Women at work

Many women have professional jobs in America. But women at work have problems. Read about four problems women face and how to handle them.

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Men make more money and get promoted more often than women at work. There are fewer managers and presidents who are women. Of the top 500 companies in the United States, only 5 percent of the leaders are women. It is important to be prepared for the differences you may feel at work.

The wage gap for women at work

A wage gap is a difference between how much men and women make. Women at work are often paid about 20% less than men. They often get paid less for doing the same job. A wage gap exists because:

  • More men work in higher paying jobs, such as medicine and law
  • Women sometimes have to stop work to take care of children
  • Women at work are less likely to ask for raises

Learn more about the wage gap.

What you can do

For professional jobs, you can ask for more money when you get hired. You can also ask for more when you feel that you deserve a raise.

Managers may think women in the workplace are not as good as men. However, they may not say this or even realize it. If you see a big pay gap where you work, talk to your manager or Human Resources Department. If you are a manager, talk to other leaders at your job. Talk about making sure women at work have the same chances for promotions and hiring. Suggest an unconscious bias training. This type of training teachers to treat everyone the same way. 

Sexism

Sexism means treating men and women differently. It can happen to anyone, but usually, it means that a woman at work is being treated in a negative way.

Examples of sexism

  • Not being promoted because you are a woman
  • Men not letting you finish speaking in meetings
  • Being called names like “honey” and “sweetheart” by your boss

What you can do

If you can, talk to the person who is bothering you. Tell them that you are uncomfortable and want them to stop. They might listen and stop what they are doing or saying. If they do not listen or you are scared to talk to them, tell your boss. Every company has a different way to stop or punish sexism. Most likely, your boss will tell the human resources department (also known as HR). They will talk to the person who is being sexist and may include you. If your boss is the one discriminating, go directly to HR.

Sexual harassment

Sexual harassment is any attention, language, or physical contact that you do not like. Anyone can take part in sexual harassment and it is never okay. Women most commonly experience sexual harassment by men. Sexual harassment is illegal.

Examples of sexual harassment

  • Comments about the way you look that make you uncomfortable
  • Touching that you do not like, including hugging
  • Sharing pictures or videos of people doing sexual acts

What you can do

Follow the same process as for sexism. Talk to the person and then your boss or human resources department. Sexual harassment of women at work is a serious problem. Human resources may decide to punish the person harassing you. The person could be fired. If your company does not help you, you may need to find a lawyer.

Pregnancy discrimination

Pregnancy discrimination means treating a woman differently because of her pregnancy or childbirth. Pregnancy discrimination is not legal in companies with 15 employees or more.

Examples of pregnancy discrimination

  • Forcing a pregnant woman to take more time off then she wants
  • Firing someone for pumping breast milk in the office and not making private space for pumping
  • Not considering a pregnant woman for a promotion

What you can do

If your boss does not provide space for pumping breast milk, ask them to do so. If they do not, talk to a coworker who you trust. If they have their own office, ask if you can pump there. Most workplaces offer three months off for pregnancy. If you want to come back to work and you are forced to take more time off, talk to your the Human Resources Department. Explain that not coming back was not your choice. Also talk to them for any other pregnancy-related discrimination.

Women are almost half of the workforce in the United States. This means you are a very important part of the economy. You may face special challenges, but women at work can still succeed. If you see that a woman is being discriminated against, she may be afraid to say anything. Offer to help if possible and if it is safe for you to do so. It is important that women at work help each other.

Learn more

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