The Relationship Between Unequal Pay and Other Forms of Gender Discrimination

By Debra Miller
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Part of the #HERvotes blog carnival.

United States federal laws exist to protect women in the workplace, such as the Equal Pay Act of 1963, which prohibits the distribution of unequal pay between the sexes and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination in employment decisions on the basis of gender. According to U.S. Census data, however, women are still only paid 77 cents to every dollar paid to men. The Equal Pay Act has therefore not fully ensured equal pay of women. Many businesses have continued to discriminate, partially because of the loopholes in the laws.

The Paycheck Fairness Act was introduced to try to close some of the loopholes. It passed in the House in 2008, but has never been passed in the Senate. In 2009, however, it was reintroduced and the legislation is pending in the Senate. One of the bill’s co-sponsors, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), has said the bill is necessary to close “loopholes” in the Equal Pay Act that lead to unequal pay.

As unequal pay persists, so do other forms of gender discrimination, such as sexual harassment in the workplace. Gender discrimination and sexual harassment can affect women’s health. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), gender discrimination and sexual harassment can cause anxiety, depression, lower self-esteem, alienation, insomnia, nausea, and headaches. Discrimination is not only unequal, but also unhealthy.

The psychological effects of gender discrimination and sexual harassment can impair one’s ability to work. In a 2010 study published in the Journal of Business Ethics by Sandy Hershcovis, Sharon Parker, and Tara Reich, researchers demonstrated that sexual harassment within the workplace is detrimental to job performance. They showed that employees who were sexually harassed by their coworkers had lower job satisfaction, had higher performance expectations, and as a result, had higher rates of turn-over.

These effects of sexual harassment in the workplace can make it harder to maintain consistent employment. As a result, it is more difficult to earn income. As the pay gap persists, the effects of other types of gender discrimination, like sexual harassment, are worse.

The Paycheck Fairness Act would not only eliminate the loopholes that allow unequal pay to persist, but it would also give women the tools to empower themselves in the workplace. Grants would be given out to fund programs that help women and girls to fine-tune their negotiation skills. The protection of equal pay and these acquired skills would have a positive impact on women’s success and perhaps begin to dissipate other types of gender discrimination as well.

#HERvotes, a multi-organization campaign launched in August 2011, advocates women using our voices and votes to stop the attacks on the major advances of the women’s movement, many of which are at risk in the next election.

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