Gender inequality is a complex issue with ramifications that are difficult to quantify. While statistical information can provide us with numbers and averages, we will never be able to identify all the individual impacts gender discrimination has on a person. That said, we can draw reasonable conclusions as to the overall impact on women as a social group. To gain a clearer and more comprehensive understanding of the issue at hand, let us explore how gender discrimination affects women in the workplace.
It’s crucial to understand that when the term woman appears within the context of this article, it refers to all women, including trans women. This issue does not affect everyone the same way, but we can make fair assumptions about the emotional, mental, and physical impacts gender discrimination has on women.
It is an unfortunate truth, but many women see or experience different forms of discrimination early on in childhood and throughout their adult lives. Because of this, a passing insensitive comment may no longer have a significant and direct impact by the time a woman reaches working age. It is a kind of purposeful blindness and thick skin many develop to exist relatively peacefully in their bodies. By the time comments take the form of serious or systemic discrimination, the emotional and mental impacts have already occurred.
Many mental health professionals believe that continual exposure to discrimination erodes one’s sense of stability, confidence, and overall sense of self. When the environment you expect to be safe and equal in (the workplace) is suddenly unsafe, it causes a shift in self-perception. When a woman feels less than for reasons she cannot control, what is she to do besides leave or take legal action?
Both can be unreasonable, drastic, or unobtainable measures that force many women to stay in a place that is not viable for fostering a healthy mindset. Thus, many feel compelled to stay and experience this discrimination, leading to stress, anxiety, depression, trauma, PTSD, and other comorbid disorders. These mental and emotional impacts also take the form of bodily effects such as insomnia, compulsive behavior, disordered eating, and much more. Any continual exposure to emotional pain and trauma has the potential to foster disordered thinking.
Individuals make up communities and organizations at the meso-level of society. To put this into a numbers perspective, according to EEOC data, the percentage of cases filed on the basis of gender discrimination in the fiscal year of 2021 was 30.6%. In total, the number of cases filed was over 18,000, with over 80% of those cases filed by women. The ripple effects of these cases can touch an almost unquantifiable amount of people; how do we believe this impacts communities?
While it may seem like a stretch to some, if young girls see their mothers, sisters, grandmothers, and other loved ones experience discrimination, what happens on a societal level? What happens to this gender as a whole? When a systemic issue remains unmitigated, it creates financial, educational, and opportunity gaps that grow over time, leaving it up to the subsequent generations to deal with those gaps. We cannot focus on the improvement of the future if we are busy healing the wounds of the past—but it is necessary.
As mentioned previously, all women face the consequences of gender discrimination in the workplace, but how it affects subgroups can be vastly different. For many, it is not as simple as falling into one category or minority group; this is where intersectionality comes in. Intersectionality is the understanding of how aspects of a person’s different identities affect their social standing and create different modes of privilege as well as types of discrimination. These categorizations consist of but are not limited to race, sexuality, gender, and disability.
For example, a woman can be cis-gendered but also a lesbian and a woman of color. Black women make up over 50% of women in the workforce. With the most common charges filed with the EEOC being race and sexual discrimination cases, we can draw some conclusions. To put it succinctly, the more of these groups you fall into, the more likely you are to face issues with discrimination.
Let us form a more concrete example; say we have a 34-year-old third-generation Mexican woman named Emilia. She is a first-generation college graduate, makes $30,000 a year, is a single parent of two children, and has recently become disabled due to medical issues. She needs her job and cannot afford to care for her children without it. But Emilia is suddenly a victim of quid pro quo sexual harassment; her employer will only keep her there if she provides him with sexual favors. What are her options?
She can stay and continue to face the harassment, or she can leave, putting her family at risk without proper financial backing. She can also try to file charges, but this takes time and money she doesn’t have. She must make a decision, and no matter which one she makes, she or her loved ones suffer.
The scenario listed above is not out of the ordinary or an outlier; many women face impossible decisions such as these every single day. What options are available?
Unfortunately, the answer is not simple, and remedying this issue requires serious analysis and reform on the macro level. But employers have much more power than they realize, and solutions often start with them. Analyzing hiring processes, company culture, and personal biases can significantly impact the lives and livelihoods of women. Make it clear that your company does not stand for discrimination such as this and act accordingly; protect those that need protection.
Every group and its parts have an inherent value in society, and for them to progress as others do, they need access to jobs and the capital it provides.
Now that you have a better idea of how gender discrimination affects women in the workplace, it’s time to be an ally and ask yourself how you can help your fellow woman. And if you’ve been a victim of gender discrimination in the workplace, contact gender lawyer Tamara N. Holder so that you can get the help, resources, and representation you deserve.