race gender discrimination

Makeup in the workplace, can your boss tell you what to wear?

Makeup in the workplace, can your boss tell you what to wear? Or how you should dress or groom yourself while in the office or your job? Yes, they can!

race gender discrimination, makeup in the workplace

Emily Jane Perkins , a third-year law student at Northern Illinois University College of Law in Dekalb, Illinois, and a contributor to The National Law Review, relates the case of a casino employee who filed a sexual discrimination lawsuit against her employer, Harrah’s Casino, and lost.

“Harrah’s adopted an appearance policy entitled the “Personal Best” program, where bartenders were required to be ‘well groomed, appealing to the eye, firm and body-toned, and be comfortable with maintaining this look while wearing the specified uniform,’” she explains.

Different makeup in the workplace policies by gender

In this case, only females, but not male employees were required to have their hair “teased, curled or styled,” and to wear stockings, nail polish, and makeup that included lip color.

But one of their female employees, Darlene Jespersen, never wore makeup and she did not comply with this appearance policy. She complained that the policy stated a different requirement for men and women, and was an unequal burden for female employees.

The court did not agree with her assessment and determined that “women as a group did not suffer from the policy and was therefore permissible.”

Did not suffer? There were probably no men in that court! Long hours of manicure, curling and coloring your hair, and taking care of your skin and makeup, dieting and hitting the gym are not only time and money burdens on women but also an unnecessary requirement that –in my view–, “sexualizes” the image of women at work.

The Jespersen v. Harrah’s Operation Co., where the Ninth Circuit upheld a Title VII challenge to an employer’s “grooming and appearance” code continues to receive attention in the legal and non-legal press and generated renewed interest among practitioners on the issue of gender and appearance in the workplace.

Does your employer have an appearance policy? Tell us about it and let us know how this policy affects you and your co-workers, or what your co-workers really feel about it!

We are also looking for contributors to talk about appearance in the workplace. Please contact if you have a blog related to this topic and would like to share your content with us.

Senate members voting against violence against women act

Women’s History Month a reminder of violence against women in numbers


 In celebration of Women’s History Month, we need to remember that women are still the target of constant multifaceted and complex forms of violence in a society that has grown to privilege power over human rights.

Hardly any country has escaped the increasing violence against women as a result of war and militarism as well as institutional or individual violent actions that trickle down to the most vulnerable: women, children and the elderly. Many live in fear and despair.

22 Senate Members who voted against the Violence Against Women Act in 2014. In red circles running Presidential candidates Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

22 Senate Members who voted against the Violence Against Women Act in 2014. In red circles running Presidential candidates Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. (Photo courtesy Think for Progress)

When we think of violence against women, we usually concentrate on the physical act of viciousness but in reality, gender-based violence assumes many forms. From bullying and battering to subtle sexism, from acts of war against women to discrimination in the workplace, from rape to body objectification –in advertising and beauty contests–, from religious justification of women’s submission to the religious deification of women’s purity and chastity –sexual castration–, the intersection of gender-based violent actions with women’s rights is multifaceted and complex.

Numbers are powerful:

  • At least one in three women around the world will be the target of a physical act of violence in her lifetime, according to estimates of The United Nations Development Fund for Women. Many times, the abuser is a family member.
  • Among 10 countries researched in a study of the World Health Organization, it was reported that even-partnered women had experienced some kind of physical or sexual intimate partner violence regardless of their cultural setting; the range was from 15 percent of Japanese women to 71 percent of Ethiopian women.
  • According to UNIFEM , sexual violence has an economic, social, cultural and inter-generational impact during conflict and perpetuates insecurity in the wake of war. Women cannot hold their families together, access water and food resources; their children suffer of abandonment and isolation, and a disruption of their lives; women and girls are victims of sexual crimes, with resulting pregnancies giving birth to “war babies,” who are ostracized and rejected. For instance, it is believed that 250,000 to 500,000 women and girls were raped during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.
  • According to Family Safe Media, pornography is a 97 billion dollar industry worldwide –compared to the US federal budget in Education that was 118 billion in 2013.
Women and children among Syrian refugees striking at the platform of Budapest Keleti railway station. Refugee crisis. Budapest, Hungary, Central Europe, 4 September 2015. (Wiki Commons)

Women and children among Syrian refugees striking at the platform of Budapest Keleti railway station. Refugee crisis. Budapest, Hungary, Central Europe, 4 September 2015. (Wiki Commons)

Increasing militarism generates violence against women and children

Why choose the relationship between militarism and women’s rights? For many, that association might be distant and unrelated. However, the issue that is subtle in one society might be an everyday occurrence for others.

We tend to think of war as an armed conflict between two or more nations, in which trained soldiers fight to defeat their enemy’s army. However, contemporary wars or armed conflicts range from the drug wars against the favelas in Brazil to the Guatemalan genocide of 1,771 Ixil indigenous people or the femicide in Ciudad Juarez and other parts of Mexico. It also includes repression of Syrian female activists; the imprisonment, torture, rape and death of women in Congo, Chile and Argentina during military dictatorships or specific cases such as the recent murder of environmental activist Berta Caceres in Honduras.

According to the United Nations, military conflicts with 1,000 casualties per year are considered “major wars.” But cumulative casualties can become significant as conflicts extend through the years. In contemporary conflicts, 90 percent of victims are civilians –compared to civilians’ losses during World War I, estimated at 5 percent of total casualties–, most of them women and children.

Violence against women perpetrated by state actors

When states attack women instead of protecting and promoting their rights, they are using their military and legal powers to submit women and make them the targets of threats, violence and victimization in the name of state security.

In countries that are highly militarized or in war conflict, state violence against women can easily be spotted in the acts of physical violence, torture, imprisonment and terror.

But how do women spot the same in, for instance, the United States, a country with no domestic militarized conflict?

  • “Over the course of the year, 42 states and the District of Columbia enacted 122 provisions related to [women’s] reproductive health and rights. One-third of these new provisions, 43 in 19 states, sought to restrict access to abortion services,” reports the Guttmacher Institute in 2013.
  • Equal pay and job opportunities, appropriate labor legislation and same access to political and social opportunities and education are an aspiration but not a constitutional right for women in the U.S. Since 1923, the first time the Equal Right Amendment (ERA) was proposed to the Constitution and failed support from the states, advocacy groups have worked relentlessly to include equal rights for women.
  • The Violence Against Women Act of 1994 proposed by then-Senator Joe Biden, recognized the severity of violence against women but left out a number of cases included minorities, immigrant women, and gay, lesbian and transgender populations. In 2014, an extension to include such population was enacted by Congress and signed by President Obama. It only took 19 years to recognize the inequality suffered by these groups!
Houston Gun Show at the George R Brown Convention Center ( Wiki Commons)

Houston Gun Show at the George R Brown Convention Center ( Wiki Commons)

Violence against women and the role of small arms

From small children falling victims of accidents to women killed by their domestic partners or husbands, and from innocent pedestrians caught in gangs’ crossfire to victims of murder, rape, or burglary, the use of small weapons collects over 200,000 lives every year worldwide.

  • The number of small arms possessed by civilians is believed to outnumber three times those possessed by states and law enforcement. In 2007, the Small Arms Survey estimated civilians owned legally or illegally around 650 million firearms worldwide. Armed forces, on the other hand, held around 200 million, and additional 26 million were in hands of law enforcement personnel.
  • An estimated 90 firearms per 100 people are owned by civilians in the U.S. –the highest rate per capita in the world– followed by Yemen, with 55 weapons owned per 100 people. Both nations see gun ownership as a basic right and ingrained in the countries’ culture.
  • The presence of a gun in a home increases the overall risk of a person being murdered by 41 per cent; but for women in a domestic violence situation, the risk nearly triples, according to a report published by Amnesty International.
  • Another study from the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) found that the U.S. has the highest rate of female homicide among 25 high income nations. The firearm homicide rate of women is 11 times higher compared to the other countries included in the study.
  • According to NOW, young women, low-income women and minorities are at greater risk of suffering from domestic violence and rape and at higher danger of being murdered by their partners and spouses.
  • According to the National Latino Alliance for the Elimination of Domestic Violence, Latinas face unique obstacles in addressing domestic abuse and threats to their safety and their children’s due to cultural and language factors such as lack of sufficient bilingual social workers, police and judiciary personnel; lack of financial basic knowledge and independence; and fear of their own deportation and/or separation from her children.

Sexual violence during and after war conflict

Armed conflicts and war increase violence against women including multiple rape, torture, sexual slavery and murder of women and girls in the war-zones, refugee camps, detention facilities and military bases, according to The Impact of Guns in Women’s Life report.

Violence against women in particular –and gender-based violence in general– is used as a way to dominate other ethnic or racial groups, in religious cleansing wars, military occupations, and any other kind of armed conflict. Instead of protecting them, many times those who hold authority execute these acts of violence against the civilian and military population.

