In this article today, we are going to discuss one perennial issue that has remained with businesses for ages. We are going to discuss Gender Discrimination at Work, its nature and types and ways to get rid of this nemesis at the workplace.

What is Gender Discrimination at Work?

An organisation that practises Gender equality, treats men, women, transgender persons and people with other gender identities fairly and equally at work. Gender inequality, on the other hand, comprises a discriminatory work environment that considers gender minorities as inferior or unequal. Gender discrimination occurs when a person is treated differently than their colleagues or job seekers because of their sex or gender. Gender discrimination can occur at any point during the work process, from the hiring interview to retirement.

Some typical examples of gender discrimination at work include the inability to promote, earning lower wages, unfair treatment, being provided less demanding assignments, obtaining less support from supervisors based on gender alone and so on. We will discuss more about them in our subsequent sections. We acknowledge that organisations may have neglected gender imbalance issues due to old company culture, personal biases and attitudes, industry-specific operations and so on. But things are changing slowly but surely and it's time to make a difference.

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Gender Discrimination at Work- India and abroad

Despite advances made in gender equality in the workplace over the years, most studies on this subject reveal that businesses have a long way to go still. According to a new analysis by Oxfam India, gender discrimination accounts for 98% of the employment gap between men and women in urban India. This report titled, 'India Discrimination Report 2022' also said that discrimination causes 100 per cent of employment inequality faced by women in rural areas. women in India face workplace discrimination despite having the same educational qualifications and work experience as males due to cultural and employer prejudices. According to the survey, discrimination accounts for 93% of the wage disparity between men and women.

As per the LinkedIn Opportunity Index 2021, working women in India have been affected more than their international counterparts by the covid-19 epidemic. The study also said that Indian women face the strongest gender inequality among the Asia Pacific countries, struggling for both equal pay and opportunity. The study focused on how women think about opportunities and how the gender gap is further impeding professional advancement for working women in India during the pandemic.

The story is not too 'rosy' on the global front either. According to a 2017 survey by Pew Research Center, 42% of women in the United States have experienced some form of gender discrimination in the workplace. During the survey, 25% of women said that they earned less than a man in the same job. 23% of employed women reported being viewed as if they were incompetent, due to their gender. While 15% of working women reported receiving less assistance from senior leaders than a man doing the same job, only 7% of working men claimed the same. Compared to only 5% of males, 10% of working women believed they were passed over for the most critical responsibilities because of their gender.

Examples of Gender Discrimination at Work

Common examples of gender discrimination at work

While a sizable number of men claim gender discrimination at work, it is still an issue predominantly faced by women. Let's look at some of the most prominent forms of gender discrimination that women experience in the workplace today. This will help us understand what both employers and employees can do to eliminate it.

  • Harassment

Women are more likely to be victims of sexual harassment at work in male-dominated industries. This is cause for concern and one of the primary reasons why working in male-dominated industries may be more difficult for women. Even though it is not inherently sexual, sex/gender discrimination is prevalent in the workplace. Gender-based harassment mostly targets women, transgenders and people who identify as gender nonconforming or non-binary. This sort of workplace harassment typically entails the frequent and harsh use of derogatory phrases directed at women and other gender minorities.

  • Pregnancy discrimination

Organisations may be hesitant to employ female workers due to their potential desire to start families and stay away from the workforce for an extended period of time. Women may be overlooked for promotions and senior positions due to the same reason. Working mothers are still paid less than their male counterparts, regardless of their credentials. Female workers are regularly penalised for taking leaves to give birth or obtain prenatal care.

  • The difference in pay

Many organisations are still not transparent about how much they pay their employees or the criteria used to make these decisions. Nonetheless, Indian law states that it is unlawful for an employer to discriminate against an employee depending on their sex, religion, race, colour, or caste. This means that organisations are not legally permitted to pass on for promotions, or refuse to recruit, terminate or harass their employees based on any of the aforementioned factors. Nonetheless, according to the Pew Research Center research, we cited above, 25% of working women claimed they earned less than a man doing the same job.

  • Representation in senior management

In the 2017 survey by Pew Research Center that we cited above, 10% of working women believed they were passed over for the most critical responsibilities because of their gender. Another barrier to obtaining senior positions, they said, was a lack of access to development work opportunities. Out of work responsibilities and a lack of networking opportunities are two other significant hurdles to advancement to senior management positions in the case of working women.

How Employers Prevent Gender Discrimination at Work 

How can employers prevent gender discrimination at work?

Making your employees feel safe and appreciated is the most effective method to keep them motivated. This, in turn, will allow them to learn new things and grow with the organisation. A discrimination-free workplace is critical to achieving this objective.

Here are some strategies for creating a workplace culture in which gender discrimination will not and cannot exist-

  • Increase transparency in hiring and performance evaluation

Making the hiring and performance evaluation processes as open as possible is a wonderful approach to discourage gender discrimination in the workplace. This will ensure that your employees receive promotions or increased pay exclusively for their hard work and dedication. Clearly define the milestones that employees must meet in order to be considered for senior-level roles.

A little review of your hiring process may do wonders in preventing discrimination in the workplace. You might begin by evaluating job listings with a critical eye before publishing them. Avoid employing phrases with a masculine connotation in your description, such as:

  • Decisive
  • Dominate
  • Competitive
  • Outspoken
  • Rockstar

To remove phrases with overtly feminine tones, discard words like:

  • Loyal
  • Nurturing
  • Collaborative
  • Cooperative
  • Understanding

Words such as these are often associated by our minds with distinct genders. Avoid using gender-charged language in your recruitment and hiring activities.

