Workplace and Gender Stereotyping

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In the workplace there are many stereotypes, from gender to race, but the most common threat faced by organizations is perhaps gender. The danger of stereotypes can be described as “the risk that a negative stereotype about the own community is verified as self-characteristic” (Steele, 1995). Persons with the negative stereotypes are often exposed to circumstances in which negative expectations are likely to adversely impact their job results.Stereotypes tend to drive people away from even applying for certain jobs, which can, in turn, have an adverse impact on the organization because those same individuals may possess the exact qualities needed in an employee. Being the most common stereotype found in most organizations, gender stereotype in the workplace will be discussed using case study examples in the paper.

The obvious portrayal of sexism is widespread in the workplace, in many organizations worldwide. Despite the introduction of the Civil Rights Act and the Equal Employment Opportunity Act, among others, these workplace biases seem to have been ingrained in our minds based on our cultures and traditions that have continued from the past into the present.

A psychological study conducted in 2012 tested the idea of gender stereotypes found in the workplace. Senior faculty members belonging to science departments across the United States were provided with identical resumes meant for a position as a laboratory manager. The only difference was the gender of these applicants, and the faculty members were asked to choose one candidate. The study found that there was a higher score for the male being selected for the position based on hiring ability and competence. These male applicants were also presented with professional mentorship and a higher salary package, in comparison to their female counterparts. Even though the female applicants were considered to be more appealing, but less likely to be hired. A significant discovery of the study was that the female faculty members also preferred the male applicant over the female (Moss-Racusin, 2012).

A case study taken from an article published in The Guardian discusses the dilemma that a woman, Ruth Holloway, was faced with when the board of directors found out about her pregnancy (Cochrane, 2008). Despite the implementation of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act in 1978, which states that no women can be fired or demoted by her pregnancy (DeCenzo, 2010), the stereotype against women continues to foster in plenty of organizations. Holloway lost one of her twins early on in pregnancy, and while she had planned on waiting a few weeks before telling her bosses, she was forced to inform the Human Resources director the reason behind why she had to leave early to go to the hospital. A couple of days later, she was called to a meeting with the board of directors, where she was told that she needed to resign immediately. The meeting was conducted in such a way that it was made clear that she would be facing a tough time at the organization if she declined to resign. There are plenty of cases such as the one that can be categorized under gender stereotype in the workplace.

Another case study published in Independent enlisted the dilemma of Alisha Coleman, who claimed to have been fired from her job by menstruation – a common biological phenomenon (Pasha-Robinson, 2017). When the incident first happened to Coleman in 2015, she was informed by her supervisors that a disciplinary write-up was being issued to her and that “she would be fired if she ever soiled another chair from sudden onset menstrual flow.” Another incident like the one occurred in 2016 when Coleman’s menstrual fluid leaked onto the carpet as she was on her way to the toilet. She was subsequently fired by not being able to keep up with the company’s standards of personal hygiene when on the job. Menstruation is a common phenomenon, and yet, continues to be treated as somewhat of a taboo. Firing a female employee by something that is not entirely under their control is completely unjustified and, as such, classifies as yet another example of gender stereotypes in the workplace.

These cases indicate that women are incapable of performing their workplaces’ duties effectively if they are dealing with some form of a biological phenomenon such as pregnancy or menstruation. Biological formation does not and should not determine a woman’s ability to do well in the office. Gender stereotypes in the workplace can even impact the people being stereotyped in a negative manner. A lot of stereotyped people end up creating a distance between them and any circumstance that could potentially affirm the stereotype against them. The only ceases to discourage the employee from doing his or her work properly. The first case is, perhaps, much more substantial, given the many reported cases of stereotypes against pregnant women and also the fact that the woman says that her employer made it obvious that she needed to leave because of her pregnancy. The second case, on the other hand, presents an altogether different scenario, in which the employee claims to have been fired because of menstruation. If we analyze the case, there could very well be a hygienic reason behind her dismissal, given that she had previously been given a warning. As such, claims of gender stereotypes against women should not always be accepted readily, but rather, they should be thoroughly analyzed before reaching a verdict.

It must also be noted that gender stereotyping in the workplace is not only limited to women but men as well, despite them being subjected to it comparatively less than women. The term stereotype, itself, indicates that a particular group of people is considered to be of the same category who perform in the same manner. Just like female employees are deemed unfit for work if they are pregnant, male workers are also stereotyped on a similar basis such as being harder workers and better suited to mathematical and logistical tasks, and hence they are overworked in many organizations. Most workplaces also fail to provide men with paternity leave – a type of paid leave where the father takes time off from work to give priority to his family and cater to his child’s needs. The type of paid leave is considered as unmanly, even in the day and age, as a result of which most workplaces frown upon the practice ultimately giving rise to the stereotype that men can do their tasks much better than women. Also, that pregnant or menstruating women are incapable of performing their duties to the best of their abilities.

References

Cochrane, K. (2008). Kira Cochrane on how women are discriminated at work because they are pregnant. The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/money/2008/apr/23/worklifebalance.discriminationatwork

DeCenzo, D., Robbins, S., Verhulst, S., & DeCenzo, D. (2010). Human resource management. John Wiley and Sons.

Moss-Racusin, C., Dovidio, J., Brescoll, V., Graham, M., & Handelsman, J. (2012). Science faculty’s subtle gender biases favor male students. Proceedings of The National Academy of Sciences, 109(41), 16474-16479.Retrived from http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1211286109

Pasha-Robinson, L. (2017). Woman ‘sacked from job after her period leaked on chair’. The Independent. Retrieved from http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/woman-period-office-chair-leak-sacked-fired-georgia-alisha-coleman-bobby-dodd-institute-carpet-a7909861.html

Steele, C., & Aronson, J. (1995). Stereotype threat and the intellectual test performance of African Americans. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 69(5), 797-811. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.1037//0022-3514.69.5.797

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