Women’s Equality Day

By Christine Halpaus

Women’s Equality Day is a celebration of the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote. Since then, there have been many more opportunities for women across society, along with shifting views of women’s capabilities.

Women now make up almost 47% of the workforce, so it’s certainly reasonable to expect equality in the workplace! While much work has been done to ensure women are paid equally for the work they do compared to their male counterparts, there is still room for improvement. As of 2022, women were earning 82% of the pay their male counterparts earn.

Another opportunity for improvement is the treatment of women in the workplace. Forty-two percent of women have reported facing discrimination at work, while up to 80% report having experienced sexual harassment at work. If harassment and discrimination toward women (or other groups of people based on their identities) is prevalent,  workplace culture is degraded, and productivity will certainly suffer. Treating people with respect should be a core component of any workplace.

One area that may impact women’s equality in the workforce is due to unconscious bias. Unconscious bias is what happens when our brains filter information incorrectly. One bias that may exist that we don’t even recognize is assuming which jobs women should be good at and apply for versus which jobs might be better suited for a male candidate. If a woman shows up in the applicant pool, it’s important to remember to consider her credentials and keep an open mind for the position to consider who really is the best candidate for the role. It can also be valuable to broaden the candidate pool by advertising to areas where women and people of other minority identities feel encouraged to apply. Research shows us that when the candidate pool includes at least two women, a woman is 79 times more likely to be hired.

There is such value in creating an inclusive environment for people of all identities, including women. It is important to offer flexible working situations that allow women to make time for their personal commitments (including families, friends and community involvement), and it is important how we discuss that flexibility in the workplace. Another area where unconscious bias may creep in is assuming that a woman requires a flexible work environment because she is caring for her children or that she will not be as productive as her childless peers. While that may be true for some women, it certainly isn’t for all women, and women with children should feel supported in taking time away from work if they do need to care for their kids. Comments that are diminutive towards a woman’s commitment to work are degrading and don’t show a commitment towards treating women equally in the workplace

The vast majority of people do see the value women bring to the workplace and to daily life. It is necessary to evaluate how we show that value and how we treat women, both subtly and explicitly, to reach equality for women.

Christine Halpaus - Vitality
Christine Halpaus, a training specialist at Vitality, is a former K-6 educator. She earned her Masters in Teaching from George Mason University. Christine and her husband enjoy whatever time they can get outside whether kayaking in Lake Michigan, taking long walks in the sun or the snow with their dogs, enjoying the evening on a patio, or finding quiet in nature outside of Chicago.

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