Gender Discrimination and Equal Pay
After decades of conversations about gender equality, the women’s movement, national legislation, public awareness campaigns and other global initiatives designed to level the playing field between men and women in the workplace, classroom and in society in general – the age-old problem of sex discrimination persists. While more overt forms of sex discrimination may not be so visible in the corporate world, pay inequity based on gender differences is still rampant.
How Might Sex Discrimination Manifest at Your Workplace?
• A male and female employee are performing the exact same task, possess the exact same educational and training background, yet the woman is paid less than the man.
• A female employee is denied time off to attend professional development courses, limiting her chances for advancement through the corporate structure.
• A female worker is required to bring in more billable hours for the same level of pay that is provided to her male counterpart’ who bills fewer hours.
• In spite of her lengthy tenure at the company, a female employee sees male counterparts who spent less time on the job promoted over her.
• The company announces that it needs to tighten its belt and lay off employees, but only female employees, regardless of seniority, are let go of.
What Protects You from Gender Discrimination?
In most of the western world, there are laws to deter discrimination in the workplace, including discrimination based on gender. For instance, the US Equal Pay Act (EPA) requires that women and men performing the same duties receive the same compensation, including: salary, bonuses, overtime pay, vacation and sick days, stock option and retirement plans and any other benefits or compensation afforded on a regular basis to the company’s employees.
In the UK, sexual discrimination is prohibited according to the terms of the Sex Discrimination Act, which forbids discrimination based on gender, marital status or sex change. As in the US, it covers all types of compensation, including: salary and benefits, training and career advancement opportunities, terms and conditions of employment, recruitment strategies and dismissal policies.
What Should You Do if You Are a Victim of Sex Discrimination at Work?
1. Document your experience. Create a diary that includes the dates, times and nature of each act of sexual discrimination that you experience. If you experience sexual harassment, try to collect statements from co-workers who witnessed the incident.
2. Take up the matter with management. Be sure to put it in writing and save all the written communication that passes between you and management. If you feel that there is a corporate culture of sexual discrimination, then this approach will most likely not yield results.
3. Utilize your advocates. If there is a trade union or a professional organization representing your particular line of work, turn to them. They may be able to intervene on your behalf with management and resolve the matter without legal action.
4. Take legal action. File a case against your employer with the legal authorities, according to the statutes that are intended to protect you. There are many employment discrimination advocacy groups and pro-bono legal organizations fighting issues of sex discrimination who will be happy to help you.