In the 21st Century we as a country are far behind others when it comes to discrimination against not just skin color but also age and sex. Out of all the social issues facing our country, I want to discuss unequal pay as well as unhealthy work environments that are tainted by sexual harassment, verbal abuse, intimidation and bullying.1 Why? Women are deemed to be “easy” targets.
We are considered the weaker of the sexes, and as a result we are offered less pay and subjected to discrimination. Because of our gender, we are easy objects for work place harassment. And, if we “look” our age, younger contenders competing for the job have a better chance at snagging the gig, especially if they’re white and male.
These issues of hostile work environments primarily affect women, and if we’re not subjects of harassment or verbal abuse we regularly face discrimination in response to, for example, starting a family. Many women are regularly passed up for promotions or even being hired in the first place because of the chance of pregnancy. God forbid we have a baby and add to the human race.
Women shouldn’t be punished for having children or wanting to. Further more, women shouldn’t be paid less because of their gender, color of their skin or ethnicity. It is telling that even white women get paid more than minority women.2 Statistics show that Hispanic women get even less than black women.3
While African Amricans continue to battle police brutality and prejudices held over from segregation times, it’s equally disturbing to me personally as someone who is half Hispanic that I am the least likely out of all female groups to be paid fairly. Why? My last name is unmistakably Hispanic in origin, and my first name is Asian. They both give away my mixed ethnicity, so regardless of experience and higher education (I have a master’s degree plus extensive experience), I continuously battle for positions against males white or otherwise.
I find myself further pushed behind the proverbial 8-Ball as my chosen career is a part of the male-dominated entertainment industry, especially when it comes to film directors. My undergraduate program was 95% male. I encountered much of the same when I got my master’s. After graduation, I found it interesting that white male peers with less professional experience than I had landed jobs at big studios often technical positions in nature, while the females were offered production assistant, coordinator and executive assistant positions. A few of us had to even get unpaid internships, despite being saddled with tens of thousands of dollars in student loans. I do a lot of research. And what I found was that graduates that were white, hundred percent Asian or African American females also landed better jobs. In other words, if you are at least half Hispanic and female, you’re screwed. I’ve analyzed those that stayed at companies I no longer worked for and the raises plus bump in title were given to white female and male employees.
As a matter of fact, I was the most experienced and oldest in my masters program. Yet, since then I have been advised by several people that I should consider removing my master’s degree from my resume because, combined with my experience, I seem “overqualified.”4 Translated, that means I cost too much to employ. But the master’s degrees didn’t seem to affect my less experienced and younger white male or even female peers. This is precisely what most females battle when entering the work force and especially a field that’s male dominated.5 Even when we do finally receive the recognition.
According to a 2014 theguardian.com article, 40% of managers avoid hiring younger women in order to reduce the risk of having to offer maternity leave. While this statistic is pulled from a dated 2-year-old article, we all know full well that such discriminatory practices continue. Why else would Patricia Arquette literally utilize the stage provided last year by winning an Academy Award for Best Actress to demand equal pay for women in Hollywood? Not to mention, Spike Lee and Jada Pinkett Smith boycotting the Oscars this year, for the lack of inclusion in nominating people of color in all four acting categories. This year recent headlines made by President Obama as he bravely attempts to make our country gender equal, and level the playing field for future generations of female workers especially minority women. Despite their pedigree, Obama knows that his daughters Malia Ann and Natasha face an uphill struggle to reach the same summit as men.
Similarly, I write this to not only demand equal pay for me but also for my daughter Ariabella Zofia and all the world’s daughters, granddaughters and great-granddaughters to come. This has proven to be a bipartisan issue that both Republicans and Democrats have still failed to address in the past. Even whitehouse.gov transparently admits to a consistent gender gap in wages when comparing white males verses females, and minority women are the hardest hit:
Despite passage of the Equal Pay Act of 1963, which requires that men and women in the same work place be given equal pay for equal work, the “gender gap” in pay persists. Full-time women workers’ earnings are only about 78 percent of their male counterparts’ earnings. The pay gap is even greater for African-American and Latina women, with African-American women earning 64 cents and Latina women earning 56 cents for every dollar earned by a white non-Hispanic man. Decades of research shows that no matter how you evaluate the data, there remains a pay gap — even after factoring in the kind of work people do, or qualifications such as education and experience — and there is good evidence that discrimination contributes to the persistent pay disparity between men and women. In other words, pay discrimination is a real and persistent problem that continues to shortchange American women and their families.
Europe is much farther ahead when it comes to workplace fairness towards women, especially when it regards maternity leave and other benefits. Yet, 2 years ago UK Minister of Parliament Jo Swinson called for even more equality, which is inspiring, and yet I wonder why we don’t have the same passion in our country to have resolved pay and maternity leave inequality.
“Pregnancy discrimination is illegal, immoral and completely unacceptable,” said Swinson in a 2015 article.6 “There is no excuse for such attitudes from these employers, who frankly are dinosaurs. British business simply can’t afford to lose out on half of the available talent pool.”
Swindon was speaking in support of new British law that provides both sexes up to 12 months of paternity leave:
Jo Swinson, who is eight months’ pregnant, said she wanted to change the culture of workplaces to prevent the “conflict” between people’s jobs and family life, making it just as normal for fathers to take on caring responsibilities as mothers.
She criticized the “cultural double-standards” and said it was not right for men to be disparaged for wanting to work less to spend more time caring for their children.
The proposals for parents to share 12 months of leave after the birth of a child were outlined by the Lib Dems last year, with the aim of helping women return to the workplace and allowing men to have more involvement in caring for new babies.
The Bottom Line:
When it comes to maternity leave, having children or simply wanting to be a woman that receives equal pay for equal work in the U.S., Congress7 has yet to pass new rules that would promote fairness amongst men and women.8 We remain equally behind other countries when it comes to ensuring families receive paid family leave.9
While there have been positive strides made via increased publicity and discussions surrounding pay inequality, we have a long road ahead of us. Still, these changes can’t happen fast enough. The upcoming Presidential election season is an important one. As a registered Independent, my hope is that both major parties recognize that equal pay for women and paid family leave are serious bipartisan issues that our nation as a whole must make a top priority.