Prejudices and stereotypes that society has developed towards certain groups of people can lead to discrimination. Prejudices are negative attitudes towards certain groups of people formed without knowledge of that group. Prejudice is most prevalent towards groups of people with whom there is less social contact. Excessive generalisations where the behaviour of one member is used to judge the behaviour of the whole group create stereotypes. Stereotypes are very persistent in society – people don’t notice them and don’t tend to challenge them. All people belonging to a (minority) group are presumed to be the same. Stereotypes prevent us from seeing other people as individuals.
Discrimination therefore occurs not so much because a person belongs to a particular group, but because of what they are perceived to be as a member of one group or another. For example, an employer refuses to send an older employee to training because they think older people are not capable of learning, etc.
Discriminatory behaviour is often also caused by a lack of awareness of the consequences of one’s decisions, actions or inactions, expressed opinions and established practices.
Discrimination is the process by which people are placed in certain social categories with unequal rights, resources, opportunities and power.
The effects of discrimination:
- at the individual level, discrimination such as not being offered a job because of one’s nationality, being underpaid, being belittled, facing a hostile attitude, etc. can make a person’s self-esteem plummet and, for example, they may give up looking for a job altogether, which can lead to a general deterioration in living standards;
- at the organisational level, discrimination leads to higher levels of employee dissatisfaction, a decrease in overall productivity, an increase in the number of sick days and a decrease in the economic performance of the company;
- at the societal level, the reproduction of existing stereotypes and discrimination leads to an increase in socio-economic disparities between social groups.
If you feel that you’ve been treated unequally, please contact the Equality Commissioner by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone +372 626 9059. The anonymity of the person is guaranteed when contacting the Commissioner.