How Has Sexism in the Workplace Changed Over the Years?

(TFC) – With the Disney response letter to a woman seeking employment from 1938 recently going viral, it’s clear how far women have come in the work force — especially when you consider the smiling character from the top right, Snow White, is a young woman who did nothing but clean the entire movie.

From being denied jobs strictly because they’re female to now founding and running some of the biggest companies in the world, women are continuously working to shatter the glass ceiling.

Unfortunately, even with this progress, women still have a long ways to go. However, to move forward, we sometimes need to look back and appreciate the journey we’ve already made. To help us remember the progress we women have made in the workforce, let’s look at what employment discrimination looked like then versus now.

Employment Discrimination: Then

Even just 50 years ago, women in the workplace weren’t common. Look back 75 years, and it would be tough to find a woman who admitted to wanting a career — though they were out there. Instead, women were prepared to get married, have children and stay at home to raise their family. At the time, this was seen as their “job.”

But, as more women decided they’d like to have a job of their own, certain positions were made available for those women who wanted to work. Positions like secretary, teacher and nurse were filled with women all looking for their own career path. However, although a woman was able to get a job, they weren’t entitled to raises, promotions or any kind of work reserved for “men.”

It wasn’t until the Civil Rights Act of 1964: Title VII, or the Equal Employment Opportunities Act, that women in the United States had any rights to a job. If a company did not want to hire, promote or fairly pay their female employees, that was considered okay.

Employment Discrimination: Now

While things have definitely improved overtime, there are still many kinds of discrimination women may face while in the workplace. However, there are now laws in place regarding employment discrimination. If the Disney letter had happened in modern times, it would be cause for a lawsuit.

Today, companies cannot legally discriminate based on someone’s gender. This means they cannot deny someone a job because they are a female, but they also cannot discriminate by gender when paying a salary to workers with the same skills, in the same position, with the same responsibilities and qualifications. However, just because it’s illegal doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.

Women in both the UK and the US still face discrimination based on their gender. One of the most clear and obvious examples is the wage gap. In the United States, the wage gap is around 20% while in the United Kingdom, the gap is around 10%.

We see many women struggle to raise a family while also maintaining their career. While it is also illegal for companies to discriminate against women when they become pregnant or wish to take maternity leave, many still fear how it could hurt their career or chance for raises and promotions.


Better Process With Better Inclusion

When we look back at the past, it’s clear that women have made serious progress in becoming more equal in the workplace. Unfortunately, many women still face discrimination in their offices and boardrooms. Whether it is in the form of missed promotions or from feeling like they don’t have the security to start a family, biases and stereotypes are holding women back from having the same career opportunities as men.

Moving forward, both men and women need to recognize that gender equality is best for everyone. With everyone pushing for a more equal workspace, we will all be able to accomplish more.