“…workplace discrimination continues to be epidemic”(Jones, 1996). These words of Gilbert F. Casellas, chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission are the basis of the unsung fact of intolerance. The EEOC was created in 1964 during the women’s right marches and during a time when the nation was keen on listening to such vibrant speakers as Betty Freidan, Simone de Beauvoir, and others, and in the process of listening the government responded by setting up the commission so that workplace environments could be closer to attaining the goal of equality through being blind to color, race, ethnicity, sex, or religion. Through this, the government hoped to begin the process of leveling the hatred and prejudice involved in the workplace and ensures that every American had an opportunity to attain and keep a job. It is the job of the EEOC to enforce such a hope. The issue of how EEO policies fail or enlighten the work environment for women will be discussed in this paper.
In the inequality involved in women in the workforce there is a sociological view of how this inequality is categorized: Kinglsey Davis and Wilbert Moore gave sociology the theory of functionalism. This theory states that every society separates its products, its money, and its services on the grounds of job difficulty and relevance to a society, or on the function that a specific job provides more for a society. Due to a job and what gender performs that job function being more important to society or more functional, then society is willing to play the stratification game. Since these functional jobs and the difference between the assumed capabilities of men or women performing them there is also stratification in monetary reward. Society has a top echelon of jobs which they consider able to be filled only by a man or only by a women: The lower rung of this system includes mostly the feminine persuasion. Functionalism fully believes in the rat race of society and exemplifies it through the power elite system and through gender inequality. Functionalism states that there are critical jobs, ones so important to society (like saving a life) that the measurement of that person’s importance has to be reflected monetarily. Functionalist expresses inequality through the bases of the nature of the occupational system. As Davis and Moore state, “Social inequality is thus an unconsciously evolved device by which societies insure that the most important positions are conscientiously filled by the more qualified persons”(Baldridge, 158).
The EEOC stands in front of an umbrage presented by the US government in the form of taking away affirmative action; and these are repercussions that are strongly felt in a commission whose sole responsibility is to ensure equality in the workplace and not disvalue anyone from being able to work. In America it seems equality has taken a back set to the personal values of business owners, and this is shown in the staggering number presented by Jones and Casellas: 80,000 cases annually represent the amount of known discrimination in the workforce. The avenues to hate are wide and paved, and equality though notable in its aptitude to bring harmony to the poor, and discriminated against, is losing its battle. The inception of the EEOC was brought to light in America to speak against discrimination in all forms, from race, ethnicity, age, sex, to religion. It is in these diverse definitions that an employer doesn’t see a person but sees only something that goes against them and is different from them. This type of thinking is exactly what the EEOC was set up to help prevent. A worker should be hired based on qualifications. The EEOC is called upon to provide succor to persons of every religion, sex, race, age or ethnicity. In this divination is represented the only hope for ‘different’ people. As a way to make sure that everyone who wants or needs a job gets that job and continues to keep that job is the responsibility of the EEOC. They ensure that discrimination will become a word of the past, and in hopes of putting away hatred they push for equality, justice, and the correspondence of opportunity that should be presented to everyone who needs a job.
A view of women’s roles in society needs to be perused; how they conform, why they are seen as inferior workers why women are being viewed, gazed at, becoming an ornament. And this type of thought is expressed through the countless plastic surgeries women willingly expose themselves to. Anne Koedt succinctly expresses this aggravation of the conscious women through these words, “ . . . that not even in her one role allowed in a male society – the role of a woman – is she successful. She is put on the defensive, with phony data as evidence that she better try to be even more feminine, think more feminine, and reject her envy of men. That is, shuffle even harder, baby.” (P340). Women, even in the modernity of today, are not seen as human beings, they (or rather we, since I profess to being a woman) are the ‘nonentities’The inequality of women in the workforce is staggering when comparing the population between women and men (women make up the majority gender in the US). The question then becomes, how is inequality still a present issue?
Through the EEO there have been changes made to the workforce. Women are more and more often holding managerial positions and even in the government women in office is becoming a more common occurrence than it was ten years ago, the problem is, there is still a vast difference between women and men in the workforce; this difference is shown through pay rate, health benefits, problems with advancement and maternity leave, as well as positions for which offices will hire women, as Smith (2002) states,
Women’s earnings are, on average, 71% of men’s earnings. While this gender difference has decreased somewhat since 1970, when women’s earnings were 59.4% of men’s, much of this decrease is due not to greater gender equity, but a real decline in men’s earnings. If men’s annual earnings had remained in real terms at their 1979 levels, women’s earnings would have been only 63% of men’s in 1995.
