Sexual discrimination in the workplace is an unfortunate, but very real occurrence. Women have a long history of experiencing serious discrimination in the workplace, and male-dominated leadership and management roles only exacerbate the situation. This is a sample essay from Ultius that discusses the research and arguments behind the feminist movement and how it interacts with the workplace.
Feminism vs sexual discrimination
While sexual discrimination is a true issue, there are times where the feministic ideals behind it overwhelm progress in getting it out of the workplace. A lot people may consider that women should be happy with what they have already. This is a misogynistic view, to be sure, but it is not without precedence. And there are others who consider that women are equally treated, and that the discrimination that they rally against is all in their head. And then there are women activists who insist that non discriminative things are in fact discrimination. This sampling of the various many views had on the subject hinder the movement toward true gender equality and should be addressed in hopes of correcting them, but an acknowledgement of the strides made against discrimination of women is needed and should also be had.
Pregnancy and discrimination
According to a UK newspaper, nearly half of pregnant women are treated unfairly by their bosses. Promotions pass them by, they are harassed for “letting the team down” when it is discovered that they are pregnant, and they are often expected to perform the same activities they did before they were pregnant despite the physical limitations that come with pregnancy (Veevers).
Women have been told to hold off on making arrangements to get replaced since they “could still lose it yet. It’s early days,” or they were asked to imagine horror scenarios: “what if the baby died during delivery?” These latter statements are extremely insensitive, but a forgiving person could write them off as simply the tactless blunders of someone unaware of what they were saying (Veevers).
But the insinuation that a woman’s pregnancy is a disappointment is anything but. That is a direct attack on a woman simply because she has to do all the heavy lifting in the breeding department. The same this is true for women who are passed up for promotions because of pregnancy (Veevers).
Firings due to pregnancy
In a survey delivered and tabulated by Britain’s Equal Opportunities Commission, it was found that 30,000 women were fired or forced to leave their job because of their pregnancy. There are some women who choose to litigate and seek remuneration under the Sexual Discrimination Act, but a large majority choose to suffer this unfair treatment in silence. (Veevers)
Obviously this workplace discrimination is not solely relegated onto pregnant women. In an article from The National, Kareem Shaheen reports that over half (53%) of the women from the GCC believed that they worked, and planned to continue working, equal hours to their male counterparts. And 57% believe that they were less likely than their male counterparts to be promoted.
Amer Zureikat, a Bayt.com regional manager offers suggestions as to why this could be:
This inequality could stem from many factors, including outdated stereotypes, and unequal education opportunities for men and women. It could also be a result of workplaces that are poorly equipped for female training and career progression…The good news is that with more and more women entering the workforce and climbing the ranks and occupying senior roles in industry, this disparity should naturally correct itself (Shaheen).
Inequality: perceptions, stereotypes, and growth
While Zureikat points out some valid possible reasons for the perceived inequality—outdated stereotypes, unequal education—he then goes on to vaguely suggest that all these issues will simply work themselves out due to the increased percentage of women entering the labor force. This is a ridiculous notion. Changes are accomplished though dedicated individuals working to ensure that they are accomplished. Perhaps his mind has floated away on the fumes of his male privilege.
Amer Zureikat’s ridiculous “solutions” notwithstanding, a valid point regarding the survey under discussion is brought up by Jeetu Sharma, a research associate at YouGov Siraj. Jeetu notes that the survey results only quantify how women in the workplace “feel.” The survey does not actually quantify whether these women actually do in fact earn less than men or get fewer promotions (Shaheen).
Kelly Barrett discusses the negative effect that national culture has had on the women of Japan in her paper Women in the Workplace: Sexual Discrimination in Japan. Barrett notes that even though concessions were made to include women in the workplace in the 90s—the 1997 Equal Employment Opportunity Law—issues still exist as these concessions do not create equal opportunity for women. In fact, despite it opening up opportunities at the beginning of women’s careers, it still suppresses women’s ability to pursue a career as they hit their strides since many women who found entry level jobs their 20s will find that their jobs and promotions disappear once they age so that their male counterparts can be assured that those positions will be available to them, and not women (Barrett 2).
