Friday, June 20, 2014

What We've Been Reading- Women's Rights and Success in the Workplace

On Wednesday, Politico reported in their congressional news column “Huddle” that Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Small Business Chairwoman Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) introduced legislation into the senate to amend the Small Business Act to increase the opportunities for women owners of small businesses to win federal contracts. Senator Shaheen, the sponsor of the Women’s Small Business Procurement Parity Act, is endorsed by the National Women’s Political Caucus for re-election and has a history of sponsoring legislation advancing women’s rights such as the Violence Against Women Act and the Paycheck Fairness Act. The National Women’s Business Council released a statement in support of the bill which advocated that “Women’s economic parity must continue to be at the forefront of policymakers’ efforts to move our economy in the right direction”.

Advocating for passage of the Paycheck Fairness Act, the American Association of University Women published an article which demonstrated the nuances of the pay gap through the personal experience of one professional woman, a black mother. While the reported average for the gender pay gap is that women make 77 cents, that ratio drops to 69 cents/dollar for mothers, and 64 cents/dollar for black women. Despite advocating on behalf of her own self-interest, the subject of the article has a salary that is $20,000 less than the median salary for similar positions in her area. The discrimination against her is less explicit and justified by her employer because of the fact that on occasion her duties as a mother conflict with her career.  Her situation demonstrates that negotiation alone would be insufficient to close the gender wage gap.

Women’s Voices Magazine tackles equal pay from both sides of the aisle. Alison Jarris, author of the column View from the Left points out how stereotypes and gendered expectations of behavior in the workplace hold women back from being successful in “The Surprising Way Stereotypes Rule the Workplace.” Among the list of common gendered differences are that “men are likely to overestimate their performance, while women generally underestimate that same measure,” successful men are perceived as more likeable by both men and women while successful women are perceived as less likeable by both, and the nurturing attribute expectation for women which men don’t experience serves as a double edged sword in the workplace, working against women both if they meet this expectation and if they don’t.  Thus, while sexism doesn’t have to be overt or ever consciously done in order to impact the success of women in the workplace.

On the other hand, Kelsey Budd, author of the View from the Right column discussed equal pay in her article “What Comes Along with ‘Equal Pay Day’… A Republican Woman’s Thoughts.” Budd argues that the argument that the wage gap is discriminatory is mythological and the reason women don’t make as much money as men is that they choose to have children, citing a statistic that “42% of high-achieving career women are childless”.  She concludes that instead of fighting for equal pay women should focus on supporting “the choices all women make, whether it’s pursuing a coveted partner position or coming home to become a full-time mom”.  This view, however, ignores the fact that if women and men were guaranteed paid parental leave, women might not have to make an either-or choice when it comes to family and career.  For instance, long paid parental leave for both parents makes it extremely easy balance both work and family life in Sweden, among other reasons. However, Budd does have a good point that it is important to keep in mind how statistics are calculated when considering the gender pay gap.
-Allysha Roth