Sex-Based Income Discrimination in the US

Length: 1746 words

This research will try to describe the gender discrimination at work specifically based on the income gap between male and female workers in the United States. This will also explore the history of the pay discrimination, the movements that were initiated to resolve this problem, the role of the government in this pressing issue, the agencies that were created in order to address the problem specifically the Employment Standards Administration, the landmark cases that further defined the unequal treatment, and the present condition in the U. S. workplace and the future of this issue.

Overview Discrimination is very rampant around the world. It comes in many forms: racial discrimination, age discrimination, gender discrimination, religious discrimination, disability discrimination, etc. It is usually associated with a pre-defined judgment of a person or group based on the class other than a person’s worth. According to Burstein (1994), much of the discrimination was blatant in ways that people would find astonishing today.

Discrimination often meant total (or virtually total) exclusion- from jobs, from firms, even from entire occupations and industries. In the nineteenth century, employers routinely posted No Irish Need Apply signs in their businesses, and in the twentieth, job ads sent to employment agencies and newspapers often

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made it very clear that no black, Jews, Catholics, would be considered for many jobs. Sex discrimination was so common, and so much taken for granted, that there was no need to mention it in specific ads.

Many labor unions restricted membership to white men, and many employers- major national corporations as well as small local businesses-would not hire minorities for any but the most menial job. Gender inequality has been a long-time issue in many societies. While some nations are able to empower women at greater heights, many are still stuck in an unequal culture. This is a manifestation that gender oppression is still prevalent. Even if we are already in the modern era, a lot of societies are still not open to a more a changing world specifically to the concept of gender equality.

The psychology of women plays a vital role in the perception of women in the society. It may even be considered the source of inequality. The views create a domino effect. It triggers the behaviors made by people towards women – may it be an organization, small community, or even the entire nation. By the year 1940s, Simone de Beauvoir (1952) tries to explain gender oppression through existentialist philosophy. She postulated that in the eternal schism between subject and object, men deprived women in the role of subject.

The world has been divided in the areas of subjectivity (civilization, culture, statecraft) and objectivity (nature, biology). Women are said to have been excluded from all that human civilization could offer because they were barred from being the subjects in their own right. Gender issue is characterized in many faces: representation of women in the media (broadcast, print, internet, and other types of pop culture), women in the concept of religion, women in the community, women as sex object, female domesticity, women at work, and among others.

Discrimination of Women in the Workplace Sex discrimination in the workplace also comes with many different characters and involves outright exclusion of women, solely by reason of their gender. However, even in those workplaces where women have already gained access to, sex discrimination still persists. Additionally, there are other factors of gender discrimination in the workplace. In some instances women are denied of job training and educated, if jobs are segregated by sex.

It could overestimate the extent of discrimination if the earnings function omits relevant variable such as strength, intensity of work, hours, and responsibility. Another often–overlooked area of gender discrimination is in the benefits an employer provides to its employees. While it is obvious that male and female employees have different, sex–based disability and healthcare needs, social institutions are aware of the existing natural conditions that only women are capable of getting pregnant. These healthcare needs of the women must be given proper consideration.

Excluding women–only benefits from a generally comprehensive prescription plan is sex discrimination (Workplace Harassment and Employment Discrimination, 2009). Additionally, a fairly obvious issue of women discrimination in the workplace is based on income distribution between sexes. This is manifested in the compensation package that is received by the employee. According to Hughes, compensation is the set of rewards that organizations provide to individuals in return for their willingness to perform various jobs and tasks within the organization.

Basic purpose of the compensation is to provide appropriate and equitable rewards which are based on the salary structure of the job category. However, in spite of equal jobs, there is obvious wage discrimination between sexes. Wage discrimination means that one group, in this case female, is paid less than another group, such as male, even when the characteristics of each are identical. It measures the degree to which equal characteristics are given a different value by the market. Recent research on gender differences in earnings and occupations has produced a discouraging set of findings.