The assumed unimportance of women in Japanese business culture is highlighted by some of the practices commonly engaged in by said business culture. It has been a well-established practice to refer to business women as “office flowers,” because women are notoriously hired for their looks and so that they can simply serve to look pretty for their bosses. Women were placed in positions where they were relegated to doing “female” duties—basically they would adhere to the 1950s American secretary stereotype of typing, filing, copying, etc. This type of work, while useful in an office setting, is demeaning because there is this stigma associated with it. “Women’s work” becomes “simple” or “brainless” work, and therefore women become second-class employees who are expendable because they aren’t allowed to operate in any other capacity (Barrett 4).
Of course, these types of problems are a far cry from some of the other more horrendous acts of sexual discrimination that are committed against women around the world. In fact, the words “acts” and “sexual discrimination” seem so trivial in light of the veritable crimes done. In the Sudan, between 85% and 89% percent of women undergo the procedure of female circumcision. The practice is a long-standing tradition believed to be necessary to control female sexuality and ensure a girl’s marriageability. According to Amnesty international, this mutilation may be carried out using broken glass, a tin lid, scissors, a razor blade, or some other cutting instrument.
And in more easterly parts of the world, specifically Palestine, young women are being blackmailed into carrying out suicide bombings or other kinds of attacks. Since September 2000, this practice has been growing, and has not become increasingly commonplace and Israili intelligence is keeping a close. But it doesn’t stop there. The fact that the raping of women is blandly expected to occur in wars; the fact that teens are forced to wed each other in India (a 14 year old boy to a 12 year old girl); the fact that Pakistani women are killed for ”family honor”—none of it stops. (Second Sight Research)
Wage gap disparity
It is therefore a blessing and a privilege to be allowed to earn 75% of what a man makes while doing the same job. The same thing goes for the privilege of being passed up on promotions, the privilege of dealing with any insensitivity on the part of colleagues and employers, and any of the other unpleasant “privileges” which end up being the much preferred choice—when compared to some of the wounding and mortal horrors described above.
Thankfully women in civilized nations are working to diminish even those earlier mentioned unpleasantries. The simple idea that these hassles that women go through are best described as a privilege is a shame on the entire planet, and constant work to end that should be and is being done. And these changes are having an effect all over the world. As noted above, the UAE is a safe enough country so that women can actually express their grievances, even if there are immediate blockades to fixing misogynistic issues, there is a forum in which these issues can be discussed (Shaheen). In Japan the old standards are changing. It is no longer a cultural expectation that women marry and run a household. In fact, among junior high school students in Japan, only 12% consider marriage a necessity, and among Japanese people in their 20s, only 30% consider that women can find fulfillment and happiness in marriage (Barrett 2).
And if a person desires to sidestep these slow growth solutions that are emerging, Madeline E. Heilman suggests a solution—one so much more effective and logical when compared to the ridiculous “let it ride” solution of Amer Zureikat mentioned earlier. Heilman suggests that Entrepreneurial self-employment is a viable way for women and minorities to side-step the institutionalized marginalism that seems to be ironed in to the preset-day corporatocracy of the civilized nations. Yes, it is true that this is also an unfair position that these people would be put in, simply to be treated fairly. But it may be worth it in the long run. The discomfort of uncertainty, of not having the automatic health coverage that comes with a group plan, of not knowing if the business you created will actually sustain itself enough to make sure you’re fed, housed, and clothed; all of these discomforts may be worth it depending on what is important to the individual. With these entrepreneurial problems also comes the joys of setting your own schedule, of not having to answer to anybody, and best of all, not dealing with the institutional marginalism that is so annoyingly prevalent otherwise. And then we can fight the good fight while enjoying the freedoms of entrepreneurialism—at least, that’s one way to address it. The world evolves in complex patterns and only the future will tell how things will ultimately turn out.
Barrett, Kelly “Women in the Workplace: Sexual Discrimination in Japan”. Human Rights Brief: 11.2 (2004). 5-8.
Heilman, Madeline E. and Julie J Chen. “Entrepreneurship as a Solution: The Allure of Self-Employment for Women and Minorities”. Human Resource Management Review. 13.2 (2003). 347-364.
Shaheen, Kareem. “Women Feel Unfairly Treated in Workplace. The National. 2010. Web. 6 Dec 2012.
“Treatment of Women in the Third World.” 2nd Sight Magazine. 003. Web. 6 Dec. 2012.
Veevers, Lauren and Sophie Goodchild. “Nearly Half of Pregnant Women are Treated Unfairly by their Bosses”. The Independent. 2006. Web. 6 Dec. 2012.