On Tuesday night, America voted to re-elect its first African American president.
Although this a progressive step for a country with a past of racism and bigotry, the United States took another step toward equality by electing enough female senators to break the record for the most ever to sit in the Senate. States, such as Massachusetts and Wisconsin, elected their first female senators, putting the total number at 20.
This is a victory for equal rights activists across the country, but women still face a system in the workplace that favors men. Although affirmative action benefits have been helpful for women, there still is a lot of work that needs to be done for true equality in the American workplace.
Omari Sankofa II
And it is amazing, after all this country has been through, that gender inequality still is a serious issue in 2012. Equal work for equal pay is something that should have been solved decades ago. For this country to move in the right direction, it is something that needs to be fixed very soon.
A recent study reported in The New York Times found although the pay gap is decreasing, it still exists in America. The study, conducted by the American Association of University Women, found in 2009 that “women who had graduated college a year earlier and worked full time were paid 82 percent as much as their male counterparts.” This is a slight improvement from a similar study in 2001 that found women were paid 80 percent as much as their male counterparts.
But in this generation, the number should be 100 percent.
According to Dalton Conley’s book “You May Ask Yourself,” the percentage of women ages 16-64 in the workforce has risen substantially since the 1970s, from 43 to 60 percent. Although women are working in higher numbers, they still face inequality compared to their male peers. Conley found that on top of women earning less than men, they routinely face discrimination, such as sexual harassment, in the workplace.
Conley states that when a woman breaks into a top managerial position, she becomes a token for all women, or what Conley calls “a numerical minority.” These women face greater performance pressures because they have heightened visibility. And when these token female managers fumble, men in the workplace use it as a reason to believe women cannot handle the corporate world and should be kept out of it.
Congress finally has taken a step in the proper direction for workplace equality. President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress worked together in 2009 to pass the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which amends the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by making it easier for women to bring lawsuits against their employers when they find they are being paid less for an equal wage. But although this was a progressive step for America, it still does not guarantee equal pay for women and does not alter the system of inequality that women face daily in the American workplace.
The symbolic “glass ceiling,” or the invisible barrier that keeps women from climbing the corporate ladder, undoubtedly still exists. Although the United States has been progressing toward equality in the workplace for women, there still is work to be done.
With 20 women senators taking seats in the U.S. Senate this January, and with a president who firmly supports equal pay for women, we hope the glass ceiling finally shatters once and for all.