Grace Under Pressure: Overcoming Gender Discrimination In The Workplace

Like a perennial weed, discrimination against women is still prevalent in the workplace.  However, women can be equipped to face this challenge, and bloom amid the stereotypes and attitudes held against them in their workplaces.

The Root Of The Problem: Gender-Based Bias

Women have come some way in climbing the hierarchical ladder in the corporate world. Several have reached the top of the rung, such as Coca Cola Amatil CEO – Alison Watkins, Jetstar Group CEO – Jane Hrdlicka and current Westpac CEO – Gail Kelly. Despite these successes, women still lag behind their male counterparts in the workplace.

This inequality among men and women in the workforce may be attributed to the deep-rooted problem of gender-based bias in the workplace, Gloria Larson writes in Entrepreneur. Even in modern times, workplaces still consider women to be less business-orientated than men, thereby not considering them for promotion or career advancement.

However, women that are competitive or strong are seen as less desirable. Former Harry Potter star, Emma Watson narrates the same experience in her United Nations speech.  “…I am among the ranks of women whose expressions are seen as too strong, too aggressive, isolating and anti-men, unattractive, even…” Watson said.

However, Watson continued that sexual stereotypes do not only affect women, but men as well. Many men are constrained to act within the bounds of masculinity, producing untoward consequences on women. Watson states that men need to fight alongside women to end gender inequality once and for all.

The Impact Of Gender-Based Bias

This problem of deep-seated bias holds other ramifications for women.  The perception that women need to preserve their femininity in the workplace makes them “bossy” or “abrasive” when they act professionally, writes Jessica Durando at USA TODAY. She expresses that some of her male colleagues feel intimidated or are threatened by her when she works. On the other side of the coin, this unconscious gender-based bias could lead male executives to soften the blow on constructive criticisms for female employees, which could hamper their performance in the workplace, according to Business News Daily.

This stereotype also leads to prejudice against pregnant women who are in the workforce. Women who become mothers see a 17% cut in lifetime wages, and often those who return from parental leave are transferred to lower-paying occupations suited for “mothers.” `A few pregnant workers in Australia reported that they have been transferred, demoted, or laid off in their workplace after returning from parental leave.

Cutting Down On Workplace Discrimination

Workplace discrimination may be inevitable, but it can change if women have sheer confidence in themselves to break the nexus. USA TODAY’s Jessica Durando advises her female readers to work hard and take pride in what they are doing amid comments of being abrasive or bossy. Aside from this, women need to avoid being people-pleasers, as those who tend to fall into this trap always shortchange themselves in the process. To achieve their goals, they need to step up and do what they love most, regardless of obstacles others may put in their way.

In addition, women can help themselves by seeking mentors out of other executives, Entrepreneur’s Gloria Larson noted. This empowers female employees to climb the corporate ladder and create or accept opportunities.

During her speech at the United Nations, Emma Watson said she is glad to have experienced workplace equality working with her male colleagues in the film industry. She cited that this is not present in many parts of the globe, and that it should be a “basic right” for all women in the world and not attributed to a few “lucky ones” like her.

We need to educate business and government so that women are given the same opportunities and values as men.  Managers/leaders need to identify their talented women early in their career and mentor, sponsor and invest in their professional development.