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Tackling Female Discrimination In a Workplace and Addressing The Gender Wage Gap.

Updated: Dec 1, 2022

From the well-developed multi-cultural cities of London to the rural villages of India; discrimination is one of the most pressing issues faced globally. Discrimination based on race, religion, colour, age, sexual orientation and gender are abundant in today's world and it is either swept aside or radically normalized. In the current world of change and development, awareness is prioritized, and awareness is our light at the end of this dark tunnel.

Gender discrimination, also known as gender bias, is the unequal treatment of individuals based on their gender including any action that declines opportunities and/ or rewards to an individual based on their gender. Ranging from hurtful and offensive jokes, to sexual abuse, gender discrimination is illegal and can lead to anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, can break interpersonal relationships and ruin reputations and careers and cause long lasting repercussions.

So where does Gender discrimination start? It starts with what society has taught kids on how they are supposed to behave based on their gender and it plays a vital role in gender discrimination. Young boys are taught to be strong, tall and natural leaders while girls are told to be quiet, caring and emotional. This leads to women not standing their ground and being underestimated; all leading to oppression and mental health issues. It deprives people of the opportunity to freely express themselves and adds barriers between who you are taught to be and who you wish to be. Women are put on a pedestal with a spotlight, set out to be an example, for instance, in certain government sectors in Sri Lanka, it is compulsory for women to wear saree in order to preserve our culture and tradition although men wear westernized attires.

Be it culture, tradition or lack of equal gender representation, many things influence gender discrimination, especially against women. Despite some cultural discrimination in the Asian region, there are certain situations where this has been overcome. For example, there is this stigmatization of Muslim women who work because people think they would rather be at home but in reality, 8 out of 49 Muslim-majority states have had a female president. Pakistan’s parliament consists 20.6% of females and they appointed Benazir Bhutto as Prime Minister for a total of 5 years in office. 27.7% of Afghanistan’s legislative body is women, exceeding the international average while the US have never had a female head of state and 19.9% of their legislative body are women.

Female discrimination can be seen in education, sports, media, politics and in workplace. Although gender discrimination in the workplace may come in various forms, it’s commonly women who are being discriminated against. For example,

- Less than 5% of CEOs at S&P 500 companies are females. (skill crush)

- Women earn around 20% less than men. (skill crush)

- 42% of women have faced gender discrimination at work. (Pew Research Center)

- 25% of women have made, 25% less than men for the same job. (Pew Research Center)

On the topic of women earning less, one of the most prominent issues in a workplace of almost any field is the gender wage gap. Although it is rumored to be a myth, this gap is very real. The wage gap is the difference in the amount of compensation women earn, in comparison to the amount that men earn. The average global gender pay gap is 17% and The International Labor Organization proved that the gender pay gap around the globe ranges from 3% to 51%.There are many reasons for this gap; the Human Rights Careers revealed that 25% of women don’t finish elementary school. Two-thirds of the total number of illiterate people across the globe are women and gender discrimination facts received through extensive research confirm that the education gap between young men and women will and already have impacted their future. In addition, since the majority of the world’s population is women, a large portion of a country’s work force is held back. Women’s economic empowerment increases productivity and economic diversification. For instance, if we were to increase the female employment rates in OECD countries to match Sweden’s female employment rates, it could increase the GDPs by over 6 trillion USD.

In other situations, there are women who have received quality education and can be successful in their respective careers, but instead of working hard to achieve what they want to, they settle for less because they feel that it is their duty to start a family and care and nurture for it, no matter what she has to sacrifice

because that’s what she was taught to do. You can clearly see the victimized mindset in these situations where discrimination has psychologically affected women to a point where they bring these stereotypes upon themselves. This reduces the global work productivity and the GDP, but it also gave rise to the Feminist Movement, which fights for gender equality.

Building on this, gender discrimination is introduced to the economy. For instance, the pink tax. This is a form of gender-based price discrimination, its name deriving from the fact that majority of the products included are pink. There is a trend where products advertised toward women tend to be more expensive than those marketed for men, even though both genders purchase these products. This is simply known as the extra amount women pay for basic everyday products like shampoo, razors, haircuts and clothes. However, the New Rice University research has discovered that the pink tax is comparatively lower in countries where women are elected to political office.

The Human Rights Careers discovered that female politicians fill only 24.3% of seats in parliaments worldwide. According to the Pew Research Center, women often have higher voting rates than men in many countries despite the fact that women lack political representation, especially in countries like Sri Lanka. Female representation in politics and governments is critical since women can promote the discussion of certain problems such as gender inequality, gender-based violence and child-care that male politicians have a habit of disregarding and we have never seen anything more ridiculous than that a group of men discussing maternity leave, pregnancy, and women’s health. Having a seat at the table matters in order to make sure your basic rights and needs are provided and protected. However, political representation alone isn’t always enough.

It begs the question, what else can we do to make it enough? There are many simple and easy-to-implement solutions such as:

01. Support women into more senior roles. Considering the fact that only 10% of female workers have a mentor (source- Built-In), this could be a bit of a tough one, yet possible.

02. Standardize pay regardless of the race, religion, colour and gender of the employee

03. Provide sufficient training by mentors to all employees, regardless of their gender.

04. Promote a meritocratic work environment where ideas come from all levels, genders, colours and races and opinions are heard and respected.

05. Implement gender neutral job recruitment processes. Companies such as Unilever and Vodafone have successfully used blind evaluation processes by including work sample tests, neuro-scientific tests of the applicant’s aptitude and skills, etc. We could also standardize interviews and anonymize resumes.

Women have suffered for decades simply because they have been underestimated and considered incompetent when compared to a man. The worst part of this type of discrimination is that it has been so instilled in our culture that women themselves put each other down. Female empowerment is spoken about in Sri Lanka, but so far, there hasn’t been much implementation although improvements are being made. Gender discrimination in a workplace doesn’t only include the unequal treatment between men and women but also the gender wage gap, pink tax, low female political representation and so much more. The current statistics on female discrimination are scary, but we are capable of changing this. Change is possible by making a stand and that’s how we start. People must be taught that their gender doesn’t define their capabilities and that everyone should be allowed to follow their dreams despite their gender, race or religion.

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