The problem of discrimination of women in the workplace was traditionally one of the most significant issues, which affected the position of women in the workplace. In the course of time, the Civil Rights movement forced the authorities to introduce consistent changes in the national legislation to prevent the discrimination of employees. In this regard, the implementation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Equal Employment Opportunities Act of 1974, and other legal acts and norms contributed to the consistent change in the position of employees. In fact, the development of anti-discrimination legislation contributed to the decline of discriminatory practices. However, the problem of discrimination persists. In this regard, women are particularly vulnerable to the discrimination in the workplace. At this point, it is worth mentioning the fact that the discrimination of women in the workplace has diverse manifestations, including the discrimination based on career promotion and opportunities, glass ceiling, wage, child birth and care, race, and religion, although the frequency of cases of discrimination against women decreases.
Career Promotion Discrimination
One of the major causes of discrimination was traditionally the wide gap in the career development between men and women. To put it more precisely, women were in a disadvantageous position compared to men because women did not have career opportunities as men did. At the same time, the development of anti-discriminatory law focused on closing the gap between men and women in regard to their promotion to allow women to get access to the career development.
Specialists (Black, 1999) point out that legislative changes contributed to the decrease of the inequality in the position of men and women in the workplace environment. The qualification of employees but not their gender became prior factor, when employers took decision on the career promotion. In this regard, the development of free trade stimulates the decrease of cases of discrimination in the workplace environment. Specialists if women are disproportionately represented among low-skilled workers, then the overall effect of increased trade may be a lowering of the relative wages of women-even if women had been reduced by the increase in trade (Black, 1999). Nevertheless, the decrease of the discrimination in the workplace does not mean that the discrimination against women has been totally eliminated.
On the other hand, the trend to the decrease of career promotion discrimination can be explained from the theoretical point of view. In this regard, specialists argue that when competition increases, firms appear to be forced to improve the occupational status of women to cut costs (Black, 1999). At this point, it is possible to refer to the Economic Theory, which holds that competition forces companies to eliminate the practice of discrimination. In the short term, employers with a “taste for discrimination” will ignore cost-effective practices in order to indulge their desire to employ specific workers. Over the long run, theory predicts that these companies will be outstripped by their non-discriminating competitors and forced out of the market (Black, 1999).
However, specialists (Reuter, 2006) warn that the economic trends cannot prevent women discrimination without ongoing legislative changes. The legislation is essential to create conditions for the elimination of discrimination in the workplace. In addition, the legislation helps to debunk cultural myths and stereotypes. For instance, traditionally men were in an advantageous position in terms of the career promotion because employers viewed them as more reliable and effective. However, the ban of discrimination at the legislative level was essential to prevent the discrimination of women in the workplace.
The discrimination of women in terms of their career promotion becomes particularly obvious at the top level of organizations. In actuality, the problem of glass ceiling persists, regardless of numerous legislative initiatives. Specialists (Black, 1999) argue that a discriminating employer may prefer to keep women in lower positions than their skills warrant. The findings are consistent with discrimination: the share of women holding managerial positions increased after deregulation. The share of women in managerial positions increased by about 4 percentage points or about 10 percent of the mean. These results support the theory that a lack of competition can promote costly discrimination (Black, 1999). At the top level of organizations, women are still underrepresented (Neumark, 1988). In this regard, women have to confront the glass ceiling and conservatism of top executives that prevent women from obtaining top positions in organizations.
At the same time, women often faced the problem of wage discrimination, which put women into a disadvantageous position compared to men because they had to perform the same job as men did but received lower wages. The anti-discriminatory legislation encouraged closing this gap. Nevertheless, the wage discrimination against women persists, although it is possible to trace the decrease of the gap between wages of men and women. For instance, specialists argue that male wages fell about 12 percent after deregulation, while women’s wages fell only 3 percent. This difference is statistically significant and suggests that before deregulation, rents were shared with men more than with women. This finding is consistent with the theory that competition reduces a firm’s ability to spend rents on favored groups (Black, 1999). Therefore, companies cannot conduct the discriminatory practices because this leads to the deterioration of their performance and undermines internal organizational culture increasing the risk of conflicts within organizations.
Furthermore, specialists place emphasis on the fact that looking within occupation groups, it appears that women’s relative wages improved after deregulation in part because their relative wages within their occupation improved and in part because they moved into higher skilled occupations (Black, 1999). Therefore, the discrimination against women based on wage tends to decrease.
