Despite progress, women still face an uphill battle
Misogyny still exists in the work environment through harassment and pay inconsistency, although generational improvement has occurred
School is supposed to prepare students for the world after graduation, but it often fails to mention how half of them will be fighting for equality with the others.
The traditional gender roles assigned to women mold why misogyny is something that is dealt with. Students are not taught that they could be treated differently in the workplace based on their gender, but as many students start to enter the workplace in high school, they quickly learn on the job.
Historically, women were always seen as stay-at-home wives who cleaned and cooked all day. They didn’t go out and get jobs, that was a man’s place. Julie Hahn, who is the Assistant Superintendent of Data, Intervention, and Student Support at Ritenour’s Central Office, reflected on her time growing up and what was presented for being a woman in the workplace.
“I was born in 1965. Keep in mind that we did not have social media, computers, cable tv, etc. Women were primarily homemakers, teachers, nurses, or secretaries. It was definitely a male-dominated society,” Hahn said.
As Hahn moved into her professional career, she felt as if women were expected to follow what a man said, even if they were not as qualified.
“As early as I remember, I can recall the frustration it caused me to feel like women were expected to be put in their place, which was to follow the advice or directive of a man,” Hahn said.
While misogyny is well known in the workplace, this isn’t the only place that it happens. Hahn has experienced this in not only the workplace but growing up at school too.
“I went to a Catholic school where much of the organization focused on men being put in authoritarian roles. Sexual harassment as a student and in the workplace when I first started working (the early 80s) was never talked about, but definitely rampant,” Hahn said.
While sexual harassment in the workplace is addressed more today than it has been in the past, it is still a major issue in society. Isabelle Cortez, who is a working senior at Ritenour High School says that she experiences harassment often at her job.
“I’ve been made extremely uncomfortable by older male customers who seem to feel like they have some right to treat me as they please. I’ve been catcalled an uncountable amount of times, hit on by men over twice my age, and men have even touched me without asking,” Cortez said.
Although it is a known problem that has been addressed, specifically recently with the Me Too movement, sexual harassment still exists in the workplace. According to an ITIC survey, 62% of the 1800 women who work in the STEM field replied to the survey that they had experienced some sort of sexual harassment in their careers.
“One of the most troubling statistics is that 23%, or two-in-10 survey respondents, alleged they were the victims of more serious harassment such as forcible physical advances, ranging from touching, groping and outright sexual assault including rape.”
In addition to coworkers causing threats, customers can also engage in these acts. For some jobs, if employees react to customers acting in certain ways they can get written up or terminated.
“At previous jobs, if we were to act on a customer saying stuff to us, we received a write-up. Even if the situation was uncomfortable or we were defending ourselves we still got in trouble. After a certain number of write-ups we could be terminated.” said Cortez. “I get a lot of unwanted attention. Even coworkers will comment nasty things about me, things that I shouldn’t have to deal with in the workplace.”
It’s not just customers, sometimes managers push the women to do things that require getting tips or something with customer service because they are said to look nicer.
“I’m pushed to the ‘easier’ aspects of my job because of my age and gender, like being told to grab the register because I’m a ‘pretty girl,’” Cortez said.
With being told to do things by managers because of being “prettier” than the men, customers may doubt an individual’s abilities and what they are able to do because they are a woman.
Jeff Iler, who is a manager at a local restaurant, says that institutionalized misogyny exists in the corporate world.
“As a male who has worked many jobs where the majority of employees were women, I have witnessed misogyny towards them from not only customers but from higher-up men. I recall one time when customers would ask one of my female coworkers for a male because one of the games needed to be fixed. The higher managers at this establishment would make the girls do birthday parties and dress up nicer so they would get a better review,” Iler said.
While teenagers experience these issues in low-level positions, there are different issues faced by women in authoritative positions which were stereotypically men’s jobs. This causes many to face difficulties when it comes to their role in authority. In some cases, women aren’t listened to by their peers because they are believed to not be authority figures.
Dr. Jana Haywood, principal of Ritenour High School, has experienced both subtle and obvious forms of misogyny during her career rise.
“I am in a profession that is dominated by women, but as a principal, in a role that has been traditionally held by men. I definitely have experienced misogyny as I have gone from classroom teacher, department chair, athletic director, assistant principal, and now principal,” Dr. Haywood said. “Most of the occurrences have been instances where men will speak for me, as if I do not have the ability to generate a response or thought on the topic despite my experience and qualifications. Other times it has been more blatant through practices of exclusion from meetings and comments insinuating that my responsibility is to my family which prevents me from thriving or handling my professional responsibilities.”
Hahn is in a similar position to Haywood as an assistant superintendent and has seen instances where women have to prove that they are capable of doing jobs that men are expected to just automatically know how to do, even if the men truly have no idea of what they are trying to do.
“I have always had to prove myself by working hard. When I see many men without the same experience, skill, or work ethic moving ahead based on personality, or in my opinion because they are a man, I am vocal when this happens, but it can come off as jealousy versus inequality,” Hahn said. “Being assertive as a woman in the workplace can result in being called names behind your back. Because there are laws that now protect this type of behavior, it is usually behind your back, but for many years it was definitely told to your face,” Hahn said.
This private dialogue can build trust issues in the work environment and can make women feel unsafe going into a place that they should feel comfortable in.
“One of the earliest memories of seeing something like this happen was when I had a manager that would discipline a woman faster than a man solely based on the fact that he didn’t trust women,” Iler said. “It becomes a problem where female employees start getting more critiques based on their performance or being called names, this then results in these females feeling unsafe in their place of work.”
The ITIC survey referenced earlier described a variety of activities that still show gender bias in the workplace.
“…Women being passed over or otherwise denied promotions on the basis of their gender, coping with hostile work environments as they sought advancement in traditionally male-dominated STEM verticals, losing out on pay raises to less-experienced or less-qualified male counterparts performing similar duties, having promotions delayed or derailed when they took more extended family leave after giving birth, and having their contributions ignored or demeaned because of their sex.”
Women being compensated equally has changed some since it was first an issue, but it is still one of the problems present in the workplace.
“The compensation for women is improving, but not anywhere where it should be,” Hahn said.
There have been many instances where you automatically make less because you are a woman.
According to the United States Census Bureau, while women are still earning less than men for the same job, the margin is decreasing. Currently, women make 82 cents for every dollar a man earns.
“Tons of research exist that states that men are compensated at higher rates than women. Labor laws have done some work around eliminating these gaps but many persist in spaces that allow merit-based salary assignments,” Haywood said.
While there have been advancements in gender pay equity and a recent surge of activism against sexual harassment, issues remain. Hahn says that it is up to the next generation to continue to make changes.
“My hope is that your generation continues to make demands to put women in the spotlight, not only in the US but across the world. We should not sit back and allow women to be treated the way they are in many countries,” Hahn said.