Can Men Be the Target of Gender Discrimination in the Workplace?

Written by Nicola Wylie
Last updated October 2, 2023

Gender discrimination in the workplace is a challenging topic. Unfortunately, it is still a situation that arises more often than we might think in the U.K. When it does arise, it can be deeply stressful and upsetting for those involved.

When we think of gender discrimination, many of us immediately think of how women are affected by this practice. While it is the case that many women experience gender discrimination in the workplace and deal with complex issues such as pay inequality and maternity discrimination, this doesn’t mean it only affects women. We would be doing the topic a disservice if we didn’t think of both sides of the equation.

Men experience gender discrimination in the workplace, albeit to a statistically less frequent extent. This is an important topic to discuss and there are very valid concerns and feelings around this topic to consider and explore. In this blog, we would like to do just that. 

Let’s talk a little more about how men can be the target of gender discrimination at work and what to do if this happens in your own circumstances. 

What is Gender Discrimination? 

First things first, let’s discuss what we mean by gender discrimination. 

Under the Equality Act of 2010, gender is a protected characteristic. This means that a person cannot be discriminated against in any way due to their gender. This discrimination can take the form of direct discrimination, indirect discrimination, harassment, or victimisation. 

Gender discrimination does not specify which gender we are talking about. While women are often the focus of this conversation, men are equally protected from experiencing gender discrimination in the workplace, including all four forms described above. 

This concerns: 

  • Decisions made throughout the recruitment processes 
  • Language used towards the employee
  • Pay, promotions and benefits offered
  • Treatment of the employee
  • Inclusion or exclusion of the employee
  • Any decisions made regarding disciplinary action or termination
  • Amenities and facilities offered

And so on.

The gender of the employee involved cannot influence any of the above factors. If it does, that is when we are looking at illegal gender discrimination. 

How are Men Involved?

It can often be easier to think of instances of gender discrimination involving women. However, it is key that we know how gender discrimination against men looks so we can easily spot it and deal with it when it does happen. 

Some examples include…

  • A man being refused appropriate paternity leave at work as their employer doesn’t believe this is necessary for traditional family roles. 
  • A male employee experiencing sexual advances from another member of staff and being targeted because of their gender and sexuality
  • Denying a male employee access to gender-neutral bathroom facilities due to the discomfort of other employees. 
  • Poor treatment of male employees in female-dominated industries, including bullying and exclusion. 
  • A skilled and qualified man being repeatedly denied promotion opportunities because he is a male and they “have had enough opportunities already”. 
  • Excluded male employees from social events in case they “make female employees uncomfortable”. 

Ultimately, it is gender discrimination if a man experiences unwelcome and unpleasant treatment at work simply because of their gender. While men have historically held social power and status, it doesn’t mean they cannot be harmed by such instances of discrimination. It is important to consider the impact that discrimination at work can have on a person’s health and well-being, so we must treat all potential instances with the same gravity and respect. 

How Should Discrimination at Work be Dealt with?

It can be difficult to know what to do when you begin experiencing discrimination at work. It may catch you off guard and be something you never expected to have to deal with. This can make it harder to know where to begin tackling the problem and getting the solution you need. 

If you are a man and feel you have experienced/are experiencing gender discrimination at work, the following is a checklist for you to use to begin to approach the problem. 

  1. Challenge the discrimination internally by speaking to your manager and/or internal HR services. Explain what is happening, why you are upset, and provide any evidence that you have. 
  2. If this is unsuccessful, speak to Citizen’s Advice and the Equality Advisory Support Service about your next steps. It may be a case of mediation or it might call for a more formal tribunal. 
  3. If you are unsatisfied with the results of the previous steps, it may be time to talk to a solicitor about beginning legal proceedings. You may also be entitled to free legal advice from legal aid, which you can read more about here. 

Throughout all of these steps, it is important to keep a record of everything that has happened. Remember to follow the process each step at a time. You may also feel that you need mental health support throughout the process as it can be lengthy and challenging. Finding a counsellor and/or speaking to your GP about this can be very beneficial for your health both now and down the line. 

It can also help to generally know your rights at work so that you can know when a boundary is being crossed. You can read our guide on the Equality Act to find out more about this for future use. 

Finding an Inclusive Job

After experiencing gender discrimination at work, it makes sense that you might want to find a new opportunity where this is less likely to reoccur. 

The best way to avoid future discrimination is to find an employer that is inclusive and diversity-positive. Working with such employers allows you to benefit from an inclusive and diverse working environment and protects you from future discrimination with strict policy and protocol. 

If you want to find such an opportunity, you can do so via our inclusive job board and directory of diversity-positive employers right here on Aspiring to Include

We believe that everyone should be supported and included at work, regardless of who they are. If you need a fresh start in a healthy environment, we can help you find it. 

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Last Updated: Friday July 7 2023
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