Today, women are represented in every industry in the U.S. work market and often hold prominent positions in fields like medicine, education, and law. However, women in the U.S. makeup nearly half of the entry–level workforce, but comprise only a small portion of managerial positions. Even as more women take on more leadership roles, most women in the U.S. still do not get promoted because of their gender.
New research has revealed that the chances of getting a promotion are especially slim for woman. The study, from Columbia University, found that gender bias is still present in recommendations, especially in fields such as science, business, and technology.
Why Women are not getting promoted
According to the “Women in the Workplace” study, for every hundred men hired or promoted to a higher position, only 72 women are promoted and hired for the same role. The statistics for women of color are even lower, with just 68 Latina women and 58 black women being promoted to managerial positions for every 100 entry-level men who are promoted to the same job. This gender difference in the promotion to management was called the “broken rung.” This gender difference in the promotion to managerial positions was called the “broken rung.” This unfair treatment is viewed as the start of inequality in the workplace that eventually leads to a wider gap at higher management levels.
Today, nearly 60% of bachelor’s and master’s degrees are awarded to women, suggesting there is no shortage of qualified women entering the pipeline, yet this percentage is not represented in the promotion to top positions.
It is hence disheartening and hurtful for female employees who put in the hours and have the necessary skills and experience for a managerial role, to get passed over for promotions. What hurts, even more, is that these women often lose out to a male counterpart who may not be their equal on the basis of skillset, agility, or experience.
When these women do not feel like they receive the recognition they deserve in the workplace many of them sink into a depression, and display less commitment to the organization, and some even leave the company while others work even harder to prove their worth.
Unconscious Bias against Women
Men have been advantaged over women in a lot of subtle ways in the workforce. The most obvious explanation for this is gender bias against women; the belief that men are slightly more capable or competent than women is still alive, prevalent, and pervasive in corporate culture and this notion impacts the decision-making of higher-ups.
Women are faced with an unconscious bias and limited workplace support, that even the most ambitious women may feel that making it to the top can seem like an out-of-reach goal.
Unfortunately, this bias starts way before women even apply for a promotion. There is a long-standing culture where women in the workforce are often being bestowed with adjectives like ‘nurturing’ and ‘helpful’, while men receive stronger descriptors like ‘confident’ and ‘ambitious’.
This can result in stronger excellent recommendations for male candidates and significantly fewer good recommendation letters for female employees. This perpetuates that female strengths are less valuable than male traits and, and consequently there will be no attempt to change the business world to a more gender-intelligent or gender-equal space.
Higher standards for women
Women in the US constitute of approximately 50% of the entry-level workforce, but fill only about 21% of high level executive roles. One of the main reason for this disparity is that women are being held to a higher standard.
While it is true that women often take more career breaks than men, particularly to perform motherly duties and prioritize caregiving responsibilities, it is also a fact that women receive higher performance ratings—they are 7.3% more likely than men to receive a “high” rating in performance—their potential ratings are 5.8% lower. The authors estimate that lower potential ratings explain up to 50% of the gap in promotions.
A study found that managers consistently underestimate women’s ability to perform in the future. During this study, the researcher Kelly Shue and colleagues found that women, tended to have higher performance scores than men during evaluation time, whether or not they had been promoted into a more senior role.
“It appears that they were held to a higher standard,” Shue says.
Remarkably, even when women exceeded expectations, they still did not receive the benefit of the doubt and continued to receive lower potential scores even though their most current performance proved that their previous performance potential score was false. This phenomenon is prevalent throughout all the ranks but gets a lot stronger when senior positions are involved.
Shue points out. “Women get progressively lower potential scores relative to their actual future performance as we rise up the corporate ladder. So, this is going to contribute, I think, to a stronger and stronger glass ceiling the higher up we go.”
How to Fight Back Against Gender Discrimination
Women who are at the short end of this gender disparity in the workplace may feel like they are out of options. To remedy this gender disparity, it is crucial for women to know their rights and the laws that protect them from any form of discrimination on the work floor. Female employees must be aware of New York State and City Human Rights Laws and Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. These laws protect women from gender discrimination at work and overall make it illegal for employers in the United States to treat an employee differently at work because of their sex or gender.
Women who face gender discrimination at work must contact an employment discrimination lawyer who has experience dealing with gender discrimination claims to assist them in their fight against their employer.
Companies can also actively combat this kind of bias by amending their evaluation system and focus more on promoting employees on their performance alone.
It is crucial that employers understand the contribution of female workers to the economy and how important they are in the workforce. This means that a course correction is needed in how employers regard their female employees and promote them accordingly and no longer contribute to – and uphold negative biases against female employees.
Dr. Madeline Ann Lewis is President/CEO of the Executive Women’s Success Institute, a 22-year Army veteran, creator of the online course “Crack The Career Code: Unlock The Amazing Power Within To Lead With Confidence, Charisma, and Credibility”, host of the Success 4 Women Radio/TV Show, Career Strategist, International TEDx Speaker, International Bestselling Author, Trainer, and Business Consultant. She helps women progress in their careers into upper management and executive-level positions by providing them with a fast track, yet comprehensive toolkit of life skills and abilities. She also helps women who are transitioning out of the workplace into business entrepreneurship. Dr. Lewis has numerous awards and accolades. And…she was just selected for the 2022 Veteran Champions of the Year (VCOY)” in Corporate America” list. The 2022 VCOY Corporate list honors 30 champions who advocate for our nation’s veterans in the civilian workforce.
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