Gender discrimination has a significant impact on mental and physical health worldwide. It can limit peoples’ access to healthcare, increase rates of ill health, and lower life expectancy.
While it is true that women live longer than men on average, they experience higher rates of ill health during their lifetimes. It is likely that gender discrimination and inequity contribute to this.
Sex and gender exist on spectrums. This article will use the terms “male,” “female,” or both to refer to sex assigned at birth. Click here to learn more.
What Is Gender Discrimination?
Gender discrimination is any action that excludes or disadvantages people based on their gender. It includes actions that are deliberately unfair and actions that are unintentionally unfair.
Gender discrimination is fueled by sexism, which is prejudice based on sex or gender. In most countries, sexism devalues women and femininity and privileges men and masculinity.
Because gender relates to how someone feels, rather than their biological characteristics, anyone who identifies with a gender that their society deems less valuable can experience gender discrimination. This includes trans and other gender-expansive people.
Examples of Gender Discrimination
Gender discrimination can take place in person-to-person interactions, as well as at an institutional or state level. It can occur:
- In the workplace: Deciding not to hire or promote someone, treating employees differently, or paying them less based on their gender are all examples of workplace discrimination. Peers can participate by excluding women colleagues from important meetings, for example.
- In schools: Preventing or discouraging girls and young women from participating in traditionally male-dominated fields, such as science, math, and sports, is an example of gender discrimination. Schools may also enforce gendered dress codes, punish those who do not conform to gender norms, or fail to punish bad behavior on the basis that “Boys will be boys.”
- In relationships: People who prevent their partners from doing things on the basis of their gender are also acting in a discriminatory way. This might include stopping women from working, managing their money, and driving, for example.
- In public: Sexual harassment and catcalling are unwanted, and they are forms of discrimination. These behaviors can make people feel unsafe, and they can restrict how people use public spaces. This limits a person’s freedom.
- In institutions: Organizations, governments, and legal and healthcare systems can enact policies that discriminate against certain genders, either intentionally or unintentionally. Examples include laws that allow gender-based violence to thrive, that punish people for expressing their gender, or that disadvantage certain groups financially.
It is important to understand that discrimination based on gender can be coupled with discrimination based on race, class, disability, and sexuality.