Gender stereotypes still prevalent in workplaces

April 15, 2023

Despite extensive investment in programs focusing on implicit bias and diversity, equity and inclusion, gender stereotypes still prevent women from gaining access to jobs traditionally held by men and vice versa.

Last month, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced that a federal court in Baltimore had awarded plaintiffs a default judgment in the amount of $2,692,265 in monetary relief against Green JobWorks to 48 female workers who contended they were denied employment opportunities due to their gender.

The case was filed against the staffing company on behalf of the class of women contending it had engaged in a pattern and practice of sex discrimination. The award consisted of compensatory damages and punitive damages for “the company’s reckless indifference to the rights of those workers,” according to the EEOC.

The lawsuit alleged that the company excluded female workers from specific job assignments and duties, such as demolition and laborer positions and/or failed to assign those workers to such positions because of their sex.

Such conduct, if true, would violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination based on sex, “including refusing to hire or to make assignments on the basis of gender.”

In the announcement, the EEOC explained: “It has been almost 60 years since the passage of Title VII, yet many staffing agencies continue to believe that they can indulge discriminatory customer preferences and engage in stereotype-based selection practices with impunity – and they’re wrong.”

EEOC also announced it’s committed to focusing on construction-related industries and skilled trades.

The EEOC representatives also explained that “women workers in construction, skilled trades and other so-called ‘non-traditional’ occupations deserve every opportunity to earn a living and show their value on the jobsite. Employers should recognize and value the contributions that women make in those fields when they’re given an equal opportunity to demonstrate their skills. Non-discrimination is required by law, but it’s also just smart business practices.”

Gender stereotypes are still quite prevalent in workplaces, especially in industries traditionally held by men or women.

Some of these concerns in hiring arise because employers think that the physical nature of certain jobs cannot be successfully performed by women or men.

To alleviate these concerns, employers should make clear the job expectations and essential job requirements, including physical requirements, such as pushing, pulling, and lifting certain weights. Employers can also, as part of the employment process, require that applicants demonstrate their ability to perform tasks, but they, of course, need to do this of all applicants who reach a certain stage of the hiring process, not just women or men. If doing so, the measurement for success in the demonstration needs to be uniform.

Any employment tests need to comply with the federal regulations on Uniform Guidelines for Employee Selection Procedures.

Although it’s difficult to remove implicit bias, employers need to evaluate their employment practices to make sure those biases don’t creep into comments or actions that negatively impact women or men. Clear expectations in the job description, as well as consistent and uniform accountability for work performance, will help alleviate concerns around the ability of certain genders to perform jobs traditionally held by another gender.