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  1. Blog
  2. Diversity
  3. April 14, 2022

Ways Women Work: How Paid Work Differs for Women & 10 Ways to Change the Narrative

Women make up more than half of the workforce, and they’re doing more labor, too

Woman in front of a government building
Photo courtesy of Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona

Globally, women make up almost half the workforce, accounting for 46.9 percent of paid workers; in the United States, women make up more than half the workforce coming in at 57.8 percent.

Women across demographics have consistently proven themselves to be the pillars of the workforce—and that’s putting it mildly. 

At the same time, women often take the greatest hits (and the lowest pay) in the workplace.  During the global pandemic, women have lost 5.4 million jobs compared to an estimated 4.4 million jobs lost by men. 

Although both count as staggering losses, women head half of the households throughout the nation, fulfill a wide range of roles at home and in the community, and face a continuously widening pay gap, making the loss of paid work exponentially more devastating. Let’s take a look at the state of women’s paid work, external factors that impact how women work, and what companies and allies can do to both lessen the burden of work and improve women’s earnings.

The state of women’s paid work and the impact of pay gaps

In 2021, about 55 million women were employed full-time, while 16 million women worked part-time. What the data doesn’t always show is the women who worked both full-time and part-time jobs. However, prior studies have shown that women are more likely than men to work multiple jobs. Some women work multiple jobs to explore other interests, fund special purchases, or to save money. But in most cases, women take on more paid work to make ends meet—in other words, working one job doesn’t bring in enough money to cover basic needs and living expenses. 

Thus, women seek additional opportunities for paid work, which is any position where someone earns money for the labor they perform. Examples of paid work include part-time, full-time, or contract jobs; paid internships; apprenticeships; and returnships.

Paid work comes in several forms, spans many industries, and includes multiple job types.  

According to Status of Women in the States, women are more likely than men to work in professional occupations—which often require a degree or some level of formal training—and in service jobs, such as hotel staff, care aides, and housekeepers.

Still, women are increasingly pursuing career paths that have historically been deemed male-dominated fields; Become highlights surgeons, programmers, and flight engineers, among them. 

To put it simply, women get paid to do all types of jobs. But for many years, the rates at which women are paid to do these jobs have come into question, particularly when it comes to how women in different demographics are paid. 

In 2020, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that, annually, women earned 82.3 percent of men’s earnings. This gap is even larger for Black, Native American, and Hispanic women: 

  • Despite maintaining a consistent presence in the workforce, Black and Latina women with a bachelor’s degree (and no advanced degree) earn about 65 percent of white men with the same level of education.

  • Hispanic women experience a large pay gap, earning 57 cents for every dollar earned by white men, according to the Center for American Progress

  • Native American women usually make 60 cents for every dollar earned by white men, according to the National Women’s Law Center. 

  • Asian American and Pacific Islander women earn 85 cents for every dollar that their white male counterparts make, on average. 

These numbers not only indicate that progress is painfully slow in narrowing the overall gender pay gap, but also that the gaps are even more troubling for women of color and women living in poverty. The Center for American Progress reported that, in the United States, women are more likely to live in poverty than men. Although poverty is often measured in family size and total income, there is much more to it, especially for people of color. 

Food insecurity, inadequate housing, lack of access to health care, and underfunded community resources are all parts of being impoverished. Much of it starts with the long-term cycle of pay parity and few opportunities for gainful employment, or paid work. 

Beyond demographics: examples of cultural barriers to paid work 

There’s no denying that barriers women face at work often overlap with those men deal with as well. Pressure to comply with gender norms, for instance, is universal. However, women’s experiences are exacerbated, something Meredith Yinger, director and cofounder of She TV Media, LLC, has seen firsthand. 

Yinger started her production company with a business partner out of frustration with the lack of women and minorities in the media. She says appearance discrimination—or being judged for how you look—is a barrier that women deal with disproportionately to men. “That is something that can perturb women in terms of being fully confident in the workplace because you’re already thinking ‘do I look professional enough?’, ‘is this too revealing?’, or ‘should I cover up more?’ There’s an added layer of forethought in terms of going into a new workplace or meeting a new client…which is crazy because we can never control what people think about us. That’s a hurdle that I don’t think men necessarily worry about.”

Appearance may seem like a superficial challenge—but don’t be fooled. It’s much deeper than a blowout or a good contour. Some studies suggest that women who put more time into their appearance earn higher wages. But even then, women still earn less to perform the same paid work as men.

