By Stacey Marone
It’s the 21st century, and you might notice how women have evolved from damsels in distress into confident, driven, and goal-oriented individuals.
You see them successfully balancing work and their personal lives, with even a number of women working their way up the corporate ladder. Some even braved the once male-dominated arena of politics. There’s Angela Merkel, Michelle Bachelet, and Aung San Suu Kyi to name a few of the powerful women political leaders the world has known in the recent years.
You hear women fighting and standing up for their rights and advocacies–No to body-shaming and victim-blaming; and normalize breastfeeding, yes?
Issues Modern Women Are Up Against
But despite these positive changes, we still cannot deny that women still face issues of basic rights in the workforce and workplace. There are still many ordinary women who feel discriminated against in their jobs.
We know wage gap exists. But did you know that the gap in the annual wage of women against men employees amounts to $10,470? According to the National Partnership for Women and Families, full-time working women in the United States are paid 80 cents for every dollar paid to their male counterpart.
While statistical analysis attribute 62% of the wage gap to occupational and industry differences; differences in experience and education; and factors such as race, region and unionization, there is still the remaining 38% that is unaccounted for, which researchers concluded stem from discrimination and unconscious bias towards sex.
Moreover, there are reports of women whose career advancement are affected by ‘glass ceilings’ due to sex and motherhood.
Another issue that women in the workplace face is sexual harassment. This one is so rampant that it is experienced by at least one in three women in US workplaces. What is more alarming is that around 70% of these incidents go unreported. It should also be noted that harassment has grown to include sexual and sexist remarks, lewd texts and e-mails on top of the unwanted and aggressive physical contact.
No one is totally safe from these violations of basic women’s rights. As a woman, you should know how to protect yourself. Here are five helpful pieces of advice you can take up:
1. Know your rights.
One of the basic steps to protecting yourself from discrimination and harassment is being informed about your rights. Read up on your rights and the federal laws that protect you.
If you’re a mother who wants to take a leave of absence from work because of birth or you need to take care of your ailing child, know that there is a Family and Medical Leave Act that allows you a maximum of 12 weeks unpaid, job-protected leave given that your company meets the requirement. Note that this is different from maternity leave.
In instances like these, you should learn to differentiate between what policies are commonly practiced and what laws are there for your additional protection.
2. Recognize the issue.
Being informed about issues that women face gives you an advantage in protecting yourself. You’ll easily know when you’re being harassed. But how about your colleagues or other women? One thing that you can do to make a difference is to share with them what you know. In cases when you witness discrimination or harassment, take courage to call it out.
You can also check with this website for your concerns since it offers answers to the common questions you and your colleagues might have.
3. Learn about legal actions that can help you.
If you or a colleague experience sexual harassment or discrimination in the workplace, don’t be afraid to talk to your supervisor or employer about the incident.
Let them know what happened, and why you see it as a problem. The first level of resolution is made often made internally, and among those who are directly involved. You also need to be aware of your company’s grievance policies and procedure, in case a simple discussion on the incident does not suffice.
But in case a victim decides to pursue legal actions, know that your government offers options as well. There are tribunal courts and commissions that handle such situations. In the United States, there is the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that investigates on filed charges. File a complaint within six months from the date that the incident happened. You can view instructions in filing charges here.
4. Report the issue.
Authorities encourage victims of sexual harassment and gender-based discrimination to report such issues and take actions against it.
Always put your complaints in writing. Take note of specific details such as the time and place when the incident happened, the persons involved and what they said and did, and possible witnesses to the act.
Remember to file complaints right away as tribunals and commissions investigate on complaints filed within six months to a year from the date of the incident.
Check this website for additional information on filing complaints depending on the US State you are in.
5. Raise awareness and give support.
There is strength in numbers.
If you know someone who has been sexually harassed or discriminated because of her womanhood, give them your support, and encourage them to take action.
Share to them what you know about their rights, the state laws, and the legal actions they can pursue. You can also join support groups within your community to let each one know that you got their backs in case one of you experiences discriminatory activities.
If there’s anyone who should be able to protect womanhood better, it’s the woman herself. The woman in you should be brave enough to stand up for herself, and call out any action that demeans and violates her. Moreover, women should stand together in sisterhood to assert that they have rights that should be respected and protected. Be aware, inform others, and demand continuous change.
Stacey Marone is a writer for Essays Scholar Advisor and a journalist focused on convincing people they can achieve almost everything they aim for. Personal motivation is an incredible driving force that not all of us understand. Her goal is to help people recognize their own potential. You can follow her on twitter.