Women make 77 cents for every dollar a man makes. While this 23 cent gap might not seem like a lot, it amounts to a difference in salary of over $10,000 a year. Some skeptics argue that this is because women choose to work in fields that pay less or take time off work to raise children. However, it has been found that even when these factors are taken into consideration, women are still making less than their male counterparts.
Chances are you’ve probably heard at least some of this information before. The gender pay gap has gotten a lot of attention in the media, and while it is problematic and needs to be acknowledged, it is really just the tip of the iceberg. For example, there is still a serious lack of women in leadership roles. Women make up just 4% of Fortune 500 companies CEOs, and over a third of public companies in the United States have no women in senior office positions. Furthermore, a study found that 15% of American women think they have been passed up for a promotion or job because they are women, and 13% of women believe they weren’t given a raise because of their sex. Some people argue that these percentages are actually conservative and that many more women face this kind of workplace discrimination.
Even though there are many obstacles facing women, some women still do make it into leadership roles in their workplace. However, that doesn’t mean that the problems end there. Women in leadership positions face a kind of scrutiny that men in leadership roles don’t have to deal with in the workplace. For example, a recent study found that women leaders whom appeared cheerful were judged by both men and women to be less willing to lead than men in leadership positions who appeared cheerful. Ironically, most women are socialized from a young age to smile more than men, even if the smile is not authentic.
Women leaders often find themselves to be perceived as either competent or likeable, but they are hardly ever perceived as both. When women leaders are competent, they end up being assigned labels such as angry, conniving, and masculine. On the other hand, when women leaders are likeable, they end up being viewed as weak or lacking leadership ability. Ultimately, this leaves women leaders stuck between a rock and a hard place: do they want to be competent or likeable?
But should women really have to make this choice? Men in leadership positions don’t have to face this kind of decision. Just simply look at the terminology used to describe women in leadership positions versus men in leadership positions. As Madeleine Albright, the first women to serve as the United States Secretary of State, pointed out, “different vocabulary (is) used to describe similar qualities in men (confident, take-charge, committed) and women (bossy, aggressive, emotional).”
Overall, women leaders are held to higher standards than their male counterparts and the stereotypes that women face in the workplace deter from the progress that women have made in the last several decades. Ultimately, only some of the bias that women face in the workplace is systematic and it is incorrect to assume that both men and women can’t take steps in eliminating this bias. It is important to be conscious of the stereotypes that women face in their careers and to not be complacent if you witness this kind of behavior taking place. This does not mean that you have to start a revolution at your current or future workplace. It could be something as simple as responding that you think your female boss has a take-charge attitude if a co-worker calls her aggressive. Or you could take it a step further and ask “do you think you would call her aggressive if she was a man?” Don’t be afraid to point out these stereotypes, whether it is a man or a woman doing the stereotyping; too often, you may find that people don’t even realize that they are perpetuating gender stereotypes. And finally, remain conscious of gender stereotyping you may be committing yourself.