Working Girl: Why Women Still Aren’t Paid or Treated Equally in the Workplace

Do you think work and wage discrimination are a thing of the past?  Think women and men are treated equally at work?  Well, if you answered yes, events of late should change your mind.  One of the perks of my full-time paying job is that I get to meet some pretty kick-ass people.  Yesterday, I attended a seminar in which UC Hastings Professor of Law Joan Williams (my newest feminist icon!) spoke about gender and class culture wars.  She discussed the gender wage gap and pointed out that mothers comprise the most discriminated group in the workplace.

Williams talk comes at the perfect moment as the debate over the Paycheck Fairness Act continues.  I’ve advocated for equal pay for women before. As I’ve written,

“Women earn 77 cents to every dollar a man makes.  African-American women earn only 72 cents and Latinas 60 cents for every dollar.  According to Evelyn Murphy, president and founder of The WAGE Project, the gender wage gap costs a woman between $700,000 and $2 million over her lifetime.  Now if you’re thinking that women certainly must get paid the same wage for the same positions as men, that’s just not so.”

But clueless Christina Hoff Sommers, a scholar and an anti-feminist who happens to be adamantly against women’s studies departments and the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), criticizes the Paycheck Fairness Act in an op-ed for the NY Times.  She actually has the fucking audacity to blame women’s (and men’s) choices on the gender wage gap.  She proudly saunters right into the trap that our society perpetuates: that women choose to be mothers and therefore choose to earn less money.  But as the fab Professor Williams astutely observes, women don’t choose to be discriminated against; they don’t choose a system that won’t support them.  Society perpetually pits married mothers against single women.  Hoff Sommers simply fuels this cycle’s continued momentum as she blames women for deciding to give birth.  She claims,

“The Paycheck Fairness bill would set women against men, empower trial lawyers and activists, perpetuate falsehoods about the status of women in the workplace and create havoc in a precarious job market. It is 1970s-style gender-war feminism for a society that should be celebrating its success in substantially, if not yet completely, overcoming sex-based workplace discrimination.”

In her glistening ivory tower of privilege, Hoff Sommers implies that feminism is not only a dirty word but passé.  This of course is the same jerk who doesn’t think we should discuss gender inequity, says feminists hate men (we don’t) and blames feminism for implementing a victim mentality (as opposed to the empowerment it actually proposes).  She blatantly ignores other factors that cause a gender wage gap.  Time magazine reported on a newly released study by George Washington University claiming that obese women face a greater gender wage gap. According, to the study, women who are obese not only face greater medical costs than men, they also are paid less in wages than their male counterparts.  When you bring race into the debate, women of color fare less well than white women.  Women of color also face enormous discrimination, including but not limited to not being hired or having names that sound too ethnic so as not to get called for interviews.  But even within offices and industries, women of color may be passed over for promotions.

But not only are women still not paid equally, they are not always treated equally in the workplace either.  Sports reporter Ines Sainz recently faced alleged harassment in the NY Jets locker room.  A few athletes cried that women should not be allowed into locker rooms or that women in locker rooms just wanted to look at men’s “packages.” These sexist athletes acted as if locker rooms were hallowed halls, sanctuaries of sweat, temples of testosterone, the…well, you get the point.  But this is precisely where sports reporters, male or female, must tread to interview athletes in order to write their story or report on the air.  Some of the men crying foul seem reminiscent of the arguments used to denounce unisex bathrooms.  But the difference is the locker room is the place to prepare for and celebrate victories and defeats.  It’s a component of the job.

Interestingly, it was the media’s reaction to Sainz that also solidified that sexism still runs rampant.  Many acted as if Sainz asked for the inappropriate catcalls and whistles by her provocative clothing. Why must women continually defend themselves against verbal and physical attacks?  Why are they deemed the instigators?  Who fucking cares if they wore a tight blouse and short skirt or a potato sack?!  I’m so sick of this bullshit.

Jenni Carlson, Chair of the Association for Women in Sports Media (AWSM), wrote an astute op-ed for CNN discussing her own experiences as a sports reporter. While she talked of courteous male athletes (like Pedro Martinez) and how she has never personally felt threatened doing her job, she maintains that women reporters still face harassment.  Carlson explains,

“We have come so far, yet we still have so far to go.  Women in sports media today may not face such extreme circumstances, but the harassment continues. There are demeaning comments. There are misogynistic jokes. Sometimes those words or actions may not even be directed to a specific female reporter, but they still create a hostile work environment.”

But the sports industry isn’t the only hostile work environment.  In her seminar, Professor Williams discussed how the U.S. is only 1 of 4 industrialized nations that do not offer paid maternity leave.  For all the talk of family values, she argues that the U.S. has a combative policy towards families in the workplace.  One of my fave blogs Hello Ladies also argues,

“And while it may look like women are opting out of the 9 to 5 grind so they can attend Mommy and Me classes in between trips to the grocery store and the gym, the reality is many working women leave work because American business have made it close to impossible to manage, or even afford, work and family through inadequate family leave policies, cost prohibitive child care and too few sick days.”

So let’s suppose for a moment that asshat Hoff Sommers and her followers are correct, that it’s women’s choices in education, caring for family members and having children that are screwing up their monetary trajectory.  Women without children who earn higher degrees should make the same as men in their fields, right?  Nope.  Jessica Bennett and Jesse Ellison at Newsweek also denounced Hoff Sommers’ views about making the “right” choices when it comes to attaining gender pay equity. They write,

“Consider this survey from Catalyst, which found that female M.B.A.s who’ve made exactly the “right” life choices—no intention to have children, top-tier schools, high aspirations—still earn $4,600 less per year in their first jobs out of business school. Or U.S. Department of Education data, which separated pay by job sector to determine that whether women who go into teaching or business, social work or science—and before they’ve had the chance to cripple themselves by “life choices” (these are young, childless women we’re talking about)—they will still make roughly 20 percent less than the men they work with.”

