Why Women Equality Matters in the Workplace

To commemorate the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1919, we celebrate Women’s Equality Day every August 26th. The 19th Amendment guarantees all citizens the right to vote regardless of gender, the first of many wins in the fight for equal rights for women in the U.S. 

Since then, women have made significant strides toward gender equality. As of 2010, women made up 47 percent of the American workforce and today, more women graduate college than men. Since 1960, the number of married women who earn more than their husbands has multiplied by almost four times

But the push toward full gender equality in the workforce is far from over. 

The Gender Pay Gap
Despite the passage of the Equal Pay Act of 1963, much of gender inequality in the workplace relates to pay inequality. Working women make about 80 cents for every dollar a man makes, with this gap being even wider for minority women. Women continue to earn a fraction of what men do, even when performing the same job and stops women from moving up in their careers and advancing economically.

One cause for this pay gap is a lack of paid parental leave policies which constrains a woman’s ability to keep her job while building a family. As of March 2018, only 17 percent of American workers had access to paid family leave. Without this necessary time off, women are more likely to leave the workforce. And when mothers try to reenter the workforce after taking time to care for their children they often are offered lower pay than before they had children. A study from the University of Massachusetts found that for every child a woman has, her earnings decrease by four percent. 

Another cause of the pay gap is occupational segregation. A 2010 report on occupation, earnings, and gender confirms that on average, earnings were 26.5 percent lower when an occupation is dominated by women than by men. This study found that after steady job integration in the 70s and 80s, male-dominated occupations have not become less segregated since the 1990s. 

Underrepresentation in Male-Dominated Industries
Women are substantially underrepresented in industries across the board. A 2015 report showed that women only made up 19 percent of experts appearing in news stories and 37 percent of TV reporters. And in influential (and growing) industries such as science, finance, and tech, women are grossly underrepresented making up only 24 percent of STEM workers in 2015 and accounted for 17.9 percent of computer science degrees earned in 2012. 23.7 percent of representatives in Congress are women, the highest percentage in U.S. history, but it is still not reflective of the country’s 50:50 gender makeup.

This underrepresentation means our laws, products, services, and media are all being made primarily by and for men. In a 2017 study on women’s reactions to menstruation cycle tracking apps, which have been primarily made by men, found women felt their needs weren’t being addressed. The design esthetics were stereotypically feminine (i.e. pink and flowers), instead of focusing on the functionality and inclusion, such as a user’s stage in life (i.e. young adulthood, pregnancy, and menopause). 

On the other hand, the only cycle-tracking app created by an all-women team, The Clue App, addressed these deficits much better than its competitors, by allowing users to customize their tracking experience. For example, users can choose from a wide array of symptoms to track. The app also utilizes gender-neutral colors and design features. Most importantly, the app is a neutral source of information: it simply gives women the resources they need to make decisions about their bodies without passing judgment. These features not only meets users’ needs better but also gives the power of defining cycles back to the people who menstruate (or used to).

So how is your company addressing gender inequality in the workplace? Tell us by emailing marketing@wforce.org.