The Glass Ceiling: Are women treated differently?
The Glass Ceiling: Are women treated differently?
Throughout all of history, women have been seen and treated differently than men for many reasons and in all aspects of life. Women are regarded differently from men in the home, in churches, at school, and even in the business world. This may not always necessarily be a bad thing, but in the work place, specifically, is it a benefit or a deterrent to regard women differently? Should it make any difference at all if an employee or manager is a woman, or should corporations see women exactly the same way as they see men? These are all important questions to ask when entering into any business, either as an owner/manager or as an employee.
The way a corporation sees women can and often will define the atmosphere of the work place. In this study, an observation will be made in comparison to the private sector compared with the public job sector. When focusing on the public sector, the majority of the influences will come from the local law enforcement and the United States military. When dealing with the private sector, a great portion of the analysis will come from small and large corporations. It is important to understand that we will all have pre-conceived opinions as we enter into this study. The purpose of this study, however, is to look at this issue from all sides.
It is important to observe the benefits of seeing women differently as opposed to seeing them the same as men, and it is equally important to observe the negative aspects of seeing women treated differently than men. Throughout this study, a constant observation will be discussed to confirm whether or not women are truly treated differently from men in work place. With all of these observations, it is important to remember that whether or not women are treated differently does not question their equality with men. In this study, an observation of equality is not what is at hand but the treatment of women versus the treatment of men at the work place.
I. Overview of the Issue
The great issue that arises when determining whether or not women are treated differently than men poses a possible problem. If it is in fact determined that women are treated differently, then what is the proposed “fix”? Is it necessary that the “problem” be fixed at all? Also, if it is determined that women are not treated differently than men, then what are the necessary actions that need to be taken to ensure that the same conclusion is true for all work environments? The underlining issue here is to determine where the fine line exists in the work place that distinguishes between men and women. One of the issues that grows in corporations between men and women is that women are often considered a flight risk while men are considered visionaries and work-horses.
Does the woman’s number one role lie in the workplace or in the home? Do women define themselves in regards to their work, as it is often believed that men do, or do they define themselves by what they do in their personal life? These questions will be discussed in the opposing viewpoints throughout the study. With statistics showing that men make over 40% more than women, it is easy to believe that America might have a silently deadly problem that is going unnoticed or unchanged. This is why it is important to first observe why women might be treated differently than men. II. Women are treated differently in the work place.
According to polls and statistics, women make less money than men by 40 percent (Fairness indeed. Washington Times, The (DC)). Women are seen as a potential risk for the financial wellbeing of a company, some might believe. The obligation to allow for mothers to take time off for pregnancy and return to their current positions is a constant fear that corporations may have of young women in America. Some women are faced with the challenge of giving up their dream job for having a child, maybe even losing the chance to be up for promotion because they can no longer be as fully committed to their jobs. Even after women return to work from their maternity leave, they now have huge responsibilities that they must attend to in the home.
This balancing act can create constant fears and anxieties of women in the workplace. The fact that this tension exists helps in the case for showing that there is, in fact, a problem that needs to be resolved. If women were truly being treated the same as men, many more jobs would be filled by women, equal pay would be allocated to women and promotions would not be considered a gender issue, but would be based on work experiences and expertise.
By observing just the timeline of women’s history and seeing the rise of women to power, it is truly accurate to say that women are not being treated the same as men. In this century alone, America has seen women rise to power in the military, in business, at home, and in government. What is in question here is not whether or not women have risen to their full potential, but whether or not women even been given the ability to show their full potential. This is what is being questioned. If women are not able to show their full potential but their counterparts are, then women are truly being treated differently than men in an unjust way.
American women have been increasingly claiming discrimination in the workplace. If these accusations were not true, it would not call for such attention; but it does, so ignoring the fact proves to be the source of the problem. The problem is that women are in fact being treated differently from men in the workplace. More and more women are getting together and proclaiming equality in the work place, some even losing their jobs for those sakes. Many women feel they are not taken seriously at work, whereas men are being heard. A young feminist reported that if women want the desired positions, they will have to demonstrate it by their history of accomplishments, whereas men will receive the benefit of the doubt and be taken by his word for what he will offer to the company. In the private sector, women have also been discriminated against.
