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Gender Bias In The Workplace And Pay Inequalities Essay

In 1972, the government attempting to correct discrimination in the workplace passed the Equal Employment Opportunity Act. This act protects individual rights and promotes employment opportunities and fairness for everyone within the workplace (Klingner & Nalbandian, 1998, p. 158). This act should have eliminated gender bias and pay inequities, but has it accomplished its goal? Are employment opportunities and promotion opportunities fair and equal to everyone? Does gender bias and pay inequities still exist in 2000, 28 years after the passage of the act? In researching this topic, I do find that gender bias and pay inequities are still prevalent in today’s work world. Because there are so many women and minorities in the workforce today, I will attempt to explore some of the reasons why gender bias and pay inequities still exist. Background Organizational Culture First, does the organizational culture attribute to gender bias and pay inequalities? In researching this topic, I find the answer to be yes. Many times, the organizational culture and climate foster workplace inequalities and these inequalities are maintained by group pressure (Hale, 1999, p. 13). Informal networks within the agency help to maintain inequality because women and minorities are traditional employed in lower status jobs and not allowed into the networks. These jobs limit their access to powerful employees (McGuire, 2000, p. 1).

These informal networks tend to be personal, voluntary and have their own boundaries. You don’t join the network because you want too, you join because you are allowed too (McGuire, 2000, p. 1). Organizations have always been geared to the white male and these habits are hard to break. To accomplish goals of the agency, all employees must work together. Managers must build rapport with their employees and this is most easily accomplished by interacting with those who share the same background and who are most like them (Maume, 1999, p. 4). White men working and networking with white men. Many times the organization does not even realize that they are inequalities in their agency because they have always done it that way. People tend to get set in their ways and operate on auto-pilot and never see their weaknesses. Organizational climates are hard to change and it takes dedication from management to make it happen. Many times the management thinks, “If it’s not broken then why fix it?” What they do not realize is that the organization would be so much stronger if they diversified their workforce and let all employees excel to their greatest potential. Literature also suggest that gender bias is a result of institutional and attitudinal processes. White males simply do not want women or minorities to be in an equal position with equal pay.

Not only do they not want it, often times they take steps to protect specific jobs from women (Maume, 1999, p. 9). The “good ole boy” network is hard to break. All organizations state that they are an Equal Employment Opportunity company, but many agencies are only promoting that image and not actually following it. Yes, they hire minorities and yes they hire females, but these individuals do not have the same advantages as men. Often times they hire just for quotes and this causes hard feelings within the entire organization. Rather than the company hiring the best qualified, sometimes they hire a minority just to meet requirements. When this happens, the Equal Employment Opportunities policy can adversely effect other employees through reverse discrimination which in turn causes problems for the entire organization through decreased morale (Hale, 1999, p. 13). Also, if the black or female fails or performs poorly, then all white males will assume that all blacks and females will fail. “In sum, it is the relationship between social roles, interests, intergroup relationships and organizational culture norms and values that set the conditions that perpetuate unequal employment opportunities and outcomes (Hale, 1999, p.13).”

Society and Personal Influences What we are taught as children in regards to roles of females and males overflow into the workplace (Hale, 1999, p. 14). “Gender is a culture unto itself, raised with basic rules of conduct “instinctively” known to all adult members of that gender (Heim, 1995, p. 3). The managers of today grew up in families where their mothers stayed at home and kept house and took care of children. They have been taught at home that men should be the bread winner and women should take care of the house. They are also taught that men are stronger and should be the leader of the household and therefore these behaviors flow into the work setting. Even the Bible states that a women should not be over a man. These beliefs are taught generation after generation. “Internalization and Identity encompass the learning and socialization processes by which individuals incorporate assumptions, perceptions, stereotypes, and misperceptions and make judgments about themselves based on the way they perceive others judge them (Hale, 1999, p. 3). Women feel their are invisible, isolated and irrelevant within an organization while men see them as emotional (Hale, 1999, p.4). Men and women are different and view situations differently. Literature suggests that men do not want to give up their power and are uncomfortable working with women (Hale, 1999, p. 1).

