This research paper discusses the impact of gender stereotypes on women advancement in the workplace. Although men declare that women have gained their rights, yet it is still obvious that there is a lot of work to do in order to achieve balance. The first section of the research paper explains how several factors play a role in shaping the gender stereotypes thus limiting women abilities. Factors such as: society’s perception, teaching and parenting system and the gap between males and females vastly affect women’s decisions and developing. The second section argues the contribution of media in stressing the gender stereotypes of workplace. People are so affected by what they see on screens, so, media plays a significant role in shaping women’s identity and selections.
The third section, debates the consequence of being subjected to pressure and harassment in the workplace on women. Working in a stressful environment will serve in women giving up on what they want and aim for. Such elements are the result of socially conducted norms and they result in sculpting the way women perceive themselves and also the way the society reacts to them. Nevertheless, an opposing point of view states that men are subjected to higher pressure s a result of gender stereotypes. Finally, in the conclusion, some solutions are proposed to prevent further damage to women’s career and society’s overall well being.
Throughout history, differences between males and females have been classified in to two categories: biological differences (hormones and physical appearance), social and cultural differences (due to social norms and mind sets). Gender stereotypes are the result of all these differences, and they appear when someone generalizes an attribute or a characteristic on a group of people who are of the same gender. Stereotypes might lead to the disregard of one’s personal effort and limit their choices, especially if it is in the work place. These stereotypes can either affect the genders positively or negatively. Yet, it is obvious that the negative effects are more directed towards the females’ side and that is due to some cultural and social norms. Glass ceiling is one of the dangerous effects of gender stereotypes that triggered the revolution against these stereotypes in the workplace. It is a term used to represent the intangible barrier which prevents people, especially women, from pursuing a specific career.
Women face a lot of discrimination as result of these stereotypes, such as: pay gap, difficulty in reaching senior positions, neglect of promotions and benefits; also they endure a lot of stressful events. On the other hand, another point view declares that stereotypes affect men negatively more than women. They have to abide to the rules stated by the society in order to maintain their “masculine” character. Men are expected to be firm, responsible, and independent or else they will be discriminated by the society. In fact, gender stereotypes are increasing the gap between men and women in the workplace and this gap is being expanded by the help of the media thus putting pressure on women outside and inside the work place.
The Gap Between Females and Males
In the 21st century, people started seeing more movements to fight stereotypes, especially the gender-based ones. One of the reasons that pushed people to start these movements is the urgent need to diminish the gap that occurred between females and males because of the gender stereotypes. Society and culture have set these stereotypes according to their perception of women, and classification of jobs which lead to a huge imbalance between men and women in the work place.
Perception of Women
It has become crystal clear that if women want to reach top management positions, they will have to deal with lots of challenges. These obstacles are the result of the link made between the socially defined attributes and women. Women are not perceived as decision makers nor as leaders. This goes back to the out-dated mind-set that thinks if women are put under pressure then they will become emotional and break down. There are a lot of factors that the society and culture take into consideration in order to end up with these stereotypes. One of the factors is that women are not given the same educational opportunity as men. According to UNESCO, regardless of the advancement, a bigger number of young ladies than young men still stay out of school – 16 million young ladies will never set foot in a study hall and ladies represent 66% of the 750 million grown-ups who are without essential education abilities. Recently, it has been seen that some women are graduating with a master degree. However, in the past, girls were not allowed to finish their high school degree, so they do not develop an identity. This serves a lot in increasing the gap between the opportunities of men and women to reach senior positions.
Women are rarely seen occupying political positions or pursuing an effort-full career. For instance, in Lebanon, women present only 4.68% of the parliament, and this percentage is not increasing significantly. Similarly, women present only 23% of the wold’s politicians. It has all begun from the way of parenting and educating. Parents and teachers do not encourage the girls to put a foot in “socially-prohibited” fields because they do not perceive the girls as leaders and decision makers. So, girls grow up to have low self-esteem regarding their abilities. They are not even allowed to dream; once they start to develop ambitions they are directly fought and stopped. Moreover, the burden of domestic work and the socially classified jobs forms a barrier that hinders women from proceeding in their work. To further clarify, society accepts a male chef more than a female one although that cooking is considered as one of the domestic jobs. These jobs are supposed to be allocated to women. Yet, the same society judges a woman and fights her if she wanted to be an engineer, mechanic or a builder. Hence, the challenges faced by women to proceed in their careers are due to the generalization done by the society.
