The current economic status of women is defined by a single statistic, “women make 80 cents for every dollar a man makes”, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (2018). Women in the United States are not economically equal to men due to an oppressive labor force and outdated capitalistic ideology. The current state of equality in the United States is lacking between men and women. Capitalism continues to be a man’s world and women must work twice as hard to gain the same statue as their male associates. Despite massive progress in the fight for equality over the years, women continue to work a “double day” being a mother and a full-time employee. This affects the wage-gap entirely, as the inequality in parenthood and responsibility of a child is huge to the economic shortcoming of women. Women have made huge strides in receiving higher education which has resulted in more women working in what used to be men only occupations.
Regardless of educational gain women are still short to men, in my research paper I intend to digest why women have yet to reach economic equality in the U.S. The economic inequality of women is the main reason for women’s lower socioeconomic status. According to Stivers (2002) efforts to address gender inequity will need to include a comprehensive strategy that includes formal human resources policies related to hiring, promotion, and pay, as well as efforts to change the culture within the organization and address implicit biases related to gender roles (qtd. in Rabovsky). The factors I want to research that contribute to the economic inequality between men and women are occupation sex segregation, social bias and gender roles, salary disparities, rate of occupation growth, toxic leadership, gender discrimination, and the huge factor of motherhood.
Occupational Sex Segregation
The occupational sex segregation of men and women creates economic imbalance between men and women. Women dominate service and office occupations and men dominate construction and maintenance occupations creating wage disparities between men and women. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2020), in 2019 7,867 men twenty and over had a construction or extraction occupation, while only 287 women twenty and over reported to work for a construction or extraction occupation.
In 2019, 12,283 women twenty and over worked for office and administrative support occupations, with only 4,889 men twenty and over working in office and administrative support occupations (2020). These statistics show the large gap of occupational segregation between men and women in the workforce. This imbalance of occupational representation is so a detrimental factor to women’s economic inequality, because careers that women dominate are paid much lower salaries than those of men.
From an education standpoint, 41.7% of women earn bachelor’s degrees compared to 36.2% of men (U.S. Census Bureau 2019). Research from The Annual Report of the Council of Economic Advisers (2015) shows that women have become more-equal participants in the labor force by increasing their participation in paid work, obtaining more education and training, and widening the scope of occupation types. So, what is causing this imbalance of earnings? Although more women are now pursuing higher education than men; women are still choosing major’s for careers that earn significantly lower salaries, research says this could be due to social influence.
Influence of Socially Constructed Gender Roles
The economic status of women could be attributable to socially constructed gender roles that society has created for men and women, often affecting the work life of women. For the past two decades the gender roles of women have evolved and transformed more than ever before, but women are still bound by roles based off their gender instead of their value. Professionally, women find themselves being challenged and underpaid due to their gender. Due to underlying gender stereotypes, managers are likely to assume that women are less agentic (not focused on themselves and getting paid), and are more likely to be communal (focused on connection to others), and that men are more agentic and focused on pay than they are on relationships (Belliveau, 2012). This perception effects women economically because managers assume that women will be more motivated than men by rewards other than pay.
Managers provide a social account: an explanation, justiﬁcation, or apology for a decision, to change employee’s perception of them when reasoning for their pay decision. Research has found that managers assume that a social account will be more valuable to women, stereotyping women by their gender and social belief that they will value the feeling of greater procedural fairness more than men due to their perceived communality.
When an account is available, managers may pay women less than otherwise identical men because their perceptions of men’s greater self-interest and lower relational focus lead them to assume that procedural fairness will not be a viable substitute for higher pay for men (Belliveau, 2012). Until women are viewed equally with no biases placed upon them, they will have to work twice as hard to achieve the same economic position as a man. Gender roles will continue to harm a woman’s economic standing, occupational choice, and career growth.
Toxic leadership is when a supervisor, manager, CEO, etc. misuses the power they have over their subordinates. This type of leadership can be stifling to a woman’s career. In a 2015 study by Cailin S. Stamarski and Leanne S. Son Hing, the two researched how gender inequalities in the workplace affect organizational structures, processes, and practices. They looked at how some of the most harmful gender inequalities are enacted within human resources (HRs) practices. And how women can be maltreated by HR practices that affect the hiring, training, pay, and promotion of women (Stamarski & Son Hing 2015).
Toxic leadership affects women so gravely because it is usually exerted from a male in power that typically exerts toxic, masculine behavior. This behavior is known as “toxic masculinity” when men adhere traditional male gender roles that stigmatize and limit emotions men may comfortably express. Women are frequently at the hands of toxic masculinity in the home with this behavior being common in cases of domestic and sexual violence. Women also falter to this same oppressive behavior in the workplace with toxic leadership.
According to a study by Kernan et al. (2011), thousands of empirical studies have documented the harmful effects of toxic leadership for employees, work units, and organizations. Abusive and egotistical behaviors and strategies common to toxic leaders are associated with a broad range of detrimental consequences for employees subjected to toxic leadership. Including showing higher levels of stress, work/life conflict, and intent to job search along with lower levels of work engagement and job meaning (qtd. in Matos, Oneill, & Lei 2018). This is especially harmful for the economic growth of women.
