By: Marielys Concepcion, Member-Candidate, J.D. Candidate, May 2020, St. Thomas University School of Law.

Gender equality and women’s rights have played a large role in our country’s history. Beginning with the 19thamendment of our United States Constitution, allowing women the right to vote and making it unconstitutional for someone to be denied the right to vote on the basis of sex. Today, women make up about forty-seven percent of the workforce in the U.S. They are also considered the sole or primary earners for roughly forty percent of U.S. households with children under eighteen, as opposed to eleven percent in the 1960s. The United States currently has three women holding the position of U.S. Supreme Court Justice, the highest court in the country. Additionally, there is currently about twenty percent of women serving in the United States Congress. Yet, with these great strides, women are often still treated unfairly and even discriminated against in the workforce.

Recently, two women filed a lawsuit against one of the largest and most successful companies in the world, Nike, for gender discrimination. The former Nike employees claimed that they experienced a hostile work environment and “were paid less and had fewer opportunities” than their male counterparts, despite having the same qualifications and performance results. Additionally, the complaint stated that “Nike judges women more harshly than men, which means lower salaries, smaller bonuses, and fewer stock options.” Further, the women argue, in order for women to succeed in Nike, they must greatly outshine their male colleagues.

Too often in our society women are overlooked for job promotions or bonuses, simply because of a predisposition that they wouldn’t be able to maintain control of the work tasks or are too emotional to hold a position of high authority and power. Unfortunately, this is partly due to the glass ceiling theory, which is still very much active and greatly affects women in the workplace. The glass ceiling theory is basically an “invisible barrier that prevents women and minorities from rising to the highest ranks in a corporation.” To better illustrate this theory, just take alook at the fact that there are only twenty-five women, compared to the manymen, which hold the position of chief in the fortune 500 companies. Although women make up almost half of the American workforce, they are extremely outnumbered by their male counterparts when it comes to leadership positions at top companies.

There is no clear cut way on combatting gender discrimination or the glass ceiling theory in the workplace. However, there are several ways that employers and companies may foster equality, such as actively recruiting women if the business is a male dominant field, creating equal representation opportunities for women and men alike, and pro-actively ensuring women are fairly represented. The dilemma that most companies face, which ultimately end in gender discrimination lawsuits, is in their execution of these equality ideologies. Most companies, especially fortune 500 companies, understand the steps they need to take to foster an equal environment for both men and women. However, they fail in their execution of these steps. Understandably, with giant companies such as Nike, it is virtually impossible to maintain a vigilant watch over every hiring decision made, however, the lack of vigilance should never outweigh women’s rights to be heard and receive the same opportunities as their male counterparts. 

Implementing programs to ensure equal representation is not the same as proactive execution, just as a promise is just a promise until it’s completed. Thus, it is important that moving forward, Nike, and every company in the workforce proactively, instead of retroactively, and simultaneously consider women for promotions and bonuses alongside their male counterparts. Sex should not, and in fact cannot constitutionally, be a determining factor for a job position.

On the other hand, it is up to the women of the American workforce to understand the struggles and uphill battles that, although unfair, they must conquer. As such, “nothing great comes easy, and nothing easy can ever equate to greatness.”