The Many Faces of Gender Discrimination

Gender-Icons-1717334It’s sad that although we believe we live in a world of greater equality than our grandparents ever thought possible, although gender-based discrimination has been made illegal all over the developed world, there are still discriminatory practices at the workplace and they are not restricted to pay disparity or unwanted sexual advances. Let’s review the shapes that gender discrimination can take and what anyone of us can do to fight it.

Discrimination can occur at the beginning of the hiring process, when an applicant is rejected on the grounds of their gender alone, for example because the employer’s clients prefer to work with men rather than women. Yes, there are still such people; sex stereotypes seem to be among the most enduring ones. Another form of discrimination at this early stage is setting a requirement that demands physical qualifications that women rarely have, such as lifting heavy weights. Such a necessity may be purely hypothetical and in fact irrelevant for the actual job, but it discourages women from applying.

The most typical example of gender discrimination at work is, of course, lower pay for women working at the same level as men and holding the same set of qualifications and skills. Alternatively, women are hired for lower-paying positions while the better ones are reserved for men, something not infrequent in traditionally male-dominated industries. The same goes for promotions, too. Men are promoted, while women stay in the same position for years and years.

Perhaps the most shocking manifestations of gender discrimination are those that require female employees to conform to a traditional appearance, regardless of personal style, when there isn’t a dress code for the male employees. And, of course, sexual harassment, whether verbal or physical, is the most brutal form of discrimination.

Regardless of the form, however, gender discrimination should be acted against and quickly, especially if you’ve also been threatened with retaliation from the people responsible for the discriminatory practice. Retaliation against discrimination complaints is also illegal, by the way. Here are some steps to take, as suggested by the Equal Rights Advocates.

First of all, don’t keep quiet about what has happened, but write down every single occurrence of discrimination, in as much detail as possible. Involve your colleagues as well, whether as witnesses or as fellow victims, if discrimination is a regular practice in the company. Tell everything to your boss, or their boss, if your direct superior is the one being discriminatory. Before that, however, make sure you find out if there are written policies in the corporate documentation regarding dealing with discrimination. And make sure you tell your story in writing, so, should the need arise, you have evidence that you have tried to deal with the situation.

If the attempt to remedy matters within the company fails, take it to outside agencies — trade union, if you’re a member, or a government agency, such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which is a federal body, or the state agency that ensures fair employment. This step is also necessary if you’re planning to take things to court — you won’t be able to file a lawsuit before you formally launch a complaint with the state or federal agency.

It may look like too much of a hassle but is it really, when your rights are concerned? Freedom and equality are to be earned, sometimes the hard way, but it’s the only way to make sure the same thing will not be happening to your daughter.