  • The Amnesty International report on the Iraq war abuses shows that civilians in the combat zone were victims of violence by domestic as well as foreign armed forces –the U.S. included- as well as those detained in prisons and camps. The Abu-Grahib scandal was just an example of these actions.
  • The U.S. Department of Defense Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office (SAPRO) 2012 Workplace and Gender Relations Survey of Active Duty Members report disclosed in its survey dreadful data about the number of military members –women and men- that have been victims of some kind of sexual abuse by their peers or superiors during war as well as regular duty.Consequences of violence against women and other gender-based violence

The consequences of gender-based violence can extend to a lifetime for many women and girls who are abused psychologically, physically or suffer the stigma and punishment of society. Although we tend to feel horrified about cultures that put victims in isolation and ostracism, or silence them in judiciary processes as foreign and far from us –such as in India, Bangladesh or South Africa–, the culture of rape and violence against women is also common in the United States.

The U.S. culture tends to tolerate, justify, or even condone gender-based violence –as seen in two cases of sports abuses at Penn State University and Notre Dame. Those acts are not only directed against women and children but also gay, lesbian, and transgender populations.

Instead of prosecuting and punishing the perpetrators of the crimes, societal behaviors commonly include blaming the victim, presenting women as sex objects and trivializing rape. Alcohol and drug abuse are also common contributors to violent situations.

Girls and women are bombarded with advertising imposing strict beauty patters to be sexually attractive and desired by men. The US diet industry raked in $6.3 billion in revenue in 2015. Other created needs such as skin, makeup and hair products are also multibillion dollar industries. Pressure on image has extended mental and emotional behaviors such as anorexia, bulimia and other personality disorders among young girls and women.

How do we end this assault on women against the highest concentration of power and money of states, interest groups –including the gun industry and the military complex–, and corporations that obtain big profits and benefits from these actions?

“Decades of mobilizing by civil society and women’s movements have put ending gender-based violence high on national and international agendas. An unprecedented number of countries have laws against domestic violence, sexual assault and other forms of violence. Challenges remain however in implementing these laws, limiting women and girls’ access to safety and justice. Not enough is done to prevent violence, and when it does occur, it often goes unpunished.” (Ending Violence Against Women, UN Women)

gender diversity in corporate America

Gender diversity in the C-suite, where Latinas stand

If the overall consensus in the business world is that gender diversity is now an ethical and business imperative–at least in declaration–, why is gender discrimination still rampant in the corporate world?

A few days ago, I was horrified reading an article on The New York Times in which the author talks about the gender discrimination nightmares she suffered working in a male dominant environment such as Wall Street. It prompted these thoughts about the need to keep on pushing and pushing harder to encourage women in general and Latinas at work in particular  to reclaim gender diversity in the workplace.

gender diversity in corporate America where Latinas stand

If the overall consensus in the business world is that gender diversity is now an ethical and business imperative–at least in declaration–, why is gender discrimination still rampant in the corporate world?

A few days ago, I was horrified reading an article on The New York Times in which the author talks about the gender discrimination nightmares she suffered working in a male dominant environment such as Wall Street. It prompted these thoughts about the need to keep on pushing and pushing harder to encourage women in general and Latinas at work in particular  to reclaim gender diversity in the workplace.

Time after time I attend diversity conferences, summits and business events, large corporations declare they recognize the need for including gender diversity in their upper ranks. Unfortunately, the gender diversity pathway is still excruciatingly slow, especially for Latinas.

Despite some advances, women are under-represented at every level of the corporate world, especially when it comes to leadership positions. The number of women in senior level positions has increased compared to ten years ago, but still have not met anyone’s expectations.

According to the Hispanic Association for Corporate Responsibility (HACR) 2015 Corporate Inclusion Index (HACR CII), “Hispanics held just over 7 percent of board seats amongst the participating companies, which is higher than the average within the Fortune 500, but is still considered low.” The latest? United Airlines named Oscar Muñoz as its new CEO last year, after the company’s CEO and chairman Jeff Smisek stepped down amid an investigation into wrongdoing at the airline.

Latinas? Although many are climbing the ranks, none are sitting as CEO’s and only 37 out of 5,511 board seats in Fortune 500 companies gather around corporate board tables.

Gender diversity in the developed world

The World Economic Forum makes the case for gender diversity in the workplace: “Ensuring the healthy development and appropriate use of half of the world’s available talent pool thus has a vast bearing on how competitive a country may become or how efficient a company may be. There is clearly also a values-based case for gender equality: women are one half of the world’s population and deserve equal access to health, education, economic participation and earning potential and political decision-making power. Ultimately, gender equality is fundamental to whether and how societies thrive.”

