The persistence of gender divides within the workplace is still very-real, so much so that women continue falling subject to sexism against women.
Last week The New York Times, generally a leading media voice on progressive matters, published an article titled ‘Moving Past Gender Barriers to Negotiate a Raise’. I believe the article intended to provide cautionary advice to women who are seeking promotions or raises, but the cautionary nature of the advice is precisely what’s upsetting and not at all progressive.
Perhaps I am being cynical, but I found the piece to be neither hopeful nor inspiring. Rather, it re-affirmed what I already believed to be true about the modern workplace—that sexism is still very much present and women themselves often act as mediums for perpetuating gender roles that are ultimately less favorable to women.
The article opens by stating discrimination in the workplace isn’t necessarily intentional or overt, but “can emerge when women act in ways that aren’t considered sufficiently feminine, and when women advocate for themselves […]some people find it unseeingly, if on a subconscious level.”
Think: Hilary Clinton.
The article continues to advise that, “as a result, women need to take a more calibrated approach, whether in asking for a higher salary or a new position. Otherwise, they can risk being perceived as overtly demanding and unlikeable, experts say, and their requests can backfire.”
The author, who is in fact female, is essentially re-iterating the already discriminatory notion that women must act coy and submissive in an environment (i.e. work) where sensible assertiveness and go-getter mentality are tools for leveraging salaries and title changes.
Many points made in the article are, on a general level, agreeable. Keep a record of every piece of positive feedback you’ve ever received over time when preparing to ask for a raise. Negotiate in person. Practice how you may present yourself in order to clearly and persuasively communicate goals.
These points would be well made if they were attributed to both men and women as a guide to get ahead. Rather, the author has presented many suggestions that are conditional to women specifically, therefore re-affirming that men and women should act differently and in turn be treated differently by employers.
We’re all familiar with the numbers out there. In the U.S., female workers are still paid only 77¢ for every dollar their male colleagues make. A meager 4.2% of CEOs at Fortune 500 companies are women. Inequality is clearly an issue.
There are innumerable theories on why this is, most of which have to do with motherhood and family. However, a woman’s inclination to devote her life to family over a career more so than a man’s does not justify preaching separate gender roles in the workforce for women who are in fact in it.
If a woman, no matter how powerful she may have been in the workplace, chooses to be stay-at-home mom so be it. But if a woman is still working there is no reason she should act or be treated differently than a man.
And that’s non-negotiable.