What does the Research Say about Gender Discrimination in the Workplace?

Introduction

   This paper discusses what the research says in regards to gender discrimination in the workplace. In the course of the discussion, it will clarify and give the importance of gender discrimination, and present the findings from the previous investigations and research. It will, also, present relations, contradictions, gaps, and inconsistencies in the research.  Finally, the paper will elaborate where further research is needed in respect to gender discrimination in the workplace. Historically, the human resources department in any organization or workplace is charged with the responsibilities of recruiting, staffing, training, motivating, developing and making sure that employees are well maintained (Miller, 2006).

This is supposed to give employees equal opportunities to reach their potentials competitively in an unbiased work environment. This implies that mostly the males were expected to work in order to feed their families. Females had traditional roles of bearing children and taking care of homes. This was largely supported by the social norms of the time, which could not allow them to go to work (Eatzaz & Amtul, 2007). However, with the changing times, workplaces in the contemporary times have become heterogeneous, or in other words, diversity in the workplace has increased. Workplace, in the current times, requires accommodating both men and women, even if this diversity has had its own challenges. Unfair discrimination on the basis of gender has become an issue of great concern owing to the inadequacy in the level of skills needed to manage diversity. It is significant to note that the world has had workplace discrimination as one of the most frequently discussed issue.

Gender Discrimination in the Workplace and its Importance

Gender discrimination in the workplace implies differential treatment in respect to employment opportunities such as pay, privileges, benefits and promotions, and other expectations on the basis of the sex of an employee. In the United States, there are a number of laws that prohibit gender discrimination in the workplace: the Equal Pay Act of 1963; the Federal Law; and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Erik & Marita, 2006). However, despite the existence of these protections, gender discrimination continues being a critical problem in most workplaces.      

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            According to Gregory (2002), both men and women receive different treatment in the workplace. On some occasions women receive better treatment than men while other times men receive favorable treatment as compared to women. Therefore, gender discrimination happens both ways; however, evidence in the existing research indicates that women are the most frequent victims of gender discrimination in the workplace. Even though there already preexisting gender dissimilarities between the male and female employees before going to work, usually, differential treatment to these employees happens because of the inaccurate views that exist. It is, therefore, essential to note that documentation of such forms of gender discrimination is significant as it can assist to understand the psychological process that can result into gender discrimination at work. Mogan (2006) argues that in order to comprehend the experiences of both men and women in the workplace, it is essential to consider factors that exist outside workplace environment such as cultural and social. It is by going to this extent that industrial or organizational psychologists can acquire sufficient comprehension of the various phenomena that contribute to gender discrimination in the workplace. This will enable them to know the interventions they require establishing in order to address prejudices created by discrimination.

            According to Ozbilgin and Syed (2010), the legal approaches to sex discrimination are emphasized by the traditional definitions of workplace gender discrimination. In the existing research findings, there is sufficient evidence indicating that, actually, gender discrimination in the workplace is real. In the United States; for instance, there are two fundamental forms of evidence that define gender discrimination. According to Dipboye and Colella (2004), the first one is disparate treatment, which happens when people receive unequal treatment due to their membership in particular groups. An instance of dissimilar treatment is where an employer declines to hire a female person because of her gender. Other instances include employers offering lower starting salary to a female employee because she is a woman; asking female applicants different questions from the ones male applicants answered during an interview; and being unwilling to allow a woman take career-track positions (Budworth & Mann, 2010). In this regard, disparate treatment on the basis of gender leads to a particular group of gender being unfavorably affected by various procedures and workplace practices that employers implement while making workplace decisions. In most cases, employers argue that some of these procedures do not intend to discriminate employees on the basis of their gender; they possess an impact of offering proportionately more positions to men than women. The second form is disparate impact gender discrimination, which occurs mostly whenever the policy of the company omits particular people from jobs and/or promotions (Byrd & Scott, 2014). Although the design of the company policy  does not intend for such exclusions, such omissions of people of a particular gender from enjoying organizational outcomes becomes unfair and results into gender discrimination in the workplace.  

