Smart money ignores gender in the workplace


By Erica Batten. A Career Builder poll of 3,200 full-time workers and 223 human resource managers found that only 35 percent of women feel confident that compensation is equally dispensed between men and women. The same survey found that only 39 percent of women believe equal opportunities exist in the workplace.

“As a woman that has been in the business world for close to 40 years, yes, I have been subjected to gender bias,” said Robin Smith, owner and marketing director of Lake Norman Chrysler Jeep Dodge in Cornelius. “By working hard and producing results, I was able to overcome it and was able to achieve my goals professionally.”

When it comes to hiring, Smith said, “At our dealerships we always choose the best person for each position and evaluate them for pay increases and for promotions based upon their individual performance. We do not allow anything outside of skill, effort, and results to enter into our decisions.”

Velvet Nelson, co-founder and chief learning officer at Huntersville-based ProctorFree, said promotions go to employees—male or female—who demonstrate initiative and a shared mission.

“We empower all of our employees to take ownership of their positions and find ways to positively impact the company, even if it’s not within their job description,” Nelson said. “Those employees who work hard and show that they are genuinely dedicated to the company and want to see it grow are rewarded for their hard work.”

Nelson echoes Smith’s sentiments and adds that a company’s size may minimize the likelihood of gender bias.

“We aren’t a huge corporate entity,” she said. “We hire people based on their skills, abilities and experience. Whoever is the best fit and can come in hitting the ground running is the person we choose for the position.”

Make no mistake: a wage gap does exist. And the often-quoted 78-cents-on the dollar earnings rate for women vs. men is real.

But that’s not the whole story, said Claudia Goldin, the Henry Lee Professor of Economics at Harvard University. In a paper entitled “How to Achieve Gender Equality,” Goldin said, “It’s no secret that, on average, women—even those with equivalent education and experience—typically earn less than men.”

The wage gap has narrowed considerably since the 1970s, when women earned just 56 cents on the dollar compared to men.

“This narrowing of the gap in pay reflects the converging economic roles of men and women, a reality that is among the grandest social and economic advances in the last century,” Goldin said.

Still, she said, women tend to shy away from business ownership because they often value temporal flexibility, too. They will accept lower wages in order to work more flexible hours.

When considering starting a business, women are cautious about conflicting personal and professional goals.

“Women have different challenges than men when it comes to starting a business,” said Velvet Nelson of ProctorFree. “It’s difficult to start your own company when there is an expectation or desire to have children and be a good wife. Society has created this belief that women should be caretakers and I believe women feel guilty when they are not solely dedicated to their families. There’s too much pressure on women when they think about doing both.”

In her book “Unfinished Business,” public policy scholar Anne-Marie Slaughter calls this pressure the “care penalty.” Others have referred to it as the “parent penalty” or the “mommy tax.”

“If you take women who don’t have caregiving obligations, they’re almost equal with men,” Slaughter said. “It’s somewhere in the 95 percent range. But when women then have children, or again are caring for their own parents or other sick family members who need care, then they need to work differently.”

Slaughter said women who are serving as family caregivers often work part-time and avoid, or aren’t given, assignments to travel or work unusual hours. As a result, they don’t get the same raises and promotions as employees—often men—who are willing to accept such conditions.

But the convergence in working roles between men and women continues. According to the annual State of Women-Owned Businesses Report commissioned by American Express OPEN analyzing U. S. Census Bureau data, North Carolina has an estimated 328,700 women-owned firms. Nationwide, the number of female-owned businesses has increased 45 percent over the past 10 years.

This would come as no surprise to Robin Smith of Lake Norman Chrysler Jeep Dodge. She said, “I think that the world is full of strong, smart women that are comfortable making the same decisions as men do when it comes to business.”


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