October, 2017. Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein was accused of multiple sexual assault cases. Numerous victims decided to speak out against him, which generated a movement that gave hope to women going through the same situation around the world. All of these women were encouraged to post on their social media #MeToo in order to support silenced victims and inspire everyone to stand up against sexual harassment. At this time in which national news is listening to women’s voices and their experiences in the workplace, it is imperative that all the disparities that women are exposed to daily become part of the narrative.
Stanford Statistic’s department reports that since 2005, women in the United States receive .80 cents to every dollar a man earns. Annually, this .20 cent difference in women’s income represents thousands of dollars less profit than men. For the past 13 years, the pay gap has not changed. Until this day, women that work as hard as man do not get the same reward.
To fix the pay gap, it is not enough for women to focus on education (“The Simple Truth”). The American Association of University Women indicated that at any level of a woman’s academic achievement, there is a man who is paid more for the same amount of education (“The Simple Truth”). This obstruction of financial independence undervalues women in the workplace (Andrus). Likewise, women that experience sexually harassment are downgraded through objectification (Andrus). Women in the #MeToo proved how the degradation of women can be fought by publicizing these injustices. It was not easy for them to voice their concerns and fight for their worth. Time magazine reports that when interviewed, most of the women of the movement expressed fear of speaking up because of the consequences it might have on their personal and professional lives (Zacharek, Dockterman, & Edwards). However, when they all joined forces and spoke up, they were unstoppable. Thus, the same reaction could aid the pay gap disparity.
It is the job of not only women, but also men, to question the inequalities women are exposed to in the workplace. The pay gap is not just a women’s problem. Economists’ studies show that eliminating the pay gap would boost the economy by three to four percentage points (Bassett). This estimate could be higher, considering how this economic incentive would draw more women into the workforce (Bassett). Consequently, they would spend more money in the market, which would also stimulate the economy (Bassett). A great economic boost could be achieved if everyone fights for the elimination of the pay gap.
Pay cuts on men’s salaries is a possible solution for the pay gap. For instance, six BBC presenters have advocated for women by taking pay cuts (“Six male BBC presenters”). However, this is a conflicting solution, since not all men are willing to go to these extents. The Huffington Post stated that actor Liam Neeson, when asked if he would take a pay cut in an interview, expressed that taking his money away would be going too far (Wanshel).
The right policy changes could possibly amend the pay gap. This is a problem that goes beyond the United States. As mentioned in CNN Money, according to research by the World Economic Forum, in every country in the world, women are legally paid less (Kottasová). However, change is on the way. CNN reported that in the beginning of 2018, Iceland declared a new law that guarantees the enforcement of their 1961 equal pay gap law (Domonoske). This law does not mean that everyone has to be paid exactly the same, but that if companies do not want to get fined, they have to prove why someone is being paid higher. This new law was likely prompted by female candidates winning nearly half of Iceland’s parliament seats in 2016 (Domonoke). With this new policy, it is expected that the current pay gap in Iceland will be totally eliminated by 2022 (Kottasová). If this law succeeds, the United States should consider following Iceland’s lead in order to create equal economic incentives that generate economic growth.
The pay gap is not the only inequity women face in the workplace. Leadership positions for women in big companies are scarce. A study by the American Association of University Women shows this occurs because women do not have enough support to balance work and family responsibilities, and there is still great bias against women (“Barriers and Bias”). Moreover, this problem has made less progress than the pay gap in recent years. According to CNN Money, in 2017, 32 women had CEO positions within the Fortune 500 companies (Wiener-Bronne). However, in 2018, only 26 remain in their position (Wiener-Bronne). This problem extends to the board of companies and heads of departments. Just 21% of board positions in the Fortune 500 are occupied by woman (Wiener-Bronne).
Having fewer women in leadership positions within the company can stall the progress of eliminating the pay gap. If women were the ones deciding how much to pay other women, the pay gap could be reduced. Female leaders might be more willing to have everyone earn what they deserve, despite their gender, since they themselves have gone through this unfairness. For example, Iceland moved towards the elimination of pay gap after electing more women for government positions (Domonoke).