Due to inequality running the work environment, opportunity hoarding is an issue; it should not be an issue where the action is women stop applying for jobs, instead the EEO should focus their attention on pushing (as they have been doing) for an equal playing field in the work force. The problems raised by discrimination return back to women exercising their right to work in whatever capacity they feel capable of, and the EEO remaining obstinate in their pursuit of parity.
In the perceptions that women exude in society, that of Other, nonentity and other discriminatory names, there must be a stop to. Women should not be bombarded with commercials about how they need to change in order to look better, younger, prettier; for this in turn leads to a societal conception of women having to look a certain way. In the job market, the staple of women’s identities is concerned and defined through a set of standards laid forth by advertisements. It is in the continual press of women seen in commercials as the housecleaner and men seen as coming home from work; women in baby diaper ads, women with mops, women seen doing the dishes while those same commercials define the men’s roles as outside, mowing the lawn, playing sports, being construction workers, being perceived as CEOS and doctors. Commercials only propagate inequality in the work force. If women are seen as secondary, as limited in job range in these commercials then society will also. Thus, inequality is ensured through advertisement.
To change this, women need to be depicted in other roles outside their pre-determined range of femininity. Public policy is dictated through constant exposure to an idea; if women are seen in secondary roles then what is expected of them in any capacity will remain secondary in nature. The change that needs to take place is a major overhaul in advertisement standards and the inclusion of equality of gender roles in even the mundane commercials such as who takes the kids to school, which puts on the band-aid. If both women and men are perceived as sharing these roles on commercials, then that idea will spread to the work environment.
Women are treated unequally through the following avenues: pay, maternity leave and promotions as Smith states,
Two thirds of all part-time workers are women. Many women working part-time hold other jobs. Three million and three hundred thousand women held more than one job in 1994. More than half of the women working for temporary agencies would prefer to work in permanent jobs. Two thirds of the workers earning the minimum wage are women. Almost two thirds of all working women do not have pension plans.
Society reiterates women’s roles through advertisements, and it is a cycle that seems impossible to break. If women themselves allow for the conclusion of them as secondary by maintaining the same gender roles then women in the workforce stand little chance of unfettering themselves from discrimination.
In conclusion, in order for a major change in company policy in regards to gender inequality, society must first change the misconceptions they propagate about gender. IN the views by which society instigates women as other, corporations will follow suit; if society is to change, then by extension the jobs will change. The problem that arises however is that society is slow to change. Since the dictate of gender roles and their standards are mandated in truth through public perception and this is instigation and reaffirmed through advertisements, then inequality in the job market may persist.
Though these changes in society may take time, they are one of the only conceivable ways in which women may attain equality in their jobs. EEO policy is set to ensure that each employee is treated with the same respect as his or her colleague. As is its namesake this means equal employment opportunity to all people despite race, class, gender, age, disability, national origin, and religion. It is only fitting that gender identity is placed among this list since many gay, lesbian and transgender workers have faced discrimination due to their orientation. With EEO policies, a better, more efficient working environment is ensured.
The work place is not a place in which persecution should thrive. Though women, as has been stated in this essay, have their own changes of self-image to make, it is only with an overhaul in society and companies that a change can truly be set in motion. EEO policies need to be more directed towards specifics in inequality and women need to make sure their voice is heard if they feel they have a legitimate case of discrimination, especially in the area of taking a maternity leave and having that leave jeopardize any future plans of becoming partner in a company. Family oriented businesses need to be implemented in society so that the dichotomy of working mother is something that is not a stigma.
Society needs to drastically make room for equality in all realms of life, not just categorize individuals or groups into certain sections; but let quality in job placement be the determining factor in who gets hired. Women are qualified and its time that society acknowledges it, so that equality can be achieved.
Baldridge, J. V. Sociology: A Critical Approach to Power, Conflict, and Change. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 1975
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.. In The Columbia Encyclopedia (6th ed.). New York: Columbia University Press. Retrieved April 13, 2007. 2004
Jones, D. Screwing the Diversity Out of the Workers. <http://sitemaker.umich.edu/sw560.articles/files/jones_screwing_diversity_out_of_the_ orkers.pdf>
Jones, J. Unequal Justice for All: EEOC Director Fighting a Rising Tide. Black Enterprise, 26, 27. 1996, June.
Koedt, A. The Myth of the Vaginal Orgasm. 1970
Smith, Anna Marie. Gender and Inequality. 2002.