Identity-Based Resources: Women

ACAC Identity-Based Resources - Woman-Identified Students

As an individual who identifies as a woman your identities bring strength and unique experiences into a workplace environment. However, structural inequities and implicit bias present challenges for women throughout their careers.
When entering the workplace, it is important to have awareness of, and strategies to deal with, the following:
  • How to deal with unconscious bias and stereotyping (implicit bias) throughout your career journey;
  • Navigating representation and presentation in terms of appearance: dress, accessories and hairstyles in the workplace;
  • Assumptions of family responsibilities;
  • Being the only or one of a few women in their working environment;
  • Feeling the need to alter the way one expresses themself.
Workplace gender discrimination comes in many different forms, but generally it means that an employee or a job applicant is treated differently or less favorably because of their sex or gender, or because the person is affiliated with an organization or group that is associated with a particular sex or gender.  Even though the words “sex” and “gender” have different meanings, laws against discrimination at work often use them interchangeably.
Sometimes workers experience discrimination because of their gender and something else, like their race or ethnicity. For example, a woman of color may experience discrimination in the workplace differently from a white female co-worker. She may be harassed, paid less, evaluated more harshly, or passed over for promotion because of the combination of her sex and her race. (
Career Advisors will provide individualized support to help identify and explore your career interests, values, and goals. Please reach out to to book an appointment with your career advisor to discuss strategies for entering the workforce.
Whether or not an employer adheres to them, the laws regarding discrimination are clear: The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission enforces Federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination: Unfair treatment because of your race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, gender identity, and sexual orientation), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information.

Discrimination in the workplace

Not all gender discrimination is intentional or explicit. It could still count as discrimination if your employer does something that ends up excluding or harming workers of a particular sex without intending to. Oftentimes, a certain practice or policy — say, a hiring test or requirement — does not say anything about gender, and may not have been put in place for the purpose of keeping women out of certain jobs, but ends up having that effect. This kind of practice or policy could still be considered “discriminatory.”
For workplace gender discrimination to be considered illegal, it has to involve treatment that negatively affects the “terms or conditions” of your employment……. “Terms and conditions” include but are not limited to things like your job responsibilities, work hours, dress code, vacation and sick days, starting salary, and performance evaluation standards.
Examples of gender discrimination and harassment include (taken from How Gender Discrimination Affects Women In The Workplace | Florin+Roebig Trial Attorneys):
  • prejudiced treatment in hiring or firing processes on account of gender
  • being passed over for a promotion on account of gender; also known as the “glass ceiling”
  • getting paid less than a male employee who works the same job
  • being subject to unwanted sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other forms of sexual harassment
  • being given less paid sick leave or denied employee benefits on account of gender
  • being written up for a behavior that does not result in disciplinary action when performed by an employee of another sex
  • being referred to by a name or gender that you don’t identify with (e.g. a transgender man is referred to as ‘Miss’ or ‘Mrs.’)
  • being the subject of derogatory language or slurs on account of being female
If you experience discrimination once you have started a job, here are some resources that might help: 

Approaching Toxic Masculinity in the Workplace

Toxic masculinity involves certain behaviors that promote the need to aggressively compete and dominate others. Toxic masculinity in the workplace can result in a hostile work environment and undermine efforts to achieve diversity, equity and inclusion. Masculinity becomes toxic when it conforms to rigid gender stereotypes including:

  • Bullying to maintain a competitive advantage
  • Displaying only “masculine” emotions like anger and pride
  • Showing aggression during conflict, including yelling and name calling.
  • Using domination over women and other men.

Illegal Interview Questions

It is against the law for employers to ask you certain questions in a job interview? Any question that asks about race, religion, ability, gender, age, pregnancy status, citizenship, marital status or number of children is illegal for employers to ask. However, employers may still ask these questions. 

How do I respond to illegal questions?

  • Gracefully steer the conversation elsewhere.
  • Keep your answers short, broad and general.
  • Redirect a question to your interviewer.
  • Reenforce to the employer that you have the skills and abilities required for the position.
To learn more about what topics are off-limits and what to do if you are asked about them, see:  8 Inappropriate Interview Questions and How To Tackle Them Like a ProIf an employer continues to ask inappropriate questions, you might want to consider what that would mean to you on a daily basis at this job. Discuss these things with a career advisor, mentor, or family member.

Dress Code

A work dress code is a set of standards that companies develop to help provide their employees with guidance about what is appropriate to wear to work. Generally, federal courts have upheld dress codes that require men and women to dress or groom themselves differently, and in a manner that conforms with gender stereotypes. While discussing the terms of employment, you may want to have a conversation about dress code requirements. For further guidance, please reach out to a career advisor.

Imposter Phenomenon (or Imposter Syndrome)

Imposter Syndrome is a common phenomenon women experience in the workforce. Those facing imposter syndrome find it difficult to attribute positive performance to skills and competence and may hold off applying for a job unless they meet all the criteria. Despite objective successes, individuals experiencing imposter syndrome fail to internalize their accomplishments and have persistent self-doubt and fear of being exposed as a fraud or imposter.
Methods to overcome the imposter phenomenon:
  • Identify the imposter phenomenon and understand how it affects you 
  • Identify your strengths and learn about why diversity makes an organization stronger
  • Identify allies and connect with others
  • Advocate for yourself, track your successes
  • Acknowledge the emotional toll and take time for self-care
Additional Resources: 


Most fields have professional associations, a simple web search will pull up an association in your field. Associations allow you to network, find mentorship, and continued professional development. Below are some general websites: 

Salary Negotiation

Negotiating increases your potential to earn more. One year out of college, women and women of color in particular are already paid significantly less than men and the gap grows larger over time during a woman’s career. Learning how to research your target salary, highlight your accomplishments and find the right words and the confidence to negotiate for better benefits and pay can make the difference for paying off loans, supporting your family, buying what you want and need, and saving for the future.

Parents Re-Entering the Workforce 

There may also be relevant information available to you on the Non-Traditional Student page

Pregnancy and Beyond 


Navigating the workplace while pregnant can be challenging, whether you are a long time employee or just entering the job search market. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act protects pregnant women in the workplace, making it illegal for employers to consider pregnancy in decisions about hiring, firing and promotion. One of the first things you will need to consider is how and when to inform your employer. 
Once your employer is aware of your pregnancy, you will need to start coming up with a plan.  Consider your leave time, how long will you want to be on leave and how much time is covered through your employer.  You will also need to consider the effects your leave will have on your employer, and help to prepare a plan for your absence. 

Returning to Work Postpartum:

Returning to work will require you to navigate: a new routine at home, potentially sleepless nights, familiarizing yourself with a changing workplace, postpartum hormones and other hurdles. There are many steps you can take to ensure your return to work is successful and enjoyable.   
Pregnancy is not a disability under the Americans with Disability Act (ADA).  However, complications resulting from pregnancy, such as postpartum depression, may be considered a disability for which employers need to consider and accommodate on a case-by-case basis.

Expressing Milk at Work:

Your employer must not treat you differently based on expressing milk at work.  Federal law requires employers to provide reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for one year after the child's birth each time such employee has need to express the milk (Section 7 of the FLSA). Employers are also required to provide a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public, which may be used by an employee to express breast milk