The Challenges Women Face in the Workplace

Lately, women’s rights has been a popular issue of social importance. And with the recent happenings from this year’s “International Women’s Day,” I was inspired to write about the challenges women are often plagued with in the workplace. Below is just a small selection of the challenges I’ve seen.

Maternity Leave

Overall, paid maternity leave in the United States lags behind almost every other industrialized country in the world. America, and a small island nation called Papua New Guinea, are the only two industrialized countries in the world with no paid maternity leave at all.

Although legally, employers with fifty or more workers must allow new mothers twelve weeks of job-protected leave every year to care for a newborn. However, the problem is maternity leave isn’t paid and often leaves new mothers with less income at a time when they need it the most. That’s why most new mothers don’t utilize the full 12 weeks they are given

Women Need to Be “Attractive” to Succeed

Women in every industry and every level of leadership make 79 cents for every dollar men make. Not only do we make less than men, but we have to put out more money to make ourselves look attractive. Why? Because statistically, attractive people are better off in the workplace. It’s a human bias that’s known as the “what is beautiful is good” effect. Women who look beautiful are seen as more intelligent and competent. They also are more likely to get job interviews, more job offers, and higher income than their less attractive counterparts. So if we want to be seen as more attractive by societal standards, we have to wear makeup, style our hair, whiten our teeth, and attend to skin and nail care — all which require money.

Women Need to be Attractive, But Not Too Attractive

It’s a catch-22: women need to be attractive to succeed, but they can’t be too attractive or else they won’t be taken seriously. It can bring an increased discrimination in hiring and on the job, and can make women leaders less trustworthy and loyal. So although women “need” wear makeup and have their hair done, being too done-up can make women seem shallow or judged for only getting by based on their looks. If women aren’t done-up enough, they aren’t taken seriously and aren’t as successful as other, more attractive women.

Women, how do you feel about this? Please comment below.

The Women’s March on Washington

In one of the largest recorded protests in US history, a congregation gathered on the Washington Mall on January 21 to demonstrate their displeasure with the stances and promises of the recently sworn-in administration. Specifically regarding potential policies on abortion, health care, discrimination, civil rights, and legislation regarding Muslims, the nearly three million gathered in the nation’s capital made it clear that they wanted women’s issues addressed and not ignored or legislated over.

The march originally came under severe scrutiny when it became clear that the three women who were organizing the demonstration were all straight, white, and upper-middle class. Feminism itself has been criticized when it fails to incorporate issues for Women of color, LGBTQ+ women, women with disabilities, and women in poverty, as “white feminism,” or an ideology that only benefits straight, white, upper-middle class cis-gendered women. Its counterpart, “Intersectional Feminism,” is one that addresses the intersection of gender, race, income, sexuality, education, and other elements that contribute to a person’s identity and is generally considered a more inclusive, compassionate, and socially just.

To the end that the march did not want a reputation of supporting only “white feminism,” the three leaders stepped down and handed the torch to a black woman, a woman of latin american descent, and a Muslim woman who chooses to wear a hijab. These three young organizers worked hard to create and publicize a demonstration that drew attention to a smorgasbord of issues that afflict women of a wide slew of cultures. And publicize it did.

Crowd engineers estimate that the turnout at the Women’s March was about triple the turnout Donald Trump’s Inauguration, and that does not include the other movements that took place in cities as big as LA and as small as Lancaster, PA. Despite the size, the police didn’t make a single arrest, and there were no reports of property damage. Far from a riot, this demonstration was designed to celebrate American womanhood and make clear that Americans would fight to defend the progress made in women’s healthcare and public safety from assault.

The day of the event, hundreds and hundreds poured into the city, many clad in pink “pussy hats” whose proceeds benefited Planned Parenthood. People of all genders thronged to the streets holding signs declaring that women won’t stand idly by and watch their rights and healthcare erode without some backlash. Marchers carried signs that read “Pussy Grabs Back” in reference to a leaked Trump interview in which he said he would “grab [women] by the pussy.” Celebrities ranging from Madonna to Zendaya to John Legend to Scarlett Johansson attended the event to deliver speeches, perform, or just mingle with other protesters.

Overall, the march was meant to serve as a starter’s block for a long relationship among citizens to stand up against legislation and behavior that will put women in danger or purposefully make life more difficult for them. The march was imperfect for a number of reasons, including the language focused on reproductive organs that may have alienated some trans people, but on the whole, the movement demonstrated the power of numbers and the refusal of the public to take the promises of the incoming administration lying down.

Tips for Success as a Woman

As a working woman in this world, there are a lot of uphill battles you must face on a day-to-day basis. Women still only make an average of 80 cents to each man’s dollar, and that number gets smaller and smaller for women who are also minorities; African American women make an average of 63 cents to a man’s dollar, and Latinas typically make only 54 cents per dollar. Alongside the perpetual gender wage gap, women also face difficulty advancing through businesses and climbing the corporate ladder; of the businesses on the Fortune 500 list, only 21 have females currently holding the role of CEO. Although it can be tough in the working world as a woman, there are things you can learn and teach yourself that can help you in your fight to the top. Without further ado, here are some tips that you, as a woman, can use to help you find success in work and in life.

  1. Don’t be afraid to negotiate.
    • No one really likes to talk about money, but one of the worst things you can do to yourself as a professional is be afraid to fight for what you deserve. Forbes notes women’s general discomfort around and tendency to shy away from negotiating has not only lead to them being less successful in their attempts than men but also likely perpetuates the gender wage gap seen across most developed nations. Although it can be mildly terrifying to imagine yourself negotiating wages or promotions, you owe it to yourself and your professional career to not accept less than you are worth.
  2. Network hard and network often.
    • A big part of developing professionally is building a strong network of other professionals with whom you interact and discourse about your industry or business ideas, and to whom you can turn if and when the time comes for a change in employment. Instead of eating lunch alone at your desk, use every meal that you’re at the office as an opportunity to enhance and grow your own professional network.Women are even unintentionally selling themselves short on social media; women dominate every major social networking site – Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, and overwhelmingly Pinterest – but men still greatly outnumber women on LinkedIn, the professional networking site. Put yourself out there and grow your list of connections as you develop professionally.
  3. Learn to effectively delegate.
    • In their pursuit to “have it all,” some women lose focus of the fact that they don’t have to do it all by themselves. While there are certainly tasks that require your keen eye and expert touch, not every project is a top priority. Former President and CEO of Coca Cola Enterprises Bryan Dyson discusses responsibilities as rubber and glass balls; some balls when you drop them will bounce right back to you, but some balls when mishandled will fall and shatter. When it comes to delegation at the workplace, the glass balls are the things you keep for yourself, and the rubber balls are the ones you pass along to others.