Previous Investigations and Research  

            According to the observations of Powell (2010), evidence from most studies approach the problem of gender discrimination in the workplace in two basic ways:

  1. comparison of organizational outcomes for men and women where the observed gender differences enriches the recognition that such dissimilarities could be items of other preexistent variances between the groups representing job-related justifications for such decisions at workplace. These include differences in career aspiration, work experience, education level, qualifications and many other considerations.
  2. The second approach is through examination of decisions made regarding workers of job candidates who are similar in various respects, but different in terms of gender. Evidence arising from comparison of the behavior of people who make decisions indicates that there is always differential treatment, which, in most cases, disadvantages women more than men.

Therefore, irrespective of the manner in which researchers assess gender discrimination in the workplace, sufficient evidence exists indicating that both male and female employees have different outcomes and experiences in the workplace environments (Hitt & Miller, 2008). Such differences are clear on objective indicators like salary and pay, and are usually reflected in various personnel procedures as well as in the presumed perception of those employees who should be targeted when it comes to gender discrimination.   

Differences in Workplace or Organizational Access

            Gender bias in selection, recruitment as well as development opportunities establishes a critical antecedent to gender dissimilarities in access to various kinds of workplace or organizational outcomes such as promotion and salary. In respect to the views of Tormes and Allen (2012), there are contradictory findings between laboratory experiments and field reports regarding gender discrimination during selection and recruitment. In 1980s; for instance, researchers conducted a meta-analysis, which found that gender discrimination during selection went to extreme levels in cases where decision makers did not have sufficient information regarding job applicants except their gender (Yukongdi, 2009).

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In respect to selection and recruitment process, various research findings indicate that both the processes of interviews and interviews outcomes are prejudiced against female applicants. In this respect; however, possibilities are there that the type of job may be the basis for moderating the effects of gender during interviews; for instance, females applying for jobs in the fields where men are dominant can easily encounter discrimination during interviews. The findings in the existing research, also, indicate that physical characteristics among women form the basis of gender discrimination in the workplace. For instance, female applicants who are physically attractive are more likely to be advantaged over their male co-applicants (Lipschultz, 2002). In terms development opportunities, the research findings indicate that, even considerations of job level, experience, and education, women are less likely than men to obtaining management training. However, contrary to other findings of the research, female employees are more likely than their male counterparts to be mentored                                                    

Differences in Advancement and Pay

            The existing research findings indicate that men hold more influential and prestigious jobs, receive higher starting salary, advance more quickly, and are more likely to benefit from job changes and transfers than women (Ziaullah, 2008). In most cases, the differences in the careers, occupations, and jobs held by women and men, in one way or another, contribute to the dissimilarities in the salary and rewards. This causes women to make less money on a consistent basis as compared to their male counterparts working in the same industry. It is, also, significant to note that as women grow older, the proportion of their salaries becomes less as compared to that of men. Due to gender discrimination in the workplace, women do not benefit from regular promotions as men do. This is one of the reasons why the pay between male and female employees continues widening. In addition, the present research findings indicate that differences in salary and pay are wider at the top than at the bottom. For instance, citing a case in the United States, Gilliland (2007) asserts that female programming managers earn 98% of the salaries of their male counterparts while female directors working in the same company earn 82 % of the salaries of their male counterparts.    

Differences in Performance Evaluation

            This is a unique area in the context of gender discrimination in the workplace. It is one of the few areas where workplaces or organizations make critical decisions and judgments that lack systematic bias against women on the basis of performance appraisal. However, some researchers hold the views that performance appraisal, which men and women receive should be dissimilar. This is because they believe that most job supervisors are men who are stereotypic of some jobs fitting males better than females (Gilliland, 2007).  However, when it comes to decisions that may have a lot of long-term significance to the organization or an individual, performance appraisal may reflect an underlying propensity and bias to discriminate against women in the workplace.

Differences in Perceived Treatment

            Evidence from the existing research indicates that gender discrimination at workplace; also, occurs in form of sexual harassment. According to Rivers and Barnett (2013), approximately 15% of employed women have reported sexual harassment at workplace in order to enjoy organizational outcomes such as hiring, salary increment, promotions and many others. It is, also, worth noting that differences in cultural and political environments are critical for affecting perception in regard to gender discrimination in the workplace. This is because national differences in equal employment enforcement, equal employment legislation, and education level reflect in differential views regarding the magnitude to which gender influences a number of decisions at workplace.  