The ratio of female to male earnings among full time workers was roughly constant from the 1950s to the early 1980s, and the segregation of occupations by sex is substantial and has declined only slightly across the century. Only since the early 1980s has the ratio of female to male earnings began to rise. Gender differences in earnings and occupations appear impervious to the broad social and economic changes that have operated in other spheres, such as labor force participation and the political arena (Burstein, 1994).

Accordingly, a significant area of occupational gender discrimination is found in a “sex plus” theory, which is based first on the gender of an employee and then adds marital status or child–bearing ability. History of Pay Discrimination According to Hovious (2003), rampant wage discrimination emerged between sometime 1890 and 1940 and has remained roughly at the same level since. It was said to have started in the white-collar sector of the economy. As women began to extend their time in the labor force and compete directly with men for jobs in the white-collar sector, substantial amounts of wage discrimination started to appear.

Because of the significant number of American women doing various jobs in the war industries during World War II, the National War Labor Board encouraged employers in 1942 to voluntarily make “adjustments which equalize wage or salary rates paid to females with the rates paid to males for comparable quality and quantity of work on the same or similar operations. However, at the end of the ward the employers did not just fail to follow the request, instead the women were even terminated from the job because of the returning veterans. During early 1960s, the separate job listings of the two sexes were already apparent.

Additionally, higher level jobs are specifically intended for the males, and whenever the ads ran identical jobs under male and female listings—they usually have separate pay scales. In this case, women takes home a relatively lower wage as compared to men. On the average, the former receives between 59-64 cents for every dollar of earned by the latter. It was just during the passage of the Equal Pay Act of 1963 that made it technically illegal to pay unequal wages based on sex. Hierarchal positions, job descriptions, quality and quantity of work may trigger a significant difference in pay, but it was made clear that gender is not a factor.

In an article entitled the Wage Gap (2005), it states that the act was gradually expanded over the next decade to include a larger segment of the workforce, and between June 1964 and January 1971 back wages totaling more than $26 million were paid to 71,000 women. Equal Rights Movement for Equal Pay in the 20th Century While the blatant wage discrimination happened in the late 1800s, it is being said that the roots of the women’s labor movement and women’s struggle for fair pay can already be traced back to the women working in the Lowell, Massachusetts textile mills in the early 1800s.

These young women – referred to as “Lowell Mill Girls” by antebellum newspapers and periodicals – were the first in the American women’s labor movement to engage in strikes, marches, petitions, and public speeches in seeking redress of their grievances. They also referred to themselves as “mill girls, while affirming the virtue of their class and the dignity of their labor” (Hovious, 2003). Initially, these working class women simply sought relief from 13-14 hour workdays and difficult working conditions, and petitioned for more than subsistence wages.

In 1845, Sarah G. Bagley, a cotton mill worker organized and served as the first president of the Lowell Female Labor Reform Association, one of the first American labor groups organized by and for women. The Association, which petitioned the Massachusetts legislature for a 10-hour workday and improved working conditions, was the first of its kind to bargain collectively for improving women’s pay. By the early 1900s, the Women’s Trade Union League had taken up the struggle for fair pay.

The League’s agenda included support of trade unions generally, equal pay for equal work, an eight-hour workday, a living wage, and full citizenship for women. It “protested against the ill-judged activities of the anti-suffrage women, a group of women of leisure, who by accident of birth have led sheltered and protected lives, and who never through experience have had to face the misery that low wages and long hours produce” (Hovious, 2003).

And so began the women’s labor movement and women’s struggle to achieve fair pay for their work. Fair pay was initially defined as pay equal to that men received for the same work, commonly referred to as equal pay for equal work. While paying women less than men for the same day’s work was common practice in the time of the Mill Girls, it became federal policy upon adoption of the National Recovery Act in 1935. The struggle for fair pay for women workers continued and made some progress during the 1980s and 1990s.

The goal, now defined as pay equity, gained legitimacy in 1981 with the Supreme Court decision in the case of Washington (Oregon) V. Gunther (U. S. Supreme Court, 1981). In deciding this case, the Supreme Court ruled that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits job discrimination, applies even if jobs are different. This decision brought women a step closer to equitable pay with men in substantially similar jobs (Hovious, 2003).

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