Gender Issues Discrimination in the Workplace

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Gender equality is one of the most controversial topics in the contemporary world. Gender differences in the labour market are prevalent all across the world. Treating people differently on the basis of whether they identify as male or female amounts to gender/sex discrimination. If these biases take place within the workplace, the working environment can become tense, often leading to lawsuits. Although both genders are prone to discriminatory practices, women are at the highest risk of being discriminated against. Despite the implementation of strict regulation and increased awareness, discriminatory practices on the basis of gender are still pervasive in all countries, regardless of whether they are industrialized or emerging economies. 

Gender discrimination in the workplace can take different forms. These include; differences in hiring, where an individual is blatantly denied employment opportunity purely because of their gender identity. This starts from the interview itself, where interviewers ask questions, such as whether the interviewee, commonly a woman, has children/family and if they plan on having one. These types of questions have no meaning in the interview room whatsoever, but when the answer given is used to influence whether the woman gets the job or not, this becomes gender-based discrimination. Another form is unequal pays, where typically, men are paid more than women in the same positions performing similar functions and responsibilities (Wallen). Sometimes, even in the same position, women may also be given diminished responsibilities than men. This is particularly so for functions that are perceived to be ‘masculine’ including lifting products. Further, some argue that with the other responsibilities that a woman has in nurturing her family, she may be incapable of handling certain projects, which are then assigned to men. However, this is only a furtherance of the social constructions of the men having a dominant position over women and women’s responsibilities being limited to being care givers. It also disregards the responsibilities of the man in the upbringing of the children. This type of discrimination also relates to the positional bias in which human resource managers view certain genders as more suitable for certain jobs than the other. For example, it is rare to find a male who is a secretary or receptionist, or a female who is in the first line of security personnel. There are stereotypical beliefs that only people from a certain gender are capable of taking up some positions. Inadvertently, an organization may miss out on some of the most qualified individuals simply by falling into the social constructs of gender roles. The discrimination is not only limited to hiring, but also extends to promotion opportunities. There is a consistent body of research indicating that women receive limited opportunities for promotion and less credit for their work than their male counterparts do. 

There are various effects of discrimination that can affect the productivity of an individual in their capacity as an employee. For example, it reduces job satisfaction and motivation of the employee as well as decreasing commitment and enthusiasm towards the job (Channar, Abbassi and Ujan 189). All forms of gender discrimination associated with hiring, promotion, and provision of facilities negatively affect the employee productivity (Abbas, Hameed and Waheed 172). 

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There are different theories that have been used to legitimize gender inequalities in the world. The original theory that was used has biological foundations, in which men were regarded as deserving of higher pay due to their physical strength. Historically, many jobs required the use of upper body strength, which men have and women do not. However, in the modern world, this theory is largely inapplicable as success in the workplace is rarely dependent on an individual’s physical characteristics. Using this theory to justify the gender differences in the workplace fails to acknowledge the contextual differences existing today. Another common theory used in explaining the gender gap in the workplace is the distinguished gender roles of men and women, where women are seen as child bearers and nurturers (Hays and Morrow 13). Some argue that this role leads to lower productivity as employees and hence justifies the lower pay and limited opportunities to occupy higher positions and roles in the workplace. However, this too is an unfair belief, which fails to take into consideration the woman’s successes and productivity while she is at work as well as the father’s involvement in the nurturing of the baby. 

These justifications of gender inequalities in the workplace are further indications that the discriminatory practices that women face when they seek to enter, maintain, or progress through the workforce is a direct result of the hegemonic masculinity phenomenon. This is primarily the form of masculinity that is culturally and politically dominant at a particular time and place (Scott-Samuel 159). This type of hegemonic basically legitimizes the unequal distribution of power between men and women and normalizes it as the way things ought to be. This consequently creates a gender hierarchy through which women are given a lower social status than men, resulting in the creation of particular forms of gender relations that have prevalently dominated societies across the world. Hegemonic masculinity also places certain expectations on how men and women should behave in the workforce. This is because it establishes standards of the perceived acceptable feminine behavior. Further, the belief of the man as having the role of a breadwinner and sole provider of the family also influences the types of jobs both genders are allowed by society to pursue. This belief is still prevalent even in the modern world with no possibilities of being restructured in the near future. This in effect leads to a continuation and sustainability of the already established gender roles and resulting inequalities, perpetuated in patriarchal societies. 

It is evident that gender/sex discrimination occurs within the workplace. The effectiveness and success of the various implemented legislations outlawing this form of discrimination is highly dependent on an organization’s ability to manage diversity and establish a heterogeneous workforce that performs to its maximum potential in an equitable work environment. No member of the workforce should have an advantage over the other merely because of their gender differences. Diversity management is critical for every organization, particularly in this era of technological innovation and globalization. It is only as such that the unfair discriminatory practices can be eliminated and all employees given the opportunities of competing on an equal basis. The human resource managers ought to exercise caution while hiring and promoting employees as well as providing the necessary facilities and mechanisms to prevent gender discrimination. This ultimately prevents the possibilities of having reduced organizational performance due to reduced job satisfaction, motivation, and enthusiasm among the employees who are discriminated against. 

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  1. Abbas, Qaisar, Hameed, Abdul and Waheed, Aamer. Gender Discrimination & Its Effect on Employee Performance/Productivity. International Journal of Humanities and Social Science, 1(2011), 15. 
  2. Channar, Zahid, Abbassi, Zareen and Ujan, Imran. Gender Discrimination in Workforce and its Impact on the Employees. Pakistan Journal of Commerce and Social Sciences, 5:1(2011): pp. 177-191. 
  3. Hays, Natalie and Morrow, Katie. Gender Discrimination in the Workforce. Digital Commons, 2013. Web. Nov 30, 2017. 
  4. Scott-Samuel, Alex. Patriarchy, Masculinities and Health Inequalities. Gac. Sanit., 23:2(2009): pp. 159-160. 
  5. Wallen, Jack. 10 Examples of Gender Bias You May Encounter in the Workplace. Tech Republic, May 7, 2015. Web. Nov 30, 2017. 
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