Gender Bias Still in Workplace

By Katelyn Polantz

(U-WIRE) PITTSBURGH – Although the U.S. Census Bureau’s Web site
says that 5 million more women than men currently live in the
United States, women are still in the minority when it comes to
holding upper-level positions in corporate America. In some cases,
the disparity is easy to see – 51.8 percent of Fortune 500
companies have no women or only one woman serving on their
directorial boards. “No Seat at the Table,” a new book by Douglas
M. Branson, who holds the W. Edward Sell Chair in Business Law at
Pitt, addresses this exact issue and its implications. “I’m focused
on why haven’t women made it,” Branson said. Branson addresses the
“lack of progress about women in the corporate sphere and gaining
seats on boards of directors” in the book. Empirical data from
Fortune 500 and 1000 companies mostly contribute to Branson’s
conclusions, but more abstract sociological reasons cause the
difference between men and women in the corporate world. “Women, in
reaction to men, think ‘I don’t want to work that hard if success
isn’t possible,'” Branson says. Yet he also claims that “males
would be surprised at the statistics,” suggesting that the
realistic numbers of successful women fall well behind male
expectations for equality. In addition to this self-hindering
attitude, inescapable biological differences add to the trouble.
Work and gender issues usually conflict, as seen in the case of
maternity leave, ultimately leading to a conflict between women’s
careers and families. Working women can be perceived as less
capable to work because of their lack of the ability to travel and
to be on-call around the clock when they have children at home.
Therefore, women with two or more children earn 60 percent of the
pay for comparable positions held by men, Branson said. Perceptions
about women do not help the situation. According to Branson, while
men use more imperative speech, women are more likely to
communicate less forcefully, punctuating their speech with
uncertainties like “Don’t you think?” or “You know?” As a result,
men interpret women to be more emotional and unsure. The trends
described in “No Seat at the Table,” no matter what their causes,
signify a definite lack of progress over the past few decades for
women in the workforce, Branson says. While the nation has taken
great steps toward equality between the genders, problems such as
the so-called glass ceiling still exist. Branson cites in his book
that since successful women usually sidestep onto corporate boards
and into successful careers from vastly different career tracks
instead of climbing a traditional corporate ladder, the invisible
glass ceiling becomes obvious.

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