Gender Stereotypes Affect Women at the Work Place
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Gender Stereotypes Affect Women at the Work Place
How Unconsciously Held Gender Stereotypes Affect Women at the Work Place
In a speech she presented on TED Talk, Adichie (n.p) explained the dangers of only hearing one story about a person, a culture, a gender, a nation, a war and generally any phenomenon that possibly has more than one side to the story. Through her speech Adichie informed her audience just how powerful one story was in imprinting a perception in the mind of its audience that could both be upheld for an individual’s lifetime and transferred or passed down to the individuals generations. Her speech speaks of how culture has worked since time immemorial in defining gender roles, ethics and moral values and even more, cultural beliefs. Reflecting on the idea of gender stereotypes, I agree with Adichie (n.p) that one story can be destructive and its effects can be difficult but not impossible to undo.
Many would deny that not only do gender stereotypes exist in the twenty first century but that they continue to define what roles men and women should perform in the society. For instance, the article by the Singapore Management University (n.p) revealed that even in a post gender-stereotypical age, men continued to be preferred to hold the majority seats of leadership and boardroom positions as compared to women who continued to be preferred to follow instead of to lead. West (n.p) in a similar study disclosed that the reason why gender stereotypes continue to haunt the present day woman is because although society does not actively proclaim and pronounce the roles of men and women in society and at the workplace, individuals continue to carry what they learnt were each gender’s roles as children and embrace those gender roles.
For example, men in the past were considered to be bread winners, professionals and leaders. Women on the other hand were considered to be individuals who were required to spend more time at home and less time at work. Although these stereotypes sound outdated and forgotten, Mariani (202) explains how individuals continue to uphold and unconsciously live by the gender stereotypes among other stereotypes they learnt in their past as they grew up. Therefore, although more women are encouraged to take up more competitive and scientific courses at school, when it comes to hiring for the jobs, most organizations still consider that men are better for such positions and prefer to hire men instead of women despite the fact that all candidates may show equal qualification, possess similar skill sets and demonstrate equivalent experience levels.
Significance of the Study
For this report, the single story that that we focus on that has been passed on from generation to generation, more unconsciously than it has consciously, is that a woman’s place is first at home and then or not all in a boardroom or leadership position. For that reason, society has secretly either demanded more of a woman interested in a male dominated industry or shamed her for pursuing such an opportunity over focusing scoring a followers position instead of a leader’s one. Another scenario is whereby society continued to demand that though a woman studies the same fields as a man, achieves the same level of expertise and experience, but nor e considered to be equally as capable or skilled enough to make reliable decisions while at work. In such environments, the men are looked upon as qualified, while the women are scrutinized and forced to prove that they deserve to be appointed a position that would have been easily given to a man had he shown interest in it and with less questions asked.
Statement of the Problem
In her article, Tebano (n.p) tells the story of Dr. Francesca Dominici who is among the 1% of America’s leading scientists in the field of bio-statistical analysis and has helped the government of America to prevent, manage and solve a series of environmental problems before. Dr. Dominici is also descried as a professor at Harvard who has served in her department for over ten years and worked closely with and over a team of men where she was the only lady.
According to Tebano (n.p) although, Dr. Dominici has not only earned her way to the top of her field and served in a team of men for more than 10years as the only lady, she is still subjected to explaining and justifying every decision she makes even to her juniors, something she notes is not required of her male colleagues. The problem is not that she has to reason out with her team and subordinates on how she reached her conclusions or why she made decisions but that she experiences some demeaning conversations because unconsciously, her colleagues understand that that industry is a masculine industry and not a place for ladies.
Justification of the Study
I care about this topic because, after reading several reliable sources which I will further explore in my study, I realized that Dr. Dominici’s workplace is a representation of what a majority of contemporary professional women experience in their places of work, especially in organizations where the larger share of leadership is comprised of men (West n.p). Furthermore, I not only chose to explore this study because of the unnerving statistics I came across that prove that unconscious gender stereotyping is affecting women at the workplace but also because I identified an opportunity to dispel the myth that feminism brought an end to gender stereotypes and other subtle forms of misogyny.
How have gender stereotypes been downplayed in the present day society and what are the effects of these unconsciously held gender stereotypes on women at the workplace? (Single Story = Women are better being followers not leaders is a myth.)
This research relied solely on secondary material to identify gaps, collect information and draw reliable conclusions. This research utilized the literary scholarly articles that will be reviewed in this document. No data was collected primarily by the researchers. However, the research analyzes, critiques, compares and also evaluates different findings on the topic of what unconscious gender stereotypes haunt women in professional offices, the effects of those single story stereotypes on women before providing recommendations for the women as well as for society and stating the conclusion of this study.
