Thursday, March 28, 2013

Discrimination in Hiring

Kristin Clauw 

In order for a person to excel in a company and expand their career horizon they must first be hired. This may seem like common sense but for people it is the main barrier to their success. However, their lack of job offers is not due to an absence of skills or experience but rather their gender, race, or age. This kind of treatment is known as disparate impact. If the applicants are offered the job and then suffer from inequality or harassment it is disparate treatment.  Bill Lann Lee, a former U.S. Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights stated “hiring discrimination is a fundamental problem; it often denies more than one employment opportunity, cutting off future opportunities as well. It is impossible to climb the rungs of a ladder if an individual cannot get a foot on the first rung.” (2011). Discrimination in hiring has been a problem for some time now and is still hindering deserving candidates from reaching their potential.

Gender Discrimination
Years ago, in American history, women were forbidden from attending college and receiving the same education as men. Things have long sense changed on this front and now men and women sit side by side in the same classes, take the same test, and graduate with the same degrees. Many times women often score higher than their male counterparts. However, they still face discrimination in the corporate world finding it difficult to obtain beneficial careers or advance to higher levels. For example, in a study of the 1,000 largest companies in the US, only 19 of the 4,000 highest paid officers and directors were women (Chein, 1999).  Even if a woman can receive a high level job they may not make as much as men in similar positions do.
One reason women face a consistent battle against men when trying to advance in the workforce is due to stereotypes.  Their “feminine” traits are seen as much less desirable than that of the “masculine” mans. Often times they are categorized as indecisive, dependent, emotional, and insecure. None of these qualities are favorable in the business world and make many firms or boards, especially those made up of mostly men, reluctant to hire women (Chein, 1999).  In recent years there have been many women who have made the climb up the corporate latter and given others hope but they are still largely outnumbered by men.
Another cause for this unfair treatment is explained by Heilman’s “lack of fit” model. This model is based on an individuals perceived attributes and the perception of the job requirement. Fitness is then determined comparing these two factors. If a good fit is found success is likely. It the fit is poor the bias sets in. This model can be applied when discussing women’s role in upper management. The perceived expectation when a woman is in these positions is failure. Therefore, the fit is seen as poor and creates a bias (Chein, 1999).  This is again caused by the stereotype that woman’s skills and personalities are undesirable in top positions.  
Affirmative action has tried to put an end to this issue but has faced heavy opposition. Even if it prevails it is not the best way to combat this treatment. The most successful mechanism is to educate people both inside and outside the workplace. In order for a stereotype to be broken people must be made aware of why it is incorrect. This can be done by updating policies, required training, and visible actions in the workplace that promote equality. 

Age Discrimination
While older applicants may have more experience they are often not chosen over those who are younger. In 1993 the Fair Employment Council (FEC) conducted a national survey to assess this discrimination. They found that it varied by location, industry, and firm success. For example, companies in the West and South had high discrimination rates than those in the Northeast and Midwest. Also, manufacturing firms preferred the younger applicants much more than the older ones (Shen 2001).  Even when people may be equally skilled and abled younger people are seen as more active, energetic, motivated and beneficial to a successful or growing company.
There are laws put in place in order to combat this discrimination. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act makes it illegal to discriminate in hiring, discharge, promotion, or treatment of persons over the age of 40. The only time it is acceptable for a company to act in this manor is when age is a Bona Fide Occupational Qualification (Shen, 2001). The burden then shifts to the company to prove that age is in fact a business necessity. This can be difficult to prove and many times victims do win and are awarded damaged in court.
Stereotypes also play a role in age discrimination in workplace. Employers may feel that older employees may not be able to keep up or lack fresh ideas. On the contrary, older workers are more likely to stay at a job and be more satisfied with it. They are also less likely to have accidents and are just as flexible and trainable (Shen, 2001). The ways to diminish this treatment is the same as with gender discrimination. Employees must be aware of company polices as well as federal laws regarding these types of workers. They should also experience training regarding how to handle any issues that may arise from age discrimination. If people can be re-educated on this topic less discrimination will occur.

In the end, all people should be evaluated based on their skills, abilities, and experience rather than their demographic characteristics. The EEOC works to protect workers effected by discrimination and prevent it from being a problem in the future. With the proper education and sensitivity training there is no reason that this issue can be eliminated in the future. It is only fair that all people be given the same opportunities for employment and advancement. 


Chein, E., Kleiner, B. H., (1999). Sex discrimination in hiring. Equal Opportunities International, 18(5) Retrieved from

Shen, G., Kleiner, B. H. (2001). Age discrimination in hiring. Equal Opportunities International, 20(8). Retrieved from

(2011). Disparate treatment in hiring remains major problem, experts tell EEOC: Employers still barring large groups of people from jobs based on race, sex, age, other prohibited bases. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Documents and Publications. Retrieved from

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