The same rules apply when it comes to discrimination against women in the private sector as do in the business world. In the military, for example, women are denied entrance into the more dangerous, combative jobs, nor are they allowed entrance into many elite teams and elite combative operations. Some critics would declare this to be discriminative against women. By not allowing women to enter elite forces is an undermining discriminative act against all women, and some women feel as though they are not even given the equal opportunity to excel in those elite forces. After all, if a woman can exhibit superior physical strength and be as emotionally and mentally keen as her male counterpart, why should she be denied the same opportunities that men are?
Only until 1940, at the end of World War I, were women allowed to enter into the military on a permanent bases. Shortly before that, after the passing of the 19th Amendment on August 18, 1920, women had gained the right to vote in America for the first time. Even after 72 years of struggle, women have still not received the full, equal rights that men do in the military. “In November of 2009, Dunwoody became the first female officer in U.S. military history to earn a fourth star. She currently serves as commander, U.S. Army Materiel Command” (Lopez, 09 F). It is indisputable that women are not seen in the same way that they were seen just less than fifty years ago.
This proves that America is on the right path towards men and women being treated as equals, but with this in mind shows that America has still not achieved a level of unity between men and women. According to the absolutes that are in place, are women being misrepresented or are women in the work place just crying wolf? The element of absolutes states that if “truth telling, property, life, or freedom” is interrupted then the natural law of ethics has been violated. These laws apply to both men and women in the work place. Violation of these natural laws constitutes unethical behavior. If a company does not violate any of these foundations, then by definition they are not violating any unethical standing. On June 20, 2011, 4 out of 5 judges finalized the largest discrimination case against a single company in the American history.
“The Supreme Court on Monday threw out an enormous employment discrimination class-action suit against Wal-Mart that had sought billions of dollars on behalf of as many as 1.5 million female workers” (Liptak, 2011). This class-action lawsuit failed to stand because too many of the cases were not equally grounded. No common grounds between each case were found from each pleading case and testimonies from as many as 1.5 million women. The Supreme Court found that Wal-Mart did not violate any unethical discrimination law. Though Wal-Mart escaped billions of dollars in a lawsuit, this did not prove that some employers of Wal-Mart did not abstain from being discriminatory. After careful investigation, not one of the elements of ethics were violated: truth telling, property, life, and freedom; thus, there was an ethical business model in place. When determining if women are being treated differently in the workplace, it is important to understand why that may be happening.
A certain company has a strict policy that says that women who work past 7 pm are to be escorted to their vehicle by a security officer. This policy is only applicable for women and only if they desire to utilize it. This type of treatment is certainly one that is favorable for women who work for this company, and treatments like these are becoming more common in many companies. This type of treatment does not prove that women are weaker, unfavorable, or discriminated against. Many of the women who work for this company truly appreciate the service, since the company is located in a somewhat undesirable neighborhood. Though the option for the security service is not made for the men who work in the company, most men do not feel the need to complain about it.
To closely observe this benefit that the company provides, it is important to return to the natural elements of ethics. To not allow security services for males in a high crime-rated area, just might constitute an interference with the basic natural elements of ethics. If a man is walking to his vehicle and someone holds that man at gunpoint and steals his money, that man has just lost part of his property. This might not have happened if the man was walking with a security guard. The company, then, has failed to protect all of their employees’ property. This failure to protect all of its workers has caused the company to interfere with one of the ethical natural elements: theft of property. If the company had chosen to make this option available to all of its employees, then no ethical elements would have been violated.
If the company did not make this option available at all, the company would not have broken any of the ethical elements. This company singled out one subgroup of employees, and by this action caused the company to participate in an act of treating different genders differently, even if it was for a good cause. A Fact-Finding Report of the Federal Glass Ceiling Commission in Washington, D.C. reported that 47.5 percent of white males and 31.9 percent of white females make the majority of executives, managers and administrative positions. Less of those reporting are in minority, with 3.6 percent being African-American males and 4.8 percent being African-American females. 5.2 percent were Hispanic males and 3.6 percent were Hispanic females who had been placed in executive and managerial positions.
