Gender in the Workplace, Part One
Posted by Anni M.
I spoke briefly about gender in the workplace yesterday and it inspired me to dig a little deeper. It’s a difficult subject. Many people are resistant to the idea that gender matters in this day and age. It’s appealing to think that we’re beyond our prejudices, but it’s not realistic. Women still get paid 77% of what men get paid. Some pundits argue that this is due to women’s occupations—they tend to gravitate towards lower paying jobs. If this were true (and there is no evidence that it is) perhaps we should ask why. Are women encouraged to pursue higher paying jobs? Are they trained in key competencies? There is an innate gender inequality built into our culture, from early childhood education to maternity leave policies to preferential hiring. This inequality is expressed everywhere: in our interpersonal interactions, and in our cultural stereotypes. We assume women are quieter, meeker, more emotional, less cutthroat. These assumptions are holding women back.
And yet, there are many powerful women in high-paying jobs. These women are subverting the trends. How do they do it? What privileges have they had? In many cases, these women are probably the children of other successful women. When we have solid role models, we are more likely to succeed. They are also capably handling the sexism they encounter. They have strategies for handling unfairness or perceived prejudice, strategies that we can all learn from (I will write more about these strategies in tomorrow’s post).
According to the University of Northern Iowa College of Business Administration (CBA), things that work well for men don’t work as well for women, and vice versa. “Research shows that men gain promotions and other organizational benefits with ‘ingratiating behaviors’ such as flattery, signals of conformity to another’s opinions, and doing favors for the other person. Meanwhile, women and ethnic minorities do not gain much from the same behaviors. In fact, women and ethnic minorities who exhibited monitoring and control signals were punished with less advancement, while Caucasian men earned favor with that style of communication.”
I find it very disturbing that women and ethnic minorities are conflated. It suggests that we treat women, 50.8% of the U.S. population (51% of the world population), as a minority, and that ethnic minorities, both men and women, are treated equally poorly. Obviously this is a huge problem embedded in the foundation of our business culture. An even bigger problem, I think, is the way organizations like CBA try to teach women to behave. The language and examples they use to prepare women for success in business simply perpetuate the underlying myth: that women must work within the prejudice to succeed. This is a huge issue and I have only just scratched the surface. Stay tuned for part two.
As a Creative Communications Strategist, Victoria is known for her electrifying Keynote Performances™ and the transformational workshops and coaching sessions she creates for elite executives, high performing teams, thought leaders and entrepreneurs..