The 61st session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW 61) was held in New York, U.S., from March 13-24, with the theme 'Women's Economic Empowerment in the Changing World of Work'.
The commission is one of the largest annual gatherings of global leaders, NGOs, private sector actors, United Nations partners and activists from around the world focusing on the status of rights and empowerment of all women and girls everywhere.
The elimination of discrimination against women in employment is an important measure to promote women's economic empowerment. In this article, experts of the Women's Studies Institute of China explained discrimination against women.
What Is Discrimination Against Women?
The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) was adopted at the 34th session of the United Nations General Assembly in 1979. In the convention, the term 'discrimination against women' shall mean, "any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise of women, irrespective of their marital status, on a basis of equality of men and women, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field".
What Is Gender Discrimination in Employment?
The Convention Concerning Discrimination in Respect of Employment and Occupation was published by the International Labor Organization (ILO) in 1958.
For the purpose of this convention the term 'employment discrimination' includes:
- Any distinction, exclusion or preference made on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, political opinion, national extraction or social origin, which has the effect of nullifying or impairing equality of opportunity or treatment in employment or occupation.
- Such other distinction, exclusion or preference which has the effect of nullifying or impairing equality of opportunity or treatment in employment or occupation as may be determined by the Member concerned after consultation with representative employers' and workers' organizations, where such exist, and with other appropriate bodies.
Therefore, gender discrimination in employment can be defined as "any distinction, exclusion or preference made on the basis of gender, which has the effect of nullifying or impairing equality of opportunity or treatment in employment or occupation.
Generally speaking, gender discrimination in employment can be divided into direct discrimination and indirect discrimination.
What Is Direct Discrimination?
Direct discrimination, which is also known as overt discrimination, means any direct or overt act that aims to give unequal treatment to an individual or group based on their age, gender, sexuality, skin color, ethnicity or nationality.
For instance, some employers normally set up extra "thresholds" for female candidates in recruitment, leading to women being in a disadvantaged position. These barriers include:
- Stipulating 'only male' or 'male preferred' in recruitment notices or ads.
- Rejecting women's applications if male candidates with the same qualifications submit their resumes.
- Setting up higher educational background requirements for female candidates.
- Setting up additional conditions, such as appearance and height standards for female candidates.
- Stipulating obligations of no marriage or reproduction between certain ages.
What Is Indirect Discrimination?
As opposed to direct discrimination, indirect discrimination, which is also known as covert discrimination, involves subtle or passive acts of prejudice. More often than not these acts are much harder to prove as employment discrimination but the substantial adverse effects do exist, therefore, it can also be called 'substantial discrimination'.
Employers' discriminatory behaviors normally include:
- No written examination or reexamination opportunities for female candidates.
- Expressing the complex of 'male preferred' intentionally or unintentionally in job interviews.
- Frequently enquiring about marital status and thoughts on family planning in job interviews.
- Employers stress that the job vacancy requires frequent overtime, business trips or a hard working environment and it is therefore more suitable for men.
- Enquiring about female candidates' fertility willingness or 'second-child' plans.
(Source: Women's Studies Institute of China / Translated and edited by Gender Study Network)
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