The challenges faced by women in the workspace are diverse, interconnected, and often nuanced. Legislation alone cannot remove all obstacles. This is because these challenges are embedded in everyday attitudes and behaviors, including those of women, and are often based on past legacies and are not necessarily deliberately discriminatory. Some may be, but it truly does not matter if they are deliberate or not, as they end up causing the same level of harm.
While it may seem like the world is evolving and more women are joining the workforce, the reality is very different. As the report suggests, “progress is not slow. It’s stalling.”
This is why we are using this platform to point out some of these challenges that affect women in the workspace. As we all need to be aware.
1. Women’s representation
Women continue to be underrepresented at all levels, from entry-level jobs to senior management. According to the Women in the Workspace 2018 report, representing women of color are the least likely to fall behind white men, black men, and white women. A woman of color occupies just 17% of entry-level positions and only 4% of executive positions.
This underrepresentation gets worse as you move up to higher management positions. Only 22% of executives are women. Only 38% of women were promoted to managerial positions, compared to 62% of men.
Interestingly, almost the same number of women and men leave the company. So attrition cannot be blamed for this inequality and misogyny.
The underrepresentation of women in the workplace can be blamed on the stifling gender roles that society has bestowed on us and the fear of going against them. Women in the workspace must begin to feel safe in order for there to be an increase in women in the workspace.
Despite equality and procreation laws, procreation can still be disadvantageous for women, especially in the workplace. First, women of childbearing age may be discriminated against in hiring decisions. If two candidates are equally or relatively competent for the role, but one is unlikely or unable to have children, this is not legal, but it is difficult to prove. There are cases. The Maternity Act gives expectant mothers the right to take time off from work to give birth. In the UK, this is a maximum of 52 weeks of paid vacation. The UK Advisory, Mediation, and Arbitration Service (ACAS), which supports industrial relations, says that maternity rights are an area that receives many inquiries, and there is evidence that it continues to cause concern. The Citizens Advice Bureau, which also reports an increase in maternity-related inquiries, cites the following common issues:
- Singling out pregnant employees or new mothers for redundancy (particularly for sham redundancy situations).
- Mishandling requests for flexible working upon returning from maternity leave (such as unjustified refusals).
- Inappropriate comments about pregnancy that amount to harassment.
- Health and safety breaches against pregnant employees or new mothers (such as a failure to carry out a risk assessment).
- Penalizing a woman who is sick during pregnancy (such as treating pregnancy-related sickness absence as standard sickness absence when evaluating their suitability for work).
- Failure to communicate with an employee on maternity leave (such as not informing them of opportunities).
- Failure to ensure the appropriate pay is awarded during maternity leave.
- Failure to enable the employee to return to their old job after maternity leave, or another suitable and equivalent role if leave is more than 26 weeks.
- Disadvantaging a mother in relation to training (such as that she might have missed while on leave).
- Basing a recruitment decision on an employee’s family situation (such as asking about their intentions regarding having a family, or childcare arrangements).
3. Sexual harassment
The #MeToo movement has resulted in numerous reports of sexual and non-sexual harassment of women in the workplace. These incidents included unwanted verbal, visual, nonverbal, and physical harassment.
According to the Women in the Workplace Report, 35% of women employed full-time in the corporate sector have experienced sexual harassment. Another EEOC survey estimated that 75% of women exposed to such hostile situations did not report harassment. Especially, when the abuser is someone in a higher position.
People often ask me, “Why didn’t the victim come forward?” The main reason is the fear of being fired. The same EEOC study found that “75% of victims of harassment experienced retaliation for reporting it.” This percentage is extremely alarming and should have us worried.
To be honest, these victims, are not only scared of being fired but also scared of not being believed. As said earlier, the workplace is not safe for women.
4. Unemployment benefits
If women are raising children, the period of unemployment is longer. This means that women who take extended leave find it much more difficult to get rehired.
The Payscale report mentioned earlier, also noted, “Those who have been unemployed for less than three months will only face a fine of 3.4%, while those who have been unemployed for more than a year will face a fine of 7.3%, and you will face a fine of 10%.”
According to the report, 4% of men aged 20–29 have been unemployed for a year or more, compared to 11% of women. In the 30- to 44-year-old group, the unemployment rate is 10% for men and 20% for women. This is ultimately reflected in the gender pay gap, making it more difficult for women in the workspace to enter management positions.
5. Race and ethnicity
64% of Americans say racism is still a major problem in society. It’s also a workplace issue. White men and women will continue to be employed in place of black women of various races.
A 2017 employment discrimination lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) found that 33.9% of the lawsuits involved racial discrimination. According to a report released by the UK government in 2017, if the talents of the UK’s Black and Ethnic Minority (BME) population were fully utilized, their economy could be boosted by up to US$29 billion. A classic example of racial and ethnic discrimination faced by women in the workspace is the practice of hiring white people who they say do not fit their culture or work ethic.
6. Housework/nursing work
Taking long absences from work to focus on caring for young children, for whom mothers are believed to be more experienced than fathers, can exacerbate these problems, affect age-appropriate skills, and affect self-confidence. There is a nature to it. It also leads to speculation about the mother’s commitment to work or, if not, the possibility of taking time off to take on childcare responsibilities (giving the impression of being unreliable). . Care obligations are not limited to mothers, as they may extend to care of elderly relatives and other dependents.
Some organizations and professions can be particularly difficult in this regard, especially when they need “ideal workers.” This is a worker who is not entrusted with other responsibilities and therefore can prioritize his work and even extend his working hours for short periods of time if necessary. Women, especially mothers, are disproportionately affected as they are more likely to be the primary caregiver or contact in an emergency.
The level of legal childcare services also varies around the world. In the United Kingdom, for example, a law requires the provision of free childcare (up to 30 hours) for all children aged 2, 3, and 4. But globally, that is not the case. For example, children in Germany have the right to enter kindergarten, but this is not free. Caregiving responsibilities often require flexible or part-time contracts, which can be less secure and pay less. They are also less likely to provide a foundation for career advancement or promotion for women in the workspace. Most of the flextime and part-time jobs are done by women.
7. Being Masculine
Women are also discriminated against in the workplace and seen as “undeserved.” We have already explored this by discussing gender roles and associating certain (male) traits with leadership. Male-dominated occupations such as construction and engineering may be perceived as hostile or offensive to women, either because they pride themselves on being symbolic women or because organizational culture is perceived as hostile or offensive to women. Because of this, it is difficult for female applicants to blend in, which can make female applicants feel uncomfortable.
Being “unmanly” can result in exclusion from clubs and networks, whether formally or informally. This is traditionally called the “Old Boys Network” and refers to those who are male and attend elite private educational institutions. However, boys’ networks and clubs have other formats, such as: drinking groups and those who wish to participate in (male) sports or adrenaline-pumping activities. As a result, all women may find it unattractive or difficult to engage in other tasks outside of work. These networking opportunities serve as powerful informal mechanisms for progress.
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