Is Hidden Gender Discrimination Hurting Your Business?

hidden gender discrimination

Do women employees at your company feel like they’re at a disadvantage compared to men? Even if you believe you’re a very equal-opportunity employer, and even if you’re a woman yourself, your female employees may not feel the same.

A new study by Palo Alto Software polled more than 1,000 employees and business owners, both men and women, and found that women are more than five times as likely as men to have experienced gender discrimination in a professional setting.

Over half (52 percent) of women report having experienced hidden gender discrimination in a professional setting, compared to just 9 percent of men. For example, nearly twice as many women as men (40 percent vs. 22 percent) say they’ve been called “bossy” at work.

Gender discrimination isn’t always so overt, of course. Hidden gender discrimination often takes the form of being left behind in terms of advancement, promotions and salary raises because of family issues.

While the average nation globally offers 18 guaranteed weeks of paid maternity leave to workers, the U.S. offers – zero. This lack of support for the efforts involved in raising children has a direct effect on women in the workforce. More than four in 10 (43 percent) women in the survey say they’re taken substantial time off from their careers, quit their jobs, or reduced their roles as business owners to care for children. Just 15 percent of men have done the same.

Taking even a short time off can have a big impact on a woman’s future career success. For example, the study found women with MBAs who took 18 months off earned 41 percent less, on average, than women with MBAs who didn’t take time off from their careers. No wonder 27 percent of women, compared to just 11 percent of men, agree with the statement “I believe I make less money than I would without children.” And while 38 percent of men say having children had no impact on their careers, only 19 percent of women said the same.

When it comes to child-friendly policies, the survey was somewhat surprising: More than half of both male and female CEOs surveyed say they’d consider allowing parents to bring their children to the office once in a while—and more than one-third of both women and men say they’d take advantage of that opportunity.

But why did the other two-thirds say they wouldn’t bring their children to work? Clearly, in the average workplace – being a parent is seen as a liability.

Why should small business owners want to change that? Here are just a few reasons.

  • Instituting parent-friendly policies enables both men and women to keep working during their most productive years—instead of forcing one parent to opt out of the workforce, even temporarily.
  • Parent-friendly policies make your business a place both men and women want to work—helping you attract and retain qualified employees.
  • With more women than men now earning college degrees and pursuing higher education, we can’t afford to keep forcing women to choose between career and children. If the best-educated individuals in the U.S. workforce get squeezed out, how will our businesses and our nation compete?

Take a good look at your business and your attitudes – are you guilty of hidden gender discrimination? And what could it be costing your business?

Equality Photo via Shutterstock

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Rieva Lesonsky Rieva Lesonsky is a Columnist for Small Business Trends covering employment, retail trends and women in business. She is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Visit her blog, SmallBizDaily, to get the scoop on business trends and free TrendCast reports.

4 Reactions
  1. I hate it when this happens. Men are not the only ones who are meant to be leaders. I hate it when they undermine what a woman can do just because of her gender.

  2. Nice article Rieva, and I agree with you Aira. To be honest I’ve never thought about going to the point of hurting your business. Hidden gender discrimination has always been there and there is no point hiding from it, and quite rightly it has to be another option for women to choose between career or children.

  3. Gone are the days when gender biasing was mandatory part of society, but women have proved themselves again & again as what they are made of. Also I believe they should be promoted in every possible way to bring out the entrepreneurship inside them.