Gender Discrimination in the Workplace is Real, Not an “Urban Legend”
Forbes contributor Kyle Smith writes that “it’s a myth that women are suffering on the job.” Sex bias is an “urban legend,” he says, and America has simply fallen prey to a “narrative about sexism” that isn’t based in reality.
To the millions of women who have experienced pay inequity, workplace sexual harassment and other forms of gender discrimination at work, Smith’s comments aren’t just laughable – they’re downright offensive.
He argues that women intentionally choose career paths that they know pay poorly – without acknowledging the disparity in the way we value jobs predominantly held by women.
Smith cites a recent Gallup poll showing similar levels of job satisfaction between men and women in most categories as evidence of the absence of discrimination. He makes this outrageous extrapolation from responses about workers’ satisfaction with retirement plans and health insurance benefits – not the least indicative of the level of gender discrimination in any given workplace.
And, while similar numbers of men and women feel satisfied with their chances for promotion (39 and 37 percent, respectively), the numbers don’t reflect reasons for dissatisfaction – reasons that may well include gender bias.
But Smith’s reliance on the Gallup poll is troubling for another significant reason: It’s based on self-reported data. The culture of secrecy that persists in many workplaces keeps employees from discussing their salaries. Just ask Lily Ledbetter about that. It was decades before she realized that she was being paid significantly less than the men in identical positions at her company.
It’s unlikely that most women have access to the information they’d need to compare their salaries to their male coworkers. While data clearly demonstrate a wage gap between men and women, employers make it as difficult as possible to expose that on a personal level.
The Ms. Foundation for Women won’t tolerate Kyle Smith’s ill-informed attacks on women. We’re fighting back, and letting his editor know, too. Sign your name to send an email to Smith and the Forbes online leadership editor to let them know that you find his remarks unacceptable.