Module 5: Gender Equity

In the Workplace

Experiences in the Workplace


Women experience burnout for a variety of reasons in the workplace, such as being unrewarded and unrecognized in the workplace compared to men, as well as having to work harder to prove their worth. Women who have children also have to balance the double duty of being caregivers.

Dress Code

While workplaces are beginning to become more casual, women still encounter different expectations regarding the way they present themselves. The expectations of “professional” dress and what is deemed a “professional” hairstyle can appear different in some workspaces and in some industries. Women still have to negotiate their appearance at work. This is especially true for racialized women.

Children and Family

Women are penalized or feel penalized in workplaces for having children. This often looks like being overlooked for a job or losing out on a job opportunity to a less-qualified candidate. There are also perceptions that mothers are less committed to their jobs, resulting in women having to work harder to prove their commitment to their jobs.

Perceptions of Behaviour

Women are judged very differently from men when it comes to their behaviour in the workplace. If a woman expresses anger, they are more likely to be penalized for their behaviour, whereas men will not. In some cases, men may even be rewarded. Women are also more likely to be perceived as emotional or bossy, whereas men are seen as authoritative.


Workplace harassment refers to objectionable or unwelcome conduct, comments, or actions by an individual, at any event or location related to work, which can reasonably be expected to offend, intimidate, humiliate or degrade. Workplace harassment includes verbal abuse, humiliating behaviour, threats to persons, physical violence, and unwanted sexual attention or sexual harassment. While workplace harassment can be experienced by both men and women, it is more often experienced by women.


Looking at how gender intersects with other facets of one’s identity is a critical part of these conversations. Intersectionality refers to the interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage. Thus, a theoretical approach is based on such a premise. Originally coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw, intersectionality recognizes the compounding effects of one’s belonging to more than one equity-deserving group.


For example, on average, women of colour earn 88.2 cents for every dollar non-racialized women earn. This gap can vary, as studies have shown Indigenous women earn even less than this. The disparity goes even further as racialized women are more likely to be actively engaged in the workforce but experience a higher rate of unemployment than non-racialized women. Racialized women are also more likely to experience harassment, being questioned for competence, intelligence and skill level. This is especially true for Black women who experience higher levels of discrimination, harassment and devaluing in the workplace.


Persons with disabilities experience additional barriers to employment; finding it difficult to access employment, and often only having access to low-wage jobs. The experience within the workplace includes systemic discrimination and harassment. Women with disabilities often have the added experience of an increased risk of sexual harassment because they are more vulnerable and unable to protect themselves.

The Law

The Ontario Human Rights Code (OHRC) sees gender identity and gender expression as protected grounds (“Policy on Preventing Discrimination Because of Gender Identity and Gender Expression“).

The province understands gender identity to be each person’s internal and individual experience of gender. It is their sense of being a woman, a man, both, neither, or anywhere along the gender spectrum. A person’s gender identity may be the same as or different from their birth-assigned sex. Gender identity is fundamentally different from a person’s sexual orientation. Gender expression is how a person publicly presents their gender. This can include behaviour and outward appearances such as style of dress, hairstyle, make-up, body language and voice. A person’s chosen name and pronouns are also common ways of expressing gender.

Trans and non-binary communities are therefore protected under the law from discrimination on the basis of:

  • Employment
  • Housing / Accommodation
  • Goods, services and facilities
  • Membership in unions, trades or professional associations
  • Contracts

What this law also means is that, beyond acts of discrimination, organizations need to be ready to provide accommodations for these groups that will eliminate barriers to equal access.

Some barriers may appear covertly through discrimination and stereotypes. For example, a trans or non-binary person may not be hired because they risk making colleagues or clients uncomfortable or because they are simply deemed not to be a “good fit” for the organization.


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Equity, Diversity and Inclusion in Practice Copyright © 2022 by Experiential Learning Hub, Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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