The expression, ‘a woman has to be twice as good as a man for the same job’ is based on credible evidence. Employers continue to discriminate against women, not only in the selection process for many types of employment but also by offering proportionately lower wages once employment is secured. Societal stereotypes that reflect past attitudes of women’s role as subservient to men still prevail showcased by the continued imbalance of employment opportunities. Workplace segregation remains prevalent as high concentrations of female employees are associated with relatively low rates of pay. Qualified women are characteristically denied top-level jobs in corporate institutions, but instead of terming it what it is, sexism and discrimination, this form of unequal treatment are referred to as the ‘glass ceiling’ effect.
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Women must struggle to cope with discrimination in the workplace as is evidenced by occupational segregation. While about one-half of workers are in sex-dominated employment, women are engaged in a narrower scope of occupations than men. There are seven times more male-dominated non-agricultural jobs than females. Despite increasing levels of labor market participation, women still are not equally represented, especially at higher positions within organizations. This includes those companies that cater specifically to women consumers. This clearly observable fact of life has been called ‘the glass ceiling.’ This is not defined as simply an artificial plateau, beyond which women are denied the opportunity to advance to upper levels of executive management. The glass ceilings exist throughout the workforce in varied historically male-dominated positions. These barriers, which have been in place since the beginning of mankind, resulted from institutional and psychological practices that remain in place to a wide extent. Women who find themselves under such a ceiling may not, at first, even notice that a barrier was in place which separated them from higher levels because the glass is clear. But when they try to pass beyond a certain point in an organization, they would quickly discover that this ceiling prevented them from advancement. (Feldman, 1997).
An argument supposes that men, much more so than women, are willing to completely submerse themselves in their work. Men will more readily dedicate their life to overseeing both the short-term and long-run needs of an organization. This viewpoint speculates that women, on the other hand, would be less likely to sacrifice the loss of time spent with family or in the pursuit of leisure activities. It also relies on studies that have found that, on average, women are less likely to accept jobs that require the additional time a longer commute entails than are men. This is largely due to time constraints in balancing career and parental responsibilities. This can impact women’s pay in that they have a statistically smaller pool of jobs from which to choose. Also, the more women wanting work in the same location near to where they live correlates to lower wages for those fewer jobs. However, studies indicate women, as well as men, are equally likely to abandon ambitious business careers in favor of the less materialistic rewards that are presented by flexibility in their work schedules. This allows the individual to invest more time in raising the family and participate in leisure activities. Seemingly, men more than women, are willing to commit themselves to the schedule demanded by the laborious objective of corporate achievement. (Castro, 1997)
Glass ceiling barriers exist almost unimpeded at all levels of organizations affecting women at different levels and in various types of business. Businesses that continue to hire only males for top-level positions out of a desire to maintain a male-dominated environment will inevitably “find themselves at a competitive disadvantage with rivals who promote more competent, underpaid females to do the same kind of work” (Wells, 1997). The jobs women have traditionally filled are not low-skilled as compared to those jobs traditionally filled by men. Sewing, for example, is a skilled art form seldom mastered by men. Women are more likely to be employed in jobs such as catering, cleaning, and care-based professions because these are the types of jobs women have traditionally undertaken at home for no pay. Because of this, these types of jobs are undervalued, an attitude from the past that lives on today.
Those that would argue that women should earn less than men point to the common perception that employing women ultimately costs a corporation more than does men because of the time off work and extra benefits paid due to pregnancies. However, research covering five countries refutes the conventional conviction that employing a woman is more costly than employing a man. The study concludes that the added cost of “employing a woman worker and having to cover maternity protection and childcare expenses is very small as this component of non-wage costs amounts to less than two percent of the monthly gross earnings of women employees” (Abramo & Todaro, 2002). If all non-wage costs are taken into consideration, then the additional cost of hiring a woman comes down to less than one percent.
From the beginning of recorded human society, tasks pertaining to the care of the family were considered a woman’s responsibility. In recent times, economic and social behavior patterns have questioned specific gender roles at home and in the workplace. This is an important aspect of wage differentials between men and women. Even if women were paid on the same scale as men and were afforded equal opportunities to advance within a corporation, they still would be expected to care for the household and everyone in it. Modifying social attitudes concerning the separation of duties at work and at home is essential if women are to attain full equality.
Abramo, L. & Todaro, R. (2002). “Examining a myth: Labour costs for men and women in Latin America.” Lima, International Labour Organization.
Castro, Ida L. & Furchtgott-Roth, Diana. (1997) “Should Women be Worried About the Glass Ceiling in the Workplace?” Insight on the News. Vol. 13, N. 5, p. 24.
Feldman, Gayle. (1997) “Breaking the Glass Ceiling: Women Have Had a Long Hard Struggle to Reach Their Current Status in the Industry.” Publishers Weekly. Vol. 244, N. 31, p. 82.
Wells, Jennifer. (1997) “Stuck on the Ladder.” MacLean’s. Vol. 15, N. 3, p. 162.