Discrimination against women in employment

Experimental visualization of narrower problems
Other Names:
Denial of right of employment for women
Sexual inequality in employment
Active prejudice towards working women

Although the lives of women have greatly changed due to demographic, technological and educational factors, the traditional discriminatory ideas about employing women outside the home have hardly evolved at all.


Under article 11 of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, States parties undertake to take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in order to ensure, on the basis of equality of men and women, the same rights -- including the right to paid work, the right to the same employment opportunities, the right to free choice of profession and employment, the right to promotion, job security and all benefits and conditions of service, the right to vocational training, the right to equal remuneration, the right to social security, and the right to protection of health, safety and freedom from sexual harassment in working conditions. In addition, and of particular relevance to women, is the right to maternity protection, the right to combine work and domestic responsibilities.


Women tend to be concentrated in low-skill, lowly paid occupations. Overtime is restricted, due to laws made some time ago under different conditions which limit the number of hours they may work; and some laws prevent women from working at night. In addition, there are prohibitions in jobs regarded as dangerous or unhealthy; real equality does not exist.

Employers in many countries refuse to hire married women or mothers of young children. Women, not being highly unionized, have little voice in the matter. Among the EEC/EU countries, a woman is supposedly entitled to 12 weeks maternity leave with free medical aid and a cash grant, and her job must be open upon her return; but not all countries satisfy these conventions. In others cases, employers tend to state that work done by women is not equal to that done by men, thereby avoiding the need for equal pay. In the developing countries, women represent only 23.6% of the employees in the major non-agricultural occupations, only 11.3% of such employees being women in North Africa and the Middle East. Again, particular occupations show a very low share of the work going to women; they are particularly badly represented in administrative, managerial and production sectors of the developing countries. Some employers admit that one way of weeding out women applicants for a job is to re-advertise it at a higher salary.

[Former socialist countries] In the former socialist countries, the lot of the working woman is nearly always inferior to that of the man. The level of salaries and wages is lower, the work offered is mainly repetitive and boring and the conditions of work are for the most part unfavourable. Women have little bargaining power, and their prospects of promotion are limited. The level of education and professional qualification of women is inferior to that of men, and they are not often required to do work needing professional qualifications.

Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 1: No PovertyGOAL 5: Gender EqualityGOAL 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth
Problem Type:
D: Detailed problems
Date of last update
22.05.2019 – 17:15 CEST