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With recent statistics indicating that only 5% of key leadership positions at Fortune 500 companies are held by female executives, it is evident that gender inequality still represents a major issue that policy makers will need to address in the near future in order to ensure that men and women are truly offered equal opportunities.
The underrepresentation of women in the corporate world is a well-known global issue that has been discussed by numerous academics, experts and practitioners. Thanks to sociologists and psychologists’ research, we now know that gender inequality stems from a variety of factors, such as patriarchal dynamics, obsolete institutional structures, prejudice from male executives, sexual harassment, male leaders’ negative perception of motherhood and so forth. It follows that by allowing and prompting more women to attain leadership positions, all of the aforementioned forms of gender discrimination would magically disappear and women would finally be able to compete against men on equal ground.
That being said, recent studies have revealed that while female executives who operate in male-dominated fields are likely to exhibit sexist attitudes towards their own “kind”, men are becoming increasingly sensitive to the unfair treatment of their women and may play a crucial role in combatting sexism.
Drury and Kaiser’s study revolves around men who believe in the power of gender equality and are willing to work alongside their female counterparts to address and tackle sexism. Even though gender inequality is often approached from a purely feminist perspective – by blaming men for creating a system where women are discouraged from attaining leadership positions in male-dominated sectors – Drury and Kaiser observe that men are becoming increasingly inclined to recognise and even fight sexism. Moreover, since their efforts to address sexist attitudes towards women are commonly perceived as more serious than women’s campaigns and confrontations, the researchers suggest that men should be seen as precious allies and that both women and organizations should take advantage of their ability to make themselves heard in male-dominated sectors so as to enable women to compete against men on equal ground.
Drury and Kaiser’s findings are certainly worthy of further investigation as besides challenging the widespread idea that men are the reason why sexism exists and, therefore, cannot possibly be interested in fighting it, they encourage women to see men as allies in their long-standing battle against gender discrimination both at work and in society. Some may argue that by accepting the fact that men’s efforts to fight sexism are perceived as more legitimate than women’s confrontations of this phenomenon we would automatically embrace and fuel the belief that women aren’t strong enough to advance their own causes. However, sexism is an issue that calls for a more pragmatic approach, which means that wondering whether it would be ethical for organizations and women to rely on men to confront gender discrimination is not going to raise awareness of this social issue. Instead, it would probably be wiser to confront sexism by motivating men to speak out when gender discrimination takes place.
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