Differences in the Experience of Work

            The findings from the existing research indicate that male and female employees have dissimilar experiences in their workplace. According to Tormes and Allen (2012), the most commonly known dissimilarity in experiences of these two groups of employees is sexual harassment in the environment of work. The research goes further to classify sexual harassment into three key forms, which are verbal requests, nonverbal displays, and verbal comments. Verbal requests entail relational and sexual pressures or advances. Nonverbal displays entail sexual posturing as well as sexual assault. Finally, verbal comments entail objectification and personal remarks. Studies by various researchers indicate that a large proportion of female employees continue experiencing some kind of sexual harassment, which is a form of gender discrimination in the workplace (Loi & Hine, 2015). It is significant to take note of the occurrence of experiences such as these because a broad range of adversarial effects of employment associated with sexual harassment are job dissatisfaction, absenteeism, decreased morale, job loss, reduced opportunities for advancement, and decreased productivity. In fact, the existing research findings indicate that sexual harassment costs various organizations millions of dollars in hundreds every year as a result of decreased efficiency, health care costs, and lost productivity (Truss & Alfas, 2013). Besides, there are various psychological outcomes that have been associated with sexual harassment: they include crying spells, nausea, eating and sleep disorders, and stress.

Discrimination and the Work Environment for Women

            The consequences resulting from discrimination extends beyond female employees’ lack of access to both informal and formal resources through their perceptions of, and experiences in, workplace environments. In respect to the views of Day and Kelloway (2014), most female employees who experience discrimination, or witness their colleagues being affected by it display less engagement or reduced morale in their work. Additional research findings indicate that many employees across various industries and jobs indicate that minority employees and females encounter three main sources of discrimination in the workplace: organizations, coworkers and supervisors (Timberlake, 2005). Most female employees claim that organization practices and policies are discriminative against them. The findings, also, indicate that supervisors discriminate against female employees on the basis of their gender. In many places, female employees less likely involve in citizenship behaviors of the organization whenever they report incidents of discrimination from, mostly, male coworkers.

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            Perceived gender discrimination in the workplace in the form decision making impacts negatively across all cultures. For instance, the more female employees in Hong Kong, Beijing, and the United States experience gender-based discrimination, the less they become committed to the organizations, the less satisfied they become with their jobs, and the stronger is their intention to vacate their jobs (Channar, 2012). It is significant to note that gender discrimination in the workplace is a clear representation of an organizational problem, which is greater than the impacts it has on female employees who actually experience the discrimination. Generally, more women than men continue assessing their organizational experiences and organizations with a lot of negativity even when some of them have not, personally, experienced gender discrimination in the workplace (Gottfried & Reese, 2008). The perception of women is that their workplaces are less inclusive and mostly unfair to them as compared to the male counterparts.   

Effects of Gender Discrimination in the Workplace

Promotions

            Consideration of conventional views in respect to gender can influence supervisors or managers to embrace illegal procedures of passing over some people for promotion on the basis of gender. Although this scenario can occur to both genders, employers prefer passing over women for promotion owing to their biased notions regarding their abilities and roles (Dalaat, 2007). Sometimes employers think that men naturally perform better in some jobs than women e.g. firefighting. In the context of promotions, it is significant to note that gender

discrimination in the workplace applies to both genders. For instance in some cases, employers may pass over male employees for promotion due to the physical attractiveness of a particular female employee. Besides, men can, also, be left out of promotion in industries whose primary activities entail caring for young children.

Lost Productivity

            It should be clear that gender discrimination in the workplace causes the affected employees to lose morale and motivation essential for effective performance of their job or duties. This, in turn, leads to loss in productivity. Other incidence that can limit an employee’s motivation include making jokes that imply that employee’s quality of work is low because of his/her gender, aggressive jokes of a sexual nature, and jokes that imply inferiority of an employee’s gender CITATION.   

Destruction

            According to (Channar, 2012), the victims of discrimination may develop a strong feeling of resentment as well as deprivation of self-worth to the extent that they fall into destruction as a way of revenge against the discriminatory coworkers or employer. Manifestation of destruction can happen in form of property destruction, physical violence against other people or spreading mischievous information regarding a particular workplace.

Family Responsibilities

In most cases, employers are prohibited by the law against asking interviewees questions regarding family responsibilities. In this regard, therefore, it is possible that some employers may decline hiring a capable female candidate on the grounds that she might not devote her time to the job. In a case where she has young children, the employer thinks that she will be overwhelmed by both job and home responsibilities (Duffy, 2014). In the event that such a woman progresses into the interviewed position and the employer checks to find out if she signed her young children up on benefits such as insurance, the he may possibly opt to offer her menial or less responsibilities that do not suit the description of her job.            

