Unearthing the Gender Gap in Wisconsin Workplaces

Nov 22, 2017

With daily allegations of sexual misconduct or assault being made against men in powerful positions, there is also a growing conversation about how these men have affected women in the workforce. Women have described environments where powerful men were shielded from their accusers, while victims were often shamed and bullied into leaving their jobs.

This month’s Milwaukee Magazine looked at how men and women are paid, promoted, and hired in Wisconsin workplaces. Carole Nicksin, editor-in-chief of the magazinejoined Milwaukee-based writer Anna Miller to explain some of the causes for this vast divide.

"Part of it is just choices themselves, what careers that women chose to go into. Another reason is childcare. Some women have to leave work after a certain amount of time," explains Miller. "There's something called the "Mother Tax" in some literature, where women who have children are paid less because companies think they're going to leave after a certain amount of time to have more kids," she adds. "There's also some of it that comes from outright discrimination in employment policies." 

Miller unpacked something called the "Goldilocks Syndrome," explaining, "if you're outspoken as a female, then you're seen as being too aggressive and mean. If you're too nice then people will just walk over you." She notes that this factors into women actually landing jobs.

"The perception when women are being hired is that they have to act a certain way to be thought of as being hired and also for promotions. They have to walk a fine line there that their male counterparts may not have to walk," says Miller.

Whether it's the "Mother Tax" or the "Goldilocks Syndrome," or a different factor, the failure to hire and promote women in Wisconsin affects companies all the way up to the top. "The statistic we quote for the percentage of women on public company boards in Wisconsin is only 17.6 percent, which is really bleak," says Nicksin.