Stamarski and Son Hing found that workplace discrimination contributes to women’s lower socioeconomic status because, the discrimination against women largely can be attributed to human resources (HR) policies and HR-related decision-making (2015). This discrimination makes it harder for women to succeed in their career and creates a wage gap between men and women. Institutional discrimination against women also occurs in performance evaluations that are used to determine organizational rewards (e.g., compensation), opportunities (e.g., promotion, role assignments), and punishments (e.g., termination) (Stamarski & Son Hing 2015), further contributing to salary disparities and economic imbalance between men and women.
A considerable amount of the gender differences in earnings can be explained by differences between women and men in education, age and experience. What’s left is called the indirect earning difference between women and men (Allen & Sanders 2002). It is common knowledge that women earn less than men do. Women in the United States earn on average, earn lower salaries than men. According to a current population survey by the U.S. Census Bureau in 2018, full-time, year-round male workers had a total median salary of $55,291, women in the same category had a median salary of only $45,097, leaving a $10,000 earning gap. All the previous issues contribute to this, but time spent in the labor force or managerial responsibilities were found to be the largest contributors to the wage gap (BensIdoun & Trancart).
Women are most likely to work part-time to care for children, men are much less likely to do this in the United States; this is a prime example of gender role oppression affecting a woman’s economic ability. In all countries only a small minority of men work part-time, whereas a large percentage of women do so (Allen & Sanders 2002). In a female household with no spouse present that household earns an estimated $41,703 (US Census Bureau 2019). In comparison, in a male household with no spouse present that household earns an estimated $60,843 (US Census Bureau 2019). The passage of the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, made outright discrimination in pay and employment illegal.
So, what is the cause of this gap in earnings between men and women? Women are now more educated than men and go out to work. Despite their education and labor market investment, women’s wages are still lower, than those of men. There are several explanations for this: women more often work part-time but the subjects they study prepare them for careers in less well-paid lines of work (BensIdoun & Trancart). The relatively low wages usually found in female-dominated industrial sectors could be attributable to a general consensus that the services being offered are somehow ‘less essential’, and therefore less deserving of compensation than work in more technical or managerial industrial sectors (Allen & Sanders 2002). The economic imbalance of women could be due to a surplus of women working in career fields that generally do not pay as high salaries as careers that men choose to work in. Rabovsky and Hongseok, explain the reasoning for this to be social or structural factors that might influence women ’s career-related choices such as choosing a college major or an occupation that results in lower wages.
Becoming a mother can be diminishing to a woman’s career and largely contributes to the wage-gap between men and women, the ratio of female-to-male median annual earnings for full-time/full-year workers stood at 0.79 in 2014 (Juhn 2017). The gap between male-to-female median annual earnings can be connected to the motherhood gap. Socially embedded norms cause women to be associated with being the main caregiver of a child, even though the father is just as capable. This costs women a lot of money, “women who exit the workforce to have children tend to experience an unexplained but persistent 3 percent wage penalty per year of absence” (Miller 2010).
Women must forfeit career growth for large amounts of time to raise the children, while fathers continue to gain career success with no problem. Mothers receive less pay due to factors like “facetime”; a key performance metric that rewards employees who are at the oﬃce more than those who are not. Given that women are still the primary caregivers, women use ﬂexible work arrangements more often than men and, consequently, face career penalties because they score lower on facetime (Glass,2004 qtd in Stamarki & Son Hing). Economically this is unfair and outdated; in the past women stayed at home while men played their role as “bread-winner” in the family but in our modern-day society this is no longer the case.
Mothers and fathers are both likely to work in a typical American family today, but women are still expected to keep up with the second job of being mom with little shift of responsibility to the father over the years. While women and men start their careers with similar earnings, a substantial gap arises over time, and the arrival of children is a major concurrent factor in the rising earnings gap (Juhn 2017). Until parenthood is looked at as an equal responsibility among men and women without gender roles and expectations economic equality for when will continue to be a challenge.
The economic status of women in the United States, is proportionally unfair compared to the current economic status of men. Research persists to show the oppression women still face in their day to day careers. The complexity of motherhood is a huge factor in economic inequality, maternity leave and childcare are fundamental in lifting this oppression from women. Gender roles remain to be an oppressive factor to women’s equality. Women are put against each other in today’s capitalistic society. Gender expectations often influence control over occupational freedom, this is seen in higher education when choosing a major for a career and with the role parenthood plays. Little shift in parental responsibly has cause an imbalance in responsibility for childcare needs for mothers.
Lack of female representation in male dominated careers due to occupational sex segregation has created a society where men have an unproportionate amount of power in occupation and wealth status. Male-dominated careers see higher salaries than female-dominated careers leaving females led occupations to be viewed as ‘less essential” than male driven occupations. Power can be misused by toxic forms of leadership, generally towards women in workplace settings, exerting toxic masculine behavior known as “toxic masculinity”. All of these factors play a part in slowing a woman’s career growth and producing a lower socioeconomic position. The economic position of women will continue to rely on the diligence of women to fight the oppression and climb the corporate ladder to career success.
- Allen, Jim, and Karin Sanders. “Gender Gap in Earnings at the Industry Level.” European Journal of Womens Studies, vol. 9, no. 2, 2002, pp. 163–180., doi:10.1177/1350682002009002808
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- US Census Bureau. “Income and Poverty in the United States: 2018.” The United States Census Bureau, 17 Sept. 2019, www.census.gov/library/publications/2019/demo/p60-266.html.