  • Educate the employees

Make sure everyone in your business understands what gender discrimination is and how to avoid it in the workplace. Using examples and performing activities might help demonstrate the topic. Make it crystal clear that gender bias acts in both directions, not just towards one particular gender. If they receive explicit instruction and description, workers can be better equipped to identify discrimination when they come across or hear it.

Providing sensitivity training to employees will help employers avoid gender-based harassment, as well as the lawsuits that result from such issues. Furthermore, it is critical that your employees feel comfortable addressing their issues and coming to you for solutions. Building trust in the workplace will enable employees to communicate, cooperate and accomplish their daily jobs more effectively.

  • Evaluate & standardize pay

It's important to assess your present pay structure to ensure there are no inconsistencies. People should be compensated the same amount for doing the same task. Women employees should be encouraged to seek raises and promotions at par with their male counterparts. By analysing your compensation patterns, you can identify any inconsistency or blatant bias. You can then take efforts to make your pay structure more progressive and representative of equal pay for equal labour.

  • Introduce zero-tolerance policies

You should draw clear lines and identify actions that will not be permitted in any capacity in the workplace. This is perhaps the greatest strategy to prevent conflictive work environments and resulting lawsuits.

  • Offer flexible work options

The COVID-19 pandemic has emphasized the need for remote work more than ever before. But remote work is just not safer alone; it can help reduce gender discrimination by allowing men and women to work from their preferred location and at a time that is compatible with their other responsibilities.

Flexible work schedules enable organisations to maximise their employees' available and productive hours of the day. It enables employees to create a schedule that works around their other obligations (parental care, childcare, or continuing education). For employers who hire contingent or hourly workers, this could mean giving women more flexibility to work around family obligations. Family-friendly rules and flexibility enable employees to achieve greater autonomy and consistency, enhancing engagement and satisfaction for female employees.

  • Facilitate mentoring programs

It is not always enough to simply encourage women in the workplace. Many people require additional advice and expertise in order to reach their professional goals. According to research, mentorship programmes result in a more diversified work hierarchy. They put a greater spotlight on minorities and women and assist them in climbing the professional ladder through the use of networks, talents, and organisational knowledge.

Mentoring relationships can connect women with senior leaders or colleagues who can enlighten them on the actions and expertise required to advance to the next level of career transition. It is not necessary for these mentors to be of the same gender. Males can benefit from mentoring women because men continue to hold the majority of senior leadership roles in businesses around the world. Modern mentorship fosters a sense of inclusivity, which can help women feel more involved in their workplaces.

How Should Employees Handle Gender Discrimination at Work

How should employees handle gender discrimination at work?

If an employee believes he/she is the victim of gender discrimination at the workplace or he notices that another employee is being discriminated against due to his/her gender he/she has certain responsibilities. It is critical for him/her to be proactive in recognising and reporting cases of discrimination. This will help prevent such instances from occurring in the future.

  • Bring it to the notice of the employer or the HR

You should consider filing an internal complaint if these are not the persons who discriminated against you due to your gender or sex.

  • File complaints with a Government agency

A variety of organizations assist in the enforcement of anti-discrimination laws. Employees must resort to them if the discrimination is coming from the persons who they should file their internal complaints to.

Importance of insurance

Gender discrimination in the workplace is a major issue and if not addressed properly, may be extremely harmful to your organization. If your employees believe they have been discriminated against and decide to file a lawsuit, the legal costs and reputational damage might be substantial. Having the proper risk management plan in place is critical for mitigating these potential costs and damages. Business insurance enables your organization to transfer the financial risk and damage to another third party, the insurer. Insurance covers the financial component of such difficult situations. It also allows your organisation to handle such allegations in an ethical way, with complete regard for the employee's safety and dignity.

Two types of insurance coverages that typically respond to claims of gender discrimination at work are D&O (Directors’ & Officers’) insurance and EPLI (Employment Practices Liability Insurance). EPLI will cover employment-related claims like unfair termination, failure to promote or gender-based discrimination. The policy will cover both the legal fees incurred in defending your company against such allegations, as well as any settlements reached and fines imposed.

However, claims of gender discrimination at work put not only the business at risk. If employees alleging gender discrimination are dissatisfied with how your management handled their complaints, they may decide to sue the company's officers personally. EPLI will not shield your company's directors and top executives if your management is judged personally liable. D&O Insurance may be your saviour in such situations. It is a policy designed to cover the potential legal liabilities of directors, board members and other employees in a management/supervisory capacity-in case they get indicted over the decisions taken by them to manage the business.

This insurance cover protects the personal assets of the directors and officers and compensates them for settlements and legal expenses resulting from such suits and litigations. In addition to this, one or more directors may be looking for D&O insurance before joining the Board of your business. This is to make sure that enough protection is offered by your business to cover any legal liability arising out of a management decision made by them later on. Therefore, if you want to attract some directors of high pedigree to your organization, it’s time you opt for D&O insurance, in case you are not having one already.

Insurers frequently combine these two policies into a single, cost-effective package known as management liability insurance. It allows the organization to eliminate any potential loopholes in coverage.

The footnote: Although it may be difficult to observe significant progress straightaway, organizations are taking initiatives to address gender discrimination in the workplace. However, if we are to achieve or come anywhere near gender parity, we must work hard and persistently. You can use the suggestions above as preliminary steps to make your workplace free of gender discrimination. We have also discussed the role insurance can play while protecting your company from gender discrimination claims.