These statistics also show that most female and minority workers chose not to work in the private sector, but rather in the public sector. “According to Burbridge, 90 percent of black female professionals, 70 percent of black male professionals, and 83 percent of white and Hispanic women professionals work in the government or the third sector, compared to 56 percent of white male non-Hispanic professionals” (Department of Labor, 1995). These numbers are anything but surprising. America has grown to tolerate this type of acceptance. Something that Bud Baker defined as an “apt description of a reality in which women and minorities tend to be overrepresented at the lower levels of an organization yet underrepresented at more senior levels” (Bud, 2012).
The tables then turn to ask the question, are women truly considered a minority in the work place? The statistics show that women are, in fact, considered a minority. Women typically make less than men for the same position, women often struggle more to get the same position as their male counterparts, and women may feel generally less respected than men in the workplace. The statistics often reveal that there is an increased interest in men and not in women. Many studies also show that women feel as though they are not given the same opportunities as men. They are not included in certain networks and in certain groups. An example might be a simple golf team-building event amongst office workers, which most likely will not attract female co-workers, but which is likely to be enjoyed by the businessmen of the organization. Aren’t the best deals done on the golf course? If women do not attend such events that can help them further their careers, then what else could they possibly do to further their careers, especially if their employer is the one who makes these decisions?
Case after case has been presented to show that women are in fact being treated unfairly when compared to men in the same work environments, and that employers, America, and both men and women stand up to this unfairness in the workplace. III. Women are not treated differently in the work place.
Now that a careful analysis of women being treated differently in the workplace has been evaluated, it is time to move on to the opposing viewpoint that says that women are not treated differently. The number of women that are entering into the work force has been staggering. The Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics found preliminary evidence of affluent women returning to the labor force. These women returning to the workforce after the recession helps prove that a majority of women are choosing to get out of the house and also become a provider for their families. The Great Recession is pushing many highly educated women who had left work to stay at home with their children to dive back into the labor pool, according to several nationally recognized experts on women in the workplace (Greenhouse, 2009).
Since women are returning to the workplace at an accelerated rate, this creates two main problems for companies. The first problem that this causes for growing companies is that a new model of their work environments needs to be established. Companies are no longer only dealing with a majority of men but women also. Companies have had to set boundaries and guidelines regarding where there once was little or no need for it. The mentality for men has also changed. Men have always typically been accustomed to taking charge at work and then going home to a wife and kids. This has changed drastically. Now, men are working alongside their female counterparts, oftentimes even having a female superior or a spouse who holds more authority at work than he does.
This mentality might be foreign to men. This is what helps prove the point that women are not treated differently, but simply that a new concept is being introduced. What this entails is that when something new is introduced, it takes time and energy to become accustomed to the new model. The question that is asked—are women treated differently—is not that women are treated differently, but women are a new foreign concept to men in business. Women are not mistreated any more than men are mistreated in the workplace. Whatever scenario can be described for women, the same is true for men.
The statistics that were explained earlier, showing that men get paid more at work than women, might easily be skewed considering the number of men that work as compared with the number of women that work. Since there are more men at work, then this might suggest that there is more competition in the work place. If there are five males to one female competing for a job position, then that says that the competition is great for that one position that the female will need to beat. This is not a matter of male or female but of qualification; if the qualifications show that the female applicant is a better fit, then that would be considered in the facts. But when there is one female to five males competing for the position and the female does not receive the position, the statistics will be skewed towards more males getting the higher and better position, when in fact there were simply more competitors for the position.
The second problem that is presented to growing companies is that companies need to provide extended circumstances to women that are not allowed to men. When women go on maternity leave, women are expected to take time off work and return to the same position. Though this is of legal statue under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) (U.S. Department of Labor, 2009), many employers consider this a flight risk person. This flight risk that is presented to the employers is something that is taken under heavy amounts of consideration. This does not mean that women are treated differently, just that women come with some amount of liabilities that the company needs to consider. In every business hiring process, when someone is hired an unspoken and sometimes spoken assessment is made.
The assets are measured against the liability so that the owner’s equity is most profitable. In this situation, women have a potential liability against them, which is the possibility of pregnancy. What makes women no different from men is that men also come with unspoken and sometimes spoken liabilities that are considered against them during the hiring process. The time marker of when “women treatment” becomes different from men is when an employer does not consult the assets that the woman brings to the job, which then becomes an unethical approach to hiring. This in fact would be illegal and unethical.
