Sexism in the Workplace

Sexism in education is clearly associated with sexism in the workplace. When women are expected to “stay in the home,” they are unable to access the necessary educational resources to compete with men in the job market. If by chance they are able to secure a position, women may be less prepared educationally for the task, and thus draw lower wages.

In recent decades more women have entered the United States workforce. After WWII (from about 1947), about 30 percent of women were employed outside the home; today, at the start of the 21st century, the figure is well over 50 percent. (Some estimates approach 75 percent if “part‐time” jobs are included.) Yet women are far from treated equally on the job. Typically, they hold lower‐paying, lower‐status jobs than men. In fact, women may account for only 25 percent of the upper‐level managers in large corporations. And although half of the employees in the largest, most prestigious firms around the United States may be women, perhaps as few as 5 percent or less actually hold senior positions.

In general, women are under‐represented in the higher‐status, higher‐paying occupations, such as university teaching, law, engineering, and medicine. In contrast, women are over‐represented in the lower‐paying occupations, such as public‐school teaching, nursing, and secretarial work. In stereotypical female jobs, referred to as women's ghettos, women are subordinate to the positions of men. For example, executives supervise secretaries who are likely to be women, and lawyers supervise paralegals, who are also likely to be women.

Women in the same jobs as men usually earn less, even though these women may have the same or better training, education, and skills. As a general statistic, women make only 60 percent or less than men in comparable positions. Why this disparity? Sociologists speculate that, in some cases, the fact that women often must take time off to have and raise children interrupts their career path. As much as Americans may hate to admit it, women in the United States still bear the primary responsibilities of child‐rearing. Conflicting demands may partly explain why married women with children are more likely to leave their jobs than are childless and single women. Also, men are seen as the “chief bread winners,” so the belief is that they should be paid more than women in order to support their families. Whatever the reason, paying women less than men for equally demanding work is discrimination.