The issue of gender inequality is one which extends both beyond just the workplace, and has been firmly rooted in society since the concept of genders came about. When focussing specifically on this imbalance in a professional environment, one would be referring to the debate surrounding unequal pay, unfair recruitment methods and general mistreatment of females during employment. For the purpose of answering this question, I shall use these three issues as a foundation.
I believe that to tackle the problem of gender equality, the best method would be working towards erasing the societal expectation that women are supposed to be inferior. Although some may argue against this still being an issue, you cannot deny that when a secretary and a CEO are mentioned without the context of names that it is assumed the former is female whilst the latter is usually male. This idea is reflected through other job roles – like a male butcher or van driver, and a female hairdresser or receptionist. Sadly, these assumptions are planted within our brains because history has always taught us that the males lead (hence the term “like a proper man”) while females accept lower positions. I could name a countless number of strong, female leaders – like Queen Victoria, Indira Gandhi or Frances Perkins … But which gender of leaders are actually being taught in our history lessons at school?
The task of breaking down this ever-present stereotype of oppressed females would, of course, be a difficult one; nevertheless, fully necessary. The roots of the issue are embedded in youths and how we are brought up and taught. I believe the first step would be raising awareness in our generation, and teaching us that just because our siblings are a different gender, this is not a sufficient reason for our different wages. The first moment I became passionate (and honestly, infuriated) by this issue was during International Feminist Week at school where the girls were charged £1 for a bun whilst the boys only had to pay 80p. This simple idea illustrated the current wage gap, and led us to realise that the only reason for this was our gender – not difference in ability, qualifications or experience. Another method I would like to see exercised in schools is motivating both genders to strive for the profession they want, and not be hindered by expectations. This could be done by weekly talks from females in executive positions, or male receptions to remould young minds beyond the restrictions of gender.
A common solution put forward to firms is to aim for a 50:50 ratio of genders in the workplace, all the way up to management; I feel this is not combatting the problem, but trying to pretend it doesn’t exist. The idea of “attempting” this equal split implies that females may be employed, not because they deserve it, but because the firm cares more about how politically correct they appear. I fully disagree with this type of method as it shouldn’t be forced, and eventually becomes as unfair as the initial problem. So, we are fighting for females who are denied jobs because they are female, by rejecting males to hire a potentially less-deserving female? This simply doesn’t make sense. An alternative regulation like this, which does make sense, is to monitor salaries of workers in the same job and adjust to make sure females and males are paid equally – but this should go without saying.
My final point tackles the mistreatment, and even inappropriate sexualisation of females in the workplace. Too often, in my reading and visits to court, do I hear of office harassment and assault simply being dismissed or not given the proper penalty. The workplace is meant to be strictly professional and females should feel safe, and not have to worry about if their neckline is too low or if their dress is too ‘provocative’. The foundation, and solution again, lies within a school classroom. Girls should not be taught to hide their skin, in fear of distracting boys, but should feel comfortable in their clothing because it shouldn’t have an effect on their education. In the same way, what a professional woman wears should not dictate whether a male colleague can comment on this or even act upon this. Part of the solution lies in empowerment/education of young girls on this matter, but more so is shaped by boys being taught to respect and cooperate better with the girls that will later grow up to be work colleagues.
In conclusion, the first step towards eliminating the inequality of genders in the workplace should be tackling the limitations and stereotypes which govern the way youths choose their future paths – and teaching them that biological differences are not sufficient reasons for difference in professional treatment.
written by Rachel Stanley
picture from Google Images
Happy to accept any differing opinions on the matter!