By Suzanne Kleinberg, author of Employee Rights & Employer Wrongs
The Civil Rights Act and various state legislations strive to protect women from gender discrimination, but how do you envision this workplace prejudice? Is it a female being passed over for a promotion? A female paid less than a male co-worker in the same job? Or is it a female who’s become the subject of derogatory or demeaning comments blurted out in the office?
While the aforementioned scenarios are some of the more common examples of gender discrimination, it's important to know that this type of inequity can occur subtly as well. Not only are covert examples of gender discrimination equally unacceptable, they can signal the beginning of more blatant actions ahead.
You’ll want to be aware of these 5 subtle examples of gender discrimination in the workplace:
1. Interview questions: The intent behind an interviewer asking questions such as, “Do you have or plan to have kids? Do you have to be home at a certain time?” remains questionable. While an interviewer may ask these questions in a conversational or light tone, they may in fact be suggesting that they aren't interested in hiring a mother. Even if your partner is the prime caregiver of children at home, an interviewer may see you as the parent who runs home to take her children to karate or stays home when they get sick. Don’t assume that only a man would ask these questions; female interviewers can ask them too.
2. Complaints when you enforce policies: Have you ever given a performance review, reprimanded a subordinate, or provided suggestions to a team member only to hear complaints later that you were “picking on” or acting “too aggressive” with an employee? Unfortunately, there are employees who become agitated when criticized by a female, yet act decidedly less defensive when a male does the same.
3. Responsibilities being diminished: Are you asked to keep the meeting minutes or make team social arrangements because of your gender while possessing the same job title as men on the team? If you're in sales, have your responsibilities become less sales-oriented while the same cannot be said of the men on the sales team? The outdated notion that women are better suited for administrative rather than negotiation-related tasks is discriminatory.
4. Giving last minute jobs or impossible deadlines: Giving last minute jobs or impossible deadlines to a woman in an effort to prove that she cannot complete tasks due to child care issues is a form of discrimination.
5. Conversation styles: When male colleagues or superiors cut off your talking points on a regular basis, but don’t do the same to your male counterparts, gender issues may be at work. However, it is important to keep in mind that both sexes have different conversational styles. Women tend to be more collaborative by sharing experiences and asking questions, while men tend to give information rather than ask questions.
While laws and company policies don’t stop people from acting on biases, they are there to allow you the protection to act on them. Watch for the signs of subtle discrimination in your workplace so that they may be addressed promptly.
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Suzanne Kleinberg is the founder of Potential to Soar, a unique career and talent coaching service wherein she guides new graduates, seasoned professionals and corporations, small and large, through private coaching, customized workshops and psychometric assessment tools. Kleinberg’s latest book, Employee Rights and Employer Wrongs, is an everyman’s guide to navigating the complex world of labor and employment law. Employee Rights and Employer Wrongs is available in both paperback and e-book formats via Kleinberg's website and all major online retailers.