Inequalities and Diversity in the Workplace
To speak directly to some of these negative aspects, I’d like to bring attention to the area of working parents. An interesting fact within Dr. Jennifer Harrison’s “Inequalities and Diversity in the Workplace” lecture video was on the topic of male and female pay disparity, in which she described that once a couple has a child(ren), it is likely that the overall income of the mother will fall, while the overall income of the father will rise (Harrison, n.d.). I found this to be fascinating as it never occurred to me that this could happen. Obviously, the pay gap is calculated using multiple variables and reasonings, but the concept of the mother, in general, receiving less pay was hard to handle. It is almost as if companies would then view the mother as collateral, as her time would be assumed to be much more split between work and home life than that of the father. This also hits home in regard to my own family. When I was born, both my parents were working multiple jobs and my mother was in college. The amount of stress on them was unbearable and would only increase once my sister was born a year later. My mom worked full-time for a few years at her main job without getting much of a substantial bump in pay, which was quite deflating mentally.
Also, as the U.S. doesn’t really have paid parental leave, my mom had to continue to work to afford to take care of us and pursue school. However, this also left my father under a lot of stress as well. The pressures of finding a successful career was a heavy weight, especially when realizing that working overtime was the only way to sustain your family and your partner through college, which ultimately left him without the ability or time to further his education. Things eventually evened out stress-wise, but from discussing with them the concepts in this class, it is clear that this issue and the negative impact it brings unconsciously affected them for years. Looking at my family’s specific situation, it is difficult to pinpoint anything that could be changed within society that would make a positive change for other people dealing with the same issue, as this is something that has been occurring for years. In my mind, the best option to alleviate some of this stress would be paid parental leave from work. This would have greatly helped my mother with having more time with us when we were first born, and it would have made continuing her education a bit easier. I find that many of the European countries I have visited have this option and it is quite positive in regard to lowering the psychological stress of not only the mother but the father as well.
Shrinking Pay Gap
Continuing with the theme of wages, one of the main things that ended up making life easier on my family was my mother’s completion of her college degree, as it opened the doors to much higher paying work for her and more time for the family. According to the Pew Research Center video “There’s More to the Story of the Shrinking Pay Gap”, the wage gap between women and men has significantly decreased due to an increasing amount of the female population that are pursuing higher education (Pew Research Center, 2014). My mom was one of these women that had the chance to obtain a degree, and it opened her horizons to a couple of careers that were solidly stable. She was also reviewed for pay raises much more frequently compared to her first line of work. In my opinion, this only reinforces the idea of how important a college education is, but it is sad that it could be so difficult to justify a pay increase without one. I believe one of the best things we could do to make a positive change in the area of promoting education is for universities and even high schools to start promoting degrees in STEM fields for women. It is not that other degrees in other areas do not hold value, but I believe one of the ways in which the wage gap could be further decreased and women could gain further recognition is through breaking into these fields. I believe one of the greatest factors to the workplace recognition of women within the last 50 years has been their ability to break through and thrive in the fields of medicine and law. However, I believe the next 50 years and beyond will be due to more women working in the areas of science, technology, and engineering.
As I have previously talked about how the concepts within this learning week can be compared to the different stages of life with my family, I would like to continue this pattern by moving to more recent times. I’ve previously mentioned in other discussions about my dad’s line of work, which was mainly as a pipeline radiographer until he has recently moved into inspecting and teaching within his field. The aspect I would like to present that is related to my father and his work-life balance is that of unions. Rudi Volti describes in his book “An Introduction to the Sociology of Work and Occupations”, that labor unions may have been formed with good intentions, but even these types of groups could promote forms of inequality and create barriers to those seeking work (Volti, p. 236, 2012). Upon entering his line of work, my dad was inclined to joining the union associated with his field, as it usually meant better pay, hours, benefits, and work availability. All of these things are for the most part true and I do believe that unions provide many benefits to protecting and promoting their members. However, one area of inequality that he and I found was due to when there is a lack of available work for current union members, and what his union had the ability to do to some members if they chose to work “non-union” jobs. As the pipeline industry has died down within the last 5 years, my father was in a tough position between waiting for union work in his area or choosing to work for a non-union company until more work was available. He would have taken an obvious pay decrease, but he would have had income for his family. However, it was a sort of unspoken rule in which my father’s union would possibly “blacklist” some union members from further work that would choose to work for non-union companies for a small period of time, which would even spur fear among members about losing their membership.
A few of my father’s friends had this happen to them during this period, which made it much harder for them to find work. In my opinion, this “we have to stick together” mentality can be quite damaging when it gets to this level of harm. This is also a prime example of how work can directly interfere with life and make employees go through extreme stress. Obviously, the practice of blacklisting or discriminating a union member from work is illegal, but it is something that does occur and can go unseen and unquestioned within unions. I believe a way that this could be changed for the better would be to have better regulation over this sort of issue. No union member or employee should have to be worried about their livelihood and benefits, especially during times where work is sparse to begin with. Having more periodical outside or third-party inspections into union affairs could also help to make the atmosphere more honest within union circles, which could reduce stress on members that may feel that they are experiencing this situation.
Harder Times at Work
Work-life balance may be a concept that many people do not have the time to delve into and unbox, but it is still a major part of society. I believe we all have stories of trying to balance both areas, whether within our own lives, our family, or those around us. The stresses of work will eventually cause stress in life and the difficulties of life will eventually lead to harder times at work. Overall, it can be difficult to find an exact balance that promotes mental peace within both areas, but there are things that we can do as a society to make some of the negative aspects reduced.