Overcoming Workplace Prejudice Against Mothers

Working mothers face bias, prejudice, and discrimination in the workplace. Learn your rights and how to advocate for yourself.
Overcoming workplace discrimination

Working mothers face bias, prejudice and discrimination in the workplace. According to the AAUW having children limits parents from advancing in their careers: About one-in-five working parents, including 23% of working moms and 15% of working dads, say they have turned down a promotion because they were balancing work and parenting responsibilities, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of Census Bureau Current Population Survey data. Another study found that 17% say they have been passed over for an important assignment and 16% say they have been passed over for a promotion because they have children. Mothers are more likely than fathers to report each of these experiences.

Moreover, 23% of working parents report that they aren’t committee to their work because they have children.

 No only is gender discrimination wrong, when it affects the terms and conditions of employment, it’s against the law. Despite protection from the law, 68% of women who participated in a TNS Research survey responded that gender discrimination is quite commonplace in the work place.

Overcoming Workplace Discrimination and Inequality

In the workplace, workers should be judged, promoted and valued based on the merit of their effort, contribution and ability – not their gender, and certainly not their family status. So what should you do when you think gender discrimination is occurring in your workplace? Consider the following from the team at CareerProfiles:

  1. An important first step in overcoming gender discrimination and inequality is to recognize that it’s actually happening. Just as an alcoholic can’t deal with their alcoholism until they admit they have a problem, gender discrimination can’t be overcome until all relevant parties are willing to admit that it’s occurring in their organization. Unfortunately, recognizing that gender discrimination exists is uncomfortable, and many people would rather remain silent or pretend it’s not taking place.


  1. Start talking about it – especially if you’re the one getting discriminated against. No one should be treated unfairly. Talking about discrimination or inequality due to gender brings the issue out into open so it can be addressed. If you feel comfortable confronting the offender, then do so. If you don’t feel it’s appropriate to confront the person doing the discriminating, then speak with a trusted supervisor, manager or member of your company’s human resource department. Once a company is aware of that discrimination is occurring, it’s their responsibility to make sure it’s addressed appropriately. However, avoid gossiping. Spreading gossip – whether true or false – will only hurt your cause and likely create a worse situation for both you and the offender.


  1. If you’re a business owner, make sure your organization provides proper training on gender equality to all management personnel and supervisors. Teach managers what constitutes gender discrimination and inequality, and train them how to identify both the obvious and not so obvious signs that gender discrimination is occurring. But being able to spot gender discrimination is only the first step, managers must also be taught to how to deal with it and prevent it from happening again in the future.


  1. As much as possible, make sure your company, division or department has clear policies for advancement and promotion – and then follow them. This will help ensure that gender discrimination does not occur, will set a standard of performance for employees to meet if they want to advance and will decrease the likeliness of unnecessary (and uncomfortable) conflicts or lawsuits.


  1. Make sure that all employees are aware of what gender discrimination is and that gender discrimination is an unacceptable practice in your organization. This in and of itself will go a long way to establishing an environment and atmosphere of mutual respect and gender equality.


  1. While we recognize that gender discrimination can happen to both sexes, it is predominately a problem that occurs to women. There is also a stigma in corporate America, and within most corporations, that women have to work harder than men to achieve the same level of career success. For these reasons, we recommend showcasing those women in your organization that have become successful and demonstrate how they achieved their success.


  1. Publicize the efforts your company, division or department is making to promote gender equality. Become a role model to other businesses in your industry, your vendors and your local workforce of what a gender neutral environment – where everyone is treated equality – looks like.


  1. Develop a written set up policies to promote gender equality in your organization. (1) Your policies should ensure that men and women receive equal pay for equal work. (2) Policies should promote gender equality in recruitment, training, hiring and promotion practices. (3) Make sure policies allow men and women to balance their careers with their personal lives. (4) Your policies should strictly prohibit all forms of harassment – especially sexual harassment. (5) Make sure that it is known that nondiscrimination policies apply to all company employees, including management. (6) Policies should outline the procedure for reporting gender discrimination without fear of retribution.


Reporting Gender Discrimination

If you are discriminated against in the workplace due to your gender, the first step is to report – in writing – the act(s) of discrimination or harassment to your employer. If your employer doesn’t handed your complaint fairly, you can then report it to the government. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission enforces the federal discrimination laws. An employee who believes he or she has been the subject of discrimination can contact the EEOC’s Office of Equal Opportunity to file a complaint. Complaints can be filed at http://www.eeoc.gov/employees/howtofile.cfm.

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