Women feel excluded from power and feel socially isolated within the workforce. Description of a Specific Situation Job Segregation Another proof of gender bias is job segregation. Often times women and minorities are segregated or placed into certain agencies only because they are women or minorities. Social closure issues hold that society has defined what jobs are appropriate for males and what jobs are appropriate for females (Maume, 1999, p. 3). Many studies conclude that men and women are allocated and segregated into positions because they are either male or female. And this segregation affects pay and promotion opportunities (Maume, 1999, p.2). “Segregation accounts for approximately one-half of the gender gap in wages (Maume, 1999, p. 9)”. A National Study of Gender-Based Occupational Segregation in Municipal Bureaucracies indicates that women can be more successful in redistributive agencies (Miller et al., 1999, p. 2). Agencies such as welfare, social justice and health are more likely to support affirmative action. Society has taught us that women should be caring and nurturing and because of these traits, they fit into redistributive agencies. Many women will hold administrative and professional positions in these agencies and so there appears to be a gender balance in public welfare, sanitariums, and hospitals (Miller et al., 1999, p. 8).

In a study in Los Angeles, it was determined that economic restructuring had a negative impact on African Americans. The unemployment rate among black males has increased more than twice the rate of white males (James, 2000, p. 4). At a first glance, it appears black females have faired better than white females, but that is not the case. Black females are more likely to be employed in public sector work or pink-collar occupations where segregation of females is high. Many black females have entered the arena because they have obtained higher levels of education (James, 2000, p. 6). However, very few of them have management positions, but are employed as school teachers, educational counselors and social workers. While all of these professions require at least a bachelors degree, they are still relatively low paying jobs (James, 2000, p. 8). It is also noted in the study, that jobs held traditionally by black females such as housekeepers are now held by Latinos. The Latinos are not gaining employment because of non-gender bias but because these individuals are uneducated and speak limited English (James, 2000, p. 7). Once again, minorities and females are being segregated into certain jobs.

If government agencies are required to follow Equal Employment Opportunity rules and affirmative action laws, then why are females not getting a fair deal? One reason is because primary stakeholders in government tend to be male and therefore they support the hiring and promoting of men. Policy making, implementation, and management of infrastructure are usually dominated by men, following the orders of men. On the contrary, in social agencies there appears to be less male influence. This is believed to be caused by the fact that most businesses are not the beneficiary, but citizens. Politicians perceive businesses as more important than citizens because of the economic impact of tax revenues. Therefore, men feel they need men in areas of real power positions. This shows a direct relationship between agency-clientele on gender-based employment patterns (Miller et al., 1999, p. 7). Once again, the municipal study finds that females are underrepresented in the best paying or most powerful positions within city government (Miller et al., 1999, p. 7). Jobs are ranked by employers and employees differently.

Employers rank them according to skills and commitment and employees rank them according to desirability and rewards (Maume, 1999, p. 3). One would think this process would be fair to everyone but, in many organizations there appears to be double standards to judge men and women. Women most often have to measure up to higher standards than men do to obtain the position (Hale, 1999, p. 8). Are employment opportunities and promotional opportunities equal to both men and women? No. Reskin and Roos conclude that women can move into “male” jobs “either because market conditions force employers to reach down into the labor queue to hire women, or because men reevaluate and vacate jobs, thereby creating openings for women (Maume, 1999, p. 3).” Women are traditionally segregated into specific jobs; thereby leaving men in their on world to compete with each other for higher paid jobs (Maume, 1999, p. 3). Men traditional have higher status contacts than women which also help them to maintain their positions (McGuire, 2000, p. 2). Glass Ceilings, Glass Walls and Glass Escalators “The glass wall metaphor describes occupational segregation attributed to employment barriers that restrict the access of women to certain types of jobs (or agencies) or that trap them within certain types of jobs (or agencies).

Glass walls are likely to persist when: (1) organizational cultures create impediments to change; and/or (2) skills necessary to perform jobs in a given agency are not highly valued elsewhere” (Miller et al., 1999, p. 2). The glass ceiling is an expression used to describe the inequalities of men and women within the workforce. It seems that women can become employed in an agency but then run into an invisible barrier when they try to move up the ladder of hierarchy within the organization (Baxter & Wright, 2000, p. 1). “Although women held half of all federal government jobs in 1992 and made up 86 percent of the government’s clerical workers, only a quarter of them were supervisors and only a tenth senior executives (Baxter & Wright, 2000, p. 2).” Several studies in the employment of women conclude that women continue to face glass walls and glass ceilings in government positions (Miller et al., 1999, p. 2). In addition, women continue to find it hard to obtain employment in male-dominated fields (Miller et al., 1999, p. 1-2). This further proves that women are segregated into certain types of jobs.