Relations, Contradictions, Gaps and Inconsistencies in the Research

Factors Contributing to Gender discrimination in the Workplace

            There are a lot of inconsistences or gaps in the existing research in regards to factors that create a gender-biased environment in the workplace. There is need for more research into this area of the study in order to help address gender discrimination issues comprehensively (Moreau, 2014). It is significant to note that most causes of gender discrimination begin operating the moment a female person decides to engage in employment or to search for work. During this stage, such a potential employee begins pondering over a number of issues such as the nature of work, bargaining power, workload and employment capabilities (Boland, 2005). All these thoughts or considerations complicate a woman’s preference of occupation right from the start. There is sufficient evidence attesting that most women either willing to join the job market or already working make many complaints regarding these issues that threaten their employability.

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A lot of other factors, also, exist that weaken women’s position in the labour market and, in turn, lead to gender discrimination in the place of work. This is due to insufficient institutional effort made for the sake of improving the scope and powers of women in employment (Duffy, 2014). For instance, even in the present policy documents and laws, certain establishments such as factories are not favorable workplaces for women. In addition, the existing research seems to overlook the choices made by the people who complain or victims of gender discrimination in the workplace. There are a number of choices that women make at their workplaces propagate inequalities in income levels between their male counterparts and them, which is, also, an aspect of gender discrimination. Some of these choices include:

  1. More often, male more than female employees prefer embracing an executive’s workaholic behavior in order to rise to executive positions;      
  2. Women make frequent choices to quit their jobs for a few years in order to bear and raise children and this contributes to their low income statistics especially for the years or duration they do not report to work (Annis & Merron, 2014). Furthermore, the experience of mothering influences many women to change and, as result, most of them never go back to the job track;
  3. In most cases, female employees prefer making gender workplace decisions or choices in order to circumvent physical jobs;     
  4. On an average basis, female entrepreneurs prefer charging less compared to what their male counterparts would;
  5. The cultural environment is favorable for men to achieve their goals and therefore improve their earning power more than it does for women;
  6. In most cases women prefer advancing their degrees in areas that land them in low paying jobs such as social welfare (O’Brien, 2008).    

Forms of Gender Discrimination at Workplace

            Studies regarding gender discrimination require being thorough enough in order to give more definitions to the forms of gender bias or discrimination in the workplace. This is because gender discrimination especially against women is an old habit that has, for a long time, been in the society. However, it was not until a few years ago that radical and significant changes in respect to treatment of women began getting noticed. In spite of the presence of positive movements that call for gender equality, a non-discriminatory justice system is far from being achieved (Crosby & Stockdale, 2007). Discrimination continues diminishing the potentials of women in the workplace even in the current world that is full of modern judgment, and where women continue engaging their active participation in various aspects of a nation’s life. Gender discrimination at workplaces may be categorized from varying perspectives. More often, classification is based on the kinds of treatments, which female employees receive at their places of work. According to Florence (2011), these categories are: a) personal bias, b) pecuniary bias, c) biasness as to opportunities, and d) authority bias.

Personal Bias

            This is a situation where favoring some of the workers or employees in the workplace stimulates an unfriendly environment for discriminated employees mostly women. In most cases some female employees experience discrimination because of the biased activities and attitudes of the superior authority towards other female employees in the same workplace (Williams & Dellinger, 2010). In such cases junior female employees are more likely to experience discrimination as compared to senior female employees in the same workplace.

Pecuniary Bias

            This is the most common form of discrimination that almost all women encounter in the workplace. It usually occurs in the process of establishing payment structures by relevant authority and it is realized during payment time (Williams & Dellinger, 2010). In many countries, female employees working in low paying jobs such as factory workers are the most affected victims. Such females are discriminated in terms of salaries. In other cases such as domestic jobs, security guards earn a higher salary than maids (house helps), yet they are all casual employees. This is a form of pecuniary gender discrimination in the workplace.   

