eBook: The Biggest Social Justice Issues of The Decade (2010 – 2020)
Much like civil rights, the fight continues for women’s rights – particularly those related to reproduction, sexual and domestic violence and employment
Obviously, this topic is very complex and we are only able to touch on a few highlights here.
The election of President Donald Trump in 2016 sparked a number of movements on women’s rights issues. From the millions of women who marched on Washington donning pink “pussy hats” to the #MeToo movement, women have spawned a reckoning on sexual misconduct and gender inequality.
The unprecedented progress has brought down powerful men from entertainment, media and politics, while signaling the beginning of a transformational period for women in the workplace that has been decades in the making.
Gender-based Income Gap
The exact figures have been debated for years, but a recent study released by the Pew Research Center established that in 2017, the median hourly earnings for full- and part-time workers in the U.S. were 18% lower for women than for their male counterparts (which has improved 2% since the 2016 study). This gender-based pay gap directly affects women who are sole providers for their households, as well as women who are contributing to dual-income households.
So what causes the pay gap?
The majority of the gender-based gap can be approached in measurable and non-measurable factors:
- The measurable factors have been explained in the past by applying education level, occupational segregation and earned work experience. However, there is a large discrepancy when these factors are equal for a male and female in the same position, and the female is still earning on average 5% less than the male counterpart.
- Non-measurable factors – which are not as easy to compare – include a variety of discriminatory factors such as gender, race and sexual orientation. These all may contribute to the ongoing wage discrepancy. In a 2017 Pew Research Center survey, about four-in-ten working women (42%) said they have experienced gender discrimination at work, compared with about two-in-ten men (22%) who said the same.
Another contributing factor to income inequality based on gender has been a longstanding bias toward jobs that were considered to be “women’s work”— nursing, secretarial positions, and teaching, for example. Research from Cornell University found that jobs gendered as “female” were simply thought to be less valuable than jobs gendered as “male.”
Healthcare and Bias in the Workplace
Another contributing factor to the gender pay gap — and introducing the healthcare segment — is pregnancy and parenting discrimination in the workplace.
Despite the existence of several pieces of legislation designed to outlaw the practice of firing women who are pregnant or actively caring for a newborn, (Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 and the Family Medical Leave Act of 1993), the issue of discrimination persists.
Bias… all the way into healthcare trials
From the lab to the ER, there is continued evidence of implicit bias throughout the healthcare system, too. Due to such differences as metabolism, body mass and bone density, a person’s gender can have tremendous effects on medication efficacy and dosing. Up until relatively recently however, women tended to be excluded from clinical pharmaceutical trials.
Generally accepted “wisdom” among researchers dictated that it wasn’t deemed necessary to female subjects in clinical studies or trials because physiological differences between the sexes would have a negligible effect on outcomes.
A 2008 study from the journal Academic Emergency Medicine concluded that women were up to 25% less likely to receive high-strength pain medications in the
ER and had to wait an average of 16 minutes longer to receive them when they were prescribed.
Women in Social Work
The large majority of social work clients are women, including domestic and sexual abuse survivors. Plus, more than 81 percent of American social work
practitioners are women. So these issues are of concern to (and likely applicable to) both client and counselor alike.
Clearly, women are highly represented as both social workers and clients, but some believe that the decreasing number of men pursuing degrees in the field
may negatively affect potential male clients. The lack of male practitioners and researchers may be responsible for the limited amount of literature dedicated to men’s issues.
According to a 2016 paper, any research that has been conducted discusses men almost primarily as fathers within a family unit, not as individuals in need. This is further evidence that any gender imbalances are harmful to all.