Humanities and Arts VS STEM
Typically, STEM fields are associated with men domination. Usually, the life of an individual is decided by the socio-cultural factors; therefore, the roles assigned to girls will be determined at the moment of birth. Also, these roles are the responsible factors that decide the extent of participation of girls in Scientific and Technological fields. Socially conducted stereotypes are due to inherited and unconscious bias regarding women abilities in the scientific subjects. In schools, mentors direct females toward the emotions-oriented majors, while they direct males towards the scientific and technical majors. Experiments have shown that girls experience more emotional pressure and stress when undergoing a math test. Girls’ performance is affected when they do a math test in a room that is denominated by men; however, their performance is improved when the boys exit the room. Today, statistics declares that only 27% of females are studying computer science and percentages in other scientific majors are not even better (Huhman, 2012). Many associate this with the lack of presence of female pioneers in these fields, and this makes it a vicious cycle. Girls’ self-confidence is not boosted because they are not receiving enough support from their environment nor they are seeing enough role models to influence them. In a comparison with men, women present only 30% of the world’s researchers.
Moreover, studies have proved that women receive less support than men in their research. In a survey conducted across 130 countries, it was found that female scientists were granted less funding, lab space, office support and insurance for equipment and travel. Nevertheless, in the majors that need caring, (such as: nursing and teaching), females are excelling. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 91% of the world’s nurses are females while only 9% of them are men. On the contrary, solely 5% of the pilots in the world are women. Hence, jobs that require more scientific sills are dominated by men while careers that demand caring are controlled by women. Parents and mentors have set a rigid picture about the females’ abilities in the minds of the young generation. As a result if this system, girls doubt their capabilities and ambitions whenever they think about studying a major that is associated with males. The time to start combatting stereotypes has come and it is necessary to create programs that encourage women to enter STEM fields.
Gap in Workplace
Gender stereotypes contribute in producing discrimination against women in the job environment. They impose what employers tend to look for and expect from an employee. Employers search for a specific talent in a gender; instead of searching for talents and opportunities in general regardless of the gender. Women face poor presentation in top positions, weak promotions and benefits and inequality in wages, Studies in Europe found that only 3% of the top 50 firms are led by women and for every 10 men only 1.5 women are in the corporate boards (Haller, 2012). Another study done in 2006 found that some attributes are directly associated with a specific gender regardless of the effort and performance. 953 managers were asked to allocate 14-key leadership attributes to 2 categories –male and female. All attributes that were considered as taking charge behaviour were allocated to males while attributes that were considered as taking care competent were allocated to females (Haller, 2012). This explains the prejudgment present in people’s mind regardless of the accomplishments done. The gap also appears in the wages men and women receive, and by this, the vicious cycle reappears.
People occupying senior positions tend to gain a higher salary and since men occupy these positions more than women then it is normal to see higher salaries for men. So, previous problems should be solved in order not to clash in to new obstacles. Also, top management positions need a lot of effort and long-hours working. It is hard for women to balance between their work and private life because they are expected to be responsible for their families and home. Studies found that women spend 26 hours per week taking care of their families; yet, males spend only 9 hours per week looking after their children (Mihalčová, Pružinský, and Gontkovičová, 2015). This gives males a higher opportunity to reach top positions and gain higher salary. When women earn a salary less than men, it keeps them dependant financially on men, consequently increasing bias and things keep on turning around with no solution. Another phase of discrimination appears when women have to do more effort than men in order to be promoted or appreciated.
Despite the advancement witnessed regarding the wage gap, a woman still earn 79 cents for every dollar earned by a man. Within the absence of a logical reasoning for this difference, women still find themselves discriminated and not encouraged to invest their efforts and thoughts in certain jobs. Further, women are assigned for support roles rather than top management posts. They are 21% less likely to be promoted to a top management position with respect to their male counter-part. Therefore, gender stereotypes are the main reason that prohibits women from advancing and developing in their career.
Contribution of Media
Today, media is one of the most powerful tools that are able to spread ideas and beliefs. As any technology, media has its beneficial and non-beneficial sides. It is contributing in stressing the gender stereotypes in the work place, thus affecting the new generation rather than implying solutions. Recently, people’s life has been connected to all sorts of screens, so, whatever is featured on these screens has a great influence on the minds.
