Gender inequality, which is sometimes called sex discrimination, means receiving unequal treatment based solely on gender. Women are most commonly the subject of gender inequality in the workplace. Despite decades of reform, statistics suggest that for every dollar a man earns a woman in a similar job earns just 77 cents. Clearly, there are still improvements to be made. Understanding gender inequality is a step toward eliminating it from the modern workplace.
Unequal Rather than Just Different
To be considered genuine gender inequality, a person must be treated unequally based upon their sex, rather than just being treated differently. As an example, providing separate bathrooms for each sex is not a policy of gender inequality. However, if that same employer made hiring or salary decisions based on the worker’s gender, then this would constitute gender inequality. Employers are also legally forbidden to discriminate against pregnant workers. As a temporary medical condition, pregnancy and childbirth should be treated like other illnesses without adversely affecting the employee’s chances of being promoted or remaining employed.
Harassment can be seen as another form of gender inequality in the workplace. Offering a bonus in exchange for sexual favors, making off color jokes or engaging in unwanted advances are all examples of harassment. Once again, such behaviors are prohibited by law, but harassment against both sexes still occurs regularly.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964
This was a groundbreaking piece of legislation that prohibited employers from making hiring, firing, salary and promotion decisions based on gender. Title VII of the act offers protection from gender inequality in the workplace and from sexual harassment. Under Title VII, employers also are not permitted to retaliate against employees who make allegations of gender inequality in the workplace.
The Equal Pay Act of 1963
Another important piece of legislation that helps to protect workers from gender inequality, the Equal Pay Act forbids employers from making salary decisions based on gender. Workers who have the same job title, perform the job with the same skill level and are similarly productive should not be paid different wages simply because one is a man and one is a woman.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
One of the Commission’s goals to is to eradicate gender inequality from the workplace. Accordingly, they are tasked with enforcing discrimination laws. The EEOC is often the first place an employee goes with a gender inequality complaint.