There are many components to equal rights in the workplace and in order to address some, you need to include them all, because otherwise you are showing favoritism. The male v. female issue is constantly blurred starting with who even gets hired first onto who gets the promotion first. I have sat in many board room meetings and even as recently as in the last 5 years I’ve heard manager’s recite: “no, Joe deserves it more, he has a wife and 2 kids to support” and on the other spectrum I have also heard “Yes, Doris leaves early every afternoon because she has female issues” So, in order to change the behavior you need to start with acknowledging that the mindset has already infected our judgments, it is the way we view our world.
People are not machines and even in the most sterile and/or military precise run businesses you see bias, you have to. Because as people, we lead with feeling, like it or not, that is the way the world works. And sometimes that’s for the best and sometimes not. But, if you fed raw data into a spreadsheet or database and came up with averages and percentages based on pure numbers and statistics you get your numbers spit out very coldly. Just because Suzie ranked high on all of the criteria does not make her eligible for the promotion either, maybe it is a high public position and she is not a people person. Maybe you prefer not to work with her and the promotion will mean you two will be glued at the hip. There are just a lot of human reasons that businesses are run the way they are, because after all the company itself is not the widget you are selling, the company is made up of many different human beings who have many different ideas and agendas. Also within every company on top of the careers and company structure, you also have social cliques no matter whether you want them or not. If people gather they start forming social hierarchy and that can also influence management and coworkers.
So, even though the laws must be written ad nauseam to have some sort of recourse for peoples protection; and even though a company can have an “everyone is equal here” atmosphere or slogan; there are going to be some decisions to be made when events present themselves as not just black and white, male or female, gay or straight, etc. etc. issues.