Biasness as to Opportunities

            As mentioned earlier in this paper, there are obstacles in respect to the idea of similar opportunities for men and women in the workplace or employment. In most cases, a woman’s idea in regards to her choice of a suitable employment usually is an indication of the consequences of a country’s socio-economic status (Bartlett & Rhode, 2010). In this context, one of the greatest obstacles that female employees encounter is their limited acquisition or access to productive resources. The main causes of most of these scenarios lie in the social context. Right from childhood, families nature boys to feel superior to the girls, and this influences them to contextualize inequality and prejudice in their later years of professional life (Williams & Dellinger, 2010). For instance, in factories and other industrial establishments, women are bound to be contented with entry-level jobs. It is usually difficult for them to secure mid-level or other managerial positions. In many cases, even the most educated women do not acquire an opportunity to demonstrate their potentials to run organizations and other co-operate institutions.       

Authority Bias

            This is a form of discrimination where employers make decisions that facilitate reservation of powerfully influential positions for male employees. It is apparent in many workplaces that women are given fewer subordinates to supervise as compared to their male counterparts. Besides, some sections such as financial resources are more likely to be under the control of men. However, there is always an underlying fear in these scenarios where men discriminate women in the workplace. Men restrict women from taking over powerful job positions because of fear of being outperformed in the same assignments (Kaushik & Sharma, 2014).  In addition, men think that when women earn equal salaries as theirs, they will insist on much more equality in various other contexts such as national, political, community and family life. This exclusion of women from authoritative positions is partly due to the fact that female employees do not possess the volume of human capital that men have. In addition, women do not have the capacity to work for long hours as it is the demand associated with authoritative positions (Williams & Dellinger, 2010). Considering the finite nature of energy levels, women possess less energy for the job than men because they, also, devote the same energies in taking care of domestic responsibilities. 

Further Research Needed   

            Gender discrimination operates within societal imbalances of power. It limits the capacity to access opportunities in various fields such as workplaces, corporate positions, education, politics and any other areas that accommodate gender diversity. Further research is needed to help address the issues of religious values and family culture in the context of gender discrimination. This is because most women in many parts of the world claim that the root causes of their discrimination experiences lie with the values of religion and family culture (Yang & Li, 2009). Further research is, also, needed to establish if employers in the job market have adapted the psychology to embrace discriminatory attitudes in employment especially in terms of job outcomes. This is because if such a development occur without considerable awareness and knowledge, it becomes difficult to avoid gender discrimination in the workplace. There are a number of laws that prohibit gender discrimination in the workplace: the Equal Pay Act of 1963, The Federal Law; and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that should offer protection against gender discrimination. Despite the presence of these laws, gender discrimination in the workplace continues happening. Further research, therefore, is needed to establish inconsistencies in these laws that limit their effectiveness to combat gender discrimination in the workplace. Furthermore, further research is needed to establish if the following recommendations can assist to reduce the prevalence of gender discrimination in the workplace:     

  1. Embracing continues monitoring in order to eradicate gender discrimination in the workplace;
  2. Proposing dimensions of gender equality to be integrated into national development budgeting and planning;
  3. NGOs and governmental departments require conducting regular statistics and surveys;
  4. There should be establishment of ownership rights, civil liberties, and family codes for women;
  5. Continuous improvement of gender equality knowledge and awareness;
  6. Women’s coefficients of education and work experience should be improved to reasonable extents;
  7. The government requires ensuring that all areas of economic development have a supervisory authority for women that is steady;
  8. Different workplaces or organizations should have elaborate specific service rules for qualifications required at entry level, promotions and any other job position.  

Conclusion

Gender discrimination in the workplace implies differential treatment in respect to employment opportunities such as pay, privileges, benefits and promotions, and other expectations on the basis of the sex of an employee. Gender discrimination happens both ways; however, evidence in the existing research indicates that women are the most frequent victims of gender discrimination in the workplace. There are two basic forms of gender discrimination in the workplace: the first one is disparate treatment, which happens when people receive unequal treatment due to their membership in particular groups. The second form is disparate impact gender discrimination, which occurs mostly whenever the policy of the company omits particular people from jobs and/or promotions. The consequences resulting from discrimination extends beyond female employees’ lack of access to both informal and formal resources through their perceptions of, and experiences in, workplace environments. Gender discrimination operates within societal imbalances of power. It limits the capacity to access opportunities in various fields such as workplaces, corporate positions, education, politics and any other areas that accommodate gender diversity. Further research is needed to help address the issues of religious values and family culture in the context of gender discrimination. This is because most women in many parts of the world claim that the root causes of their discrimination experiences lie with the values of religion and family culture.

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