In 2015, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission received approximately 90,000 complaints related to workplace discrimination. At Colorado State University, five women representing CSU and the city of Fort Collins discussed how to combat workplace discrimination Tuesday.
The event was hosted by ASCSU as part of a discrimination at the workplace forum.
The panelists included Lupe Salazar, Janet Freeman, Kristyn Emmer, Diana Prieto and Jennifer Mayhew. Each of the panelists are working professionals and discussed the various aspects of workplace discrimination ranging from legal repercussions to personal experiences.
For Lupe Salazar, director of El Centro, a student Latino organization, gender based discrimination in the workplace is something she has knowingly experienced.
“I quickly learned that there is unfairness and discrimination in the workplace, Salazar said. “I have to learn not to accept it, but to engage and have dialogue with it.”
The discrimination Salazar spoke about and experienced was the gender pay gap.
“By the time I earn a dollar to every man’s dollar I will be dead, because it’s going to take us 44 years to do that,” Salazar said, referencing an article from the Institute for Women’s Policy and Research.
For Salazar, she became aware of the pay gap issue while working at CSU. She accepted the position of Interim Director at El Centro. Already holding an undergraduate degree in business and marketing, she planned on working at El Centro while persuing a masters and a Ph.D. She was given an annual salary of $21,000.
“When you enter the educational environment, you know you are not going to be paid very much,” Salazar said. “We don’t do the work that we do because of the money, but I realized that when I received $21,000 being the interim director of El Centro I knew something was the matter.”
Salazar had the opportunity to move to Chicago and use her business degree at Procter and Gamble, which would have given her a much higher wage, but she chose to keep her low paying job. This allowed her to continue her education and take on parenting two of her grandchildren after their mother did not want to be a mother anymore.
“I needed to stay and I chose to stay,” Salazar said. “Of course, I could have tripled my salary, but I thought no, because these two children needed me more than I needed the money.”
Salazar represents just one of many examples of workplace discrimination.
Jennifer Mayhew, Assistant Director to office of equal of opportunity, discussed issues individuals with disabilities face in the workforce.
Nationally, the pay gap for individuals with disabilities and those without is 43 percent. In Colorado, it is 40 percent, Mayhew said.
Kristyn Emmer, of the CSU Career center and Adult Learner and Veteran Services, discussed barriers to employment for veterans and older adults. Many of these barriers are a result of false stereotypes held by the employer.
Misconceptions surrounding veterans is that they are emotionally unstable, explosive, mindless drones and uneducated, Emmer said.
“There are a lot of stereotypes that all veterans have PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder,” Emmer said.
Older adults too face discrimination in the workforce. Employers may be concerned about hiring an older adult due to fear of failing health and early retirement.
Biases around older adults are that they are seen as less tech savvy, and lacking energy, Emmer said.
Regardless of the discrimination situation, Diana Prieto, Executive Director for the office of equal opportunity, encourages people to speak up.
“Know that behavior that is discriminatory or harassing does not stop on its own,” Prieto said. “There has to be some motivation to change the behavior.”
The students of ASCSU were excited that students turned out for the event and engaged in a multifaceted conversation about discrimination.
“We are really happy that students did turn out to this event because the topic of discrimination in the work place may be hard for some people to talk about,” Christina Vessa ASCSU Deputy Chief of Staff said. “We really appreciate that students are willing to participate in these conversations.”
Collegian reporter Nicole Towne can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @nicole_towne21.