So what can we do?  We can talk about it.  We can call or write our legislators.  That’s right my fellow opinion-holders, it’s time to call our senators (1-877-667-6650) as the vote on the Paycheck Fairness Act is coming up soon in the Senate.

Despite Hoff Sommers inane comments, feminism is still very much needed in our lives today.  Many would have us believe that we have achieved equality.  While I wish it were true, that is simply not the world we live in.  Feminism, a movement but certainly not a homogenous monolithic force, aims to end oppression.  Until we have attained pay equity and obliterated misogyny and sexism, it is not some outdated retro throwback.  Women aren’t paid the same, nor are they treated the same.  Society subversively views women as being less than men; less competent, not belonging in a male space.  It’s this kind of attitude that holds not only women back, but all of society back.  We’re not waging a war pitting women against men, but on women against other women.  It’s time to call a cease-fire.

7 thoughts on “Working Girl: Why Women Still Aren’t Paid or Treated Equally in the Workplace

  1. Okay, i’m all for equality, but i draw the line at “sports reporter” Ines Sainz, the self-proclaimed, “Hottest sports reporter in Mexico.”

    I was watching Emily Rooney’s program on PBS, Greater Boston, and Rooney echoed my personal opinion on this whole matter.
    Rooney took it one step further by saying, the majority of these women, reporting in the sports field, are absolutely attrocious at their jobs, with very few exceptions.
    Rooney also stated that, under no circumstances, should women reporters be allowed in male athlete’s locker rooms, and i agree.
    Men aren’t allowed to interview women in their post-game habitat, so there is absolutely no reason to greenlight one group & not the other.

    Sainz also was NOT dressed in a professional manner, with her sprayed on jeans, especially considering she was about to enter a fortress of testosterone.
    Common sense dictates, your entering a lair of over-paid, jacked-up meatheads, and yes, they are going to be wagging their tongues.

    Sainz wants it both ways:
    She enjoys flaunting her curvy figure in swimsuit spreads & proclaiming herself, “The hottest reporter in Mexico,” but you do that at the expense of your professional integrity.
    If she truly wanted to be taken seriously in her field, she wouldn’t be flirting with Tom Brady mid interview, as she has in the past.
    She’d be prepared with her facts & statistics.

    Sainz is a beautiful woman, and if i looked like her, i’d be strutting around the field as well.
    Her persona is the “hottest reporter”, as Rooney states, its understanded that she’s there more for tittilation than insight.
    And Sainz used the so-called harassment as a vehicle to get her brand out there, as she appeared on every talk show, post Jets situation.

    My only issue with people (yes, feminists, too) is that they always want it both ways.
    The legitimate gripe of women being underpaid in their professional enviornment is a worthy discussion.
    The Sainz controversy does nothing to illustrate that plight, in my opinion.

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  3. I have to agree with Julian a little bit here. While I think the Ines Sainz incident is a bit off the mark for harrassment in the workplace (if a man came to work wearing crotch-hugging pants, would a female boss order him to change his clothes? And would it be news?), the real issue should be the wage gap. While it’s no surprise that American sports stars act like assholes, it’s atrocious that professional women still don’t get a fair shake in the workplace. It does raise a question, though: What has been the trend for womens’ pay? Obviously it’s not at the same as mens’ pay, but it must have been trending up to this point? Just curious.

  4. I think the point is being missed here. It isn’t whether women reporters should be allowed in men’s locker rooms after games or men reporters should be allowed in WNBA locker rooms after games (by the way they are allowed in). It also isn’t about whether Sainz is a good reporter or dressing “appropriately”. She has a media pass (issued by the NFL) and this gives her the access to the locker rooms to report on what she and her news organization sees fit. She should be able to perform that job without having to be subjected to cat calls or other comments.

    Of course this is just a single example and it maybe taking away from the bigger issue of Women in all businesses being treated unfairly. Let’s not miss the forest for the trees in this.

  5. Some of these comments are ridiculous. So if I woman is attractive and doesn’t hide it, she must automatically resign herself to a loss of respect in the eyes of the public? Can you provide one good reason why “hotness” is antithetical to integrity (besides the fact that society tells us so)? And don’t even start with the “she should have known better” line of thought. Why do we always pressure women to restrict themselves instead of pressure men to change their inappropriate actions? I DON’T CARE HOW HOT YOU THINK SHE LOOKS, HOLD YOUR TONGUE AND TREAT HER LIKE A HUMAN BEING INSTEAD OF A PIECE OF MEAT.
    But I guess boy will be boys, right? There is no sense in trying to hold them accountable…

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  7. High-fives to Jenny and Jeff. Seriously fellow commenters, C.H. Sommers is basically an MRA and doesn’t give two sh*ts for gay, non-binary, working-class women like me. People always say the same sh*t about what women wear; if a dude wore tight pants and a tight top noone would complain, not because it’s revealing (seriously, that combination doesn’t work well imo, watch mighty boosh to see what I mean) but because he’s a dude and doesn’t need to earn respect like a woman does, he has it and people would find him a bit strange or douchey at most but not demand HE CHANGE WHAT HE IS WEARING. I have big boobs and I’ve been taken to task by my boss for wearing the *exact* same sedate T-shirt my co-workers wear just because a. My boobs are seen as sexualized because of their desirability and size and b. we live in a culture where women who dress, look and act a certain way are blamed for the bad things they happen to them.

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