How to promote gender equality in the workplace

John Sherman

When it comes to gender equality, we’ve come a long way in the U.S. Laws are now in place to ensure that everybody receives fair and equal treatment at work and we also see an increasing number of women taking roles in what were previously male dominated industries.

We certainly are getting there, although there is still work to be done if we are to see 100% equality in the workplace. Despite the progress that has been made, there are still some issues that plague the issue of gender equality in the American workplace.

Sexual Discrimination

Sexual discrimination is still a very real issue for many women working in the United States, and it ranges from being very subtle, to very obvious. In some instances it might mean women being deliberately left out of team building or social events, helping to create a male orientated environment in which the women are made to feel less worthy. In other cases it might mean teasing of a sexual nature, which could hold far deeper consequences that might first appear. It could also mean women being overlooked for certain positions due to gender stereotypes or prejudices, although this can work both ways with men also being occasionally overlooked for positions that are considered to be traditionally feminine.

There is also the serious issue of sexual harassment, which can potentially lead to very serious ramifications if not addressed. Remember that sexual harassment is not necessarily only about physical contact, it can also be psychological and what might appear to be a bit of fun can in fact be very intimidating for the victim.

Employers must do what they can to help prevent sexual harassment from taking place, and there are guidelines and procedures in place to help with this.

Wage Gap

According to the American Association of University Women (AAUW), female workers in the United States currently receive approximately 80% of wages that men do. This is quite a significant gap of 20% between what men and women are paid. Studies by the US Department of Labor have shown that this figure is closer to 5% when taking into account career and education choices by women, but still the gap remains.

One recent high profile case that clearly outlined Gender inequality in the US is with actress Jennifer Lawrence when she learned that she was making significantly less than her male colleagues. Miss Lawrence herself has suggested that she is to blame herself because she could have held out for more money, so perhaps another issue could be that women are not encouraged enough to value their contribution as much as men are.

A disproportionately high wage gap could be an indicator of a sexual inequality issue within the workplace and is something that should not be ignored.

Gender Occupational Segregation

Gender occupational segregation is the workplace phenomena where different demographics are more or less likely to be in certain industries. One such example is the disproportionately high number of men that are employed in the software and tech industries. The male dominated careers and industries tend to be higher paid than the female dominated industries and this helps to explain the wage gap between the two genders.

One reason for this segregation is sexual discrimination, with one gender being favored over another for positions for no other reason than their gender. If you are found guilty of favoring one gender over the other for no other reason than their gender then you could have serious consequences to pay. If challenged, you could be expected to show that it is necessary to favor one gender over the other in the given scenario.

Family commitments are another thing that helps contribute to Gender Occupational Segregation and, by extension, the wage gap. Women are more inclined to choose roles that still allow them to dedicate time to other commitments such as bringing up their children and taking care of family members. What’s more is that the roles that women choose to take up may pay less, but tend to offer greater advantages in terms of social stratification.

Positive Discrimination

Sometimes, in order to be careful not to be discriminatory, we can end up doing the exact opposite. In the case of Gender discrimination in the workplace, we could end up favoring a candidate for a particular position because of the need to be fair to both genders overall. While such actions may be well intended overall, they still put you in the position where a better-qualified candidate may have been denied an opportunity on gender reasons alone. Even if you did have good intentions in favoring one gender over another in the workplace, you could find that you have broken regulations and you may be prosecuted accordingly.

Equality in YOUR Workplace

Some gender inequality issues are less obvious than others, and some may even go unnoticed completely. It is important that as many people within your organization are educated on gender inequality issues, particularly those in supervisory/managerial positions, so that issues are more likely to be identified when they occur.

It is necessary that you make it absolutely clear that procedures are in place to assist anybody that feels as though they have been discriminated against. It is also necessary to make it clear exactly what these procedures are and how to make a formal complaint.

If a formal complaint is made then you must undertake all necessary steps to be sure that you comply with legal procedures. Follow the correct procedures and you not only have a pleasant and fair working environment for all, you will also protect yourself legally should any instances of discrimination occur in the future.


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