According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), sex or gender discrimination in the workplace is defined as the unfavorable or unfair treatment of someone (whether they are already an employee or applying for a job) due to their gender. It includes things like offering a promotion to a male employee who is less qualified rather than a female, asking a female applicant whether she plans on having children in the future, any comments that are offensive and sex-based which make the working environment hostile, asking a woman to dress a certain way (such as more revealing or “sexier”), as well as sexual harassment, and unwelcome sexual advances, to just name a few.
Even though both sexes can be affected by gender discrimination, women are the ones who more frequently face it. But men are also discriminated, something that usually happens if they are working or applying for a position that’s deemed more female-dominated such as in nursing, beauty, or childcare. A recent research showed that four in ten (42%) American women reported having experienced sex-based discrimination in the workplace, as opposed to only 22% of men.
Examples of gender discrimination
Gender discrimination can appear in a number of different ways, some more apparent and obvious and others more subtle. Here are some potential cases:
Even though we live in the 21st century, it’s not uncommon to hear that companies tend to pay their male employees a higher wage than they do their female employees even if they perform the same job. Say, you’re a woman who’s been working in a company for years, when they hire a new male employee. You then find out that even though you’ve been there much longer and perform longer hours, he is being paid more than you are. This is a case of gender-based workplace discrimination.
If you’ve been working in a company for a long time and are repeatedly shut down for promotions, with your less experienced male co-workers receiving them instead. This is often referred to as a “glass ceiling”, an unseen, but present, metaphorical barrier stopping women from elevating higher than a certain point in their workplace.
You’re a victim of gender discrimination if you apply for a job and are not hired, despite having better qualifications than a member of the opposite sex because the employers believe the other person would perform better, solely basing on their gender/sex. For example, a man applying for a nursing position or in child care being shut down because the employers think a woman would be better at it, or a woman being overlooked for a firefighter position due to gender bias.
For example, a woman not being able to take a paid pregnancy leave whereas a man is allowed to take an extended leave for a different health problem.
According to the EEOC, harassment may include unwanted sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other harassment of a sexual nature, be it physical or verbal. Other than that, offensive remarks about a person’s sex can also constitute as harassment, (like constantly taunting a female co-worker by offending women in general) but it would have to be “so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment or when it results in an adverse employment decision (such as the victim being fired or demoted).”
Gender identity and sexual orientation
It is illegal to fire, refuse to employ someone, deny them a promotion, give them a lower salary, harass (including not referring to them by their preferred pronoun) simply because they are a member of the LGBT community.
What are the laws regarding sex and gender discrimination?
According to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it is illegal to discriminate against someone based on their sex in any aspect of employment, which includes hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoff, training, fringe benefits, and any other term or condition of employment. Even though it is not explicitly written that it covers sexual orientation or gender identity, seeing as the law says that “employment actions motivated by gender stereotyping are unlawful sex discrimination” the Commission considers discrimination against employees because of their sexual orientation and gender identity to be sex discrimination, and so they are covered by law.
There is also the Equal Pay Act of 1963, which states that it is illegal to pay men and women who are doing an equal amount of work in the same workplace different wages.
For more on discrimination in the workplace see: