Tim Burke: Numbers tell story when it comes to women, workplace

Updated January 12, 2018 - 12:34 pm

Much has been discussed lately regarding sexual harassment in the media and the workplace.

The sheer number of recent reports have been somewhat staggering but it’s not really “new” news.

The “casting couch” call has been a running joke in Hollywood for years. Some question why there are now so many stories about harassment on an almost daily basis, but the answer is clear. There is strength in numbers so those that were victims now feel safer in speaking out.

In the past, a single voice speaking up against sexual harassment was dismissed and often led to the career of the woman (or man) to be derailed by the Hollywood overlords. But now that so many women and the occasional man are speaking out about sexual abuse those that may have been too intimidated in the past now have the courage and conviction to tell their story.

There simply are no circumstances in any workplace whether it’s Hollywood, a large corporation, or a small business that sexual harassment can be tolerated.

Unfortunately, it is not the only type of harassment that people, especially women, face at work, even in today’s supposedly more enlightened and modern society. Wage discrimination also still exists.

The 2016 Labor Report for the U.S.A. shows that women make approximately 80 percent of what a man makes for the same position. Nevada ranks just above the middle among states at the 21st position with an 81 percent of women to men wage ratio.

Why anyone would think that they should pay a woman less than a man for the same job is beyond comprehension.

Women also face gender discrimination for management positions.

Statistically, men hold a sizable percentage of supervisor and management positions, but they don’t have the same percentage advantage in overall workforce numbers.

According to the latest statistics by the Department of Labor women comprise 47 percent of the workforce. Furthermore, 57 percent of the available women of working age are employed and that number rises to 70 percent for women with children under the age of 18. Women comprise almost 51 percent of the U.S.’s overall population.

Women earn almost 60 percent of undergraduate degrees and 60 percent of all master’s degrees. They earn 47 percent of all law degrees and 48 percent of all medical degrees. They earn 38 percent of MBAs and 48 percent of specialized master’s degrees. They also account for 49 percent of the college-educated workforce.

Although they hold almost 52 percent of all professional-level jobs, American women lag substantially behind men when it comes to their representation in leadership positions: they are 44 percent of the overall S&P 500 labor force and 36 percent of first-or mid-level officials. They are only 25 percent of executive-and-senior-level officials and managers, hold only 20 percent of board seats, and are only 6 percent of CEOs.

In 2014, women were just 20 percent of executives, senior officers, and management in U.S. high-tech industries. As recently as 2016, 43 percent of the 150 highest-earning public companies in Silicon Valley had no female executive officers at all.

Hollywood, where gender discrimination is now front and center, is even worse: Women accounted for just 17 percent of all the directors, executive producers, producers, writers, cinematographers, and editors who worked on the top-grossing 250 domestic films of 2016. Women were just 26 percent of all off-screen talent on broadcast networks, cable, and streaming programs during the 2015-16 season.

The questions about why women are harassed and discriminated against in the workplace and the answers have been widely debated and are complex. In part, it’s because we are a gender and stereotyped based society.

The desire for sex is not the primary motivation in sexual harassment at work. It is about power and control. It is about manipulation. Both men and women, employers and employees are guilty of using sexual harassment and gender discrimination in the workplace.

Stereotyping begins practically at birth. Men and women are often steered into career fields more “suitable” for their gender starting in elementary school. Those stereotypes stay with us our whole life. It takes courage, conviction, and fortitude to enter a career field dominated by another gender.

Tim Burke is a businessman, philanthropist, educator and Pahrump resident. Contact him at timstakenv@gmail.com