exposed to chilly office settings. 

These are just some of the difficulties many women frequently deal with in an office setting. 

The “office mom,” who often doubles as an “HR lady” (with years of experience and qualifications in people management, by the way) usually manages administrative duties well below their area of expertise. Many “office moms” pull double-duty, not just in the workplace but between work and home. They’ve got to order coffee for the office and do all the grocery shopping at home. They are expected to make sure employees are encouraged to clock in on time but also get kids to school on time. The same isn’t usually expected of men in an HR or administrative role, and women aren’t compensated more for these duties. 

Additionally, being the only woman in an office or department (as commonly occurs in tech) can have a negative impact on women’s health. It can literally make women sick.

Women Suffer From Work-Related Stress and Injuries

Looking at the disparity in workers’ compensation claims also reveals some interesting information. While the likelihood of filing a compensation claim increases for those who have filed a prior claim, this is even more true for women, who disproportionately suffer from claim-related depression and migraines.

Because many of these spaces traditionally exist for men, we need to think about more supportive designs, new company structures, and other ways to support the needs of women at work.

Supporting Women in the Workplace

Offering women the support they need in the workplace can mitigate costs and high turnover, and it can keep women’s voices on the team. While some men might be uncomfortable with changes, it’s important to remember that office and manufacturing environments were designed by men and for men from the beginning. 

Creating change provides us with the equality that should have been present in the first place, and many of these changes are free and inexpensive. 

Leadership initiatives: Women make up half of the workforce, but comprise only 16% of leadership roles. The reasons women don’t get promoted as frequently as men are complex, but it’s important to consider when it’s time to offer a promotion. 

Listen to women: The average man will interrupt a woman 33% more than when he’s speaking with a man. Due to bias, men inherently disbelieve and question women more than they do men. When women speak up, audiences perceive them as taking up more time and space than they do. To mitigate this problem, listen to women actively, and respond with acknowledgement and action. 

Ask for feedback: Ask employees for anonymous feedback. You’ll be surprised at what you hear from marginalized employees. Act on the feedback you get.

Represent women at events: Women are often underrepresented at tech events in particular. Hosting an event? Consider hiring a qualified woman to speak at it. Make sure you extend a direct invitation, rather than assuming someone will just show up or apply. 

Office spaces are only the beginning of this conversation. Industries like manufacturing and sex work frequently marginalize women.

If you’re one of the people claiming the playing field is level for women, take a look at the statistics and think again. Then, consider what can be done to make workspaces more equal, beginning with your personal actions.

Indiana Lee

Indiana Lee lives in the Northwest and has a passion for the environment and wellness. She draws her inspiration from nature and makes sure to explore the outdoors on a regular basis. Indiana loves experiencing new things and sharing with others what she learns through her writing. You can chat with Indiana on twitter @IndianaLee3

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