Gender Discrimination at Work in the United States

Subject: Sociology
Pages: 9
Words: 2394
Reading time:
9 min
Study level: College


According to human resource management experts, any form of discrimination within the workplace is illegal. However, regardless of the fact that the law protects employees from all forms of bias, studies on the dynamics of the contemporary workplace have shown that gender discrimination is quite problematic (Lipman 70). Women are more vulnerable to this form of prejudice compared to their male colleagues.

They are often faced with challenges such as sexual harassment, job insecurity, delayed promotions, low pay, as well as being judged based on their looks, style of dressing, and age. For example, research has shown that women who work as public relations officers, as well as in sales and marketing are often subjected to discrimination for not being beautiful enough (Fogarty and Zheng 101).

This has been a major impediment to the advancement of women into senior management positions within the workplace because they have to put twice the effort their male colleagues require to gain promotion. Achieving gender equality in the workplace is a work in progress that requires all the relevant stakeholders to recommit themselves towards creating an inclusive environment that allows everyone to reach their full potential regardless of one’s gender.


In most societies, gender and sex are words that are used interchangeably. While sex refers to one’s anatomical identity, gender refers to cultural traits that are associated with one being male or female (Williams and Dempsey 33). Although gender discrimination in the workplace happens in many forms, generally it involves a situation where an employee or job applicant is treated in an unfavorable manner because of their gender.

One of the negative effects of this vice is the fact that it often holds backs qualified and highly productive employees from achieving maximum output (Lipman 103). Gender discrimination at work occurs in different contexts that include the hiring of new employees, promotions, layoffs, job classifications, as well as the designing of pay and benefits packages.

Many countries across the world have come up with different forms of legislation that address gender discrimination in the workplace. This observable fact has been necessitated by the growing popularity of affirmative action, a movement that aims at emphasizing the need to give women equal access to opportunities as men. The United States of America is one such country that has made remarkable progress with regard to addressing this challenge (Hogan 6).

Over the years, American legislators have made numerous efforts to come up with legislation geared towards protecting the place, identity, and value of every employee in the workplace. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 is one of the earliest federal legislation that offers prohibitions against workplace discrimination based on one’s gender or sexual identity. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has been at the forefront with regard to championing the need for employers to embrace a culture of equality and inclusivity in the place of work (Dawson 19). For example, EEOC identifies sexual orientation and gender as characteristics that ought to be protected by law when it comes to dealing with intolerance among employees.

Another federal law that prohibits any form of bias at work is the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. This legislation was created to compliment the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as it is founded on the employment standards stipulated in Title VII for employers in the private sector, learning institutions, and across all levels of government (Colella and King 122).

The Equal Pay Act (EPA) is another federal law that was created to address the challenge of pay discrimination between male and female employees working under similar conditions and with matching qualifications (Hogan 11). This legislation addresses labor issues of employees covered under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The United States has been at the forefront with regard to promoting and protecting the rights of women within the workplace, as well as creating a legal structure that provides guidelines for addressing issues related to the same.

The contemporary American society has embraced gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people within the workplace. Due to the negative stereotypes that some people have with regard to the rights of these groups in society, legislators in America have come up with laws that protect them from any form of prejudice based on their sexual identity. For example, it is illegal for a qualified employee to be denied a promotion because they identify as gay or lesbian, as this would automatically qualify as a form of gender bias (O’Brien 33).

New York is one of the leading states in America with regard to addressing the challenge of gender discrimination at the place of work. According to the New York City Human Rights Law, it is illegal for any employee to be discriminated against because of one’s sexual orientation, as well as gender identity and expression. In addition, the law prohibits discrimination against women based on their pregnancy or a related medical condition (Deardorff and Dahl 51).

Employers are required to provide a workplace environment that supports women employees during their pregnancy and after they give birth. Female employees often have to deal with inevitable situations such as pregnancies that often compel the employer to give them some time off from work. However, in some workplaces, women have to deal with the dilemma of choosing their work or starting a family because they are aware that their employer will not take them back when they take time off to have a child (Williams and Dempsey 92). All these issues are well covered by two federal laws, namely the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) as well as the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

Unequal Treatment of Women in the Workplace

Studies on workplace inclusion for both men and women have established that human resource management practices at small, mid-size, and multinational corporations often discriminate against women in the workplace (Fogarty and Zheng 118). This observable fact is characterized by elements such as male employees getting longer leaves, better remuneration, and increased benefits compared to female employees with equal qualifications (Fogarty and Zheng 118).

