Gender-Based Discrimination in the Workplace

Abstract

This report covers various gender-related issues that have been addressed through different pieces of legislation in the United States in the past four decades. The report covers sex harassment, employment rights, and equalities legislations that have been achieved by the female gender over the years. Moreover, the report also focuses on democratic and political milestones that have been achieved by women. The report also goes the extra mile to analyze the ineffectiveness of each piece of legislation that addresses gender matters in the United States. The report concludes by offering suggestions for future progress in addressing gender equality issues in the United States.

Introduction

The fight for gender equality in the United States has gone through a bumpy and long road. In the United States, women had to endure long spells of struggle to achieve the rights that they are currently enjoying. The fight for gender equality in the United States began way back in the 19th century when women agitated for a change in the marriage property rights (Mollin, 2004). In the mid 20th century, the general movement for gender equality was initiated.

This was supposed to address gender rights through legislation and cultural shifts, which had to recognize gender issues. Gender equality was then finally agreed through the passage of nondiscriminatory laws that addressed various aspects. This includes equal access to job opportunities across genders, sexual harassment, wage discrimination, education, and other gender balance issues (Mollin, 2004).

Protection and gains women have received through laws

The unending debate on gender equality has resulted in the achievement of varied protection of women’s rights. This is especially in Europe and the United States. The protection of these rights has translated into substantial gains among the female gender in the United States (Mollin, 2004). These gains have been facilitated through various pieces of legislation enacted by the United States Congress back in the early 1960s. The issues of gender disparities in the United States are legislated through the federal Equal Pay Act of 1963, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Education Amendments of the passage of Title VII and XII of 1970s (Mollin, 2004).

One of the most substantial areas of gender equality that has led to the protection of women’s rights and consequent gains is the political representation of women in the legislative arms of the government (Paxton, Hughes & Painter, 2010). Over the past decades and after the legislation that paved the way for gender equality, the number of women representatives holding political elective posts has gradually increased. This is attributed to the impacts of gender reforms that have greatly changed and altered the democracy and electoral system in the United States. The women’s big stride towards political representation has been protected and enshrined in the constitution and electoral laws (Paxton, Hughes & Painter, 2010).

The democratic autonomy in the United States guarantees fair election and encourages fair competition. Furthermore, the political rules and pieces of legislation are clear, well-detailed, and consistent (Paxton, Hughes & Painter, 2010). These factors have significantly created a more conducive political environment for women to enter into politics and gain political power. Though the number of women politically elected is below the number of men, the number has significantly increased over the years. The exponential growth in the number of women representatives has also helped to trigger the level of gender activism in the United States. This activism is meant to address issues of gender inequalities that are still prevalent (Paxton, Hughes & Painter, 2010).

Sexual harassment

Sexual harassment is also an important women’s rights issue that has been fought at length by gender activists in the United States. In the past decades, the United States developed numerous legislations on sexual harassment especially through the Supreme Court (Applen & Kleiner, 2001). This movement has led to an understanding of employee liberty in the workplace. The legislations have focused on the female employees since they have traditionally been the victims of sexual harassment at the workplace and public places. Through the legislation, employers are made to understand their liability for any sexual harassment offense at the workplace.

The legislation also provides a clear framework on how to prosecute sexual harassment cases effectively. The formulation of anti-harassment policy has effectively protected women employees who have been the target at the workplace. Women employees who are sexually harassed can adequately seek legal redress on sexual matters. This can be done without any obstacle and with absolute ease as compared to earlier legal redress impasse. This has gradually resulted in a decline in the number of sexual harassment at the workplace and public places (Applen & Kleiner, 2001).

Despite the progress made by the United States legislation in addressing sexual harassment, a number of challenges are still persistent (Cohen, & Vincelette, 1985). The term sexual harassment is not clearly defined thereby resulting in difficulties in addressing complex sexual harassment cases. Moreover, the inefficiencies in the legislation are further created by the fact that the sexually harassed victim has to give notice to the employer first, and not directly report to Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). This puts employees in an inappropriate position. Additionally, the policy framework does not encourage employers to take preventive measures to curb the whole issue of sexual harassment (Cohen & Vincelette, 1985; Schmidt, Shelley & Bardes, 2011).

Wage discrimination and equal pay

The passage of the Equal Pay Act in 1963 officially denounced sex discrimination with regard to wage and pay by the employer without gender bias. This legislation required no employer to establish any basis of gender discrimination in paying wages to the employees (Schmidt, Shelley & Bardes, 2011). The Act further stipulated equalities at the workplace whereby workers of both genders are subjected to equal job opportunities, similar working conditions, and equal pay for the same job group for all employees. This legislation came because of the gender discriminative act of paying different wages to female employees as compared to their male counterparts.

