Addressing gender discrimination in the workplace is doubly difficult when the practice begins before the employee is ever hired. From daycare centers staffed exclusively by women to coal mines that hire only men, gender discrimination in the hiring process is still alive and well in the 21st century, despite legislation that prohibits it.
What The Law Says
Employers are prohibited to discriminate based upon gender under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. All aspects of employment discrimination based upon gender are forbidden under Title VII – including hiring, pay, fringe benefits, promotions, job assignments and other conditions of employment.
Not Just A Woman's Problem
While the gender discrimination prohibition in Title VII was intended to address discrimination against women in the workplace, it also prevents discrimination against transgendered employees and applicants, and men as well. According to Workplace Fairness, a non-profit organization that focuses on employee rights, gender discrimination in the hiring process often occurs as a "refusal to hire an individual based on stereotyped characterizations of the sexes."
The Glass Ceiling
Although men and transgendered applicants may feel the sting of gender discrimination in the hiring process, women nevertheless hit the glass ceiling when it comes to pay. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in 2010 that women employed full-time were earning only 81 percent of their male counterparts' wages. This discrimination often begins during the hiring process; a 2010 study by Catalyst, a non-profit organization dedicated to women in the workplace, found that women with MBAs were paid, on average, $4,600 less in their first job than men.
The Marzipan Layer
Gender discrimination doesn't disappear with higher-level employment – it gets stickier. The 2010 Catalyst study also found that men were more likely to get a higher-level position just out of business school, and that a man was twice as likely as a woman to hold a CEO/senior executive level position. This leaves professional women in the workforce stuck in what has come to be known as "the marzipan layer," or senior middle-management. Ilene Lang, Catalyst's president and CEO, told NPR in 2011 that in the 15 years that Catalyst has been collecting data, "what we've seen over these years is that women have been 46 to 49 percent of the overall workforce in the U.S. They have been 50 percent of managers and professional positions in the workforce. But when it comes to the senior levels, we've been stuck at about 15 percent."
Will The Tide Turn?
The days of glass ceilings and the marzipan layer may be dwindling. In 2010, women accounted for 51.5 percent of all workers in the high-paying management, professional, and related occupations, the BLS reports. The percentage is likely to grow as the BLS projects that women will account for more than 50 percent of the increase in the total labor force growth between 2008 and 2018. As more women enter the workforce in professional capacities, gender discrimination in hiring practices may become a thing of the past.
A writer and information professional, J.E. Cornett has a Bachelor of Arts in English from Lincoln Memorial University and a Master of Science in library and information science from the University of Kentucky. A former newspaper reporter with two Kentucky Press Association awards to her credit, she has over 10 years experience writing professionally.