Gender discrimination in the workforce was made illegal by the Civil Rights Act of 1964. However, discrimination is still happening across countless industries, as evidenced by the continuing gender pay gap. While these statistics may seem disheartening, there is still a lot to do to combat the issue.
Who Are the Worst Offenders?
Gender discrimination is not a homogenous problem that affects all industries equally. There are still a high number of male-dominated occupations, meaning those jobs where fewer than 25 percent of the positions are filled by women. The technology industry has one of the highest rates of unequal hiring. However, discrimination is not only limited to getting hired.
There are also many industries that have unequal cultures that negatively impact women in the workplace. This can lead to passive stereotypes, inequitable work/life balance demands, or even sexual harassment. Discrimination also affects how these cases are treated. Federal agencies, like the postal service and the military, are particularly known for mishandling discrimination cases.
What You Can Do to Defend Yourself
This all may sound challenging, but there are ways to defend yourself in an inequitable workplace. The first thing you should do if you ever encounter a situation that makes you feel unsafe or discriminated against is to document what’s happened. Having a dated record that explains exactly what happened and how it affected you will not only help you understand what happened, but it will give you leverage if and when you report the situation. If anyone else has witnessed what happened, it can be helpful to ask for their account as well.
Sometimes, just calling attention to the problem with a supervisor or with HR can help alleviate discrimination issues. It may be that the people propagating the discriminatory culture are unaware of the true impact of their actions, and by bringing it up, you can begin to change the culture. Additionally, it can be helpful to look into a company’s culture before applying to work with them to find an optimal workplace. Speaking with previous or current employees, particularly women or transgender workers, can help you determine if a company is a good match for you.
Ultimately, however, it is not your responsibility to end gender discrimination. If the problem persists or you are not getting adequate response from leadership, it may be beneficial to seek legal counsel to understand your rights and options.
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