According to human resource management experts, many workplace environments are designed in a manner that favors the advancement of male employees over their female colleagues regardless of the value they add to an entity’s portfolio. Sexual harassment is one of the common forms of discrimination that women face in the workplace (Bohnet 147).

It involves a situation where a person in an authoritative position within an organization asks for sexual favors from female employees in exchange for favors or workplace benefits that they dully deserve (O’Brien 61). Human resource management experts also argue that creating a hostile work environment also qualifies as sexual harassment provided that the affected party is a female employee. Such an environment is characterized by inappropriate jokes, threats, and intimidating behavior aimed at female employees (Colella and King 141).

Affirmative action has played a pivotal role in improving the rights accorded to female employees within the workplace. One of the common stereotypes about women is that they ought to focus on being mothers and not workers (Deardorff and Dahl 71). However, the numerous efforts by the EEOC over the years are bearing fruits, as evidenced by the increasing number of women holding various managerial positions in organizations across America.

In addition, the growing political will exhibited through the formulation of relevant legislation has also created a legal relief for female employees dealing with gender bias at work. Some of the benefits accorded by the federal laws to victims of gender discrimination include reinstatement, promotion, compensatory damages, punitive damages, as well as payment of attorney and expert witness fees (Hogan 21). Punitive damages are aimed at punishing employers who fail to deal with intolerance within the workplace. The law may require them to make a commitment with regard to taking the necessary corrective action that will eliminate the causative elements of the discriminatory practices within the place of work (Fogarty and Zheng 134).

Combating Gender Discrimination in the Workplace

There is an urgent need for all the relevant stakeholders to recommit their efforts towards improving the standards of human resource management by combating all forms of intolerance within the workplace. It is important for organizational leaders to ensure that all employees feel safe within the workplace, as it empowers them to achieve maximum output and add more value to the entity’s portfolio (Tulshyan 17). In order to create an inclusive workplace environment, employers can adopt a few strategies that can go a long way in preventing incidences of intolerant practices. One of the most effective strategies that can help in ensuring that women are treated in an unbiased manner is by creating an equal opportunity policy.

According to human resource management experts, diversity within the workforce is one of the biggest values that can help an organization gain a competitive advantage and achieve its objectives in a substantive manner. The main reason for this is the fact that it allows an organization to employ individuals of different cultural settings, sexual orientations, gender, religious beliefs, and viewpoints (Deardorff and Dahl 124).

An organization with an equal opportunity policy for its employees and job applicants creates an avenue for attracting a wide pool of qualified and highly skilled individuals into the workforce (Hogan 79). For example, such a policy can dictate that female employees will not be required to meet a certain minimum number of years with regard to work experience in order to receive a promotion. The reason for this is the need to consider the fact that many women often lose a lot of time when they are on maternity leave but still maintain the same skill set and knowledge in their areas of specialization (Tulshyan 25). In addition, an equal opportunity policy helps to increase the accessibility of promotion opportunities for women within the workplace, thus making it more competitive.

Another effective strategy for dealing with this challenge is awareness creation by educating employees on issues relating to gender discrimination in the workplace. One of the factors that have contributed to the growth of this challenge across various workplaces is the numerous stereotypes on the concept of gender (Dawson 30). Therefore, it is important for employers to conduct workshops for their employees geared towards changing the negative notions created around women in the workplace.

All employees are important to an organization in terms of achieving their goals and growing its portfolio’s value regardless of one’s gender. The most important aspect is the different values, skills, and expertise that every individual within the workplace brings to an organization. Creating a positive outlook, as well as embracing diversity and inclusivity in the workplace can go a long way in ensuring that women are accorded maximum respect and appreciated enough for the value they add to an organization’s portfolio (Tulshyan 56).

It is also important for the workshops to focus a lot on the dangers associated with gender discrimination within the workplace, as well as helping employees differentiate actions that qualify as discriminatory and those that do not meet the threshold.

