Contrary to what media platforms may suggest, women are very much discriminated against within the professional work force. As you grab your morning coffee and pick up a copy of the Daily News, it is not uncommon to come across headlines such as: Women Gain Numbers, or Women in Business Have Come A Long Way!
Now, have we seen significant progress since the first wave of feminism in the 1920’s? Yes. However, media portrayals such as these influence individuals’ beliefs in the sense that they think the fight for equality amongst gender in the workplace has been won, and sadly, we are not even close.
Similar to many other topics regarding the feminist movement, including feminism itself, there are various interpretations of the glass ceiling. I happen to agree with Ann Morrison, who describes the glass ceiling effect as, “a barrier that is so subtle it is transparent, yet so strong that it prevents women from moving up the corporate hierarchy.” According to the Women’s Institute for Policy Research, the gender pay gap is still around 21.4 percent, which translates into approximately a $10,000 difference.
When tackling this issue, we should consider three major obstacles women face within the work force: discrimination, sexual harassment and legislation. In a Wall street journal study, 70 percent of women reported feelings of unequal pay comparatively to men, along with not being taken seriously, and not given any regard in terms of promotion. Seeing as though men dominate the corporate population, it is no surprise that they choose those similar to themselves, leaving women marginalized and alienated. There is this notion that women can strive to reach the top, and that is true, to an extent.
My question is: how far can they rise before smacking their head against the glass ceiling?
I’m sure any woman in the world reading this can recall a time where she was whistled at or cat called, touched without permission, and/or made to feel uncomfortable in her own environment due to sexual comments or “jokes.” Sadly, this holds truth within the professional world as well. Contextually, sexual harassment describes sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. Furthermore, it is a form of sex discrimination that violates the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Stated in Women’s Magazine in 1988, 90 percent of large corporations report sexual harassment complaints from female employees. However, of that 90 percent, only 20 percent are terminated. More recently, a 2015 Huffington Post article stated that one-in-three women between the ages of 18 and 34 will face sexual harassment in the work place on a regular basis.
Often when I discuss this issue, I receive responses like, "Well, what are the women doing about it?" "They can fight back." " Maybe if they didn’t wear form-fitting clothes in the office, they wouldn’t have this problem." The reality is when it is reported, it either takes a substantial amount of time for consequential action, or it is not addressed at all. Additionally, there is an unwelcomed amount of shame felt by women who experience this, and often suffer in silence. Sometimes, women are merely afraid of losing the position they have worked so hard for in the first place.
Know that the reality of gender inequality is hard-hitting, and sometimes discouraging for women who wish to pursue a career in high ranked corporate positions. However, being aware of current statistics and studies is crucial to fighting for advancement and equality. And we have to keep on fighting, because the battle has not been won.