Knowledge Center

Data and sources for Australia, Canada, European Union, India, Japan, and the United States

 

Sex Discrimination

Sex discrimination exists when a person or group of people are treated unfavorably solely on the basis of their sex. In the United States, sex discrimination is illegal, and it includes discriminatory treatment related to hiring and firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoffs, trainings, and benefits.1 

  • Sex discrimination creates inequalities between women and men, for example, vertical segregation by occupation (i.e., a disproportionate number of men in senior leadership), pay gap, and the unequal division of unpaid work between men and women.2

Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment at work is defined as "unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature that explicitly or implicitly affect an individual’s employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work performance; or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment."3

  • Sexual harassment at work costs employers through increased absenteeism and job turnover of victims, and it creates an atmosphere that leads to decreased group work productivity and lowered employee engagement.4


Australia

 

Although Outlawed for 25 Years, Sexual Harassment Persists
 
  • 33% of women and 9% of men experienced sexual harassment in their lifetime.5
     
  • 13% of Australians have either witnessed sexual harassment in the workplace or were told of a specific incident.6

    • Men comprise almost 4 out of 5 of those who sexually harass.7

      • Male victims are more likely than female victims to receive sexually explicit emails or texts.8  

Sexual Harassment is a Top Complaint Received by the Human Rights Commission9
  • 21% of all complaints to the Australian Human Rights Commission are filed under the Sex Discrimination Act, and 88% of those complaints are sex discrimination in the workplace complaints.10 

    • Only one out of five victims of sexual harassment files a claim.11 


Canada

 

Canada's Constitution Prohibits Discrimination Based on Sex12
  • In 2013,  harassment accounted for 17% of disputes received by the Canadian Human Rights Commission.13


European Union

 

Sex Discrimination Is Prohibited in EU Nations
  • Article 13 of the Treaty of Amsterdam prohibits sex discrimination.  The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union includes a general prohibition of “any discrimination based on any ground, such as sex.”14

    • Nevertheless, 40 to 50% of EU women have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace.15


India

 

India's Constitution Prohibits Discrimination Based on Sex16
  • 17% of women working in urban India have experienced some form of sexual harassment while on the job.17

  • In 2013, India passed a law to ban sexual harassment in the workplace.18

    • ​The Act defines sexual harassment in the workplace and implements measures to minimize bias or influence during the grievance process.19

  • 95% of women and girls feel vulnerable to sexual harassment in public spaces in the city of Delhi.20

  •  ​In Delhi, 63% of women surveyed were afraid to go out alone after dark and 21% did not go out at all.21


Japan 

 

Japan's Constitution Prohibits Discrimination Based on Sex22
  • Under the Equal Employment Opportunity Law, sexual harassment is illegal.2324 

    • The Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare publicizes the law and provides guidance to business owners to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace.25

  • In 2013, the Equal Employment office had 9,230 sexual harassment consultations.26

    • 56% of sexual harassment consultations were made by women.27

    • 5% of sexual harassment consultations were made by men.28


United States

Although the US Constitution guarantees equality before the law, it does not specifically mention sex descrimination.29 Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 specifically prohibits sex discrimination in the workplace.  Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is responsible for enforcing anti-discrimination laws in the US.30

Almost Three in Ten Cases Before the EEOC Are Sex Discrimination Cases 31

Comparison of Select EEOC Charges Filed  

Type of ChargeNumber of Charges in 2014Percentage of Total Charges in 2014 

Race Discrimination32

31,073

35.0%

 

Sex Discrimination33

26,027

29.3%

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pregnancy Discrimination Is a Form of Sex Discrimination in the United States34

 

  •  Title VII of the US Civil Rights Act of 1964 states that "discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions constitutes unlawful sex discrimination."35

    • An employer cannot refuse to hire someone on the basis of pregnancy or a pregnancy-related condition, or based on prejudices of coworkers.36

    • A pregnant employee must be allowed to work for as long as she can perform her job duties.37
       
    •  Pregnancy discrimination is expensive: In 2014, the 3,400 receipts brought to the EEOC for pregnancy discrimination resulted in $14.4 million in monetary benefits (not including litigation awards).38

Sexual Harassment Claims Do Not Need to Result in Economic Suffering or Firing/Termination39
  • Sexual harassment can be from a supervisor, a supervisor from another department, a co-worker, a client, or customer.40

  • Men file 17.5% of sexual harassment charges.41

Systemic Discrimination Are Practices That Impact an Entire Industry42
  • In 2005, the EEOC began investigating systemic sex discrimination occurring in entire industries, professions, companies, and geographies. Practices targeted by these investigations include:
     
    • Excluding qualified women from male-dominated jobs.43
       
    • Restricting access to leadership training.44
       
    • Maintaining barriers that that lead to recruitment and hiring discrimination.45
  • Recently, the EEOC has increased its focus on cases related to caregiving status as well as pregnancy and breastfeeding accomodations. 46
 

Note:

This Quick Take focuses on sex discrimination and sexual harassment. Sex discriminationis discrimination based entirely on sex, that is, being female or male. Gender discrimination is rooted in perceptions of gender, gender stereotyping, and gender biases.


Additional Resources

Canadian Human Rights Commission Website, I Want to Complain (2013).

EEOC Website, How to File a Charge of Employment Discrimination.

European Commission, Harassment Related to Sex and Sexual Harassment Law in 33 European Countries (2011).

World Bank Group, Removing Restrictions to Enhance Gender Equality, Women, Business and the Law 2014 (2013).

 

How to cite this product: Catalyst. Quick Take: Sex Discrimination and Sexual Harassment. New York: Catalyst, May 25, 2015.