In today’s society, diversity defines America. No matter where you go, there will be people of multiple backgrounds. Here at Penn State, I’ve met people from China, Brazil, India, and even Thailand! Similarly, there will be diversity in the workplace; but the policies concerning these differences is what concerns me. Diversity in the workplace isn’t just letting different people be employees. It is about creating a balance of perspectives that leads to more prudent decision-making.

My mother tells me about her work all the time. As an Asian woman working in the STEM field of computer science, she is not exactly the common worker. She is a minority and contributes a large amount of diversity and insight to work. However, she often describes the oppression in the workplace by her German, traditional bosses who refuse to allow her to complete her job correctly. She is often left out of important workshops, excluded from important meetings, and more, which significantly slow down her progress and job.

This civic issues post will mainly describe the status of minorities and women in the workplace; obviously, I will be one in the future. As another Asian woman hoping to land a career in engineering, I am concerned with these work policies.

In traditional view, gender and ethnic prejudices are the norm. These factors stem from performance and history. For example, women and men are held to different standards in different careers. Some believe that men can do more in STEM fields, since they are considered more logical. A study by Catalyst reveals that “women leaders face higher standards than men leaders and are rewarded with less.” This study regards the gender stereotypic bias in the workplace. By holding women to this stereotype, workplaces are actually losing out on the expanding pool of female leadership talent.

In addition, the wage gap between the genders evidences an obstacle to diversity in the workplace. According to the IWPR, “in 2015, female full-time workers made only 80 cents for every dollar earned by men, a gender wage gap of 20 percent.” This does not add up in modern society. Today, women make up at least half of the workforce. Women also receive more college and graduate degrees than men! Can we consider diversity in the workplace if merely differing genders are not held to equal standards?

This is only one dimension of the diverging qualities between people. People differ in race, religion, sexual orientation, and more. These backgrounds contribute new perspectives, which in turn yields to better understanding and heightened efficiency and competition. The IWPR also claims that women are making progress by taking on occupations previously held exclusively by men. However, occupational segregation contributes to the wage gap. Moreover, a study from Women in the Workplace found that “women are simply less likely than men to advance…there is a persistent leadership gap in the most senior roles…”

This is not to say that women haven’t already made huge advances in the workforce. Clearly, women have come a long way from the traditional viewpoint. However, the biggest obstacle for woman is when they must balance work and family. Women tend to carry most of the caregiving responsibilities; this contributes to their disadvantage in the workplace. Rollert and Wendt from Harvard University declare, “it is unrealistic to expect gender equality if workplaces demand that women be available all the time.

Today, many companies employ policies that support diversity in the workplace. Clearly, by respective individual differences, employees can increase productivity. Flexibility and creativity are key to success, which requires the diverging perspectives. However, there are numerous challenges of diversity in the workplace. Managing it means more than allowing it. Companies can suffer loss of employees because of the employees’ personal prejudices. This opposes the previous view of acceptance and increased productivity. Discrimination will always be evident due to personal experiences, traditions, and upbringing; harmony is difficult to manage.

So what can we do to increase gender equality? Gender stereotypes are clearly hard to break; we all judge people. We merely need to go beyond these prejudices to encourage different contributions to the workforce.

2 thoughts on “Women, Workplace, What?”

  1. This was a great post, and I think it did a good job at describing multiple aspects of gender discrimination in the workplace. You are right about the fact that diversity would bring in new viewpoints and work approaches, that companies could definitely benefit from. It is sad to think that the only thing really holding this discrimination up are, as you said, the gender stereotypes. I also especially like the end, where you say what needs to be said: we need to move past the stereotypes.

  2. You did a really nice job of explaining this topic in such a professional manner. I’m sorry that your mom has to face discrimination in today’s society, and I hope by the time you are in the field, you will have a better situation. Viewing women in the workplace as less than their male counterparts is simply appalling. The idea that women have an obligation to their family is true, but why do men in the workplace not have just as much responsibility to their family at home? Hopefully, with the help of strong women like you, we can fight this discrimination!

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