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Gender Discrimination in the Workplace: The Basics

While women’s rights in the workplace have drastically improved over the past few decades – particularly during the mid-2010s when the #MeToo movement gathered steam – there is still a very long way to go until our country achieves a completely equal workplace with zero discrimination.

Here, we take a basic look at gender discrimination, what it is, is it intentional, and what that means for women around the country:

What Exactly is Gender Discrimination in the Workplace?

Gender discrimination in the workplace, in its most basic sense, is a difference in treatment, be it positive or negative, of a female employee on the basis of their sex or gender. It comes in many forms, from sexual harassment to being talked down to by bosses, and while it is unpleasant and, at times, degrading, there are thankfully laws in place that prevent people from doing this.

Gender discrimination is intersectional, which means that a person can experience workplace discrimination because of their gender and something else, be it their ethnicity, or their affiliation with certain political groups, or even their sexual orientation, preference, and/or gender identity.

Again, it could take on many forms, but some examples of gender discrimination in the workplace include, but are not limited to:

Not being hired specifically because the company doesn’t hire women for that particular role

Being hired on the basis of gender

Being subject to different or higher standards on the basis of your gender

Being subject to harsh evaluations because you don’t fit traditional gender norms (e.g. a woman being criticized for wearing pants, or making fun of men with long eyelashes)

Being criticized for attitudes that aren’t applicable towards the other gender

Receiving less salary as a person of a different gender in the same position

Intentionally referring to a person using a different gender that they don’t identify with (i.e. trans women being called sir, or trans men being called miss)

Subjected to unwanted and unprofessional sexual advances from coworkers both in and out of the workplace

Being given different assignments (or none at all) because you’re pregnant

Again, this is an inexhaustive list of grievances that people can face in the workplace. If you notice this happening to you or a colleague, report it to HR immediately.

When is Gender Discrimination Intentional?

Not all gender discrimination is intentional or explicit; in fact, more often than not, many offices aren’t even aware that they’re being discriminatory. However, this doesn’t lessen the effects it has on women, nor does it take away the harm that it places on a particular gender.

Often, many businesses might have hiring practices or workplace cultures that aren’t explicit with their gender discrimination but end up becoming discriminatory anyway. If this is the case, let HR know that you feel like a certain way of doing business is discriminatory and allow them to take the necessary steps to correct it.

When is Gender Discrimination Illegal?

For Gender Discrimination to be illegal, it must violate certain legal requirements in Federal anti-discrimination laws. More often than not, anti-discrimination laws will have wording that says a particular practice is discriminatory if it negatively affects your employment.

Often, the Terms and Conditions that companies set have to be followed by both employer and employee, and any violation of those Terms and Conditions can be the subject of a lawsuit.