It’s 2016 and women are represented in nearly every profession. The wage gap narrowed to less than 5 percent, according to one analysis in The Wall Street Journal, after accounting for various factors such as hours worked and career choice.
Has society overcome a history of gender bias and discrimination in the workplace?
The women of Silicon Valley say no.
Gender equality in the workplace requires more than just the “equal pay for equal work” that President Obama called for in his recent State of the Union address. Research has found that women more frequently face limitations and even harassment in the workplace than men realize.
And sexual discrimination and harassment are not just happening to secretaries, cocktail waitresses and other hourly wage staff. It’s happening to high-level executives as well.
A group of women conducted a survey in the Bay Area called “Elephant in the Valley” after one of their colleagues, Ellen Pao, filed and lost a gender discrimination suit.
According to Quartz, Pao, a junior partner at investment firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, reported gender discrimination in being excluded from company events, being labeled as “too aggressive,” and receiving blowback after ending an affair with one of her business partners. Ultimately, Pao lost the lawsuit and her job.
Trae Vassallo, one of the publishers of “Elephant in the Valley,” told Quartz that they found that men were “shocked and unaware of the issues facing women in the workplace.” Here are a few of those inequalities:
- 59 percent of women feel that they have fewer opportunities because of their gender.
- 66 percent said that they felt excluded from key social/networking events because of their gender.
- 88 percent said that they had experienced clients/colleagues address questions to male peers that should have been addressed to them.
Even though some of these women are in equal or higher ranking jobs than men, what “Elephant in the Valley” calls an “unconscious bias” still permeates the workplace, limiting women’s opportunities.
In addition to having fewer business opportunities, women are often forced to choose between career and family in a way that men are not, according to Pew Research Center. Pew found that 51 percent of women say that being a working parent has hindered their career advancement. Only 2 percent of men reported the same problem.
Similarly, Elephant in the Valley reports that 75 percent of women were asked questions about children and marital status in job interviews. Many women (40 percent) avoid talking about their family in the workplace because they believe doing so is damaging to their career.
In the area of harassment, 60 percent of women interviewed for “Elephant in the Valley” said they have received unwanted sexual advances at work, most of these coming from their superiors.
As seen in Pao’s case reported by Quartz, harassment from a superior complicates a woman’s situation because it places her in an ethical and moral dilemma: Where engaging in unwanted sexual conduct may advance a woman’s career, denying sexual advances or reporting sexual harassment may hurt her career.
Thirty-nine percent of women did not report harassment for fear of retaliation, according to “Elephant in the Valley.” Of those who did report it, 60 percent felt dissatisfied with the resolution.
The Pew research found that 39 percent of men believe that the country has reached equality in the workplace and that further efforts should cease.
In many ways, it is men who have the power to effect change in gender discrimination. Many women are already doing all they can, and as Quartz reports, they are often labeled as “bossy” or “aggressive” for doing so.