Although we’ve come a long way throughout history by gaining the right to work and vote, there is still an obvious gender bias that lingers within the workplace – whether it’s a man benefiting more from small talk than women, the temperature of the office being set to the average male comfort or a strong woman being labelled as "a b*tch".
A modern day woman struggles to strike a balance between working and family life, often sacrificing the latter to succeed and gain status within a company and society. They are not only faced with these problems but also get paid significantly less than their male co-workers, too.
Here are the most common problems for women still lurking in today’s workplace:
1. Pregnancy discrimination
Being a working woman can become extremely difficult when it comes to having a baby. Many women are afraid of starting a family knowing that their career will most likely be affected. In fact, The Guardian reports that approximately 50,000 women per year lose their jobs as the result of a pregnancy or having had a child, while many female workers return to work only to realise that their job duties have changed or that they can no longer progress within their role. Why should we continue to deal with this kind of discrimination? Men don’t have the same issue when becoming a father, but they too sacrifice as much of their personal time when raising a child.
2. Sexual harassment
The tricky topic of workplace sexism and harassment has become even more evident in recent years, with women plucking up the courage to share their horrific stories. It’s sad that women are still faced with these kind of challenges in the workplace. Why does your sexist boss think that he can lure you into his office on his own and try to seduce you or make a sexist remark as he’s passing by your desk? We are all equal in the workplace, so if a colleague tries to belittle you, pluck up the courage and put the sexist pig back in his place.
3. Gender pay gap
The gender pay gap is something that’s widely discussed in today’s working world, with statistics showing that ‘women earn 76 cents on the dollar compared to men’. Is this because us women are more accepting and more afraid to speak up? Or the fact that men are still seen as the ‘bread-winners’ (so ancient, I know!)? Whatever the reason, it’s true that being a woman will probably earn you a lower salary than a man applying for the exact same position.
4. Racial discrimination
Sadly, racial and ethnical racism happens in the workplace. According to Status of Women in the States: 2015, a project of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR), women of colour and immigrants make even less than white women. It’s heart-breaking that after so many years of black women struggling, some still have a hard time making it to the top. Luckily, movements and role models like Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey are shifting these views, but the average working woman is still being faced with this subtle discrimination.
5. Climbing the career ladder
Career advancement is much trickier for young female professionals, who need to work harder than their male peers in order to earn recognition or praise. Take a look at the big dogs of the most popular corporations and you’ll notice a recurring pattern: that the majority are men! The reason is unknown, but in most workplaces, there’s a general feeling that men advance faster and women are deemed ‘incompetent’, even when they haven’t been given the opportunity to prove themselves.
6. Setting the room temperature
Let’s take you back to the dreadful summer, where the sun was pleasantly beaming through the office windows but, somehow inside, you’re wrapped up like a burrito in a blanket, feeling like you’re inside an igloo while your male colleague is dripping with sweat in his short-sleeved shirt leaving all the women to turn into popsicles. Two male scientists are now urging an end to the great artic office conspiracy. Their study says that most office buildings set temperatures based on a decades-old formula that uses the metabolic rates of men, concluding that buildings should reduce gender-discriminating bias in thermal comfort because setting temperatures at slightly warmer levels can help combat global warming.
Why is it that a woman’s appearance is judged more than males? 'Whether clothing, body frame or makeup related… sometimes the criticism is that women don’t look polished enough, with the general attitude being that the woman doesn’t care about their job if they aren’t wearing makeup or high heels,’ writes Kaytie Zimmerman for Forbes. ‘On the other hand, if a woman dresses her best and pays careful attention to the details of her appearance, others can assume she’s trying too hard.’ It’s so hard to find the perfect medium where you look tidy and professional but not too polished and not too untidy either.
8. Work-life imbalance
Another noticeable challenge that the working women of today faces is a work-life imbalance. Their personal life tends to suffer due to work commitments or vice-versa. Family tends to feel neglected after endless nights of staying late at the office to complete an all-important project. Or, on the other end of the spectrum, women still find themselves in the same dead-end position years later, because they have to leave work on time to pick up their kids from their after-school activities. Unfortunately, this can sometimes be self-inflicted; to get out of the mess, we need to organise our time better and get our priorities in order.
9. Ego clashes
Women of power are usually faced with an egotistical man who refuses to take orders from a woman – sounds like cavemen rubbish, right? Sadly, this kind of inequality still exists in today’s working world. Some men go as far as belittling a woman or talking to them as if they are clueless (when, really, we probably know more than them, but we let them gloat in their glory thinking they have the upper hand). The only way to overcome this is to ignore the belittler and try to change their opinion in order for them to trust the strong woman and quit clashing with her.
Most women fear the unknown and are scared to take risks that might lead to failure. Do you always wonder if everyone around you is questioning your abilities? If so, you need to let go of the fear as it’s probably holding you back. The most important thing is that you’re in the position because you have the skills for it and are excited about it. Hold on to that enthusiasm and use it as a source of power when you are feeling insecure.
11. Exclusion from the boys’ club
If you thought you left the ‘boy’s club’ in primary school, think again! In a male-dominated industry, men stick together in a clique and tend to exclude female employees. They go as far as to mock them or make them feel inadequate. To overcome this childish behaviour, simply ignore them and rise to the top or find another female alibi.
12. Office favouritism
Are you in a male-dominated industry and feel like your manager favours your male co-worker? They are always sharing banter on the latest football trend or discussing the latest technological discovery but, sadly, you only talk to your boss about work-related issues. To identify whether you are facing favouritism, try to spark a conversation on a topic that you both share a common interest in. If it’s quickly brushed off, you can bet that your gut instinct was correct.
13. Unsupportive managers
Some bosses find it hard to believe that you – the ‘girl that doesn’t have a clue’ – have managed to bag some big investors and land a new major account for the company. After the news has been shared throughout the company, you receive a half-hearted ‘well done’. This exact manager might even block opportunities for you to succeed.
14. ‘That time of the month’
A woman’s ‘time of the month’ is no joking matter. It’s something that’s completely out of a woman’s control; she doesn’t know how her body will react. One month might a breeze, whereas the other might feel like 100 Spartans have invaded her belly and are on full attack trying to break free. Male counterparts find this topic very difficult to understand and think women use it as an excuse to take a personal day if they are unable to fling themselves out of bed and make it into work. Sadly, there’s not much that can be done other than taking some paracetamol and suffering in silence, hoping that men will educate themselves on this topic.
15. Gender bias
You’re at an interview and get thrown a curve ball question like ‘Are you married?’ or ‘Do you plan on having children?” You’re probably left wondering what your family plans have to do with the skills you can offer to the company. Although the hiring manager might just be asking to get to know you on a personal level, the interview is the wrong place to be doing it. Also, why don’t men get asked the same question? Your personal plans shouldn’t come into discussion as, sadly, it might jeopardise your chances of getting your dream job. Fortunately, many social welfare organisations like the United Nations are raising this concern globally and are pledging to remove gender bias in the workplace.
Explicit gender bias has largely disappeared from the workplace due to tougher legislation and increased focus on diversity. However, the shift in issues has become more subtle and these challenges have taken a different form from those encountered by previous generations of women. By bringing awareness to these issues, women know that they aren’t alone. Millennials can decide what they will and won’t accept and can pave the way for young professionals to follow in their footsteps.
Have you ever been faced with similar issues in the workplace? If so, join in on the conversation below and share your story…