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Discrimination Against Women in the Workplace


This topic is a multifaceted issue with lots of complexities and gender intertwining. So it is impossible to cover all those aspects in a single article. This is going to be my attempt towards dabbling at explaining this vast topic.

Women got their voting rights after men. Why? Never mind, it is history, dead and gone. But the fairer sex empowerment notwithstanding and its capabilities not underestimated, women 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 I beg to differ (even though I know that I am no Simone de Beauvoir or any other feminist). Perhaps we are still long way from that. (Again, neither am I into staunch feminism or an expert). I am saying this totally on the basis of being a woman. One of the aspects which lead me to believe that, 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. The text to come will try and map this complicated women’s issue.

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 for discrimination 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 workplace 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.
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 women and automatically discrimination of women at work 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 of sorts. In this case though, lot of women’s organizations filed a petition in the Supreme Court, since they were unable to get justice at lower judicial levels. The petition was filed as Vishakha and in 1997, after 5 long 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.

This was about India, but there must have been innumerable incidents of discrimination against women in the workplace all over the world. Poverty-stricken and orthodox societies are credited with having more number of such workplace discrimination 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 women 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 women, yet 95% of senior-level managers, of the top Fortune 1000 industrial and 500 service companies are men. Of them, 97% 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, then what can we say about the plight of women in the Middle East and African and Asian countries?

Various movements have been witnessed by history even in now developed states for equal women’s 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 other women like these 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 gender discrimination in the workplace. It will happen, it is all up to the women. 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.
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