Discrimination based on gender in the work environment takes place at all levels of employment. While the proportion of women among employees has generally increased, the genders are distributed unevenly across jobs and career positions. According to Verniers and Vala, women are mostly “concentrated in part-time employment, female-typed occupations, yet underrepresented in top positions” (p. 18). Women are believed to be less capable of leadership, management, or organization. They are seldom hired for stereotypically masculine jobs, such as finance, science, or military service. Besides, discrimination practices occur even after the hiring stage, as women are paid less, evaluated more strictly, and require more effort to be promoted. Although several policies are implemented against gender discrimination, gender-related stereotypes are the reason for the slow progress and persistence of prejudice against women in the workplace.
The problem of gender discrimination against women persists both globally and in US society. Women are underrepresented in leadership roles or masculine-typed jobs due to prejudices concerning their personality traits and attitude toward motherhood. According to Colella and King, the employment rate of both genders is the same, but women still suffer discrimination in the work environment (p. 73). The mistrust of women in leading roles has been noted that resulted in the disproportion of genders in top positions. The analysis of top executives among Fortune 500 companies shows that there are only 5% of CEOs, 14.6% of women in executive positions, and only 16.9% of board members are female (Colella and King, p. 73). Those numbers demonstrate that the ability of women to rule large businesses is still prejudiced in society.
Working women suffer from sexism and motherhood stereotypes that often hinder their career development. In addition to the lack of promotion, women are often underpaid in comparison to men with the same set of responsibilities. As Verniers and Vala claim, women not only generally earn less than men, but with pregnancy and the presence of children, the pay gap increases. Such disparity is clamant in the US, where there is no maternity leave payment for parents, and the mothers tend to go on leave more than fathers.
Gender-specific stereotypes are at the root of the problem, as they prevent the fulfillment of anti-discrimination policies. Although most countries and companies have rules that focus on gender equality, the change in the way how people think should happen to reduce prejudice. Women frequently become subjects to gender bias and stereotypes in the work environment. Descriptive gender stereotypes concern the image of typical feminine and masculine qualities that genders possess. According to Colella and King, women are believed to be relationship-oriented, sensitive, and kind; and men are, on the contrary, achievement-oriented, ambitious, and dominant (p. 74). These beliefs form the vision of gender-typed roles that imply having the features mentioned above.
While descriptive stereotypes create the image of typical male or female employees, prescriptive gender stereotypes create the expectation of how they should act. The deviation from the gender-prescribed mode of behavior provokes disapproval in the workplace. This often concerns the style of communication typical for men or women. When a woman chooses to communicate in the dominant tone, stereotypically assigned to men, she usually provokes social rejection. As Colella and King claim, men are also discriminated against by these expectations as typically feminine behavior of men causes more disapproval than typically masculine behavior of women (p. 75). That is why failure to correspond to stereotypes causes social criticism for both genders.
Besides the discrimination in hiring and promotion, women are usually subjected to more rigorous and biased evaluations than men. According to Colella and King, the decrease in performance of female workers is evaluated more severely, while men get more appraisal for performance increase (p. 81). This is motivated by the fact that the biased initial impression of the evaluator persists, and it is more challenging to undermine by women than by men. The development of ultimate and stable criteria or standardized evaluation methodology can tackle the problem.
The existing policies demonstrate moderate efficiency in fighting gender discrimination in employment, but a more drastic change is required. Verniers and Vala state that during the last decade, the global gender gap in politics and educational opportunities has decreased by 4%, and the economic gap has decreased by 3% (p. 1). With these dynamics, the calculation suggests that another 118 years are needed to close the gap completely. That is why, if modern society expects to see significant changes, additional measures should be undertaken that will focus on the stereotypes as the source of discrimination.
Gender discrimination in work manifests itself through unequal promotion opportunities, prejudiced evaluation, and underpayment of women. The current situation shows that policies are not enough to solve the problem effectively and quickly, as gender stereotypes still influence the attitude to both genders. Due to stereotypes, peculiar modes of behavior are assigned to men and women, and the deviation from the results in social discontent. The opportunities for women are better today than they were ten years ago, but the dynamics of reaching equality are far from rapid. That is why it is necessary to combat stereotypes to enhance anti-discrimination measures.
- Colella, Adrienne, and Eden B. King. The Oxford Handbook of Workplace Discrimination. Oxford University Press, 2018.
- Verniers, Catherine, and Jorge Vala. “Correction: Justifying Gender Discrimination in the Workplace: The Mediating Role of Motherhood Myths.” Plos One, vol. 13, no. 7, 2018, pp. 1-23.