Although the “Mad Men” days of overt sex discrimination in the workplace are mostly past, women still experience a surprising amount of gender-based discrimination in many industries, from basic entry-level jobs up to high-powered Silicon Valley firms.
Examples at a recent trial regarding sexual harassment and sex discrimination at a major venture capital firm show exactly the kind of subtle, undercover discrimination many women are still likely to face today. As one example, women at the company testified that they weren’t invited to events like a ski trip and a dinner party, while their male equivalents were, denying them the opportunity of bonding with and becoming better known to higher-up decision makers. Others testified about being caught in a performance review trap: first their reviews gave negative assessments that they were too passive and didn’t speak up enough, but as soon as they did speak up and sought credit for their work like their male colleagues did, they were again negatively reviewed as pushy and entitled.
As a result of these subtle forms of discrimination, women weren’t considered equal candidates when assessed against their male colleagues, even by people who weren’t the original discriminators. Why would you promote a woman you didn’t know and who had subtly negative performance reviews over a man you had gotten to know and liked over a company dinner and who had uniformly positive reviews? To many decision-makers, you wouldn’t, further hurting the women in their positions within the company and their careers.
These kinds of subtle discrimination are still far too common in the American workforce and are just as illegal as the more traditional and overt kinds of discrimination.