When critics of the feminist movement, or the women’s movement in general, are confronted with statement about the inequalities women face, their automatic response is, “Well, what rights do men have that women don’t?” The real question should be, “What issues are women facing that men don’t?” While, on paper, women have the same rights as their male counterparts, they are faced with more complex situations to maintain those rights and are subject to much more aggressive conditions to utilize them. This is especially true in the workforce for women.
We’ve all heard of the glass ceiling, defined by the United States Department of Labor as the “unseen, yet unbreachable barrier that keeps minorities and women from rising to the upper rungs of the corporate ladder, regardless of their qualifications or achievements.” Many people like to pretend the glass ceiling doesn’t exist because it might mean admitting privilege. We all like to believe we worked hard to get where we are. However, while that may be true, it’s possible for someone to have worked harder to get to the same or lower position. It does not take away from the hard work that we’ve done — it is simply an acknowledgement of unseen forces that may have helped us get there.
For example, let’s take workplace inequality. Companies are often reluctant to put women in executive positions for a multitude of reasons. While the percentage of women in these high positions is rising, it’s still very bleak in comparison to the percentage of men. In 2018, 95.2 percent of the Fortune 500 list was comprised of male CEOs. The percentage of women was down from 2017, from 6.4 percent to 4.8. I find it hard to believe that 476 companies couldn’t find a woman capable of leading their company to success. I’m also reluctant to believe that women are not fighting to even be at the same table as these men.
There are also other glass metaphors when it comes to workplace inequality. For example, the glass escalator is a concept where men in traditionally female occupations are subject to faster advancement. There’s also the glass precipice or glass cliff, where women are encouraged to take leadership reins at failing organizations.
One of the largest barriers between gender equality in the workforce is the dreadful wage gap. I’m not sure how some people arrived at the conclusion that the wage gap isn’t real, but it definitely is. It’s been statistically proven. Once again, the existence of a wage gap doesn’t take away from the hard work some male employees do, but it shines a light on the unrewarded hard work of female employees.
In the case of full-time work, women earn 77 percent of what their male counterparts make. However, in the case of the wage gap, the inequalities also intersect with race, a startling realization for many. So, while women are earning 77 percent of what men make, black women are earning 67.5 percent of what all men make on average and 62 percent of what white men earn. Latina women earn 58 percent and Asian-American women earn 90 percent.
Louisiana, in particular, has a habit of enforcing a horrible wage gap. Women in Louisiana are paid 68 cents for every dollar that men make. African American women are paid 48 cents on the dollar with Latina and Asian American women making 51 and 58 cents respectively. Louisiana has the biggest wage gap in the nation at 31.2 percent, compared to the national average of 19.3 percent.
What’s the point of having the same rights if the sexes are still not treated as equals? The existence of the wage gap is proof of this. The fact that there’s a national average for wage gaps is astonishing, and quite frankly, an ugly blemish on our country. I look forward to the day every “glass metaphor” is challenged and rectified.
Maya Stevenson is a 20-year-old English and economics sophomore from Baton Rouge, Louisiana.