Having fewer women in authority positions can also affect the rates of sexual harassment in the workplace. Men in the workplace, as in most roles of our society, see women as inferior and not as a force to follow. This lack of respect adds up to men believing they can manipulate them as they please. In a survey held by Forbes magazine, only 20% of women expressed a belief that their company would support them if they filed a complaint against their assailant (Gerzema). Having women in positions of power in the company might also make victims more willing to speak up against their attackers.
Just as women do not have leadership positions in companies, the same occurs in the United States’ government, and this is a big problem. Women hold fewer than 20% of the positions in the United States House and Senate. In other words, women do not have a loud enough voice in the place were real change happens. It is true that men could advocate for women, but it is not enough. There has to be sufficient representation of women in government, because they have experienced the pay gap and are more likely to fight for it with passion, and thus accomplish the necessary policy changes.
Women are not in equal grounds as men in the workplace. Feeling unsafe in the work environment, having their expertise underestimated, earning lower salaries and facing fewer leadership opportunities are among the many adversities women in the 21st century have to face. Being a professional woman in the society we live in today is definitely not an easy task. However, with the fervor of the #MeToo movement, it is time to start questioning all of the inequalities women face in the workplace. It is time that this society joins forces to fight for a work environment in which everyone is in an equal standing.
Works Cited Page
Andrus, Lori. “What Does #MeToo Have to Do with the Gender Pay Gap?” A Case for Women, 7 Dec. 2017, https://www.acaseforwomen.com/sexual-harassment-gender-pay-gap/
“Barriers and Bias: The Status of Women in Leadership”, AAUW: Empowering Women Since 1881, 2016, http://www.ncgs.org/Pdfs/Resources/barriers-and-bias.pdf
Bassett, Laura. “Closing the Gender Wage Gap Would Create ‘Huge’ Economic Stimulus, Economists Say.” The Huffington Post, TheHuffingtonPost.com, 24 Oct. 2012, https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/24/gender-wage-gap-economic-stimulus_n_2007588.html
Domonoske, Camila. “Companies in Iceland Now Required to Demonstrate they Pay Men, Women Fairly.” NPR, 3 Jan. 2018, https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2018/01/03/575403863/companies-in-iceland-now-required-to-demonstrate-they-pay-men-women-fairly
Gerzema, John. “HR’s #MeToo Moment.” Forbes Magazine, 21 Dec. 2017, www.forbes.com/sites/forbesagencycouncil/2017/12/21/hrs-metoo-moment/#7f91dc044791.
Kottasová, Ivana. “Iceland makes it illegal to pay women less than men.” CNNMoney, 3 Jan. 2018, money.cnn.com/2018/01/03/news/iceland-gender-pay-gap-illegal/index.html.
“The Simple Truth about the Gender Pay Gap.” AAUW: Empowering Women Since 1881, 2016, www.aauw.org/research/the-simple-truth-about-the-gender-pay-gap/.
“Six male BBC presenters agree to pay cuts.” BBC News, 26 Jan. 2018, http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-42827333
Wanshel, Elyse. “Liam Neeson Says Pay Gap Is ‘Disgraceful’ But Won’t Take A Pay Cut.” The Huffington Post, TheHuffingtonPost.com, 11 Jan. 2018, www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/liam-neeson-says-pay-gap-is-disgraceful-but-wont-take-a-pay-cut_us_5a57d33fe4b0365947f18aed?utm_hp_ref=gender-equality.
Wiener-Bronne, Danielle. “The ranks of women CEOs got even smaller this year.” CNNMoney, 18 Dec. 2017, money.cnn.com/2017/12/18/news/women-ceos-2017/index.html.
Zacharek, Stephanie. Dockterman, Eliana. Edwards, Haley S. “TIME Person of the Year 2017: The Silence Breakers.” Time, time.com/time-person-of-the-year-2017-silence-breakers/.
“20 Facts About U.S. Inequality that Everyone Should Know.” Standford Center on Poverty and Inequality, 2011, inequality.stanford.edu/publications/20-facts-about-us-inequality-everyone-should-know.