In order to eliminate discriminatory tendencies from the workplace, there is an urgent need for employers to engage a proactive approach where they take immediate action whenever complaints of discrimination in the workplace are presented (Tulshyan 62). This can be achieved by establishing a clear and detailed procedure of handling such situations and the fixed timeframe within which the matter should be resolved (Colella and King 157).

Human resource management experts argue that such a strategy will deter anyone from exhibiting discriminatory behaviors, as well as boosting the confidence of all employees with regard to their safety (Hogan 100). In addition, the approach should provide clear penalties for any employees found guilty of engaging in discriminatory behaviors within the workplace. Employees deserve to feel and enjoy the protection of their employer against all forms of prejudice within the workplace in order to achieve maximum output. As the biggest asset to every entity, their welfare should be prioritized over everything else.

Working on unconscious biases is also an effective strategy for dealing with the challenge of gender discrimination in the workplace. Psychologists argue that it is possible for someone to have preconceived notions about people without realizing it (Pillinger and Wintour 131). As part of awareness creation within the workplace, it is important for the employer to educate employees on the effects of unconscious biases with regard to the way they treat each other. Studies have shown that organizations that do not have policies and guidelines on any form of discrimination within the workplace suffer a lot in terms of low productivity and unfulfilled goals (Hogan 110).

Gender discrimination can lead victims into suffering mental health issues such as depression and heightened anxiety levels. This often leads to reduced productivity because they struggle to concentrate in their work (Schuller 188). Human resource management experts argue that the legal issues associated with gender discrimination should provide employers with enough motivation to fight the vice. It is the responsibility of an employer to ensure that the rights of every employee are protected and respected by everyone involved in the workplace (Dawson 89).


All employees in an organization have rights that ought to be protected, promoted, and respected by everyone regardless of one’s gender. Gender discrimination at work is one of the leading challenges that employers and human resource managers have to deal with in an organizational setting. It is illegal for anyone to be discriminated against because of his or her gender. For a very long time, women have been the biggest victims of gender discrimination in the work place.

Some of the major issues raised by female workers include sexual harassment, delayed promotions, low pay, unexplained dismissal, fewer off days, and being overlooked for senior management positions among others. In order to achieve gender equality in the workplace, there is an urgent need for employers to promote a culture of diversity and inclusivity as a way of encouraging employees to embrace people from different cultural backgrounds and with varying viewpoints.

Gender discrimination has very harmful effects on an entity, thus the need for organizational leaders to develop programs that help in recognizing, preventing, and stopping the vice within the workplace. Discrimination is a major source of workplace conflicts and dealing with the challenge ensures that the workforce is highly productive and the value of an entity’s portfolio keeps growing.

Works Cited

Bohnet, Iris. What Works. Harvard University Press, 2016.

Colella, Adrienne, and Eden King. The Oxford Handbook of Workplace Discrimination. Oxford University Press, 2018.

Dawson, Tricia. Gender, Class, and Power: An Analysis of Pay Inequalities in the Workplace. Palgrave Macmillan, 2018.

Deardorff, Michelle, and James Dahl. Pregnancy Discrimination and the American Worker. Springer, 2016.

Fogarty, Alison, and Lily Zheng. Gender Ambiguity in the Workplace: Transgender and Gender-Diverse Discrimination. ABC-CLIO, 2018.

Hogan, Ginny. Toxic Femininity in the Workplace: Office Gender Politics are a Battlefield. Morrow Gift, 2019.

Lipman, Joanne. That’s What She Said: What Men Need to Know (and Women Need to Tell Them) About Working Together. William Morrow, 2018.

O’Brien, Ruth. Telling Stories out of Court: Narratives About Women and Workplace Discrimination. Cornell University Press, 2018.

Pillinger, Jane, and Nora Wintour. Collective Bargaining and Gender Equality. Agenda Publishing, 2019.

Schuller, Tom. The Paula Principle: How and Why Women Work Below Their Level of Competence. Scribe Publications, 2017.

Tulshyan, Ruchika. The Diversity Advantage: Fixing Gender Inequality in the Workplace. Create Space Independent Publishing Platform, 2016.

Williams, Joan, and Rachel Dempsey. What Works for Women at Work: Four Patterns Working Women Need to Know. NYU Press, 2018.