whb: working it out
July 8, 2004 12:55 PM

This week's
topic is sexism at work - how institutions perpetrate acts of sexism, based on an article about gender disparities in Boston police accomodations.

Basically, there is no comfy lounge for the female sergeants (4 of 27 seargents), and it's a problem. It is a problem for any similar institution (i.e. the military) - how do you provide equal accomodations for the women on the forefront of gender integration? It's awkward, apparently - women's quarters on ships, for instance, always seem to be either horrid or palatial when compared to similarly ranked men's accomodations.

The simple, obvious solution to me is for us to get over our heterosexual prudishness and expect men and women to act like grownups and shower in close proximity if they have to. No special treatment for women. No half-assed "eh, I guess we HAVE to deal with you" treatment, either. But I guess world peace is as likely to successfully happen tomorrow as we are as a culture to be able to step away from our "naked women = sex. must! have! sex! also, sex = evil." mindset.

So, it's unfortunate and expensive, but I think the best recourse in this situation is for these police folk to complain (and, egads, sue) until they have a comparable place to plop their butts.

In a series of related questions, House9 asks us to consider our own experience of institutional sexism:

Have you experienced gender discrimination on the job?
How do you perceive the current status of women in the workplace?
Do you think lawsuits are the way to go to improve things, or would you recommend other strategies for counteracting sexism, institutional* and otherwise, at work?
Do you know of any movements in your area to fight workplace sexism?

I really haven't experienced equivalent sexism in the workplace. There are a few things - I've been on HMO plans that cover drugs like Viagra, but not birth control (not anymore), I've worked for companies that provided maternity leave only for a short time with no unpaid leave (somewhat biased against women) and no equivalent leave for new dads (very biased against men). It's hard to say if there's much pay inequity at my current company, because it's not like I know what other people make. We're all presumably paid within a certain scale given our tenure and experience, but I don't have proof of that.

I have worked for a small company where the women were universally paid less than the guys - mostly because we were all hired into much more junior positions (a form of sexism itself, as many of the guys with the "better" jobs were hired straight out of college). But again, it was never really clear who made what. That's a problem for employees - they don't know how fairly or unfairly they're being paid (and honestly, as long as you're making an amount you're okay with, you don't care much what others make), so I suspect wage discrimination isn't discovered until the employer breaches trust in some other way.

It seems like the variety of lawsuits around this kind of stuff have helped somewhat - they made inequality something that could cost you as an employer, essentially raising the stakes economically, which CEO's can relate to.

Unionizing in certain contexts probably helps, too. As does anything that educates people about various forms of workplace sexism - companies seem to do better on sexual harrassment education than anything else, though.

As for local movements, I really don't know of any. Hmm. Have to look into that one.

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your wicked thoughts

Secrecy around money is pretty deeply ingrained in our culture, and it really benefits the capitalists and the sexists and the other -ists. Pay inequity is a huge and rampant form of discrimination, and it's really hard to find out about because people willingly cooperate in keeping how much they are paid a secret.

these are the thoughts of Stef on July 9, 2004 02:09 AM

You know... that might be an opening to be a change agent for people in positions like mine - administrator/administrative assistant. I know exactly what everyone in my lab makes, because I maintain the budgets. If it was the case that the males (not that there's many) made more than the females, I'd be in a position to say something about it. (It isn't the case, fortunately, within the confines of my lab.)

I wonder whether there's a way to target administrative and human resources professionals (who are, after all, overwhelmingly female) as people who could help to raise awareness of pay inequity on a micro level?

these are the thoughts of house9 on July 9, 2004 09:19 AM

We do seem to have this idea that the amount of money you make somehow represents your VALUE. So, you hide it to avoid being shown of lesser (or greater) "value" than the people around you.

House9, I really like your idea. The sad thing is, I think HR and administrative folk are often in positions where they could lose their jobs for revealing even trends in salary figures. We'd need to know a bit more about labor law to effectively work around that. But a really cool idea. Where could we go for labor law resources?


these are the thoughts of april on July 9, 2004 09:56 AM

I thought wage discrimination was against the law, too.

This might be a place to start.

these are the thoughts of house9 on July 9, 2004 12:29 PM

i'm not a person who's big on formalities and stuff, but i couldn't help but notice today that i get called "sweetie" or "sweetheart" an awful lot at work by male coworkers. and it can't be because i'm new and they don't know my name: we have to wear name badges.

it just seems out of place, considering all of the fifty million rules about work and interacting with others that they gave us at orientation.

these are the thoughts of kim on July 14, 2004 01:17 AM

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