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Gender Inequality in the Workplace

Gender Inequality in the Workplace

Despite laws and regulations designed to prohibit discrimination and guarantee opportunity, the origins of gender inequality are deeply ingrained in our society. While progress has been made over the years, there's still work to be done.

In this article, we'll take a look at some of the statistics on gender inequality at work, and explore some of the reasons why it persists. We'll also discuss some strategies for overcoming these barriers and achieving parity.

What Is Gender Inequality in the Workplace?

Gender inequality at work is the term used to describe the disparities that exist between men and women in terms of their roles, responsibilities, and access to resources and opportunities.

Women are often paid less than men for doing the same job, are given fewer opportunities for promotion and advancement, and are more likely to be segregated into lower-paying occupations. Here are some statistics to illustrate this:

  • In the US, the average woman earned 81.6 cents to every dollar men earned in 2018.
  • The pay gap is wider for women of color than for white women. 1
  • At the start of 2020, women held 38% of managerial positions, compared to 62% of men in the US. 2
  • In Australia, in 2022, among young women, 48.3% have a bachelor's degree or above, compared to 36.1% of young men, however, the gender pay gap is 23.8% in favor of men.
  • In addition, 22.3% of Australian governing bodies and boards have no female bosses. 3
  • In the UK, the gender pay gap increased to 15.4%, from 14.9% for all employees in 2020, and was especially high among employees older than 40. 4
  • Sexual gender harassment is an issue that is faced largely by women. The #MeToo movement has helped to shed light on the issue of sexual harassment in many industries.

Given these facts, it is clear that addressing gender inequalities at work requires comprehensive solutions that address both the individual and structural barriers that women face.

What Causes Gender Inequality in the Workplace?

While some of these disparities may be attributable to individual choices or qualifications, research has shown that they are largely structural in nature, reflecting long-standing patterns of discrimination and exclusion. Here we list some of the main causes of gender inequalities at work:

  • Gender stereotypes. It includes deeply ingrained beliefs that women are not as capable as their male counterparts, either intellectually or physically. This can lead employers to believe that women are not suited for certain types of work or that they will be less productive employees.
  • Working a "double shift" at home. Responsibility for childcare and household duties can make it difficult for them to commit to full-time work. In the US, for example, 54% of women compared to 22% of men report doing most of the housework. 5
  • Rise of automation. As automation increasingly takes over routine tasks in the workplace, women are at risk of being disproportionately affected. That's because, historically, women have been concentrated in sectors like office and administrative work, where they are more likely to be replaced by machines.
  • Fear of asking to be paid what you’re worth. According to Katie Donovan, the founder of Equal Pay Negotiation, only 30% of women negotiate their pay compared to 46% of men. This could result in up to $2 million lost in revenue over a lifetime for an average woman. 6

What Are the Effects of Gender Inequality in the Workplace?

The effects of gender inequalities at work can be far-reaching and destructive. Here are some of them:

  • Exacerbated mental health issues. When women are not given the same opportunities as men or are paid less for the same work, it can lead to feelings of frustration and worthlessness. Given the already high levels of stress that many women face in the workplace, unequal treatment of sexes can enhance these stressors.
  • Reduced productivity. When women feel devalued or harassed at work, they are less likely to be engaged with their job. This can lead to lower quality work or even absenteeism. In addition, when women are not given leadership roles, companies miss out on the valuable perspective that women can bring to the table.
  • Poverty and less retirement security. Even though poverty affects both sexes, women are often paid less than men for doing the same job, and they are often shut out of high-paying jobs altogether. They are also more likely to take time out of the workforce to care for children or aging parents. As a result, women have less money to put away for retirement savings, and they are more likely to rely on social security benefits when they retire.
  • Damaged company reputation. First, it can create a negative image of the company as an employer. This can discourage potential employees from applying to the company, and it can also make it more difficult to attract top talent. In addition, relationships with customers suffer as many people are now more aware of issues like pay disparities and tend to choose services of more diverse and inclusive organizations.

Examples of Gender Inequality in the Workplace

Here we list two famous cases of gender discrimination at work that will hopefully lead the way for more fair treatment of other women at work.

The Ledbetter vs. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. Case, 2007

A female supervisor Lilly Ledbetter was paid less than her male co-workers holding similar positions at a Goodyear factory - and the discrimination lasted for over 20 years. When Ledbetter finally filed a complaint with the EEOC, the Supreme Court argued that she filed the complaint too late. She was told she should have complained when her first paycheck arrived.

Eventually, after a tough battle, Ledbetter won the case and received $3.3 million in compensation. Two years later, President Barack Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 which states that discriminatory pay or decisions can be filed as complaints without any time restriction. 7

Stacey Macken vs. BNP Paribas London Branch case, 2019

Ms. Macken stated that she was a victim of sexist behavior by her boss when she started her employment at BNP Paribas bank branch in London. Ms. Macken claimed that she was often dismissed by him in a rude manner - he often replied to her requests by "not now, Stacey." As a result, many of her male colleagues also started using the phrase.

She also claimed that she was being paid considerably less than her male counterparts. Despite her experience and senior status, she received a £120,000 starting salary, while a male colleague who was hired with the same job title got £160,000, and received seven times more bonuses in the coming year. When she complained, her male colleagues left a black Halloween witch’s hat on her desk as a drunken joke.

Ms. Macken sued her employer and received compensation of over £2 million. This case has made headlines in the UK and raised awareness about sexism and unfair treatment of workers based on their gender. 8

Importance of Gender Equality in the Workplace

Equal treatment of both sexes is not only important for employee morale, but it can also have a positive impact on productivity and profitability.

