Women are effective leaders and even surpass their male counterparts in most leadership competencies, according to a 2012 research article titled “Women Do it Better Than Men.” Despite evidence such as this, women still face many barriers in the American workplace. If you’re like many working women today, you’ve probably struggled with acceptance, equality and excelling at work.
One of the most disappointing barriers for women at work is the fact that women today still make significantly less than men. On average, full-time female employees in 2012 made approximately 19.1 percent less than full-time male workers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Women also tend to work in jobs that don’t pay as much as those often held by their male counterparts. The Department of Labor reported that the top five most common occupations for women in 2010 were secretaries or administrative assistants, registered nurses, elementary and middle school teachers, cashiers and health aides. Of these five jobs, only registered nurses made the list for top 20 highest paying occupations for full-time female employees.
According to the Department of Labor, women are almost two times more likely than men to work part-time. This results in no benefits, fewer hours and once again, less money. Additionally, the Department of Labor also reported that 20 percent of these part-timers want to work full-time but are unable to find full-time employment. Many women also find themselves taking time off to raise families. Although some companies today are offering paternity leave, most men don’t have these gaps in employment, so their career is less likely to suffer. Women who take more than their allotted maternity leave often struggle when reentering the workforce at the same level of employment they earned when they left.
Although men and women do have many similarities when it comes to communication, there are several issues that create barriers in the workplace for women. Men tend to communicate with the goal of sharing information while most women communicate to create meaningful relationships, according to the Discovery Channel. Many men communicate their dominance through their posture, voice and gestures. Women tend to communicate understanding and empathy through animated expressions, including smiling and frequent nodding, and using a pleasant voice. PsychologyToday.com states that these differences often put women at a disadvantage leaving them feeling “defensive and submissive.”
Stereotyping is still prevalent in today’s workforce and in many cases, is women’s double-edged sword. For example, when many people think of a leader, they may think of someone who is assertive, decisive and strong. However, when women take on these traits, they sometimes are negatively labeled as aggressive and insensitive. This may be because women are still viewed as care-takers and nurturers, while men tend to viewed as authoritative and problem-solvers, according to PschologyToday.com. Women do tend to be more emotionally empathetic, and although this can be beneficial for business, women who exhibit these traits run the risk of being called emotional and irrational.
- Body Language University: Tonya Reiman
- Discovery Channel: 10 Ways Men and Women Communicate Differently
- Psychology Today: Are Women More Emotionally Intelligent than Men?
- Psychology Today: The Nonverbal Power Cues of Men and Women
- Psychology Today: The Invisible Barrier: Second Generation Gender Discrimination
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey
- United States Department of Labor: Quick Stats on Women Workers, 2010
- United States Department of Labor: Women’s Employment During Recovery
- Zenger Folkman: A Study in Leadership -- Women Do It Better Than Men
Sydney Neely has worked in the education arena for more than 10 years, teaching general education, the arts, communication and finance. She holds Bachelor of Arts and Master of Education degrees from Arizona State University. Neely also holds several state and federal financial licenses in life insurance and investments (Series 6 and 63).