When looked at through a historical lens, gender equality in the United States has never been better than it is today. That being said, there is still a ways to go before we can even begin to claim that the genders are on an even playing field in the professional world. On average, women who work full-time earn just 77 cents for every dollar that their male counterparts earn. When looked at over a lifetime, this pay inequity adds up to years of retirement or years of higher education for their children that women will have more trouble paying for than men. Besides pay differences, the ways in which many companies have set up their employee policies are fundamentally biased toward women, especially those women interested in starting a family. In order to get everybody on the same level, it’s important to be aware of the masculine norms that exist in the workplace and do what you can to combat those norms.
Before we get into some of the items that have been holding women back in the modern workplace, let’s take a look at what sets the top women run companies apart from the rest of the bunch. According to an article in Forbes, “100% of the 50 fastest growing women-led companies provide health insurance, 88% provide 401ks, 80% provide life insurance and 66% offer telecommuting.” This is in stark contrast with the employee benefits offered by most other companies. According to the same article, “Nationwide, 62% of private companies offer health insurance and 47% offer retirement benefits, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics; 59% of private company employees have access to life insurance and just 5% have access to flexible workplace policies.” Clearly, male and female business leaders have different ideas about employee benefits.
So, what about these harmful “masculine norms?” Well, one of the most common examples of the way that gender norms are played out in the working world surrounds children. Let’s say that Jane is an emerging markets expert at her company. A new branch of her company is about to open up in Singapore and she’s been fairly instrumental in putting the whole thing together. There’s a position open for an emerging markets expert at the new branch and, because of how involved she’s been in the project, she assumes that management would be making the offer any day now. Well, Jane also has a 3 year old and management assumed that this familial obligation was a direct conflict of interest, passing Jane up for the position without a second thought. Though balancing work and family is challenging, family should never be used to exclude women from professional opportunities.