When men and women are able to work together on an equal footing, they are able to share ideas and perspectives more freely, leading to better decision-making. In addition, gender diversity helps to foster a more creative and innovative environment, as diverse perspectives are brought to the table.

Finally, as shown below, studies have demonstrated that companies with gender-diverse management teams tend to outperform their competitors.

Benefits of Gender Equality in the Workplace

Here are some figures that demonstrate the concrete benefits of equal treatment of both sexes at work:

  • Analysis of 21,980 firms from 91 countries revealed that the presence of women in corporate leadership may improve firm performance. 9
  • A 2019 study found that companies that promote gender equality by having gender-diverse executive teams have 25 percent more above-average profitability than companies with low gender diversity.
  • In the same study, it was found that organizations with more than a third of women executives outperformed companies where the number of female executives ranged from 10 to 30%. 10

Solutions to Gender Inequality in the Workplace

While the business world has made great strides in solving the lack of gender equality, there is still much work to be done. For true gender equality to be shown in the workplace, these issues must be identified, prevented from occurring, and stopped at the source.

How Do You Address Gender Inequality in the Workplace?

The first step in addressing inequality between sexes is determining the root of the issue:

  • Review policies and procedures in place regarding equal treatment of employees. This means that all employees, regardless of gender, should be treated fairly and equally in terms of pay, promotions, and opportunities for advancement.
  • Ensure that job descriptions and requirements are free from bias. This means avoiding using gendered language and instead opting for neutral terms when describing the skills and qualifications needed for a role.
  • Review salaries and benefits packages to ensure that there is parity between men and women. Require your organization to report their salary data by gender. This would help to identify whether it is paying tall employees fairly.

How Can Gender Inequality Be Prevented in the Workplace?

Once you identify the areas of unfair treatment, take these preventive measures:

  • Provide diversity training for all employees on what constitutes gender discrimination and sexual harassment, and create clear policies regarding reporting the offenders.
  • Implement diverse hiring practices such as blind resume reviews or interviewing equal numbers of female and male applicants.
  • Providing child care, paid parental leave and flexible work arrangements can help to level the playing field for working mothers.

How Can Gender Inequality Be Stopped in the Workplace?

If you spot instances of lack of gender equality at work, there are a few things you can do to help combat it:

  • Speak up if you witness sexist behavior or comments. This sends a clear message that this behavior is not acceptable.
  • Support women who are victims of gender discrimination. This can include standing up for them if they are treated unfairly, or simply lending an ear if they need to talk about their experiences.
  • Be an advocate for change within your organization. This may involve talking to your boss or human resources department about ways to improve workplace equality, or suggesting new policies or practices that would help to level the playing field.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does Gender Inequality Still Exist in the Workplace?

Despite women earning more college and graduate degrees than men and entering the workforce at higher levels than ever before, they still earn less than men in many industries, and they are often passed over for promotions in favor of less qualified male candidates.

Moreover, even though it's becoming less and less acceptable, sexual harassment and discrimination are still problems in many workplaces.

Finally, while the situation among white women is getting better, women of color seem to still be highly affected.

How Does Gender Inequality in the Workplace Affect Society?

Lack of gender equality at work has a ripple effect that extends far beyond individual businesses or families.

When women are given greater opportunities in the workforce, they invest more in their children's education and health, which in turn leads to better outcomes for society as a whole.

Additionally, gender discrimination at work reinforces the idea that women are inferior to men and that their work is worth less.

Finally, unfair treatment based on gender can lead to discrimination against other women in the workplace, as well as discourage girls from pursuing careers in male-dominated fields.

What Is Masculinity in Gender Equality?

For centuries, masculinity has been defined by certain traits and behaviors that are typically associated with men, such as being strong, tough, stoic, and unemotional.

There is nothing inherently wrong with these traits, however, they can become problematic when they are used to work against gender equality and excuse discrimination or violence against vulnerable groups, such as women of color or members of the LGBTQ+ community.

In addition, this narrow view of masculinity excludes a large number of men who do not fit neatly into these categories. As society has become more accepting of different types of masculinities, the definition of what it means to be a man has become much more inclusive.

Today, masculinity can be whatever a man wants it to be, whether that is traditional or something entirely new. This shift is freeing for men and helps to create a more diverse and gender-equal world for everyone.

What Is a Gender Segregated Workplace?

A gender-segregated workplace is an organization where people are divided into different types of workplaces according to their gender identity. For example, a women's only company or an all-male military unit.

The main reason for doing this is to avoid discrimination and harassment between employees of different genders. It can also be seen as a way to protect certain jobs that are seen as being more physical or dangerous for one gender.

However, there are also some downsides to consider. Gender segregation can reinforce sexist attitudes and stereotypes, and it can make it difficult for women to advance in the workplace.


1 Smith, 2020.

2 Lorman, 2021. The State of Women in the Workplace 2021.,to%20automation%20by%20some%20estimates.

3 Workplace Gender Equality Agency, 2022. Gender equality workplace statistics at a glance 2022.

4 Office for National Statistics, 2021. Gender pay gap in the UK:2021.,down%20from%2017.4%25%20in%202019

5 Krishnan et al., 2020.

6 Sankar, 2017.

7 Smith, 2020.

8 HM Courts & Tribunals Service and Employment Tribunal, 2019.

9 Noland et al., 2016.

10 Fyle et al., 2020.

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