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.


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.


There is a need for active research in order to provide a better basis for planning and action that may improve the present situation. It is difficult to combine a job with caring for young children, and measures must be taken to provide help for the mother who wishes to work. Also, in the light of the increases in divorce, single parent situations and families headed by a woman as the sole bread-winner (30% in many countries), women need work for their survival and that of their children. Beliefs connected with sex-typing of particular jobs are not supported by facts.

Counter Claim:

A woman's task is twofold. Primarily it is that of a mother or housekeeper, including the bringing up of children for whom a mother is irreplaceable. Secondarily, in our current type of civilization, it is to leaven and help humanize life in society. The lot of women is not improved by interventionist legislation forcing employers to hire "quotas" of women. This sort of coercion undermines the freedom and stability of society for all and weakens the institutions of private property, freedom of contract and equality before the law. 2. By forcing employers to ignore the differences between men and women, equal opportunities legislation makes them behave irrationally. Apart from other reasons, it is more expensive to employ women because of: discontinuity in work and the need to replace temporarily women taking maternity leave; regulations which may require female workers to be given time to nurse their babies; regulations requiring the provision of creches; high absentee rates due to illness or child-care responsibilities; high turnover due to changes in family circumstances; separate facilities for women required by local cultural norms. As 71% of American pregnancies occur in working women, they pose a greater liability to the employer which should be reflected in salary level. If this cannot be recognized the judges declare in effect that women's rights matter but not employers. Women also lack muscular strength and make less effective supervisors.

Problem Type:
D: Detailed problems
Date of last update
19.10.2017 – 17:48 CEST