Gender and equal pay in the workplace

13 Aug

Discussing workplace gender issues can be very touchy. On the surface equality has been reached and the playing field is level. A woman can do anything a man can and expect to be paid equally correct? In actuality however the rules have been evened but not everyone is playing by them. In fact gender equity in the workplace is still in many ways a pipe dream.

I have a rather unique take on this many people don’t have. I am a woman in the corporate world. Not too shocking. Prior to now however I was a man in the corporate world. I have been able to experience each first hand and compare and contrast the subtle and not so subtle differences.

The most obvious difference is the pay scale. While it would seem a person with valid experience and an established track record and reputation should earn commensurate with their peers this just does not happen. As a man I found it quite easy to find employment with little experience, but as a woman trying to land the same job and pay much more difficult. In fact I didn’t find one. I was able to obtain the same position with a different company but at nearly 14% less per year and with fewer perks. Now I was doing the same exact job but with 11 years of practical experience and a newly added degree to my portfolio yet I was being paid less in some cases than men without an advanced degree, less experience, and only a smattering of years in the work force.

Socially the differences can be even more pronounced. As a man certain behavior and talk was tolerated. Attitudes run quite differently as many men view women at times as forced hires to meet internal quotas, or simply not up to par. Treatment can be condescending as some assume a woman simply can’t handle the same job as a man or even comprehend it. I have dealt with men who are at times younger and in lower position than I, that think it is okay to ask me to fetch their coffee, run their copies, or use any number of derogatory terms in reference to me such as “Sweet-cheeks”, “Babe” or “Honey”, none that I am inclined to respond to. This behavior was tolerated and explained to me as boys being boys. Something it was assumed I would not understand. At it’s worst I dealt with suggestions we may close an account if I were “Friendly” with a client. While this was explained away as a joke I hardly found it funny. It took threat of legal action to end this harassing and demeaning treatment.

Advancing which is as much social networking as performance is often times difficult as the old boys network is still alive and well. I have heard every reason for being passed over for promotion from clients being more comfortable dealing with men, to not advancing because I have been tabbed a trouble maker for asking for equal treatment. That happens even when my performance is unquestioned and I remain a top earner.

As a man I had opportunity to not just view all of this but to be a part of it if I chose. It was certainly not uncommon to hear off color remarks made as to the physical assets of women, the fantasized special abilities they may possess, or at times even blatant remarks such as “She may not be too bright but she has great (Fill in the blank).” I saw qualified women knowingly passed over for less qualified men because they didn’t play the social networking game they were never invited to in the first place. I saw men get and take credit for the jobs others (not just women to be fair) performed because they were in the loop and being fast tracked up the ladder. At one point, that was me.

Now in all honesty not all companies function in this manner so overtly. In most the differences are quite subtle and not so overwhelming. It is in the traditionally male dominated fields such practices still run rampant as some boys never mentally grow into men. I say that not to be unfair but just as a point of opinion. Some girls never mentally grow into women. No system or employer is perfect. To be fully fair I know men in female dominated industries that suffer the same slings and arrows. It’s not just men that are guilty of gender inequality.

The bright side of it all is that at least on paper equality does exist. In time with younger generations climbing the ladder more and hopefully true equality can be achieved as many persons climbing the ladder to the top now don’t look at differences in gender or any area as a weakness but simply a diverse resource to be tapped. However like all things only time will tell.

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