Women in Leadership
Women have slowly been taking their place in the top executive positions of many organizations. Women bring to the exercise of leadership an arsenal of strengths (Ionescu, 2012). Women are not only re-entering the labor force, but are actually gaining some successful positions in leadership, not only in the public sector but also in the private sector. America has seen a great number of successful women rise to positions of high authority and high earning power. Each year, more and more women are gaining political leadership, even as close to the presidency itself. To believe that women are not given the proper respect and resources to achieve great success in America is getting closer and closer to being completely false. We have even come so far as to elect a black president—an idea that was unfathomable just a few decades ago—and several females in office including Hillary Clinton, our current Secretary of State.
A major reason that women are not always taking the top positions or reaching their full potential at work is simply because women themselves often choose not to. Wallstrom says that if women constitute half the electorate, “the logical conclusion” is that women should have “half of the elected seats.” But women do not run for office as often as men do. They do not seek to make partner in law firms as often. Nor do they seek to be presidents of large firms as often as men do. There are many reasons for this, but the most important is that women typically have different preferences than men do (Rhoads, 2012). Many women are choosing to take ownership of their role in the home, rather than seek high power and authority in the business world. This is a key argument that women are not treated differently than men. Women who assert themselves at work just like men do have proven to become very successful.
Too often, political parties have been an obstacle that women must overcome. But the United States case suggests that women’s organizations and movements, women leaders, and women voters are the keys to making parties a help rather than a hindrance to women’s representation. In other words, women need to stand up to help build a case for themselves (Sanbonmatsu, 2012). In a world where the people represent the people, the people are who is going to make a difference in the end result.
If women are not voting and organizing themselves for success, then the blame is not upon women being treated differently but women not organizing themselves as well as they should be. This engagement of young women as activists, voters, and candidates themselves, is critical to their efforts to elect a woman president and to produce and sustain a significant increase in elected women office-holders at all levels. (Schultz, 2012) IV.
Summary and Analysis of Issues
Now that both sides of the case for women in the workplace has been presented, it is important to understand how both sides correlate with each other and how both sides of the argument are needed to achieve a better conclusion of the subject matter. In one viewpoint of the argument, it was discussed that statistics show that women receive less preferred treatment in their jobs, pay and potential position opportunities. In the opposing argument that women are not treated differently, it was suggested that the statistics regarding women receiving less money for the same job proved to be unreliable since women and men are paid based on their experience, not their gender. Most employers pay based on experience level and not on the basis of gender.
One of the sides argues that women are only heard based on their previous experiences, whereas men are held to their promises to the business. This brings a point to this standing argument, because it shows that women are not being held to the same standard as men are, which would help build the case that women in fact are treated differently. The opposing viewpoint suggested that both men and women are in fact held to the same standard because both men and women suffer the same consequences: job loss, struggles with employers, and pay decrease when times are tough. The opposing viewpoint suggests that these consequences are unfavorable situations that occur to not only women but also for men.
To conclude, it is important to reference back to the lawsuit that was presented against Wal-Mart. Remember that there were over a million women who had come forward to present their case that Wal-Mart was discriminatory toward women in the workplace. The result of the case was that it could not be proved that Wal-Mart had discriminated against every female that came forward and, therefore, the whole lawsuit fell through. Even though it may be assumed that there probably was some level of discrimination towards some of the female associates, Wal-Mart could not be charged with discrimination against women in general.
The same can be said for corporations in our nation, in general. A sweeping generalization cannot be made that “women are treated unfairly in the workplace.” There are most likely going to be numerous occasions where unfairness and discrimination is seen against women at work. However, one can conclude that from the case made that “women are treated fairly in the workplace”, that women have come a long way and contributed greatly to the working environments of our nation. In the American culture today, one can conclude that women—granted they have the desire, the required skill sets, education and experience—are fully capable of reaching their full potential at work. While some instances of discrimination may still exist, women as well as men must continue to carry forward, striving for success and proving their value at work every day.
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University/College: University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 10 November 2016
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