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Essay: Is Gender Bias Harming Women and Organizations? Examine the Evidence

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Women in High Positions: Is There Bias in the Workplace? Does it Harm the Organizations and Individuals?

Henry Cioffi

06 November 2017

The workplace is a competitive and demanding environment that historically has been dominated by males.  Currently, many male and female college students believe that gender inequality has been solved through court decisions, public policy, and activist movements (Delaat, 2007).  Women are progressively breaking the gender boundary however, through examining case studies, statistics, and stereotypes, it is evident that gender bias is a result of unequal workforce opportunities, workplace manner, and as well as job offerings.  In many cases, women commonly report that they feel uncomfortable in their work environment due to sexual harassment and common stereotypical slurs directed towards them.  I do believe that women in high positions does harm both the organization and the women as individuals. This paper outlines the main influences of gender bias, and also provides evidence that women are treated unequally in the workplace.  It is important that we discuss the differences between how men and women are treated at work so we can solve this issue.  Scholars have been studying this topic for many years in an effort to increase happiness for women in the workplace.  Throughout history, women have been treated differently than men, even by the government.  It is beneficial to understand how governmental regulations have heightened or lowered workplace bias.

To begin, it is necessary to provide evidence that women are treated differently than men when pursuing workplace opportunities. This causes harm to both the organization and women as individuals. The case that is presented is an example of gender bias that is pulled from Gender in the Workplace by Jacqueline Delaat. Delaat introduces Kristen Anderson, a female that built a successful consulting firm that focuses on developing research, design, and implementation of foreign market entry strategy. Her firm works with fifteen Fortune 500 companies, which she eventually sold for more than 2 million dollars. During Ms. Anderson’s new job search she interviewed for an evaluator’s position at Computer Central. During the process, she met with the President, Vice President, and CEO of the company, in which both the VP and President told her she would be an asset to their evaluators team. However, when her name was pushed for final approval, the CEO stated he could not hire her because ‘no woman will be on my evaluators team.’ This directly harms the women as an individual, she is clearly qualified but the fact that she is a woman has halted her from being hired. She eventually took a lower ranking job at the company with a promise from the VP that she would move up to her desired position. After a company merger, ten new evaluator positions opened up and most the company believed she would receive one of those spots. However, the spots were filled with all male employees who had less experience and knowledge than her. She eventually received her shot to move into the new position in which she developed every presentation and pitch for a deal, but was left out of the negotiations. At this time, she received memos stating she was arriving late to work and slacking off despite no time cards being used, along with no information to suggest slacking. She was never offered the job promised to her and had not moved up in the company. This case recorded by Delaat is very insightful and clearly shows gender bias.

Before women received ‘equal’ work rights, females had been associated with looking over the house while men were perceived as the house providers. This kick-started the idea that women can only handle certain jobs as well as developed work opportunity stereotypes. Unfortunately, people still believe in these stereotypes and are upset when seeing women in high positions and do not do business with them because it is not what they should be doing. This directly harms causes harm to the organization. The ‘Glass ceiling’ is a term that describes an invisible line that blocks women from senior executive positions (Scire, 2008). Today, women make up over forty-five percent of the U.S. workforce, however, statistics simply explain that women are working more but do not provide evidence that they are given the same opportunities (Cleveland & Stockdale, 2000). Male full-time workers average a pay of $284.20 more a week than that of full-time female workers (WGEA, 2015). In 2005, female CEOs of equal levels of education and experience earned on average $107,800 per year, compared to their male counterparts whom earned $131,000 (ACHE, 2015). This demographic directly shows female inequality in comparison to males in equal job placements. Not only is gender bias shown in salary, but is also found in the hiring process and future opportunities in the business world.

Next, it is important to understand how men and women act in the workplace.  Women and men process information differently and react to stimuli in different manners.  Men and women apply different leadership behaviors, making many combinations of the effective leadership behaviors possible to increase the company’s value.  It would benefit companies to learn how to use these strengths to their advantage instead of presetting roles for individuals based on gender, it is directly causing harm to the organization by not doing this.  Women as a Valuable Asset states, ‘Companies where governing positions are held both by men and by women have higher operating margin and market capitalization in the respective industry,’ (Borisova & Sterkhova, 2002).  This explains that one individual cannot outperform another individual in the work environment simply because of his or her gender.  Studies done on personality traits of women and men in a work environment show women scoring higher than men in many factors of neuroticism and agreeableness, while men scored higher than women on assertiveness and competence (Cleveland & Sockdale, 2000).   This is evidence that women show different traits than men, but that does not mean the job cannot be done at an equal rate.  Men tend to be more authoritative than females but this is mainly influenced by males viewing themselves more socially dominant, which tends to show prejudice (Cleveland & Stockdale, 2000).

In the work environment, there are situational comparisons between men and women. For example, if a male is talking to his co-worker, many conclude that he must be discussing the latest work matter, while if a female is talking with her co-worker, a common assumption is that she must be gossiping (Cleveland & Stockdale, 2000). Female workers have also reported that when talking about getting married, men in their environment associate this to mean she will probably get pregnant and forget work (Cleveland & Stockdale, 2000). These common unjustified stereotypical beliefs are representations of bias in the workplace that not only distract employees from work, but also affect some on a psychological level. Sexual harassment is an example of unfair treatment because if there was no thought of superiority it would not happen. Having a woman in a high position has her more likely to become sexually harassed, causing direct harm to her as an individual, and the organization if it becomes known. A 2015 survey done by Cosmopolitan involved 2,235 full-time and part-time female employees in which one in three admitted to being sexually harassed in the workplace (Vagianos, 2015). Stereotypes and assumptions continue to plague work environments and represent a line between men and women that is unequal. Gender bias begins with a history of societal gender placement.

Gender bias in the workforce has progressively improved through history and the more attention it receives it will continue to improve.  It is hard to picture a perfect world with no such inequalities because everyone comes from different background and experiences. Sadly enough, women being in high positions will most likely always be causing some kind of harm, although unintentional, because you cannot change the whole world.  Major points to focus on to improve the conditions include dismissing stereotypes, respecting employees, and analyzing how differences can help improve work quality as well as efficiency. As more women continue to break through outdated stereotypes, improvement is visible in the future. However, as of now gender bias is still clearly in work environments. Statistics show evidence that women do not (with some exceptions) receive equal pay or opportunities. It is also evident through real life stories such as Ms. Anderson, who was treated less than men even though her credentials and experience exceed that of many of her male counterparts. No one should feel uncomfortable performing their job, or feel as if they cannot speak up on issues due to feeling less than someone else primarily because of a gender difference.  Lastly, it is important to keep the discussion on this subject flowing within colleges and the young adult population because they are mostly the ones who can improve on it.

References

American College of HealthcareExecutives (ACHE). (2015).  Research & Resources. American College of HealthcareExecutives

Borisova, D., & Sterkhova, O. (n.d.). (2002).  Women as a Valuable Asset. Moscow: Mckinsey & Company.

Cleveland, J., & Stockdale, M. (2000). Women and men in organizations sex and gender issues at work. Mahwah, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

DeLaat, J. (2007).”Gender in the workplace: A case study approach. Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications.

Scire, K. (2008, December 19). Final Paper: Gender Discrimination in the Workplace.

Vagianos, A (2015, February 19). 1 in 3 Women Has Been Sexually Harassed at Work, According to Survey. The Huffington Post.

Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA). (2015, August 24). Fact Sheets and Statistics. Workplace Gender Inequality Agency.

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