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The Role of Women in the Work Environment

Introduction

Many studies have proven that men are typically paid more than their female counterparts in many parts of the world are. One such study carried out by the Pew Research Center found out that the gender pay gap has narrowed since 1980, but it has plateaued since 2003. The research results show that in 2017, professional female workers earned 82% of what their male counterparts pocketed1. This implies that women needed to work an additional 47 days for them to earn the same amount as men in that year.

However, the issue of gender pay disparity cannot be explained by the “gender” effect alone, since there are other factors that contribute to the difference in remuneration. Some of the factors that contribute to the gender pay gap include motherhood, social roles, gender discrimination, part-time working, and gendered careers2. These factors transcend the ‘like for like’ comparison that some studies use to examine the difference in pay between the sexes. It can be argued, therefore that men are paid more than their female counterparts because of various factors other than gender are alone.

Part-time Working and Gender Pay Disparity

Workers who work part-time generally earn a considerably lower hourly rate than their counterparts who work full time according to many recent studies. Several studies have established that more women work part-time than do men do3. One of the factors that make more women take up part-time jobs is the social role of women in society. In many cultures, such as in American society, a woman is considered to be a homemaker while her husband is tasked with providing for the family4. Therefore, the woman is supposed to oversee the house chores and to prepare her husband for work.

These chores are time-consuming and in many instances the full-time job is untenable. Naturally, women will then prefer part-time jobs to ensure that they perform their social roles as well as supplement the income of their husbands. Consequently, male workers will earn more for ‘like for like’ jobs because they will command the higher wages associated with full-time working.

Gender Discrimination

Gender discrimination in the workplace is another pertinent point used by scholars when discussing gender wage inequality. The source of gender discrimination in the workplace has various roots. First, there is the commonly held view that men are the breadwinners of the family, and therefore they should be given precedence during both the hiring process and remuneration5. In the American culture, women are rarely considered to be the breadwinners of their families and therefore hiring a man over a woman after an interview is considered ‘social justice.’ According to many employers, women’s income is supplementary in the household while the wages earned by men are more important for sustenance.

Moreover, the contemporary workplace segregates against women because the senior managers believe that men are more likely to work overtime when required while women will be less flexible during hard times. Mothers will constantly worry about their unwashed dishes, dinner, their husbands and children when they work beyond the normal working hours6. On the other hand, their male counterparts are unencumbered with such worries, since their social roles are limited to providing sustenance for their families. In many firms, the ideal worker who will deliver results is constructed as a man7. Consequently, results-oriented bosses will choose male workers over female ones due to such factors.

Gendered Careers

Several studies show that women typically choose less demanding jobs to achieve a sustainable work-life balance. The best jobs are usually very demanding and may go beyond the usual 9-to-5 work hours8. However, these jobs are typically the best paying jobs and when women forfeit them for lower-paying jobs that have flexible work hours, then the gender pay gap increases. Moreover, boys are more likely to enroll for the most demanding courses in colleges as they aim to pursue well-paying careers whereas girls are often socialized to embrace their future gender roles9. This external influence has an impact on the career choices that female student’s make, which often lead to lower-paying jobs.

In some cultures, educating boys is more important than educating girls. The effect of such discrimination is that when the boys eventually complete their studies, they have a better chance of securing a higher paying job than their female counterparts secure. Moreover, the expected interruptions to work experience for women when they conceive and raise their children affects the investment in skills and professional development. Maternity oftentimes forces women into careers that do not require much skill or innovation – which are professions that tend to pay less.

Motherhood

Several studies show that women will quit their prestigious careers to pursue a less intense but more fulfilling life. The rising cost of childcare in America has pushed many mothers to work from home and to take other lower-paying jobs10. Many women are often pushed to quit their flourishing careers and take up lower-paying jobs because they feel guilty about being absent mothers during work hours. Many mothers find it hard to juggle demanding careers in the government and other well-paying professions with catering to the needs of their growing children.

For many women, they have to choose between their careers and their families and for such reasons; some female graduates delay marriage and childbearing to pursue their dream careers11. In some instances, when a woman’s husband’s job is less demanding, women can have a fulfilling career and maintain a family without undue pressure. However, for single mothers, it is much harder to balance family and work life, and they have no option but to accept low-paying jobs with flexible work hours.

Conclusion

Despite the recent decline in the pay disparity between the sexes, men are paid more than female workers are over their lifetimes. Many studies suggest that the ‘gender’ effect is not the only factor that explains why male workers are paid higher wages than their female counterparts are. Whereas gender discrimination is still prevalent in the contemporary workplace, other factors such as motherhood, part-time working, different social roles, and gendered careers have ensured that women still earn less than men do. Women prefer to work part-time and will accept low paying jobs if they will have more time to fulfill their wifely and motherhood duties.

Many women consider the family as important as their careers are often forced to choose between being available for their families and earning more income. Men, on the other hand, are unencumbered with such concerns and their sole focus is providing for their families. This socialization about the ideal family is common in American culture, as well as many other cultures all over the globe. Such cultures have helped maintain this inequality over the years.

Bibliography

Graf, Nikki, Anna Brown, and Eileen Patten. “The Narrowing, but Persistent, Gender Gap in Pay.” Pew Research Center, 2018. Web.

Meara, Katie, Francesco Pastore, and Allan Webster. “The Gender Pay Gap in The USA: A Matching Study.” Journal of Population Economics 33, no. 1 (2020): 271-305.

Siemens, Rachel. “The Complicated Truth About Stay-at-Home Motherhood.” (2018).

Slaughter, Anne-Marie. Why Women Still Can’t Have It All. OneWorld, 2015.

Wilhoit, Elizabeth D. “Opting Out (Without Kids): Understanding Non‐Mothers’ Workplace Exit in Popular Autobiographies.” Gender, Work & Organization 21, no. 3 (2014): 260-272.

Footnotes

  1. Nikki Graf, Anna Brown, and Eileen Patten. “The narrowing, but persistent, gender gap in pay.” Pew Research Center, (2018).
  2. Katie Meara, Francesco Pastore, and Allan Webster. “The gender pay gap in the USA: a matching study.” Journal of Population Economics 33, no. 1 (2020): 271-305.
  3. Meara et al. The gender pay gap in the USA, 4.
  4. Rachel Siemens, “The Complicated Truth About Stay-at-Home Motherhood.” (2018).
  5. Meara et al. The gender pay gap in the USA, 4.
  6. Slaughter, Anne-Marie. Why women still can’t have it all. OneWorld, 2015.
  7. Wilhoit, Elizabeth D. “Opting Out (Without Kids): Understanding Non‐Mothers’ Workplace Exit in Popular Autobiographies.” Gender, Work & Organization 21, no. 3 (2014): 262.
  8. Siemens. Stay-at-Home Motherhood, 2.
  9. Meara et al. The gender pay gap in the USA, 7.
  10. Siemens, Stay-at-Home Motherhood, 1.
  11. Slaughter. Why women still can’t have it all. 4.