Causes & Effects of Gender Discrimination

Women continue to earn lower wages than men in nearly all occupations.
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Gender discrimination, rooted in an unequal distribution of power, has far-reaching consequences that affect every facet of society. Historically directed at women, gender discrimination manifests in a variety of ways, including restricted access to educational and employment opportunities, increased exposure to sexual harassment and fewer options for acquiring affordable, quality health care.

1 Patriarchal Cultural Beliefs

Patriarchal societies, which give males greater importance than females, traditionally assign men more positive attributes, such as being stronger or smarter. When men occupy a superior position, they have the power to determine the amount of access women have to opportunities, ranging from education and playing sports, to participating in politics and making autonomous decisions about their personal lives. During its analysis of “Title IX and Athletics,” the National Coalition for Women and Girls in Education found that increased athletic opportunities for females “confer both immediate and long-term benefits.” Girls who play sports are more likely to graduate and refuse drugs as well as less likely to have unwanted pregnancies and develop serious illnesses.

2 Objectification of Women

According to the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, hypersexualized images in television programs, movies and magazines promote physical and verbal sexual harassment of women. When women are objectified, men are more likely to commit violent crimes against them and less likely to face punishment. RAINN, an anti-sexual assault organization, notes that although 1 in every 6 women has been the victim of rape, only 3 percent of assailants serve jail time. Additionally, when the media glorify a specific set of features, women go to great lengths to attain this unrealistic definition of beauty. The Geena Davis Institute's research, conducted by Stacy Smith, Ph.D., and her team at the USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism, found that when females fail to achieve these exaggerated body characteristics, negative self-esteem and body-image issues arise.

3 Preferential Treatment in the Workplace

Gender discrimination in the workplace occurs when men receive preferential treatment over women. This can include being hired for a job over more qualified women, offered better working conditions, getting higher salaries for the same work, or getting more advancement opportunities. A 2012 Institute for Women’s Policy Research study estimated that U.S. women earn 17.8 percent less than men, even in traditionally female-dominated occupations, and women are more than twice as likely to hold poverty-wage jobs. This economic disparity is greater when ethnicity is considered: White men earn 45 percent more than Latinas and 36 percent more than African-American women. These gender disadvantages create an economic inequality that prevents women from becoming financially independent and keeps many single-parent families in poverty. It also fosters a hostile work environment, which reduces employee productivity and increases turnover.

4 Exclusion from Quality Health Care

In-depth studies conducted by the World Health Organization have found that gender plays a large role in a person's ability to obtain health care and receive quality medical attention. Women are charged significantly more for their health insurance policies, notes the National Women's Law Center, and those policies often exclude necessary female-related services, such as contraception coverage, preventative screenings and maternity care. This leads to increased illnesses, unintended pregnancies, higher infant mortality rates and more occurrences of domestic violence.

A published writer since 1994, Nicole Kidder is the voice of Traditions Wedding Blog. As a cultural journalist, she has contributed to ColorsNW magazine, Travel News Maldives and Senior Health Weekly. Kidder holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Seattle University and is a certified diversity trainer.