Given all types of media, TV, radio, magazines, and social media, and regardless of the type, gender stereotypes are expressed in all of them. Media has always pictured females as sex objects and they stress only on the physical appearance of women. For example, in Mohammad Iskandar’s song, he forbids his daughter from working because he assumes that she will be subjected to sexual harassment by her boss. This song is widely spread among youth and teens. It will implant fear in the mind of the girls knowing that if they work then they will be sexually harassed. This demotivates them to work and be independent. On the other hand, boys will tend to normalize the idea of harassing a female, because it is accepted by the society and the media. A research done by UN women, found that out of 100 countries, 46 % of the media contributes in promoting gender stereotypes while only 6 % promotes for gender equality
Roles in Movies
It is pretty obvious that women are under-represented in the movies industry. Media shows women in movies as sex objects, where it is seen that women at the workplace wear revealing clothes and tries to seduce their boss. Although, women occupy 40 % of the working force in real life, yet they are represented in only 22.5% of the movies in employment. However, these 22.5% are allocated to inferior roles with respect to men. Females who have done these roles were 93% of the time shown doing stereotypically female chores such as cleaning and caring. Also, women mainly occupy the inferior roles like being a nurse, secretary, or a waitress. 89% of the nurse roles are presented by women, while regarding the secretary roles; women present 81% of them. A typical scene is where a nurse tries to rescue a patient but she fails, and then a male doctor enters the room and succeeds in getting the patient back to life. Another scene is where a female secretary works for a well-known business man.
Such scenes have a great impact on the young generation; especially that TV takes a huge portion of their time. Young girls who are exposed to such scenes are dangerously affected because it impacts their point of view with respect to the profession socialization and considerably sexual orientation cliché frames of mind and convictions about work. Girls between 2 and 6 years old are mostly affected; because at this age they begin to form their gender identity and start playing gender-types games such as cooking and cleaning. They grow up convinced that they are unable to be in a superior job position because their self-esteem was not strengthened back since they were still children.
It is well known that some words are more powerful than actions. Discrimination in the workplace is also portrayed in the language used. The differences between the words used for women versus men also have a great significance on the career choice. For instance, girls who have leadership skill are usually described as “bossy”. The word “ambitious” is considered as an insult if it is said for a girl, but, if it is said for a boy it will be considered as a compliment. These expressions put further pressure on females pushing them to be nice in order to not be judged by their work colleagues. They might also behave in a way that opposes their character. Moreover, when someone applies to a job they are likely to be described in different adjectives based on their genders. Adjectives such as “remarkable”, “remarkable”, and “exceptional” are typically allocated to men applicants.
Nevertheless, attributes such as “kind”, “caring”, and ”sensitive” are assigned to female applicants. Words like these tend to shape and form the identity of females which pushes them away from the jobs that judge their character. Researchers in Waterloo and Duke Universities found that jobs which contain masculine-themed words are mostly dominated by men. The same thing is applied for feminine jobs, thus gender stereotypes are allocating jobs according to the gender. Moreover, parents contribute in assigning careers to their children by the language they use. They always call their daughters by the name of princesses; however, they call their boys by the title “doctor”, “engineer”, and “captain”. Consequently, the language used with genders clearly shapes and forms the identity of females and males’ decisions regarding their careers.
Pressure and Sexual Harassment
With respect to working females, workplace might be the most stressful place. They are subjected to massive pressure either by their boss, male counterparts or even by the society. All of this pressure is due to the gender stereotypes present in the work.
Naturally, females are supposed to be the only creatures on earth that can deliver and have children- except for some rare cases in birds-. Yet, companies and the societies manage to apply discrimination against women who need time to take care of their families. If a woman wants to take a vacation she will either be fired, given a short-period, or be deprived of her salary. These consequences form a great obstacle for women who feel passionate about their jobs. In other scenarios, some firms fire pregnant women because they are considered disabled or will take a maternity leave. Also, pregnant women or mothers are 100% less likely to be promoted, 79% less likely to be recommended for hire, and are paid $10,000 less salary than their male counterparts. These percentages clearly show that employers and societies’ perception of women dangerously affect women advancement. Furthermore, women encounter different type of pressure regarding their outer appearance. Based on gender stereotypes, women are expected to be fully dressed and have full make-up on or else they will be considered more of a “male”.
In a company (Price Waterhouse), an employer delayed the promotion of a female employee because he considered her physical appearance not feminine. She did not feel comfortable in wearing short dresses nor in applying too much make-up and for this reason she was not promoted. If a woman wears revealing clothes and applies excess make-up then she will be described as “trying too hard”, on the other hand, if she neglects her physical appearance then it will be said that they do not care about their jobs. However, some jobs require their employees to travel. Married females might apply for a position that requires traveling a lot. Some females are accepted into this position because females are expected to be conservative and stay with their children at night. Besides, some husbands feel jealous of their wives’ male colleagues. Hence, women are put under a lot of stressful events by their employers, husbands and societies in their work due to gender roles.