Furthermore, the legislation covers recruitment, working terms and conditions, pay and benefits, promotions, job dismissal, transfers, and training. The legislation outlaws employer discrimination of employees on the basis of sex with regard to the above dimensions (Schmidt, Shelley & Bardes, 2011). The enforcement of these legislations is overseen by the EEOC. The EEOC ensures that the gender policies on employment are strictly adhered to by all employers.

From time to time, there have been varied amendments and changes to the Acts aimed at addressing current gender-based issues with regard to employment and pay (Schmidt, Shelley & Bardes, 2011; Bisping & Fain, 2000).

Through the legislation, women’s employment rights have been guaranteed and protected. Today, women have greatly benefited from the legislation. Since the enactment of the Act, there has been an exponential increase in the number of female genders employed within different sectors in both private and public (Bisping & Fain, 2000). At the same time, the salaries of women employed have significantly risen. The legislation has also resulted in women in similar employment positions as men have equal pay. Another positive gain from the legislation is that women are now aware of their employment rights.

They are also aware of the available channels of legal redress that they can utilize in the event of discrimination. Women in the United States enjoy equal rights as their male counterparts in the workplace. Therefore, women are now of equal status with men at the workplace. Currently, women constitute almost forty-eight percent of the overall workforce in the United States (Bisping & Fain, 2000). The legislation has also enhanced the role of women in families due to their increased economic power. It is estimated that women who are primary breadwinners head eighteen percent of United States households.

Lastly, the Civil Rights Act of 1991 enables women who face work-related discrimination to be entitled to monetary payment in damages. The legislation also guarantees women consultation from lawyers who offer free or affordable services (Bisping & Fain, 2000).

Despite the progress that has been made to address employment and work-related discrimination, there are substantial inefficiencies that have not been addressed by the legislation (Equal pay task force, 2012). The gender gap on equal payment continues to persist. The total women’s earnings are only seventy-seven percent of the male annual total earning. Furthermore, the gap is even greater among African-American and Latina women. African-American and Latina women earn sixty-four percent and fifty percent of the total earnings of Caucasian man respectively. The weaknesses in the laws are also brought to the fore due to the sharply divided Supreme Court rulings that interpret the legislation (Equal pay task force, 2012).

Glass ceiling

The glass ceiling legislation was initiated through the Civil Rights Act of 1991 by the United States Congress as a tool of ensuring that more women take up top management positions in organizations (Chaffins & Forbes, 1995; Bisping & Fain, 2000). This was brought about since women were unevenly represented in top management positions within different organizations and corporations. By the year 1987, women held only two percent of top management jobs. Only five percent of women were represented in corporation boards within the United States. Glass ceiling was blamed for this mess since it blocked women from rising and taking up management positions (Chaffins & Forbes, 1995; Bisping & Fain, 2000).

The glass ceiling breaking strategies were pursued through the Civil Rights Act of 1991 that encouraged women to seek top management jobs in corporations and organizations. The landmark glass breaking initiative was to voice employment equity across the genders. The ceiling breaking initiative also outlined the problems women face in job ascendancy, provided a formula for achieving gender parity outcomes, and described future progress in breaking the women barriers to achievement of top management position in organizations (Bisping & Fain, 2000).

When the agreements were finally agreed upon, affirmative action was clearly entrenched in early employment legislation that provided a chance for everyone regardless of gender or cultural affiliation. This ensured that individuals had an equal chance to ascend according to their abilities and efforts in employment. Affirmative action encouraged the retraining of women and minority groups in order to compete favorably for the top management position with their male counterparts (Bisping & Fain, 2000).

Affirmative action has had a differentiated impact on women in the United States. The advent of affirmative action in the United States has significantly increased the number of women managers in the last fifteen years. The number of female executives serving in the top management positions has more than doubled (Ledeen, 1997). Affirmative action has also been able to increase the number of women participation in economic activities.

The move has empowered women in society greatly. The number of women owning enterprises has greatly increased over the years thereby increasing the number of self-employed women. Another positive move of affirmative action is that it has enabled a large number of women to take up corporate jobs. This has seen an increase in the number of women within the top management strata (Monroe, 1986).

However, affirmative action is weakened by the fact that it tends to encourage or rather promote white women to take up management (Monroe, 1986). White women seem to have a major step in reaching top-level management. In contrast, Black and Hispanic women are slower and reluctant to take up management jobs. They are only taking up lower and middle-level management jobs (Monroe, 1986).

Conclusion

The struggle for gender equality and affirmative action has been a long battle for women in the United States. It is quite commendable that the fight for equal rights in employment, democracy, and gender balance has been tremendously successful in the United States. However, there are still clear inequalities that need to address the issue of gender parity conclusively. It is also important to acknowledge the weaknesses of the present legislation on gender parity in order to draw a proper policy framework on gender equity and equality. Therefore, laws should be amended to create gender equality because this will protect the interest of women.

References

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Schmidt, S. W., Shelley, M. C., & Bardes, B. A. (2011). American government and politics today: Brief edition, 2010-2011. United States: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.