Economic Disparity in the Workplace

The economic disparity between women and men is a pressing gender equity issue that demands international attention. While current labor trends in North America demonstrate that a majority of American women are now breadwinners in their households, women are not being justly compensated for their work. During my trip to the 57th CSW at the United Nations, I sat on panels that focused on disparities in the work place and the effects these disparities have on women’s labor rights. The UN panel discussions shed light on the stereotypes that exist in the work place and extracts key economic and social issues mentioned in the World Economic Forum’s 2012 Global Gender Gap Report.

The CSW’s Women: Equality of Rights and Labor panel, hosted by Women International Democratic Federation and Regional Office of America, shed light on an important component of economic and social rights, specifically with regards to the public’s outlook on profit. Panelists discussed how capitalism misuses women, especially those in vulnerable economic and social situations, and how this practice exploits situations in which women are forced to work over time without compensation. They said that, with employees’ hours of work defined by capitalism’s need for greater profits, labor mandates affect women’s social rights such as their health.  For instance, working in dirty and dangerous conditions for extended periods of time inflicts short and long-term illness that ultimately affect workers’ ability to secure a healthy lifestyle. As a young female college student, I have a responsibility to become aware of these gendered issues in the workplace and take action. Participation in on-campus initiatives, such as Rutgers Students Against Sweatshops, gives me the outlet through which to spread awareness about these exploitative practices and engage in activism to help women suffering in these situations.

Published by the World Economic Forum, the 2012 Global Gender Gap Report briefs on ways in which these issues affect women across global societies, ranking 135 countries based on 14 different indicators within economic participation, educational attainment, health and survival, and political empowerment. In assessing the Forum’s report on economic participation, it is crucial to highlight its discussion on the participation gap, which is “captured using the difference in labour force participation rates” and the remuneration gap, which is identified “through a hard data indicator (ratio of estimated female-to-male earned income” (World Economic Forum). Both the participation and remuneration gaps mentioned in the report bridge together the notions that educated women endure gender disparities in the professional work place just as much as women working in laborious factories. For instance, while women working in factory environments experience a form of the remuneration gap- enduring long hours without compensation- women working in professional environments have to combat the participation gap, which maintains glass ceiling theories such that men remain in senior positions. These gendered stereotypes ensure women reach plateaus in their careers, with no hope of reaching management level positions. As a conscientious and motivated college student seeking to pursue a career in the corporate world, I am determined to help shift this societal trend and to break the barriers that prevent women from advancing in the corporate world.

Women, especially those who are formally educated, struggle just as much as women who work in laborious factory environments.  Across the board, whether in laborious or professional working environments, women are enduring economic and social disparities.  These disparities call for all governments and global societies to take a stand, to actively voice women’s rights, and to put an end to economic and social injustices in the workplace.

by Karimah Munem, Spring 2013 Economic and Social Rights Intern, Center for Women’s Global Leadership, Rutgers University

Karimah is currently a sophomore at Rutgers University majoring in Political Science with minors in Spanish and Middle Eastern Studies. 


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