Working in an uncomfortable atmosphere has great impacts on how women proceed in their workplace. Sexual harassment forms one of the most dangerous sources of danger. Since some men believe that women should always be ready to fulfil their needs, then sexual harassment appears frequently at the workplace. This causes a lot of psychological harm to women thus pushing them to quit their jobs. According to a research done by Jason Houle and colleagues, sexual harassment causes depression symptoms and some mental issues such as self-doubt and anger. These symptoms affect the employee future progression, work productivity and relationship with other work members. In addition to that, as movements began increasing to stop the job classification based genders; females acquired courage to step into men-dominated fields.
Meanwhile, the numbers of females in these sectors are still few and less than men. According to Women’s Bureau, women represent 25% of the sectors that are “socially” perceived as “male oriented jobs”. Harassment in these fields is witnessed in higher rates than in fields that are more mixed because females will be subjected to greater number of men. As The Law Offices declares, one third of the women working in a male dominated job have experienced sexual harassment. This demotivates women to enter these fields thus restressing gender stereotypes and preventing women from pursuing their dream careers. For instance, Sarah, a 27 year old girl works as an electrician, a job that is supposed to be “masculine”. She was subjected to sexual harassment by her boss. He sent her sexual messages and tried to physically assault her. When she officially reported this incident, the top management blamed her and accused her for being the stimulus behind his acts.
Not taking these acts into consideration and putting laws to stop them rather than blaming females is risky. Females will no longer speak up, all what they will do is quit the job and stay at home. Nevertheless, when women leave their jobs and stay unemployed due to harassment financial stress will appear on the long run. The “Me Too” movement reported that 30% of women who were subjected to sexual harassment have developed depression and anxiety on the long term. In one word, sexual harassment is able to stop women from chasing their jobs and harm them.
On the other side, the other point of view states that men are subjected to negative effects due to gender stereotypes in the workplace more than women. Men are deprived from several joys due to social norms. They have to obey the “masculine rules” assigned by the society. One of these roles is being responsible to support their families financially. They are required to pay for the wife’s and children’s needs, schools and hospitals. This put a lot of pressure on them to earn enough money that can cover all of the above necessities. Further, men are expected to be emotionally strong. Men face a lot of pressure because of the work demands, yet they are unable to break down, cry or be depressed. Women can fall apart under pressure because they justify it by saying that it is their “hormones”, while men cannot. If men cry they will be considered as “gays” or they will not be considered as real men. Additionally, men also love their children and wish to spend more time with them. Employers tend to reject a male employee’s request for a vacation for child care. This gives mothers an advantage in building valuable relationships and spending quality time with their children. To conclude, males are also subjected to pressure to stereotypes and it might be more than women.
Men still neglect the fact that there are single mothers, widowed women, and young ladies that are involved in the workforce. These ladies experience the same pressure due to stereotypes because the society will judge them according to their marital status and also according to their career ambitions. Widowed and single mothers have double responsibility. They have to play the role of the father and the mother at the same time, thus they are responsible for the financial state of their children and family. Employers do not take these females into consideration when they give them lower salaries than their male counterpart. Also, they are not given enough days off to spend quality time with their children although that their children might need them more than they would need their father. In addition to that, young ladies who are aiming to put their first step in the world of business are fought and faced by the gender stereotypes. Instead of updating and developing the old mind set, the same gender stereotypes are still limiting the girls’ abilities to advance in their careers. Society has allocated many jobs to men. However, there are a lot of women who are deprived from their right to choose the major they want because of the so called gender stereotypes. In fact, women have gained some rights, but they are still way back behind the rights of men.
Summing up, in this research, several claims were discussed to prove the negative effects gender stereotypes have on women in the workplace. These stereotypes are drastically expanding the gap between men and women, which is consequently preventing them from progressing towards a better professional status. These standardized formulas were fixed due to various reasons such as the parenting and teaching system, society’s perception and old-dated mind sets. On top of that, media subscribe in stressing the idea of gender stereotypes. As a result of this, women are forced to endure annoyance, pressure, and assault.
Finally, if a comparison is done between the past and the present, it will be obvious that a major change has taken place. Nonetheless, this change has not delivered the best outcome yet. So, in order to have a better result that allows men and women to excel equally in their careers, some modifications should be implemented. First, employers should consider equity instead of equality. Women should not be obligated to choose between their children or jobs. They should have the right to take a paid vacation after their delivery and then be able to return to their work. Second, change the parenting and educational systems because they have significant influence on the young generation. Equally, the content displayed by the media should be supervised because it also impact the way genders perceive their abilities and identity. Finally, empowering women at the work does not only benefit females, but it also benefit he society as a whole.
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