Shayan Shaffie Stereotyping as Institution

John and Mary Yaremko Forum in Multiculturalism and Human Rights:Student Symposium on Women's Human Rights: March 6, 2009

Shayan Shaffie

Stereotyping as Institution: On Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins and the Socio-Structural Roots of Gender Discrimination.


As the critical movement for gender equality advances into the twenty- first century, the battle against discriminatory and stereotypical thinking is being waged along increasingly subtle and contextual lines. As a result, the very definition of “equality" has been forced to evolve from its purely formal roots to encompass new psycho- structural dimensions. This essay proffers an argument for the need to take this approach to gender equality more seriously. By outlining the psychological, legal and socio-structural dimensions of gender stereotyping, it goes on to apply this framework to the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins in order to demonstrate why the effective diagnosis and treatment of gender stereotyping in the employment context hinges upon an analysis of the structural roots fostering such stereotypical thinking. Drawing upon key articles of the Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the essay concludes by presenting some of the ways in which the Supreme Court in Hopkins might have improved its judgment with the aim of effecting a model of genuine, transformative equality.


The Women’s Human Rights Resources Programme thanks John and Mary Yaremko for generously funding this Symposium