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Women in Male-Dominated Fields

Over the course of the last century, women have made great strides in bridging the gap between gender inequalities around the world. One of those being, succeeding in male dominated fields/workplaces despite the harassment, lack of opportunity and constant sexism. Studies have shown that more women are expected to go into STEM fields such as medicine, engineering, research and programming, than ever before. Unfortunately there are still issues that women in leadership positions face, as they are more likely to be ignored, branded as “bossy” or have their qualifications questioned. Many women in history have also had their accomplishments stolen and discredited by men. A well known example is Rosalind Franklin and her contributions to the discovery of the DNA double helix, which Watson and Crick took credit and won a Nobel Prize for. Another example is Hedy Lamarr, who co-invented frequency hopping technology in 1941, but was not given credit for her contributions to the discoveries of bluetooth, wifi and GPS. Despite these issues and the many prejudices that women in male dominated fields have faced throughout history, more women are excelling and jumping hurdles every day.

Numerous studies have shown that women in male dominated fields are seen through a negative lens with subtle double standards. According to one particular study in the Journal of Applied Psychology (Vol.89, No.3), women who succeed in those fields are seen as less likeable and more difficult to work with than their male counterparts. Participants of this study (48 undergraduate students), were given biographical information from three fictional employees at an aircraft engineering firm and were tasked with rating them based on likability and competence . Half of the participants thought Employee A was a man and Employee B was a woman, while the other half thought the reverse. Half of the students learned that employees received great reviews while the other half were not given any additional information. When the employee’s performance was ambiguous, the researchers found that the participants rated the male employee as more competent than the female but both were seen as likable. But when the female employee was successful, her likability score dropped. Meanwhile, the male employee’s likability score increased as his competence score did. These allowed the researchers to conclude that there is a negative stereotype surrounding women in higher positions of power in male dominated workplaces.

Another issue that women face in the workplace is sexual harassment. Studies have shown that nearly 54% of women have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace which included unwanted remarks, hostility, crude commentary and more. Nearly 90% of those surveyed claimed to have never filed a complaint while 75% never complained to their employers either. A major factor that plays a role in this issue is the lack of repercussions. These women are afraid that their complaints will be ignored or they will get backlash for their actions. Some want to avoid creating a hostile work environment and would rather ignore the problem. In order to fix this, it is important that employers create better methods of communication and hold those accountable for their actions. Anti-harassment rules and codes of conduct should be reinforced in employee handbooks. All employees should get the proper training they need to spot and stop sexual harassment.

Despite the increase in women in positions of power and leadership roles, there is still a big issue that has not yet been resolved: the gender wage gap. In 2018, a woman working full-time earned 81.6 cents for every dollar a man had earned working full time (on average). It was also noted that women working on the frontlines of the COVID pandemic such as doctors, nurses, grocery store workers etc. made less money than their male counterparts. The biggest disparity is seen in black and Hispanic women who earn nearly 66% and 58% of a man’s annual salary. Research has also shown that there are less women in higher positions of power, such as CEO or C-level executives. This gap is seen even larger in women of color, who make up only 1 in 25 C-level executives. Many companies have seen a spike in women in entry-level positions while there are few in leadership roles compared to men. The Institute of Women’s Policy Research estimates that pay parity between the two sexes will not be reached until 2059 despite progress being made.

Even though gender equality and anti-discrimination policies have come a long way since the last century, there is still work that needs to be done. Better policies against sexual harassment in the workplace need to be enforced while qualified women should be given more leadership roles and fair compensation for their work. The stigma surrounding successful women in male-dominated workplaces should be broken, and women should be given more resources to help them succeed.

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