Gender discrimination is the prejudicial treatment of a person based on their gender. While this can happen to anyone, it most often happens to women and people who don’t conform to the gender binary. Though society has made strides to close this power gap, gender discrimination is still a problem, even in places where the law strictly forbids it, such as the workplace. Read on to explore some of the reasons gender discrimination in the workplace still exists.
A stereotype is a generalized belief about a category of people, and every gender has a set of stereotypes. For men in America, the stereotype is that of a stoic household provider who must be strong, aggressive, and logical. For women in America, the overarching stereotypes are quite the opposite. A woman is and or must be quiet, reserved, nurturing, passive, and polite. Looking at these stereotypes, we can already see why men might receive preferential roles and treatment within the workplace.
Gender bias is the favoritism of a particular gender. What the “favorite gender” is will generally vary from person to person and be influenced by stereotypes. On an overarching scale, we can look to the patriarchy to see which gender society favors.
Aside from that, look at the terminology in job descriptions that describes a company’s ideal worker. You’ll often see words like fearless, objective, driven, solid, analytical, and competitive. We can see a correlation between these words and the adjectives society uses to stereotype men. In this way, there is already an inherent gender bias that permeates the workplace, beginning at the onboarding stages of employment.
You may wonder—if the workplace favors men, why don’t other genders try harder to break through stereotypes and achieve higher positions? To push back against the tide would be to risk one’s place in the social hierarchy. This can be a frightening prospect for anyone. Who would want to risk being shunned or frowned upon by their peers? Social pressure is enough to keep people in line for their entire lives. As social creatures, our connections and our relationships with others are quite literally the foundations of our lives and well-being.
Let’s say a cisgender woman wants to achieve a higher workplace position. She must show exceptional qualities and prove herself to be driven and competitive enough to rise to the occasion. Due to gender stereotypes and gender bias, this does not fall in line with what a woman is supposed to be. She risks coming off as impolite, bossy, snobbish, or overly aggressive.
Therefore, she risks her social standing and relationships if she does not find a way to consolidate “what a woman should be” with the qualities necessary to excel in the workplace. This is often an impossible feat.
Ultimately, the main reason gender discrimination in the workplace still exists is a general lack of awareness. We don’t usually learn to deconstruct gender biases in school, and by the time we become adults, they can be difficult behaviors and thought processes to uproot. After all, to admit you have gender bias would be to admit you’re a bad person, correct?
This isn’t the case. Bias is taught, and it can be unlearned. What makes a “good” or “bad” person is whether someone is willing to admit fault and learn.
At the Law Firm of Tamara N Holder, we help tackle gender discrimination by holding employers accountable. If you or someone you love has been a victim of gender discrimination in the workplace, our gender lawyers will work tirelessly to ensure justice is served.