Add to that the fact that women are often not seen or paid as equals, harassed on the job, and deal with boys’ clubs and other exclusionary cultures, and work becomes very stressful indeed, and that’s just the paid work we’re talking about. More often than men, women have obligations in their personal lives that can make paid work feel impossible at times. For many, it starts with the expectation of balancing work life with home life. Unfortunately, women are still taking on more domestic duties than their male partners. These duties include keeping the household and everything in it—including children, extended family, bills, and meals—in order.

When asked how she has seen other women balance it all, Yinger says, “They just kind of make it work. I don’t know how some women do. I think it’s a testament to the strength of women and I think it kind of limits us but it also leaves opportunities for that to be different. Because I think if the expectation of balance isn’t there, we open up the idea that it is possible to do everything you want to be doing; that it doesn't have to be a juggling act. We can create a world or a rhythm where you can do every aspect of your life. I don’t think we’re there yet but that's the goal.” 

10 ways managers, leaders, and companies can change paid (and by association, unpaid) work for women  

One step closer to that goal integrating work and life is to make paid work less laborious for women—for everyone, even. Here are some ways managers, companies, and leaders can change the game entirely.

1. Managers: Build a culture of “checking in.”

Instead of touching base with employees solely to review their performance or reprimand them for work-related blunders, check in with them regularly to ask how you can make paid work less laborious for them.

2. Managers: Recommend your teams for bonuses, awards, honors, and regular salary increases. 

As you check in with your direct reports, ask how they would like to be supported. Keep them in mind for lucrative incentives, such as bonuses and awards. Paid work becomes less laborious when employees are compensated appropriately and recognized regularly.

3. Managers and leaders: Discourage working outside of business hours. 

All too frequently, women put in extra shifts of unpaid work at home after work is done. This contributes to the harmful concept of invisible work, which is labor that goes unrecognized. 

4. Managers and leaders: Encourage breaks and use of paid time off (PTO). 

Chances are, you already have team members who are working through their lunch breaks or answering emails on their days off just to deliver work on time. Whether they’re sick, on vacation, or just taking a personal day, your employees should be able to do so without logging into work for any reason. Encourage breaks and normalize schedule flexibility. 

5. Managers: Don’t micromanage. 

Micromanagement creates a more stressful work environment, so trust your teams to do the jobs they've been hired to do without hovering. 

6. Managers, leaders, and companies: Practice psychological safety.

Create safe spaces for women to freely express what they need.

7. Companies: Champion transparency.

Abolish pay secrecy, which is a norm that restricts employees from discussing how much money they earn and makes it harder for women to understand what fair pay looks like. 

8. Companies: Prioritize mentorship.

Speaking on her experience working on film sets, Yinger says, “I think visibility is huge. If you see a female DP (director of photography), which is a predominantly male role, you think ‘that’s a possibility’...if you see a woman doing a role that you didn’t even know was an option, that opens up a possibility for you.” 

9. Managers, leaders, and companies: Recognize covert discrimination.

This may include stereotyping women or restricting their access to professional development opportunities.

10. Companies: Institute parental leave policies.

Yinger says these policies can ‘trickle down into our daily biases’ and remove the stigma that caregiving is a “women’s issue.”

About our source

Meredith Yinger is cofounder of She TV Media-the female-led, full service video and virtual event production company. Based in Los Angeles, she carries other titles such as director, host, voiceover artist and producer. She loves to bring stories to life through the magic of film. Be it documentaries, interviewing experts, or collaborating with other established and aspiring artists, Meredith is eager to support those who have untold stories to share. The Madams—a web series Meredith Directed—was recently awarded Best TV Pilot/Web Series from the Venice Shorts Festival, and the Award of Merit Special Mention: Web Series and Award of Merit Special Mention: Women Filmmakers from IndieFest. Currently seeking distribution for a feature documentary and TV pilot, She TV Media has some exciting projects in the works! Follow them Meredith and her team here: She TV Media Website- www.shetv.me 

Social Media- @ meredithyinger + @ shetvmedia

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Photo of Kaila Kea-Lewis

Kaila Kea-Lewis

Contributor

Kaila Kea-Lewis is a career coach and freelance writer, mainly covering career changes, job searching, and self-development. As a long-time advocate for remote work, she also enjoys writing about remaining productive while working from home. Her bylines include InHerSight, Glassdoor, Entrepreneur, and ZipRecruiter.

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