When you think about gender discrimination in the workplace, you probably think about women being mistreated in comparison to men. This is true, but gender discrimination can also occur in reverse, and it can include unfair treatment or harassment based on gender identity and expression. Every person, whether they identify as male, female, gender-neutral, gender-fluid, etc., is protected from gender discrimination in Ontario. Even so, discrimination still occurs.
The tech sector is especially vulnerable to gender discrimination issues. The industry has a reputation for being the classic “old boys network,” and despite widespread coverage of the issue over the last several years, many people still believe that the sector has a gender discrimination problem. So, what can you do to fight gender discrimination in tech?
Give It A Name
A company won’t address gender discrimination if they don’t recognize they have a problem. Without gossiping, ask other people if they have observed behaviours or practices that they would consider to be discriminatory. If you feel you have enough support, talk to HR about the problem. They are best equipped to handle the situation, but by giving the problem a name and giving others the space to discuss it, it helps shine a light on the core issue.
If You See Something, Say Something
It’s difficult to speak up when you believe gender discrimination is occurring in your workplace. No one wants to be labelled a troublemaker, and people often feel it’s better to say nothing than to make waves. However, silence allows the discrimination to continue, and you are tacitly granting approval to poor and unlawful behaviour.
If you are the person being discriminated against, find a sympathetic colleague to talk to and perhaps accompany you to HR to explore your options. A support network is always important in these types of situations. If you are observing discrimination, reach out to the person you believe is being victimized, and offer your support. Lend them a sympathetic ear and offer to go to HR with them to discuss options or file a complaint.
Know Your Rights
The best thing you can to for yourself or a colleague experiencing gender discrimination is to educate yourself on employee rights. Under the Ontario Human Rights Code, “Every person has a right to equal treatment in the provision of services and facilities, occupation of accommodation, contracts and in employment.” Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, “All employers are required to have a workplace harassment policy, program, information, instruction and protect workers from workplace harassment.”
Study those codes and learn exactly what your rights are. An employment lawyer can be a great resource for helping you determine whether you or someone else is a victim of gender discrimination, and they can help you develop a plan for reporting behaviours or policies and will give you actionable steps for protecting yourself from retaliation.
Find an Inclusive Employer
Discrimination should always be reported and dealt with, but it’s often healthiest for victims to ultimately seek new opportunities with employers who do not practice discrimination.