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Discrimination Against Women in the Workplace

Discrimination against women in the workplace is not a new issue. Talk about gender equality and this disparity to some extent is a major show dampener. This topic is discussed in detail.
Medha Godbole
Last Updated: Jun 25, 2018
This topic is a multifaceted issue with lots of complexities and gender intertwining. So it is impossible to address all those issues, all at once .
Women got their voting rights after men. But the fairer sex empowerment notwithstanding and its capabilities not underestimated, they still have to get what they deserve. Come to think of it, some of us believe that the age of gender equality has arrived. But from many other perspectives, this still isn't true.
One of the aspects, which leads some to believe this is the discrimination against women in the workplace. The naysayers would vehemently deny that, but unfortunately, that is the harsh reality in quite a few parts of the globe in a so-called modern world.
Explaining Workplace Discrimination
Workplace discrimination, simply put, is said to have happened when an employee suffers an unfair or unfavorable treatment on the basis of race, gender, religion, caste, nationality, and some other factors. In this case, it is based on gender.
Furthermore, this may also include those employees who suffer reprisals on account of opposing the work place discrimination or even reporting violations to the authorities. The Federal law, however, does not allow this in several areas connected with work, from recruitment to job evaluations to promotion, training and disciplinary action.
All said and done though, unfair treatment may not necessarily mean equal unlawful discrimination. Violation of Equal Employment Opportunity laws is said to have violated only when the unfair treatment is done on the grounds of presence of protected characteristic, more than the performance or even the personality of the employee.
Yet, all this can be highly subjective and what one may consider as discrimination would not be considered so by someone else.
The United States has the following legislation and acts related to gender discrimination at work -
  • Equal Pay Act of 1963 (part of the Fair Labor Standards Act) - prohibits wage discrimination by employers and labor organizations based on sex.
  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 - broadly prohibits discrimination in the office including hiring, firing, workforce reduction, benefits, and sexually harassing conduct.
  • Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which amended Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 - covers discrimination based upon pregnancy in the workplace.
Discrimination Against Women
In rural Rajasthan, in India, back in 1992, a female government official was gang raped by 5 men whom she tried to refrain from marrying off a girl (less than a year old) from their family. The demon of sexual harassment of ladies, hit the Indian society real bad. It wasn't that it was never there or people were not aware of it, but it was an eye opener.
In this case though, lot of organizations filed a petition in the Supreme Court, since they were unable to get justice at lower courts. The petition was filed as Vishakha, and in 1997, after 5 years, the Supreme Court of India gave a landmark judgment adding teeth to rights of women in the workplace, by putting across guidelines, called Vishakha guidelines.
Likewise, in the Middle East, ladies have struggled for the right to own businesses or travel without the permission of their fathers or husbands. In fact, this right is still denied in some Asian and African countries. In some countries, they have not had the right to initiate a divorce or maintain the custody of their children.
This was a generalized view, but there must have been innumerable such incidents all over the world. Poverty-stricken and orthodox societies are credited with having more number of such cases. Although in developed countries too, there are such incidences.
In most cases, where ever it is, this disparity is seen in the wages given to men and women, for starters. Then in some cases, women are not seen capable of doing a particular task or handling a particular project.
A huge tantamount and proof for this statement is a United Nations concept of Glass Ceiling, which says that there is hardly any society where ladies are at par with men.
To add to this, in the United States, the Glass Ceiling Commission, a government-funded group, stated that Over half of all Master's degrees are now awarded to ladies, yet, majority of senior-level managers, of the top Fortune 1000 industrial and 500 service companies are men. Of them, most are white.
Isn't it crystal clear then that these whooping numbers cannot be just coincidental? It prominently shows that there is some sort of gender bias in a world super power too.
History has witnessed various movements for equal rights. It was a long drawn battle for them to get what they wanted the least at that time. Angela Merkel, Sonia Gandhi, Margaret Thatcher, and others have tried and laid the foundation for a change in this ' women-cannot-do-this' mindset. They tread a thorny path and reached where they are now.
It will still take time though, to get rid of this mentality in the workplace. It will happen, it is all up to the female folk. At the same time, this is not to undermine the benefits and rights women are enjoying in some parts of the world and in some pockets. But a lot needs to be done.
At the end, this reminds me of what Simone de Beauvoir, a French feminist and writer opined, Man is defined as a human being and a woman as a female - whenever she behaves as a human being, she is said to imitate the male.