The findings of the Panel Study of Income Dynamics suggest that white men have a glass escalator and a glass ceiling continues to exist for women and minorities. White men tend to ascend to managerial levels with little or no effort especially in segregated workplaces (Maume, 1999, p. 3). Initially one would think that females would have the advantage in a predominate female workplace, but that is not the case. Women are continually excluded from supervisory positions and are generally paid lower salaries even in those agencies (Maume, 1999, p. 1-2). Promotions, Job Devaluation, and Pay Inequities Segregation places different sexes into unequal jobs thereby locating women and men into different opportunity structures and affects promotion opportunities (Cassirer & Reskin, 2000, p. 3). Most female jobs then to have a shorter promotion ladder (Cassirer & Reskin, 2000, p. 3). The municipal study finds that females are underrepresented in the best paying or most powerful positions within city government (Miller et al., 1999, p. 2). These positions are traditional administrative and professional occupations.

They convey status, authority, and usually influence policy makers (Miller et al., 1999, p. 2). The study concluded that specialists were more likely to be promoted to these positions rather than generalists. The subject specialists are generally from professions mostly dominated by men, for example, engineers or biologist (Miller et al., 1999, p. 4). The municipal study also uncovered two patterns within city government. First, female administrators and professionals were hired in lower paying agencies. Second, agencies with higher level salaries were agencies with more gender imbalance (Miller et al., 1999, p. 10). Again, women were more concentrated in health, welfare, hospitals, and sanitariums. It appears that the jobs with better pay were held for men. Literature suggest that men are more often promoted than women. Because of this, men attach more importance to promotion than women. In addition, men are more likely located in a position where promotions are possible. The organizational culture encourages male promotions (Cassirer & Reskin, 2000, p. 1). This culture causes women to not value promotions because they know that they will not receive one because the company just doesn’t promote females or the promotion will be blocked (Cassirer & Reskin, 2000, p. 2).

Another surprising finding within female dominated organizations is the fact that males still have the advantage in management. One would suspect that in a predominate female organization, the female would have the advantage, but studies show this not to be the case. Males seem to bullet up the glass escalator. Many times the promotion occurs because the male employee will bond with the male manager who will in turn mentor him and prepare him for advancement (Maume, 1999, p.5). Often times the male is promoted in the predominant female agency to boost morale and to decrease tensions (Maume, 1999, p. 5). The tensions develop because females think that the males can not do the job because they do not match the stereotype of nurturing and caring (Maume, 1999, p. 11). “Kanter concludes that sex-differentiated work behavior results from sex-differentiated opportunity structures rather than from gender assumes a casual process in which workers’ positions, not their gender, affect their work attitudes and behaviors (Cassirer & Reskin, 2000, p. 2).” Another interesting facet of gender bias is that when women move into jobs predominately held by men, the jobs are devalued. The autonomy, prestige and high pay are removed (James, 2000, p. 9).

It is noted that as agencies become more and more female dominated, they are viewed as the dumping ground for females resulting in lower pay scales and limited job training (Maume, 1999, p. 5). Reskin and Roos conducted a study on labor and job queues to inform readers of the changing ethnic/gender composition of occupations and how it related to African American women’s changing occupational profile. They also found that because occupations were transformed to include women, the jobs status decreased and the pay also decreased (James, 2000, p. 6). The status composition perspective holds that organizations with large numbers of female employees are devalued in the eyes of an organization. The jobs held by mostly females are considered unimportant and lower skilled as compared to male jobs. Job evaluations prove that women receive lower points than men which means lower salaries for the females (Maume, 1999, p. 3). “Inequality in the distribution of earnings and income is generally positively related to inequality in education and training (James, 2000, p. 9). I feel that this statement is not true. A male and female can be equally as qualified, but the male will still get a better salary.

