On the first view, it is glaringly obvious that gender discrimination is magnified in a corporate sphere. It goes beyond wages and often operationalises itself in social interactions, behaviour in formal meetings, and of course, power dynamics at work. Women are often spoken over, their voices ignored or simply not accorded the same credibility and their mobility slowed down. In Neo-conservative circles, the wage gap is often dismissed as non-existent even though evidence quite clearly points to the contrary. When faced with the popular idea that ‘women make 70 cents to a man’s dollar’, their response is often to talk about how the system is not discriminatory but rather rewards merit.
In the cutthroat corporate world, no one is willing to cede an inch and often, it is the women who have to suffer. To put it down to individual personality traits is a gross misdiagnosis of the problem. The principle behind merit is that it must stem from a place of equal opportunity. This is to say, that irrespective of one’s gender or social identity markers, they are accorded equal treatment in both the professional and social spheres. The fallacy here is clear to see as only a fool would argue that we have achieved true equality. When the world is predisposed to consider you inferior, it is unfair to be held up to the same standards as someone enjoying the innate privilege.
However, let’s take it a step further. William Dickens, Distinguished Professor of Economics and Social Policy at Northeastern University, provides an interesting insight. If, over time, men enjoyed an innate advantage over women in terms of access to education and the highest paying jobs, then, even if the world is more equal today in theory, it is clearly not so in practice. Over time, women may gradually achieve equality but it would be a disservice on our part to sit idly as more and more people try to fight this change in the guiding ethics of our society. Complacency today would only serve to embolden those that resist change. It is those that benefit from an unequal and skewed world, therefore, who are most likely to resist change. The battle for equality and to reduce the wage gap may not seem as hopeless as it did just a few years ago, but until the ingrained inequality in power structures and social relations is addressed, it is a battle that must go on.