The Long-Standing Issue of Gender Discrimination in the United States Seriously Hinders the Realization of Women’s Human Rights within the Country
The China Society for Human Rights Studies (CSHRS)
Eliminating all forms of gender-based discrimination and achieving full equality between men and women are considered to be major hallmarks in the advancement of human civilization. In 1975, the First UN World Conference on Women passed the Declaration of Mexico on the Equality of Women and Their Contribution to Development and Peace. The Declaration states: “Equality between women and men means equality in their dignity and worth as human beings as well as equality in their rights, opportunities, and responsibilities.” The United States, who always presents itself as a “defender of human rights”, has not yet ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), which is one of the United Nations’ core human rights conventions, nor has it solved its own increasingly serious problem of gender discrimination. This oversight has significantly hampered the realization of women’s human rights in the United States.
Chapter 1 Gender-Based Discrimination in the United States
Gender discrimination is a grave problem in US society. US women suffer long-term, systematic, extensive, and systemic discrimination. The various forms of gender discrimination that persist publicly or secretly all over the country have caused a hideous pattern of injustice.
Section 1 Economic Gender Inequality
The United States is the most economically developed country in the world, but it fails to effectively protect women’s economic rights within the country. As such, US women face serious discrimination in employment, payment, and career development.
Part 1 US Women are Facing Serious Employment and Occupational Discrimination. According to statistics, women account for more than 46 percent of the total US labor force and are an important driving force in North America’s economic growth. Nevertheless, women’s labor rights are not protected accordingly. Some of the major problems in this regard are as follows: First, occupational gender segregation is obvious in the United States. Jobs in high-tech and high-prestige sectors are filled significantly more by men than by women. In the United States, women are mainly employed in a limited number of sectors for secretarial work or retail positions. Despite an increasing number of people working in the science and technology sectors in the United States, the number of women working in these sectors has dropped significantly, accounting for only about 1/4 of the total number of people working. In the top 25 technology companies in the United States, female employees account for only 19.6 percent of all employees. Second, in the United States, the unemployment rate for women is significantly higher than that of men. According to an employment report released by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, from October 2016 to October 2017, retail jobs in the United States decreased by 54,300. However, the impact on men vs. women was quite different. During this period, women lost more than 160,000 jobs, while 106,000 new jobs were added for men. Third, discrimination against pregnant women and new mothers remains widespread in US workplaces. In the United States, pregnant women and new mothers have to contend with employment discrimination. Many employers do not respect the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), and pregnant female employees are often forced to leave their jobs. Fourth, when it comes to career development, US women can hardly obtain the same development opportunities as US men, and it is also difficult for them to break the “glass ceiling” when competing for jobs against men. A survey reported on the website of the San Francisco Chronicle on December 21, 2018, in the United States, showed that half of the female interviewees working in science and technology jobs have experienced gender discrimination in the workplace, and about 70 percent of them said that there were too few women in political and business leadership positions.
Part 2 Unequal Pay for Men and Women Doing the Same Jobs Is a Prominent Problem in the United States. According to data released by the US Census Bureau, for many years there has been about a 21 percent difference between the income of men and that of women. In 2007, the difference was 23 percent, and in 2016, 19.5 percent. There is no significant decrease in this number. In 2017, the annual salaries of US women accounted for only 80.5 percent of US men’s annual salaries, showing no progress in statistical terms when compared to the previous year. In 2018, the annual salaries of US women still accounted for only 81.3 percent of US men’s annual salaries. In the states where gender discrimination is occurring more obviously, women earn even less than men. Within that problem, income differences among women of different races are also significant. Afro-American women’s wages are only 62 percent of that of US men. Hispanic women’s wages are only 54 percent of that of US men. In some states, women of color earn wages that are even less than 50 percent of those earned by men of color. The average wages of women in all types of jobs are lower than those of men. Even in lower-paid and female-dominated jobs such as nursing, women’s wages are still lower than those of men.
Part 3 Women Are More Likely Than Men to Live in Poverty. According to a report released by a UN expert group on December 11, 2015, the proportion of women in poverty in the United States increased from 12.1 percent to 14.5 percent from 2005 to 2015. This proportion was always higher than that of men, and most of these poor women were women from racial minorities and single-parent families and women of older ages. According to a report released by the Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality in 2017, the overall poverty rate in rural areas in the south of the United States was 20 percent, the poverty rate of Afro-Americans in these areas was 33 percent, and that of Afro-American women in these areas was 37 percent. Another research project conducted by the National Institute on Retirement Security (NIRS), a US-based research institute, has found that retired women are more likely than retired men to live in poverty in the United States. According to this research, US women aged 65 and above are 80 percent more likely than US men of the same age to live in poverty, and US women aged between 75 to 79 are three times more likely than US men of the same age to live in poverty.
Section 2 Sexual Harassment and Assault Affect Women in the US Workplace.
The high occurrence rate of sexual harassment and assault in US workplaces is a problem that US women have to face. According to a report issued in 2017 by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), about 60 percent of women had experienced some form of sexual harassment at their workplace. As many victims may be afraid to make accusations, the actual proportion may be even higher. As reported by the website of USA Today on September 26, 2018, sexual harassment and assault have already become a systemic problem in the US entertainment industry. According to an industry-wide survey, 94 percent of female respondents have experienced some form of sexual harassment or sexual assault during professional lives. In October 2017, in response to the scandal of US film and television producer Harvey Weinstein’s sexual assault on many female celebrities, people from various sectors of the United States initiated a social campaign named “Me Too” on social media to encourage victims to protest against widespread sexual harassment and sexual assault in the United States. This movement got responses from more than a million people. The BBC website reported on November 22, 2017, that former US Olympic gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar was accused of sexually assaulting female athletes who received his treatment, and among the more than 130 victims, several of them were Olympic gold medal winners. The USA Today website wrote on November 20, 2017, that the US state legislatures were caught in frequent sexual harassment scandals. As reported by the Des Moines Register on October 14, 2018, more than 20 members or staff members of legislative bodies in Iowa have been accused of having participated in some form of sexual misconduct, but the victims have no choice but to remain silent for more than 10 years in the fear that they may lose their jobs or experience retaliation.
Section 3 Severe Problems of Sexual Harassment and Sexual Assault in Schools
Section 3 Severe Problems of Sexual Harassment and Sexual Assault in Schools
According to a survey released by the Association of American Universities (AAU) in September 2015, 23 percent of undergraduate female students had experienced sexual harassment or sexual assault. 20 percent of university students believed that sexual assault and inappropriate sexual behavior had already become an extremely serious problem on campus. According to a study published on the website of the Social Science Research Council (SSRC) in 2017, one in every 10 female graduate students interviewed at major research universities in the United States reported being sexually harassed by a faculty member. As reported by the website of the Miami Herald on September 21, 2016, a 16-year-old high school girl who had been sexually assaulted in a Georgia high school classroom was suspended from school many times due to her complaint, and the school head even forced her and the violator to stay in the same room and demonstrate the victimization process during the investigation, resulting in her suffering from a secondary psychological injury.