The fact that women face discrimination in the work place is not news. However, it is heartening to know that gender equality in the workplace is the best it has ever been and continues to improve. Currently, women still make only 77 cents for every dollar a man makes. While still not ideal, we are strides ahead of where we were in 1980 when women only made 55 cents for every dollar that a man made.
Challenges for Women Today
Perhaps the biggest challenge that women in the workplace will continue to face is the lack of attention given to the fact that discrimination still exists. Women are more likely to be overlooked for important assignments at work, and women receive on average half the budget that men receive even when women’s projects have more staffers.
The biggest problem is that members in the work force, men and women alike, don’t realize that they are treating women differently. In a recent essay, a workshop facilitator shared how she helped the CEO of a well-known company realize that he was treating his two protégés, one man and one woman, differently.
Through a workshop, the CEO realized that he was helping the woman by building her confidence and helping the man by actually teaching him how the business is run. He hadn’t realized that he was treating them differently, but his influence made the man far more likely to advance into senior management than the woman.
This type of blind bias is everywhere, and it is important for not only for men to treat women with respect but also for women to consciously, perhaps even painstakingly, acquire the business acumen needed to advance into higher levels of management.
Conditions for women in the work place are improving, and opportunities are expanding. Millennial women (ages 18-32) are three times more likely than their Baby Boomer (ages 49-67) counterparts to aspire to management. Women have made similar concrete gains in education as well.
In 1980, 15 percent of women and 21 percent of men held a four-year degree. Today, women far outpace men with 38 percent of women and 31 percent of men holding a four-year degree. Since 2009, women comprise the majority of doctoral degrees awarded as well. With higher levels of education for women across the board, women seem poised to succeed more than ever before in the next generation.
However, education is only part of the recipe for success. Knowing about opportunities and pursuing them is another key ingredient. The CIO of Global Risk Technologies is an example of a woman who works in computer programming and risk management–fields in which men are the overwhelming majority. She believes that bringing more women into the field will allow for new ideas to be brought forth that will make the industry more efficient and adaptable to changing conditions.
Monica Eaton-Cardone also observes that with the possibilities for working remotely that are offered by technology, more opportunities will be available to women than ever before. Women are far more likely to take time off, reduce their working hours, and quit a job due to family obligations. Now, women will have opportunities that they never had before to work flexible schedules. Eaton-Cardone urges women to seek out opportunities, not only to work, but to advance through management.
Big changes in the workplace have already been made, but it is imperative that we do not become complacent. The biggest barrier to improving equality in the workplace is not recognizing inequality where it exists, so the next generation of men and women must be aware of potential pitfalls and work together to create a more equitable, productive work environment.