What is Gender Discrimination?

Cassie L. Damewood

Gender discrimination refers to the practice of granting or denying rights or privileges to a person based on their gender. In some societies, this practice is longstanding and acceptable to both genders. Certain religious groups embrace gender discrimination as part of their dogma. However, in most industrialized nations, it is either illegal or generally considered inappropriate.

Gender discrimination is accepted in some countries, such as where women must wear headscarves in public.
Gender discrimination is accepted in some countries, such as where women must wear headscarves in public.

Attitudes toward gender discrimination can normally be traced back to the roots of certain segments of society. Much of the discrimination is attributed to stories such as a woman being made from man’s rib and societal practices such as dowries paid to fathers by prospective husbands to purchase their daughters to be wives. Countless literary fiction references are made to females being the fairer, weaker sex and males being the strong, invincible hunters of the world. The combined power of these societal and religious beliefs left little room for equitable thinking for centuries.

In some countries, gender discrimination is against the law.
In some countries, gender discrimination is against the law.

Although gender discrimination is traditionally viewed as a problem normally encountered by females, it has significantly affected males as well. Jobs customarily and historically held mainly by women were often denied to men based on social stigmas. Some of the more common jobs that fell into this category were nurses, childcare providers and flight attendants.

Gender discrimination includes making assumptions about traditional gender roles and behaviors.
Gender discrimination includes making assumptions about traditional gender roles and behaviors.

In the past few decades, gender discrimination has gained respect as a serious affront. It is frequently given as much credence as racial discrimination. Some countries and societies mete out relatively harsh punishments to those convicted of gender discrimination.

In countries where it's considered an affront, gender discrimination is also often difficult to prove. It is normally not as overtly evident as racial discrimination since the offender can claim other reasons a person was denied equal consideration. For instance, if a male claims he was not hired as a nurse based on his gender, the employer can simply maintain his qualifications were substandard or his personality was not a good fit with the rest of the staff. Such ambiguities frequently make it hard to prove gender discrimination.

In cases where the discriminatory act is repeated, legal action is customarily taken. These incidents commonly revolve around persons of a certain gender being summarily passed over for promotions by the same company. Another common scenario involves a gender-defined group being paid less for performing exactly the same job as the other gender.

Educational institutions and lending institutions were some of the first segments accused of this type of discrimination. Grants, loans and scholarships promoted as non-gender specific sometimes heavily favored one gender for reasons that were often more traditional than malicious. Bankers were once commonly instructed by their superiors to deny females loans and mortgages based on their gender and regardless of their assets or credit histories.

Paying a woman less than a man could be considered gender discrimination.
Paying a woman less than a man could be considered gender discrimination.

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Discussion Comments


I'm certainly not one to discriminate people by gender but I think society works both ways:

Men discriminate against women and women discriminate against men.


anon319319 said "Men are stupid to think that women are lesser people." Sexist much. Slightly ironic?


Men are stupid to think that women are lesser people.


Icecream17-I agree with you.I think that we are getting closer to electing a woman as more and more women were elected in last round of congressional and gubernatorial races.

The Republican Party is full of prominent women. There is Michelle Bachman, House representative of Minnesota, Nicky Hailey Governor- Elect from South Carolina, and the first women elected to that post and of course Sarah Palin who has taken a leadership role in helping to electing many of the Tea Party candidates.

One the Democrat side, you have Hilary Clinton who probably has the best chance of being President on the Democrat side.


SauteePan- I remember hearing about that gender discrimination lawsuit.

Since they had no women in managerial roles out of thousands of management positions it was an easy slam dunk case regarding EEOC gender discrimination employment.

Now you see women and all kinds of minorities in management positions throughout out most of the Publix Stores.

It is hard to believe that in this day and age that a company could have had such a backward mentality. I mean there were women in the world that were leaders of their own country.

Look at Margaret Thatcher, perhaps the best leader Great Britain has ever experienced. Our country is evolving somewhat and becoming more gender neutral but we still have not elected a women to lead the United States.

Maybe one day we will, but I hope it is someone that is up to the job. I don’t want to elect someone just to make history. We did that once and the results were disastrous.


Sunny27-I just wanted to say that years ago when I was in school I worked at Publix Supermarkets.

At the time, if you were a women your only career choices were to become a full time cashier. If you were a man, you could espouse to be a store manager.

If you were women and a little more ambitious, you could try to become a full time stock person. However, in my store in the five years that I worked there years ago only one woman did this.

She had the most difficult time because the other stock personnel did not like to share the job with a women and the company was a little hostile towards women in roles outside of cashiering.

As a matter of fact, when I got my Bachelor’s degree, my store manager asked me if I was ready to be a full time cashier. I politely declined, but it shows the mentality at the time toward women. They were later sued by the EEOC gender discrimination class action suit. Since it was clear that they broke the gender discrimination laws and displayed blatant gender discrimination at the workplace the suit was successful and Publix was ordered to change their hiring practices and pay a large fine.


EEOC,or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission develops cases against corporations involved in a gender discrimination lawsuit.

Usually these gender discrimination acts are filed in a class action lawsuit because it is considered a civil rights violation case.

Gender discrimination at work can take many forms. If a company hires women for administrative or clerical work, but then hires men for executive level work then this is a clear cut case of discrimination.

Also, if a woman that has an executive position with a company is expected to make coffee everyday and order lunch for the staff because she is a woman this may also constitute gender discrimination at work.

There are many gender discrimination attorneys that are very willing to take on these cases because it makes a name for them.

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