Literature suggests that even when females hold masters degrees, they still make less than their male counterparts (Maume, 1999, p. 2). Although women have made some progress in obtaining management positions, gender bias is still highly integrated. Ironically, gender bias is greater at the lower level of management than at the highest level of the organizational hierarchy (Baxter & Wright, 2000, p. 9). In all the research that I conducted, the same theme was prevalent in all articles. There is not equal pay for equal work nor is there equal opportunities for advancement. Conclusions and Recommendations In order to fully gain equal employment and fairness, traditionally male positions must be opened up to females. This is the only way to shatter the glass walls and ceilings that currently exist (Miller et al., 1999, p.10). Individuals concerned about equalities for everyone should press for the continuation and strengthening of local government programs designed to increase female representation and more equitable gender distributions of better paying and better government jobs (Miller et al., 1999, p. 10). This support must come from white males and not only females and minorities. In addition, organizational cultures must be changed in both the private and public arena.

This process will be time consuming and will inevitably run into opposition from white males. Change is hard and many times people try to block it. In order for employees to embrace change, they must understand the changes and why they are necessary. If employees are not supportive, tensions will increase and morale will worsen (Miller, 1963, pp. 236-237). Managers at all levels will need to fully embrace workforce diversification for the value that it will bring to the organizations. Literature also suggests that educational institutions must get involved in teaching equality because they are preparing the leaders of the future. “Public administration graduate programs should more actively strive to strengthen equal-opportunity learning environments by exposing students to the way gender affects their work-lives and by better preparing students to face and overcome gender-based inequalities in organizations (Hale, 1999, p. 16).” The goal of educators should be to continually improve society. Many times schools have failed to recognize this purpose (Miller, 1965, p. 7). Valuing differences in employees creates synergy and the key to valuing these differences is to realize that all people see the world as they see themselves (Covey, 1989, p. 277).

This makes the job of equality and pay equity so difficult. Men believe that it is easier to work with men and that men do a better job and therefore deserve more money. Their pride and egos tell them that women cannot do the job as well as they can. These personal beliefs must be changed. Pairing men and women together on teams will expand the male mindset and hopefully help them realize that females and minorities are as equally qualified. Valuing the differences of all employees can make the entire agency stronger because we all have strengths to bring to the agency. Intense staff development must be held to teach men and women how to communicate with each other. Men need to learn all they can about females and females need to know all they can about males. Society requires that men and women work together and this is not going to change. What has to change is the way we work together.

Communication is the key. If we do not communicate effectively, then the best intentions of both genders will fail (Heim, 1995, p. 3). In looking at my agency, I can agree that gender bias and pay inequalities exist. Our agency has more white females than white males and only a few minorities. We have an established pay scale but the scale is not always followed.There is evidence that men are given more pay than women with the same degree. Also, men with lesser degrees have received a higher salary because of who they know and not because of their education or experience. Traditionally when promotion opportunities became available, the administration would automatically appoint a white male. The new President of the college recognized the gender bias in management. He put a policy in place that all jobs must be posted and that everyone would have an opportunity to apply for them. When he was hired we had one female administrator, now we have three.


Baxter, Janeen and Erik Olin Wright, 2000, “The Glass Ceiling Hypothesis”, Gender and Society, Vol. 14, Issue 2, p. 275. Cassirer, Naomi and Barbara Reskin, 2000, “High Hopes”, Work & Occupations, Vol. 27, Issue 4, p. 438, 26p. Covey, Stephen R., 1989, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, New York: Fireside of Simon & Schuster. Hale, Mary, 1999. “He Says, She Says: Gender and Worklife,” Public Administration Review, Vol. 59, Issue 5, p. 410. Heim, Pat, 1995. The Power Dean-Even Rule and other gender differences in the workplace, San Jose, California: Cor Vision Media. James, Angela, 2000. “Moving up, But How Far? African American Women and Economic Restructuring in Los Angeles, 1970-1990”, Sociological Perspectives, Vol. 43, Issue 3, p. 399. Klingner, Donald E. and John, Nalbandian, 1998. Public Personnel Management: Contexts and Strategies (4th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall. Maume, Jr., David J. 1999. “Glass Ceilings and Glass Escalators,” Work & Occupations, Vol. 26, Issue 4, p. 483. McGuire, Gail M., 2000. “Gender, Race, Ethnicity, and Networks,” Work & Occupations, Vol. 27, Issue 4, p. 500, 24p. Miller, Van, 1963. The Public Administration of American School Systems. New York: The Macmillan Company. Miller, Will; Kerr, Brinck; Reid, Margaret (1999). “A National Study of Gender-Based Occupational Segregation in Municipal Bureaucracies: Persistence of Glass Walls,” Public Administration Review, Vol. 59, Issue 3, p. 218,

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