What is gender inequality in the workplace?

Learn more about types of biases affecting workplace equality.

Illustrative image. Source: Image via Shutterstock

Bias is prevalent in every aspect of our lives and can cause us to form prejudices against others, which allows for egregious inequalities to form between different demographics.


Assumptions or social expectations in human thoughts. These biases are formed based on perceptions from social contexts, attitudes and cultures. Unconscious bias can take many forms and is sometimes considered synonymous with prejudice or stubbornness.

Gender bias occurs when one individual unconsciously attributes certain attitudes and stereotypes to another person or group of people. These ascribed behaviors affect how the individual understands and engages with others. 

In today’s society, gender bias is often used to refer to the preferential treatment men receive — specifically white, heterosexual males. It’s often labeled as “sexism” and describes the prejudice against women solely on the basis of their sex. Gender bias is most prominently visible within professional settings.

In addition to gender bias (a form of unconscious bias, or implicit bias), there are a number of other types of unconscious bias that disproportionately affect women's success in the workplace, which include:


Performance support bias occurs when employers, managers and colleagues provide more resources and opportunities to one gender (typically men) over another.

One study found that among sales employees — who are paid based on performance and commission — women are unfairly assigned inferior accounts compared to men, even though women have proven to produce the same results when given equivalent sales opportunities.


Performance review bias occurs when employers, managers and colleagues review an employee of one gender differently from another gender — even when the evaluations are purely merit-based.

Harvard Business Review found that performance evaluations are inherently bias, even when companies make an effort to remove bias by making them open-ended. In fact, without structure to evaluations, people are more likely to review an individual on the basis of stereotypes related to gender and race than reviewing individuals meritocratically.  


Performance reward bias occurs when employers, managers and colleagues reward an employee of one gender differently from another gender. Rewards may be in the form of promotions, raises or other merit-based rewards.

While it may seem like rewarding individuals on merit would help eliminate gender bias, it’s not as cut-and-dry as you think. One study found that when women and minorities receive the same exact performance evaluation score as white men for the same job and work unit, they receive lower pay increases than white men.


Bias isn’t limited to gender. Women can also experience biases due to their race, sexual orientation, a disability, or other aspects of their identity.

For example, women of color often face double discrimination: biases for being women and biases for being people of color. Compared to white women, women of color receive less support from managers, get less access to senior leaders, and are promoted more slowly. As a result, they are particularly underrepresented in the corporate pipeline, behind white men, white women, and men of color.


Illustrative image. Source: Internet

Vietnam is globally recognized as one of the countries with the fastest pace in eliminating the gender gap over the past 20 years. Vietnam's gender inequality has improved rapidly, with the gender development index being in the top 5 groups (out of 188 countries). 

The Law on Gender Equality 2006 was issued to develop mechanisms and principles for the implementation of the Law on Gender Equality in Vietnam.

The contents specified in the 2006 Law on Gender Equality include:

1. Definitions of sex, gender, gender equality;

2. Basic principles of gender equality;

3. State policies on gender equality;

4. State management agency on gender equality;

5. Gender equality in the fields of life, society and family;

6. Measures to promote gender equality.

Since the enactment of this law in 2006, Vietnam has made a lot of achievements in gender equality, gradually narrowing the gender gap in terms of labor and employment.

The revision of the Labour Code was an opportunity to improve legal policies for female workers and promote gender equality. Source: Internet

Vietnam’s new Labour Code, adopted in November 2019, aims to tackle this gender gap. As the most comprehensive legal document for the world of work created in Vietnam, it addresses a number of areas where inequalities currently exist.

One provision narrows the gender gap in retirement age, from five to two years. When the Code enters into force in January 2021, retirement age for women will gradually increase to 60 rather than the current age of 55.

Narrowing the retirement age gap will enable women to have more years to accumulate savings and raise their level of pension contributions overall. 

Other new provisions in the Labour Code address sexual harassment in the workplace, the gender pay gap, and offer pregnant women and new mothers greater protection from losing their jobs or discrimination. A wide range of occupations and economic activities that were previously closed to women, ostensibly for their protection, are now open to female workers./.

Tu Anh