Work: something most Americans partake in, either by choice or necessity. And while there’s the illusion of the American Dream that anyone can go out and find that perfect job in the air, there’s often more obstacles in the way than initially realized. Discrimination is one of the main deterrents from finding a successful career. Either discrimination based on class, race, religion, ethnicity, or gender can impede an American’s career aspirations. I have it fairly easy as a white, educated middle class person, but add in my gender and things ain’t so rosy.
Being a woman has its perks, (like enjoying Jane Austen novels without being called a homo), but in the work force my tidbits are more of a hindrance. I’ve noticed this in two separate work situations, one at my part time job at a movie theater, and the other at an internship for two separate, but jointly owned magazines.
At the movie theater, many young women are hired, probably because management has seen that high school and college aged girls are a bit more reliable/responsible than boys at that age. This is a generalization, but I think that’s why our staff is predominantly female. The discrimination doesn’t come in the form of hiring or even pay, since we’re all paid minimum wage. The problem lies in our assignments. It’s been the expectation that women move from concessions, where everyone starts out, to box office. The men move most likely to the role of usher. These moves are seen as promotions, but without pay raise.
The reason why most people think that men are moved to usher is that they are stronger, more able to lift trash and carry the ladder used to change really high light bulbs and movie titles. Women are promoted to box office because it requires more thought processes, like managing the phone, a multitude of passes, large amounts of money, and being the face for the company if a customer complains. So the typical roles of males and females are reinforced in this situation. Women are daintier and more patient, so they handle the money and customers, while men are brawny and brusque, so they do all the manual labor and have the least amount of customer contact. While this isn’t necessarily unfair since we’re all paid the same wage, there’s still little consideration of where the employee would like to work. The roles are doled out and accepted.
Another subtle, but noticeable work occurrence I’ve noticed is the assignment of jobs to the interns at the joint magazines I intern for. One magazine is focused on women and the home, and the other is focused on business and has a more masculine/neutral vibe. Most of the assignments I have been given are for the feminine magazine, usually taking pictures of people at events that want their name and face in the magazine just to show people they’re out on the town. The male photo intern on the other hand takes the more important feature shots for both magazines despite the fact that I’ve been there longer than him. I wouldn’t say this discrimination is blatant, I doubt that my editors are consciously choosing our assignments based on our gender, but I would say that their decisions are stemmed from an unconscious categorization. They probably think that the male intern would feel uncomfortable taking the same girly photos I do, and so give him more of the traditionally masculine tasks.
In order to change this inherent discrimination in the work place, people need to be taught early and often that men and women have equal aspirations and equal skill levels. Because of the stereotypes that perpetuate our society, women and men alike come to expect standards for themselves and the opposite gender, and act according to those norms which perpetuate them further. A true meritocracy should be put in place and women should be encouraged just as much as men are to advance their careers, rather than assuming that women will leave work or not want as much responsibility simply because they’re potential child-bearers.