How to Educate Female Students About Gender Inequality in the Workplace

By Valerie Matta posted 09-07-2017 08:07

The fight against gender inequality can strike at any moment. Females are often dominated by men in the work force, especially in industries involving math or technology.

Aileen Rizo, found herself in an uncomfortable situation when she learned from her male counterparts over lunch that they made more money. Rizo worked hard as a California school employee teaching Math and was disturbed by the idea that a male educator was earning more, despite similar experience and skills.

She believed the gap between their salaries was a mistake and sought an HR representative to raise her concerns. They assured her they would address the issue within a week. A week went by and HR demanded more time.

It wasn't until a month had passed that Rizo reached out to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission; embarking on a fight that would become her own.

Five years since Rizo took gender equality to the court system, female college students still need to be on high alert for gaps in workplace gender equality.

In fact, the decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently overturned the lower-court ruling that said pay differences based exclusively on prior salaries were discriminatory under the federal Equal Pay Act.

This means while employers should be compensating based on skills and experience equally, they can still base their salaries on former—possibly discriminatory—salaries.

It’s important for college career counselors to help female students confidently face workplace inequalities by preparing them to represent themselves to employers appropriately.

Here are four tips on how to bridge the gender equality gap by showing female professionals how to effectively show off their true worth:

Encourage confidence, competence, and warmth

Diving into the workforce is intimidating for any college student. However, many young females will be entering male-dominated fields. It’s even more challenging to start their careers off on the right foot with so many workplace gender inequality issues looming ahead them.

Help female students realize why it’s so important that they truly believe in themselves. Have them make a list of all they’ve accomplished so far. Most importantly, have them make note of the struggles they’ve overcome and associate the pride that goes along with it.

Once they find their inner confidence, help them understand how to demonstrate this to employers. Cultivate confidence by presenting their qualifications in a way that proves they are absolutely the best candidate for the position.

For example, encourage them to prove their worth through networking, in their cover letter, and across social media. They should exude their skills and confidence in a way that doesn't come across as being overbearing, pushy, or arrogant.

In fact, a study conducted by Margarita Mayo, Professor of Leadership and Organizational Behavior at IE Business School in Madrid, and her colleagues revealed that the positive relationship between competence and confidence perceptions was stronger for men than for women.

Men are seen as competent if they have a confident command about them. On the contrary, the idea that women are seen as confident only if they come across as both competent and warm is an accepted concept that has been backed by research.

Mayo's study results prove that if women are to succeed in a biased world, just encouraging them to be more confident is not enough.
Show female students how to be the victor, not the victim

While there are obvious injustices happening against females in the workplace, it’s important for female students to understand the difference. Gender inequalities shouldn’t hold them back nor should they allow themselves to lean on those inequalities.

Teach female students how to be proactive against gender inequality. Encourage them to submit resumes and cover letters specific to a company’s culture, mission, and position requirements. Instruct them on how to use appropriate word choices and show their equally valuable strengths.

Also, inspire them to continuously learn and raise themselves to the next level by taking development courses to work on advancing their careers.

Advise your female students to speak directly to hiring managers about their goals and future plans with the company when they enter their careers. Reassure them if they're still not moving up after doing this in reviews over time, then it may be time to move on from that company -- and that is OK.

Help them know their worth

There’s a fine line between a company not being able to afford specific salary demands and a company compensating anyone, not just women, unfairly.

Show female students how to research their worth and understand the difference between their perception and the actual market value of their role. Look to see what other companies are paying both male and female employees to perform in a similar position.

Have them review their previous experiences and skills to determine if an offer is below what they should be paid. Also, encourage female students to consider their current compensation compared to the cost of living and future financial goals before accepting an offer.

Guide them to stick to their gut

Inequalities in the workplace can show up in many unfortunate forms. Explain to female students what is and isn’t acceptable behavior from employers and co-workers.

Suggest they find a mentor they can safely discuss issues with. Choose a mentor in their company or network to help them decide what to do about issues with their manager, or what HR can do to help. Above all, encourage female students to trust their gut.

Encourage your female students to truly identify differences. Inspire them to grow and improve their skills, and reassure them increased confidence will prove their value in the workplace.

Above all, remind them not to try harder to prove themselves to anyone who doesn't appreciate it, but to aspire to be the professional they are proud of.
prove their skills, and reassure them increased confidence will prove their value in the workplace.

Above all, remind them not to try harder to prove themselves to anyone who doesn't appreciate it, but to aspire to be the professional they are proud of.

#counseling #mentoring #employment #careerdevelopment