Tebano’s (n.p) description of Dr. Dominic’s success as well as her frustrations at the workplace as a result of gender bias reveal that contemporary culture unconsciously upholds the gender stereotypes of the 20th century and the times before that. These unconsciously held gender stereotypes affect how the current woman is viewed and treated at the place of work, at places she pursues leadership roles and in society. Owing to those stereotypes, not only are women expected to excel at their domestic and nursing chores at home but they are also expected to be exceptional if they are to command any respect at their places of work. Then again, Dr. Dominici is proof that a single story can cloud out all the excellent qualities a woman leader can possess and subject her to having to justify her every thought and action because women are not associated with great leadership, expertise or mastery in skills. Some of the unconsciously held gender stereotypes and their effect on women that continue to taunt the present day professional woman are discussed below.
- A woman’s priority should be establishing her household and not pursuing a career.
Before feminism convinced the woman that she too had a right to pursue art, talent, careers and her wildest dreams, society had labelled a good woman as one who put aside everything to be a wife and a mother (Amoruso 13). Any woman that thought of pursuing a career or a hobby other than one that made her a better wife and a better woman was considered to be a rebel and uncultured. Women were uncomfortable with the idea but it was the single story that had been preached and famed that it was difficult to argue otherwise.
However with time, women rose to positions of power and leadership and excelled as family persons as well but that single story’s root had not been uprooted from the minds of society. Unfortunately, in the contemporary times, women are shamed for issues such as how fast they return to work after a maternity leave or how many hours they spend at their work place instead of their homes. Worse, the same society that advocates for women to work hard and prove themselves in the workplace is the same society that shames the same women for being workaholic and abandoning their homes to play bread winner.
- Women are better followers than they are leaders.
For most organizations, the traditional rule that considered men a better instructor and a woman a better executor of those instructions are still silently accepted and observed. The authority of a man seems to be taken more seriously and even esteemed more highly as compared to that of a woman. Women who are strict are either viewed to be bossy or assumed to be harsh, arrogant and even often presumed to always be in a bad mood or irritable. On the other hand, men who would lead in the same harsh way, would be looked upon with respect and considered to be authoritative, in control and even effective because they are presumed to know what they want, be result oriented and be task oriented.
On the flip side of leadership styles, when a woman leader takes up a friendlier approach and chooses to be more of a transformative or even democratic leader rather than an autocratic leader, she is presumed to lack in the knowledge of how to run a company. Some of her employees may also mistake leadership initiatives such as creating open channels of communication to mean that she was inviting them to develop other work unrelated relationships. Therefore it can be concluded that whatever leadership style a woman takes up to run her enterprise can always be
First, society needs to be conscious of how the unconscious and unintentional gender stereotypes they project on professional women affect not only the working women but also the generations that follow. Society should be constantly trained and educated on the negative effects of those stereotypes and provided with practical lessons that can be employed to eliminate those stereotypes once and for all. Encouraging the idea of society leaders demonstrating how effective role reversal can be a practical way for teaching society that some stereotypical gender roles are misinformed and backward. Also, offices should ensure that their work schedules are flexible to allow women to pursue their careers without neglecting their social life and homely duties. At the offices, employees should be trained on such issues to ensure that they recognize their toxic thoughts before those thoughts manifest into actions.
Women should not have to choose between their carries and their gender. They should not also be undervalued at work or questioned based on their gender. Finally, women should not also be forced to conform to outdated gender stereotypes that society I unconsciously carries and subjects on women. There are several effective strategies that society can employ that will work to ensure that professional women are no longer subjected to or haunted by unconsciously held stereotypes that were the result of one incomplete and inaccurate story about the capability and the role of the woman.
“The 21st Century Woman” Singapore Management University. Web. 31st January 2017. <https://www.smu.edu.sg/perspectives/2017/01/31/21st-century-woman>
Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi. “The Danger of a Single Story.” TED, July 2009, www.ted.com/talks/chimamanda_adichie_the_danger_of_a_single_story.
Amoruso, Sophia. # Girlboss. Portfolio, 2015.
Mariani, Ronda. “THE UNCONSCIOUS BIAS.” Human Resources Management Issues, Challenges and Trends:” Now and Around the Corner” (2019): 201
Tebano Elena. “Harvard’s Italian Genius Saving the Environment in Maths.” Corriere Della Sera, 28th November 2016, https://www.corriere.it/english/16_novembre_28/harvard-s-italian-genius-saving-the-environment-with-maths-9eab5fa6-b58f-11e6-a2c1-e1ab33bf33ae.shtml?refresh_ce-cp
West, Sara. M. “Men and Women in the 21st century” National Union of Students. 21st November 2014, https://www.nus.org.uk/en/lifestyle/roles-of-men-and-women-in-the-21st-century/
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