The landscape for working women is rapidly changing: An increasing number of American women are the primary breadwinners in their families, and women are replacing male CEOs at a rate of 70 percent. But despite tremendous shifts in women’s roles, archaic notions about women’s capabilities, compensation, and treatment in the workplace persist.
Leading in a professional capacity means pioneering change — even on a micro level — to abolish these lingering barriers. Why should you lead?
Because, internationally, women still earn 10 to 30 percent less than men for the same work.
According to a study of 83 countries.
Because women make up less than 5 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs.
Which is up from only one — one — woman in 1998.
Because there are more men named John running large companies than any women running large companies.
To prevent women from being retaliated against in the workplace for reporting harassment.
Ten years ago, when forklift operator Sheila White reported harassment by her supervisor, she was placed in a “less desirable” job and then suspended for 37 days without compensation for “insubordination” — which a hearing officer deemed unwarranted. The federal court awarded her $43,000 in damages after ruling that employer retaliation against workplace harassment violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Similarly, Ellen Pao recently alleged in her highly publicized case against venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins that she was fired for protesting sexual harassment and retaliation. Pao famously lost her case.
To get more legislation against unequal pay on the books.
For nearly 20 years, Lilly Ledbetter was consistently paid less than her male counterparts at Goodyear Tire — a fact she wasn’t aware of until an anonymous coworker tipped her off via a note in her mailbox. Of the gross inequality, Ledbetter has said, “I would never have dreamed I was getting paid less.”
Upon suing for gender discrimination, Ledbetter was originally awarded more than $3 million in damages, but a judge later reduced that sum to $360,000. By law, discrimination complaints must have been made within 180 days of said discrimination. So only performance reviews that could have affected Ledbetter’s compensation during the last 180 days were analyzed.
The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the first law President Obama signed into action, stipulates that the 180-day statute of limitations for filing an equal-pay lawsuit resets with each new paycheck affected by that discriminatory action.
To change outdated family leave policy, thereby emboldening more women to lead.
The United States is the only developed country that does not provide paid maternity leave. Recognizing all the loopholes — and limitations — of FMLA hopefully means crafting more egalitarian and accessible packages in the private sector and beyond.
To encourage women to talk openly about money with one another — and not be punished for it.
President Obama signed an executive order prohibiting federal contractors from retaliating against employees who choose to discuss their salaries with one another, thereby encouraging the exposure of unequal pay.
To encourage people to see unequal pay in black-and-white.
President Obama signed a presidential memorandum requiring federal contractors to submit data on employee compensation by race and gender. The hope is that the collection and organization of this data will encourage employers to see inequalities in compensation and correct them.
Illustration by Heather Bradley.