Gender Inequality Sparks Controversy in the Work Place

Recent legislative proposals and media attention surrounding issues of gender inequality have ignited debate over the causes and ways to eliminate it.

Despite having the same education and past work experience, there are still inequalities between men and women in the workplace, one of which is a significant wage gap. Women working full-time earn 77 percent of what their male counterparts earn, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This has become a growing concern for women in college preparing to enter the workforce. Kaitlynn Rossi, a recent graduate of the Leon Hess Business School, is worried that she will not have the same opportunities as her male counterparts.

Rossi said, “Not getting the job or the pay that I deserve is definitely a concern for me, especially being that I am a business major, which tends to be a male-dominated field.” The graduate plans to eventually start her own business. “I’m worried I won’t be taken as seriously as a female entrepreneur,” she said.

Many believe this discrepancy in workplace opportunities is due to home obligations. In a typical American household, women often dedicate more of their time to household chores than men. According to a 2013 American Time Use Survey from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 83 percent of women “spend some time doing household activities such as housework, cooking, lawn care or financial and other household management,” during an average day as opposed to 65 percent of men. For some women, these additional responsibilities have hindered their career advancement.

Michelle Gagliardi is a mother of two who had to put her career aspirations on hold. “I recently got a job at a catering company that I really loved but with both my husband and I working, someone had to be home for the kids. Because he was making more money, the logical solution was for me to be the one to leave my job and get the kids to all their after-school activities.” As a Culinary Institute graduate, this was Gagliardi’s ideal job.

“It’s tough because once you leave a company, you have to start all over at a new place. It becomes almost impossible to move your way up in the field and it’s difficult to demand equality at work when, unlike men, we don’t have the privilege of making our career our first priority,” Gagliardi said.

In recent years, there has been a push for government intervention in workplace inequality. The Paycheck Fairness Act, specifically, has been a topic of debate since it was drafted in 2009.

The proposed legislation will allow employees to discuss or issue complaints regarding wages without employer retaliation, hold employers who violate equal pay liable for compensation, and allow the Commissioner of Labor Statistics to collect data on women’s pay.

While some believe this law is an obvious solution to an ongoing problem, others feel the policy implications will do more harm than good.

Gregory Bordelon, political science professor at the University, said, “I think the main concern is that the legislation will lead to endless civil lawsuits in cases when the pay differences may be for reasons other than gender.” The bill’s vague wording may require employers to eliminate wage gaps that are unrelated to sex for fear of being sued for punitive damages.

Despite the push for this proposed legislation by Democrats, it failed to pass when the Senate fell six votes short earlier this month. This marks the third time the bill has been blocked by Senate Republicans.

Regardless of the outcome, the bill did lead to political discourse and debate regarding the issue. A junior biology student, Trevor Rawlik said, “From a male’s perspective, [equal pay] was never really something I had paid much attention to in the past. In all honesty, I didn’t realize that it was still happening until it was covered in the news in recent months.”

However, men are not the only demographic left in the dark on these matters. Imari Patel, a junior biology student, said she did not consider equal pay a serious problem. “I didn’t really start to pay attention to the issue until recently. I realized that as a woman preparing to enter the workforce, it’s definitely something that affects me and that I should look into.”

Her response to the controversy is similar to that of many. “I feel that gender just needs to be taken out of the equation completely. Wages should be based on factors like experience, education or performance for both genders and rather than pitting women against men or against their employers on the issue, all parties should work together to make sure everyone is held to the same standard in the workplace.”