Career Woman

How to combat the workplace gender discrimination problem

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US workplaces are rife with gender discrimination. According to Pew Research Center survey data, roughly 42% of women have faced sexual discrimination at work—not hard to believe when even the country’s largest companies are accused of discrimination.

As an employer, it is your duty to prevent workplace discrimination of any kind, and address it firmly if you discover that it is happening within your office. In this piece, we’ll delve into America’s workplace gender discrimination problem, and outline how exactly you can combat it in your workplace.

Workplace gender discrimination comes in various different forms

The Pew data revealed that workplace gender discrimination comes in a wide variety of forms. For instance, a quarter of the women surveyed said that they had at some point earned less than a man doing the same job because of their gender, whilst only 5% of men said they have earned less than a female peer for the same reason. 23% of women questioned said they were treated as incompetent because of their gender, compared to only 6% of men.

The research also revealed that women are around three times more likely than men to say they have been subjected to small slights at work because of their gender (16% against 5%). In addition, more working women (15%) than men (7%) said they’d received less support from senior leaders than those of the opposite gender doing the same job. All of these statistics show just how prevalent workplace gender discrimination against women is in America.

Pregnancy discrimination is equally widespread

As well as general gender discrimination, pregnancy discrimination is also commonplace in the US. Between 2010 and 2015, around 31,000 pregnancy discrimination claims were filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). In 2017 alone, about $15 million was paid out in settlements for pregnancy discrimination charges brought to the EEOC. This is consistent with previous years’ figures, and major companies including Walmart, AT&T and 21st Century Fox have been embroiled in pregnancy discrimination cases in recent times. Common issues include unfair dismissal and a lack of opportunities, compared to others.

In addition, a 2014 survey found that a quarter of women had experienced bias from employers around perceptions of their “desire, ability or commitment” to do their jobs after returning from maternity leave. Perhaps even more worryingly, only 6% of low paid workers in the US actually have access to maternity leave in the first place.

What recourse do women have?

If you or an employee are one of the vast number of women discriminated against in the workplace, then be assured there is action that can be taken. For a start, this treatment is illegal, and there are numerous precedents within the law which can be cited. For instance, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects individuals from sexual discrimination, making it illegal for employers to discriminate against others because of their gender. There are many other federal and state laws with a similar effect. For more information, read Workplace Fairness’ guide to sex and gender discrimination in the US.

Victims of gender discrimination have a range of courses of action available to them, including back pay, compensatory damages, job reinstatement or punitive damages. The EEOC is responsible for investigating gender discrimination cases, whilst the majority of states have their own agencies that enforce workplace discrimination laws. How you or your staff members file a complaint depends on which state you live in.

Many women can be put off filing a complaint for fear of being unable to afford the legal costs if it ends up as a lawsuit. Fortunately, it is easy to get workplace discrimination lawsuit funding, and loans are easily available to help move a case forward. Requiring no upfront fees or monthly payments, this enables all victims to afford the justice they deserve. 

How workplace gender discrimination can be combated

If you want to eradicate gender discrimination in your workplace, there are certain steps you can take to do so. These will help to remove stereotypes, prevent gender from influencing decisions and create an atmosphere where anybody can thrive, regardless of their gender. Here are some of the ways you can go about combating gender discrimination.

1. Call out and challenge any untoward behaviour

If you notice sexist behaviour in the workplace, don’t just let it slide. Even if it is a passing comment about women in general and not directly about a particular employee, calling out this type of talk makes it clear that sexism of any kind won’t be tolerated. Doing this whenever sexism arises re-enforces that it is unacceptable, and will make others feel confident to call out such behaviour themselves, which should help combat gender discrimination.

2. Have a clear gender discrimination policy

You can go further than this by enacting a gender discrimination policy. Research by Unilever found that both men and women find it difficult to acknowledge sexist behaviour and gender discrimination in the workplace. According to the study, 67% of women said they felt pressured to simply ‘get over’ sexist behaviour. Additionally, 64% of women and 55% of men said they don’t confront one another when witnessing such behaviour.

By creating a company gender discrimination policy, you ensure that your employees have a formal way of commenting or reporting inappropriate workplace behaviour. This will make them feel more willing to report any unfair treatment, which will again help tackle gender discrimination. Make sure that everybody is aware of and understands the policy, and impose severe penalties for any sexist behaviour. 

3. Set gender diversity targets

Setting gender diversity targets is another effective way of tackling gender discrimination. Various big name businesses have set gender employment targets themselves—for instance, in 2017 GE announced they wanted to hire 20,000 women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) roles by 2020. Employment targets and goals are very different from quota systems, and are a key sign that employers take gender diversity seriously. By introducing gender diversity targets of your own and having more women in the workplace, you project an inclusive message about your own company.

4. Diversify your board 

Look beyond your existing talent pool when it comes to your board or other senior positions. More and more major companies, such as Foot Locker, AutoNation and Best Buy, are moving away from employing traditional board candidates— i.e older white men—and looking towards more diverse members. In fact, 2017 was the first year ever that the majority of incoming directors at S&P 500 companies were women or minority candidates. This helps to create gender equality, which in turn tackles gender discrimination.

With gender discrimination widespread in workplaces across the country, much more needs to be done to tackle this abhorrent treatment women face every day. That said, an increasing number of companies throughout the US are taking a stand against such discrimination, creating more sexual equality in the workplace than ever before.  By following the above tips, you too can promote gender equality, and help pave the way for a brighter future for working women.

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