Gender equality in the workplace
Here it is, 2021, and gender discrimination is still, incredibly, an unresolved issue in far too many workplaces. Despite drawing attention to the issue for nearly fifty years, there is still a fundamental inequity in the way women are treated in work environments that are either directly dominated by male senior management or at least influenced by the attitudes, attitudes and practices of traditional leadership.
Although women make up about 50% of the workforce, they are still discriminated against in several important areas. These include unequal pay, lack of organizational upward mobility, insufficient power to make key decisions and sexual harassment. These are deep flaws and injustices in the work culture. It is long past time to remove these stains from our workplaces. Such disadvantages are not only ethically unjust, but they suppress the productive potential that has so far been unrealized among half of the workforce.
It’s not like there haven’t been attempts to correct gender inequality in the workplace. Many senior management teams recognize the historical existence of male-oriented favoritism and sexism embedded in their and other workplaces. This recognition is supported by initiatives to make their businesses and organizations fairer and more equitable. However, the problem persists. Cases of gender discrimination continue to be documented and contested in management offices, human resources departments and law firms, leading to the deployment of significant resources to manage the seemingly endless consequences of misconduct.
Elizabeth Kellan of the University of Essex in the United Kingdom has been researching gender equality issues for over twenty years. She found that there was widespread agreement that gender inequality was widespread in general, but interestingly, these same people would not acknowledge such incidents happening in their own workplaces. why this is so Dr. Kellan sees several reasons for this. First, many see discrimination as the fault of their competitors or other companies, but not of their own more virtuous workplaces. Second, there is a belief that the problem was worse in the past but is largely being resolved, confirming that all mitigation efforts made so far have worked to reduce it to a minor problem. Finally, there are people who don’t fully appreciate gender equality as a big deal, and if it happens at all, it’s not their fault.
If we accept Dr. Kellan’s findings as authentic, it begs the question “What are people thinking?!” What I think they think is what has always been thought. On levels great and small, men see themselves as better leaders, smarter decision makers, more willing managers, stronger deal makers and superior competitors. And let’s face it, there are some female traditionalists who think these roles are also more masculine in nature.
Even if someone sees the data and intellectually accepts gender discrimination as a problem, it does not automatically mean that the necessary behavioral changes will occur. When I reflect on my own past, I see relevant examples. I have long believed that gender equality in the workplace is a quality worth pursuing. This is pointless. However, have there been times when I’ve been more inclined to take another man’s opinion than a woman’s during a date, or think a colleague is too sensitive and not tough enough, or pay more attention to appearance to the woman instead of listening to her thoughts? Disturbingly, the answer is yes. It is these small but meaningful actions that prevent us from making progress in accepting women as full and equal partners at work.
Anti-bias training programs and the like may make some difference in changing operational behavior, but greater progress may be better achieved if each of us takes a deeper look at how we interact with each other beyond surface mannerisms . Clarifying the personal values that motivate our behavior patterns can reveal more about us individually and drive needed improvements than any mission statement or management protocol. It’s time to end gender discrimination.
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