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Three Ways the Workplace Isn’t Equal for Women

Pacific Standard readings for the Day Without a Woman strike.

By Francie Diep


Women rally during the International Women’s Day March and Rally on March 5th, 2017, in Los Angeles, California. (Photo: David McNew/Getty Images)

Organizers around the world have called for women to strike today. Work walkouts and demonstrations are planned for more than 50 countries, according to the International Women’s Strike USA website.

The strikes are supposed to show the “enormous value that women of all backgrounds add to our socio-economic system — while receiving lower wages and experiencing greater inequities, vulnerability to discrimination, sexual harassment, and job insecurity,” according to the call to action posted by the leaders of the Women’s March, which mobilized hundreds of thousands of Americans the day after President Donald Trump’s inauguration. In the United States, the movement has been dubbed A Day Without a Woman, a name that echoes the Day Without Latinos strikes that pro-immigrant groups held this year and last.

It’s no surprise that women’s groups should choose a strike as a form of activism. The discrimination that women face often takes the form of work-related injustice, as Pacific Standard has frequently reported. Below are three important ways women suffer from work and pay inequality — plus how to fix them.

Women Act as an ‘Invisible Subsidy’ to the World’s Health-Care Systems

In 2010 alone, women around the world performed $3 trillion worth of health-care work that they weren’t paid for, either by caring for sick relatives at home, or acting as under- or unpaid nurses, midwives, and community health-care workers.

  • The Fix: Researchsuggests better pay and benefits would improve the health of the communities these predominantly female workers serve. Even home caregivers may be compensated for their time — programs in Costa Rica, Turkey, and the United Kingdom do just that.

American Women at all Educational Levels Earn Less Than Their Male Counterparts

This chart, from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, illustrates the gaps well:


(Chart: Institute for Women’s Policy Research)

  • The Fix: There are numerous sources behind the gender wage gap in the U.S., and to close it, the country will need lots of different solutions. One possible solution is upping the number of women who stay in science, technology, engineering, and math careers, which are among the nation’s highest paid and are expected to grow in the future. About 5 percent of American women work in so-called STEM jobs, compared to 10 percent of men. Another fix may be to unionize. Union jobs tend to pay women and men more equitably and to pay everyone better than their non-unionized counterparts, as the Institute for Women’s Policy Research finds.

Poor American Women Are Often Forced Back to Work Before They’ve Recovered From Childbirth

The U.S. is only developed nation that doesn’t have a law requiring companies to provide paid time off for new parents. The result? Everyone suffers, but blue-collar, female workers most of all. Women who can’t afford to take unpaid maternity leave, or don’t have leave benefits at all, end up back at work while they’re still recovering from conditions such as C-sections and preeclampsia, In These Times magazine reported in 2015.