The Importance of Addressing Sexism in the Business World


The fear of gender discrimination in the workplace is a reality for most, if not all, women in business. As someone who is pursuing a career in business, I find it incredibly disheartening that the treatment of women in the corporate world is far from equitable. 

A Harvard study revealed that men have significantly higher levels of success than women when making business pitches to investors. And it’s not because their pitches were better, all pitches were exactly the same in this study. Men are seen as more logical and knowledgeable in the business world, even though women are proven to be more educated than men in over 100 countries

Biases against women often manifest in the form of unconscious microaggressions. The first step to giving women fair opportunities in business is to normalize checking implicit biases. One way to easily do this is by taking Harvard’s implicit bias tests online. A user can take a five-minute diagnostic which reveals any biases they may have against women, and also includes tests regarding skin tone, sexuality, race and religion. By acknowledging one’s unconscious bias, it becomes easier to work towards dismantling those prejudices and treating others equally regardless of gender. Executives must also remain impartial when making decisions about hiring or promotions by becoming aware of the prejudices they may hold.

In the United States, the number of CEOs named John is higher than the number of all female CEOs combined. If that isn’t demoralizing enough, 95% of CEOs and 85% of board members and executives are men. The evidence is crystal clear: gender disparities in leadership positions are prevalent throughout America. 

Women don’t get the chance to earn as much as their male counterparts because the top positions are held by men. Only 23 companies in the Fortune 500 have female CEOs; if that number were multiplied by 10, it would still be less than half. 

Many studies have shown that it is more difficult for women to get promoted to managerial positions than men, making it that much harder for them to obtain senior positions within a company. By keeping women stuck in lower-level jobs, they don’t even get the chance to be on the same playing field as their male counterparts. To move towards gender equality in the workplace, each company must ensure that women and men are represented equally across the board concerning leadership roles. 

When women are placed in lower positions within a company, it becomes obvious why there is such a distinct wage gap. According to a Pew Research Center survey, women earned only 84% of what men earned in 2020. So women would have to work for 42 extra days just to earn the same amount as their male counterparts. This study also revealed that “one-in-four employed women said they had earned less than a man who was doing the same job,” while “just five percent of men said they had earned less than a woman doing the same job.”

It would be ignorant not to draw attention to the fact that women of color are put at an even further disadvantage, with Black women earning around 63 cents and Hispanic women earning 57 cents to every white man’s dollar. The common argument here is that women are typically in lower positions within a company. What that defense fails to consider are the reasons why women aren’t in higher positions. If investors favor men’s business pitches over women’s, men are more likely to be promoted to higher positions within the company. As a result of this positioning, we see many more men with titles such as CEO, CFO and CMO, thus receiving higher salaries.

There is no excuse for blatant sexism in a country that prides itself on being socially progressive, and this disparity needs to be remedied immediately. To do this, executives and supervisors must ensure that topics such as gender inequality can be treated seriously in the corporate world. This may take the form of workplace training, anonymous surveys, strict policies on gender discrimination and administering gender-neutral application processes for job positions. 

Another way to ensure women receive equal opportunities for advancement in the business world is to mandate paid maternity leave. In the United States, roughly 35% of private companies offer some form of paid maternity leave. In order to give women the opportunity to receive equal pay in comparison to men, paid maternity leave must be mandatory for all states in the United States.

Although we have come a long way in working towards gender equality, women in business have yet to reap those benefits. Progress is surely possible, but the fate of that progress ultimately lies in the hands of men.