Child Birth and Care Discrimination
However, the decrease of wage discrimination against women did not lead to the overall prevention of discrimination against women in the workplace. Specialists point out that despite legislation designed to promote equality for women and mothers in the workplace, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (the “PDA”), and the Family and Medical Leave Act (the “FMLA”), discrimination persists (Reuter, 2006). In this respect, gender-related stereotypes affected consistently the position of women in the workplace and put them into a disadvantageous position. Role-reinforcing stereotypes and the male-centric job model continue to constrain women (Reuter, 2006). In fact, women were subjects to discrimination because employers were unwilling to employ and promote women, who could need to spend time with their children to take care of them or who could stop working because of the birth of a child. The birth of child was a serious threat to the career development of women and to their job. The risk of losing a job was extremely high. This is why women had to postpone the birth of a child to make a successful career, whereas employers were anxious about the potential of female employees in a long-run perspective. Therefore, they preferred to employ men to secure certain positions.
However, to prevent the discrimination against women significant legislative changes were introduced. For instance, the passage of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act acknowledged that pregnancy discrimination is a problem and began to roll back the paternalistic treatment of pregnant women, but the PDA has not significantly alleviated the problem of pregnancy discrimination. It has been construed narrowly so that in many jurisdictions it covers only discrimination arising from pregnancy itself, as distinct from its side effects women (Reuter, 2006).
In fact, outcomes of the introduction of the PDA were quite positive. More women are in the workforce today than when the PDA was passed. In 2003, women comprised forty-seven percent of the total labor force, with a labor force participation rate of 59.5 percent (meaning that 59.5 percent of women at least sixteen years old were working or seeking employment). Nearly three-quarters of mothers are in the workforce, including most women with very young children. A second factor is that today more women work during their pregnancies and work further into their pregnancies. In the decade before the PDA was passed, more than half of employed women quit their jobs when they learned they were pregnant. But by the early 1990s the number of women who quit their jobs in anticipation of childbirth dropped to 26.9 percent. Another factor that may have influenced the rise in charges is that a sluggish economy has pushed employers to lay off workers and stress productivity. Accompanying the rise in pregnancy discrimination cases is a growing number of cases challenging discrimination against mothers and fathers based on their childcare responsibilities. Such challenges are generally raised under Title VII (Reuter, 2006).
In addition, the Family and Medical Leave Act improved the position of women because it provided women with the possibility to take leave to take care of their children, in case they have health problems. In such a way, women could pay more attention to their families and to maintain their position in the workplace. However, women still face a risk of deterioration of their position after birth of a child. In this regard, it is worth mentioning the fact that many specialists (Reuter, 2006) point out that women often get a part-time job after the birth of a child.
Specialists (Robinson, 1993) point out that the problem of racial discrimination against women in the workplace persists although cases of discrimination against women on the ground of race became less frequent than they used to be in the past. These cases of discrimination occur because of stereotypes that dominate among employers. Existing stereotypes created negative image of women of different races as employees. Therefore, women from racial minorities suffered from discrimination in the workplace. However, today, this problem tends to disappear, although the problem of racial discrimination against women has not been solved yet.
The religious discrimination is another type of discrimination against women. While there seems to be widespread agreement that religious and cultural norms can no longer serve as justifications for discrimination of racial, ethnic, or religious groups, religious and cultural norms continue to be the most prevalent and widely-accepted justifications for discrimination on the basis of sex (Stopler, 2003).
Furthermore, specialists argue that a major reason that sex discrimination due to religious and cultural norms is perceived as almost benign and far less insidious than discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, and religion, is the erroneous and detrimental manner in which the situation of women is compared to that of racial, ethnic, and religious groups (Stopler, 2003). The development of religious discrimination persists but this discrimination tends to decrease, but the problem is still not solved.
In this regard, it is important to place emphasis on the fact that discrimination against women is so enmeshed into the fabric of society that it sometimes becomes invisible and therefore uncontestable. Only by understanding this can liberals come to realize the true insidious nature of sex discrimination, and recognize that religious and cultural norms can no more serve as justifications for sex discrimination than they can serve as justifications for racial, ethnic, and religious discrimination (Stopler, 2003). Nevertheless, the religious discrimination is legally banned but its solution can be found through the elimination of existing cultural norms and traditions, which raise substantial barriers on the way to the elimination of religious discrimination against women.