In Europe the gap in gender diversity in the corporate world is gradually disappearing. Countries like France, Norway, Israel, Germany, Belgium, Spain, etc, all have at least 30 percent females on their corporate board. For the year 2016, the European Union has asked for a 40 percent quota for women in business organizations in European countries. By contrast, in the USA there are no such mandatories and having women in corporate ranks is completely voluntary. In the top 500 fortune companies in the USA, there are less than 17 percent women on corporate boards and more than 50 percent of these companies do not even have any women on their boards.

What does gender diversity inclusion entitle?

Only recently has senior leadership devoted time to addressing this problem. Gender diversity is a top ten strategy of only one fourth of corporations in the USA, and in more than a third of companies there is no strategic agenda on this matter. There is universal agreement that for gender diversity to succeed in the corporate world, a company needs firm commitment from the top, otherwise all other initiatives along the pathway will fail.

The process of increasing diversity requires broad interventions in the entire company and everyone has to be aligned with the same objective –often a difficult task because not everyone in the company may agree to such changes. To counter such sentiments, one has to design certain conditions so that change can take place.

Working Latinas and gender diversity in the workplace

Young mothers’ needs are not considered in the corporate environment despite that gender diversity has been proven to be effective for corporate success.

Maternity leave, dedication to family and work, and other parenting responsibilities have often been cited as obstacles to career achievement among women by gender diversity-resistant officers. Women’s performances are attached to different standards when it comes to annual reviews for promotional opportunities.

Imaginary case scenarios –“she won’t be able to travel or she won’t be able to work long hours” –may be cited as justifications for not offering women real advancement opportunities. Women’s needs in the workplace have not been addressed by corporations in all its real and full complexity. In fact, most work procedures and best practices never take in consideration a gender approach.

Even when a commitment to change the culture of a company has been made, it takes time to implement those changes. Of course, all companies want competent women leaders and this can often be a challenge in some professions lacking competent senior females. But really, are there no competent women in certain fields? And if so, what about the competent ones that abound in other fields?

Competence is not a birth right, but a set of skills acquired overtime usually through mentoring and sponsoring opportunities. Visibility is also part of competency but it is used as a privilege of those who only see advantages in choosing peers to work with. Women might make men feel uncomfortable because they have a different perspective on issues or a different approach to solving problems. So there is a great deal of adjustment for both genders to be made in the culture of a company that can only be accomplished by increasing gender inclusion in the discussion process.

Do women on corporate boards help organizations?

The question that is often asked, “Why is there a need for gender diversity in the corporate world?” must then be answered by another question, “Does having women on a corporate board help the organization?”

The answer is a resounding yes. More evidence seems to indicate that when women are on a corporate board it benefits the company in more ways than one. One study showed that for every female on the corporate board, the company paid less for acquisitions it made. This suggests that women on corporate boards are more prudent, have less interest in risky mergers and tend to remain focused on higher returns.

A recent study by Thomson Reuters, the world’s leading source of intelligent information for businesses and professionals, “Mining the Metrics of Board Diversity show “… how the progression of women on boards has increased gradually over the past five years but that, on average, companies with mixed-gender boards have marginally better, or similar, performance to a benchmark index, such as the MSCI World, particularly over the past 18 months. Whereas, on average, companies with no women on their boards underperformed relative to gender-diverse boards and had slightly higher tracking errors, indicating potentially more volatility.”

Surveys of board directors have also revealed that women seem to make better business decisions that improve the company’s performance or indicate that women on corporate boards are more trusted by their peers than their male counterparts and show good skills often with a positive outcome for the company. Based on these data there is a call to rescind the mandate of a minimum number of women on the board because it makes good business sense.

A long way to go still ahead for Latinas in the workplace Young businesswoman walking up on corporate ladder

Sadly, while women are gaining a foothold in the corporate world in the USA, it is hard to find one Latina at a top senior level. Despite being a large population in the USA, Latinas have been completely under represented. Why Latinas do not make it to the upper echelons of the corporate world remains a mystery. Is it because they lack education or experience? Or is it because Latinas themselves are not interested in the world of business?

Anecdotal reports indicate that Latinas simply are ignored irrespective of their qualifications and experience. While the “all American female” is finally getting a break in life, Latinas still have a long way to go. Until then, the only thing to do is to keep on trying.

The road ahead might be less difficult because the door to gender diversity has already been opened. Awareness of this issue is no longer a problem and gradually corporations are making themselves committed to gender equality across the board.

Now,  aren’t Hispanic women qualified for these jobs? Those in senior executive positions, are they being considered for their experience? What would it take to be part of the short list of candidates?

What unique assets can Latinas offer because of our heritage and culture? How can Latinas make themselves visible by proving their potential as sound corporate leaders? What strengths do they bring to the table of large corporations that are instrumental in successful leadership?

We need to find these answers and we need to find them now.