Gender Discrimination in the Workplace

Gender discrimination in the workplace refers to the unfavorable treatment of workers based on their gender or because they do not conform to traditional roles of femininity or masculinity. It can occur in all stages of employment from job descriptions to dismissal.

Women are frequently discriminated by both sexes in the workplace. Qualified women are more than often passed over for promotions because of pregnancy (pregnancy discrimination). In the United States, 4 in 10 working women (42%) say they have been discriminated at their workplace because of their gender.

A man and a woman both wearing suits standing back to back

It is also more likely for women in the workplace to be judged by their appearance and attire than their male counterparts. Women not only face discrimination such as being labeled “just a pretty face” but also for not being pretty enough or young enough.

Men also face gender discrimination in the workplace. This mainly occurs in female-dominated jobs such as nursing and child care.

Discriminating an individual based on their gender when it affects the “terms or conditions of employment” is considered a civil rights violation in the United States. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and the Civil Rights Act of 1991 protect employees from gender discrimination in the workplace in the United States.

Examples of gender discrimination in the workplace

Gender discrimination can manifest in a multitude of ways in the workplace. It can be easily discernible or subtle. Here are some examples of potential gender discrimination that an employee might experience in the workplace.

  • You’re looking for a job but the advertisement says only the opposite sex can apply.
  • In the interview phase, an employer asks female applicants whether they are married, have kids or plan to have in the future, but male applicants are exempt from these questions.
  • You have been working as a sales clerk for 4 years but have been denied promotion. Instead, someone of the opposite sex with much less experience receives the promotion.

Unequal pay

A man slipping cash into his coat pocket

Women have been historically receiving only a portion of what men earn working the same job.

According to the United States’ National Women’s Law Center, white women make 79 cents for every dollar made by a man, while black women make only 63 cents. Asian American women on average make 87 cents, Native American women make 57 cents while Latina women have the lowest pay – 54 cents.

It has been found that the gender wage gap changes over the course of a woman’s career and differ from one profession to another.

Promotional bias

The “glass ceiling” is a concept used to represent an metaphorical barrier that prevents women from rising above a certain point of hierarchy in the workplace.

Promotional bias refers to the unwritten code that experienced women are not capable of holding certain senior positions because of gender. The main reason behind this bias is caregiving responsibilities that women traditionally have.


Gender bias is also prevalent in employment terminations. This is especially true in male dominated workplaces where women are fired over less qualified men.

Women are also wrongfully terminated for complaining about the gender discrimination they experience in the workplace. There have been many cases where women who complain of sexual harassment have found themselves unemployed.

Sexual harassment

A woman holding a card that reads #metoo

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recognizes sexual harassment as gender discrimination “when submission to or rejection of this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual’s employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment.”

Examples of sexual harassment include unwanted jokes and flirting, sexual comments on clothing, inappropriate touching, transmitting or posting photos of sexual nature etc.