The research of the problem of discrimination against women in the workplace should involve both quantitative and qualitative methods of analysis. First of all, it is necessary to define the subjects of the study. IN this regard, the study should focus on women belonging to different age, racial, and religious groups, holding different positions in organizations, and having different experience. In such a way, the subjects group should include about 15-20 women, to conduct extensive analysis of cases of discrimination in their workplace. In addition, the study should enroll a larger number of women of different age, race, religion, position, and educational background to monitor cases of discrimination of other women but those, who are in the control group.
The choice of methods is very important for outcomes of the study. In this regard, the study should focus on the use of both quantitative and qualitative methods of analysis. In terms of the quantitative analysis, statistical information can be studied. For instance, it is possible to analyze statistics concerning the employment of women after the birth of a child to find out whether they changed their position in organizations, where they worked before the birth of a child, whether they preserved their position or probably they have to do part-time job, and so on.
The qualitative analysis should include the use of interviews and questionnaires with the help of which the study can identify different types of discrimination and frequency with which cases of discrimination against women occur. Interviews and questionnaires can be conducted online, although face-to-face interviews are more preferable but online interviews can enroll a larger number of women. Both interviews and questionnaires should be anonymous to obtain reliable and accurate results. The anonymity allows women to tell the truth about cases of their discrimination in the workplace.
The results of the study should reveal basic types of discrimination against women that occur in their workplace. In fact, it is possible to presuppose that the discrimination of women in the workplace persists but it is possible to trace certain improvements in the position of women because the introduced legislative changes and socioeconomic changes stimulate the elimination of discrimination and focus on the qualification of employees, instead of their gender. At the same time, the study can reveal the fact whether the discrimination against women in the workplace persists and whether it increases or decreases. In this regard, the expected result is the decrease of discrimination against women in the workplace. Finally, the types of discrimination can be ranges on the ground of their frequency and spread in the contemporary workplace environment.
The study focuses on a very important problem of the discrimination against women in the workplace environment. The problem of their discrimination persists and the results of the study should reveal the extent to which the position of women in modern organizations is affected by their discrimination on the ground of their gender. Furthermore, the revelation of major types of discrimination of women in the workplace will help to focus on the development of effective strategies that can prevent the discrimination against women in the workplace. In fact, the study will help not only to reveal major types of discrimination but also it will help to reveal basic causes of discrimination against women. Understanding of types and causes of the discrimination against women in the workplace will help to solve this problem. Therefore, this study will help to elaborate new approaches to the solution of the problem of the discrimination against women in the workplace environment.
Thus, taking into account all above mentioned, it is important to place emphasis on the fact that the problem of the discrimination against women in the workplace persists. Studies conducted by different researchers reveal the fact that, in spite of all the efforts of the government and legislators, the discrimination against women in the workplace is still one of the major challenges to many women. Legislative initiatives, such as the PDA, the EEOA, the FMLA, and others aim at the elimination of discrimination and protection of women from any manifestation of discrimination. However, deep-rooted stereotypes and traditions lead to the discrimination of women in the workplace environment even today.
Black, S.E. “Investigating the Link between Competition and Discrimination.” Monthly Labor Review. 122(12), 1999, p.39-45.
Low, S. and D. Villegas, “An Alternative Approach to the Analysis of Wage Differentials,” Southern Economic Journal, Summer 1987, 449-462.
Neumark, David, “Employer’s Discriminatory Behavior and the Estimation of Wage Discrimination.” Journal of Human Resources, Vol. XXIII, 1988, 279-295.
Polachek, S. and B. Yoon. “A Two-Tiered Earnings Frontier Estimation of Employer and Employee Information in the Labor Market,” Review of Economics and Statistics, 69(2), May, 1987, p.296-302.
Reuter, A.A. “Subtle but Pervasive: Discrimination against Mothers and Pregnant Women in the Workplace.” Fordham Urban Law Journal, 33(5), 2006, p.1369-1383.
Robinson, M.D. “Measuring Discrimination against Females: Is the “Non-Discriminatory” Wage the Male or the Female Wage? American Economist. 37(1), 1993, p.45-54.
Stopler, G. “Countenancing the Oppression of Women: How Liberals Tolerate Religious and Cultural Practices That Discriminate against Women.” Columbia Journal of Gender and Law. 12(1), 2003, p.154-169.