Sexism in The Modern Workplace: Causes and Ways to Eliminate

About this sample

About this sample


Words: 2056 |

Pages: 5|

11 min read

Published: Dec 16, 2021

Words: 2056|Pages: 5|11 min read

Published: Dec 16, 2021

Table of contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Subtle Sexism and Its Impact
  3. The Role of Human Resource Departments
  4. Motherhood Stereotype and Gender Role Stereotyping
  5. Workplace Policies and Gender Microaggressions
  6. Strategies for Eliminating Sexism
  7. Conclusion
  8. Works Cited


Sexism in the workplace is a pervasive issue that continues to affect women's career outcomes despite significant progress in gender equality movements. This essay explores the various facets of sexism in the workplace nowadays, including subtle and overt forms of discrimination. It delves into the role of human resource departments, the concept of motherhood as a stereotype, gender role stereotyping, workplace policies, and gender microaggressions in perpetuating sexism. Furthermore, it examines how education, empowerment, and cultural change can serve as effective strategies to combat sexism in the workplace.

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Subtle Sexism and Its Impact

Sexism in the modern workplace often takes subtler forms, with individuals denying its existence while practicing discriminatory behavior. This new form of sexism is characterized by the belief that gender discrimination no longer exists in today's society. However, research shows that subtle sexism persists in the workplace, affecting career advancement and satisfaction.

Subtle sexism in the workplace can manifest in various ways. One common example is the denial of the existence of gender discrimination. Many individuals, including both men and women, mistakenly believe that gender equality has been achieved and that women no longer face challenges based on their gender. This belief can lead to complacency and a failure to recognize the subtle biases that continue to exist.

One crucial aspect of career success affected by subtle sexism is the development of social relationships in the workplace. Research indicates that individuals who seek advice and information from colleagues tend to forge stronger social bonds, which can contribute to their career advancement. However, modern sexists often prefer to obtain advice from their male counterparts, perpetuating gender bias in career progression.

These subtle biases extend to perceptions of competence. In some workplaces, women are still perceived as less competent than men, even when their qualifications and skills are equal. This bias can significantly impact career trajectories, as social relationships play a pivotal role in climbing the corporate ladder.

For instance, when it comes to seeking mentorship and guidance, individuals may unconsciously favor male colleagues over their female counterparts. This preference can lead to disparities in career development, as those who receive mentorship tend to have more significant opportunities for growth and advancement. The consequences of this subtle form of sexism can be far-reaching, affecting not only individual career satisfaction but also overall workplace dynamics and gender equality.

The Role of Human Resource Departments

Sexism in the workplace is not solely perpetuated by individual biases; it can also be influenced by organizational structures. The human resource department, responsible for recruitment, leadership succession, training, and performance evaluation, can inadvertently contribute to gender discrimination.

Human resource departments play a vital role in shaping an organization's culture and policies. Unfortunately, in some cases, these departments may unintentionally contribute to gender biases. One significant area where this occurs is in performance evaluations, which determine rewards and punishments within the organization.

Performance evaluations are a critical part of an employee's journey within an organization. They determine employment opportunities, compensation, and even potential punishments. However, these evaluations can be susceptible to gender biases. One criterion commonly used in performance evaluations is "face time," which rewards employees for spending more time physically present in the office. This criterion can disproportionately disadvantage women, particularly those with caregiving responsibilities.

Women are more likely to take on primary caregiving roles within their families, which can lead to flexible work arrangements. As a result, they may have lower "face time" in the office compared to their male counterparts. This bias in performance evaluation criteria can inadvertently penalize women and hinder their career advancement.

Furthermore, during the selection process, female candidates are often evaluated more critically and face skepticism regarding their competence in male-dominated roles. This bias during job selection reinforces sexism within the workplace.

Research has shown that during the selection process, female candidates may be subjected to more rigorous scrutiny and doubt regarding their qualifications, especially when applying for positions traditionally considered male-dominated. This skepticism regarding the competence of female candidates can lead to their underrepresentation in certain roles and perpetuate the concept that women are not as capable as men in these positions.

These biases originating from the human resource department can significantly affect women's career opportunities and advancement. The unintentional perpetuation of gender discrimination within the recruitment and performance evaluation processes can hinder the overall goal of achieving gender equality in the workplace.

Motherhood Stereotype and Gender Role Stereotyping

The concept of motherhood plays a significant role in workplace sexism. Pregnant women are less likely to be recommended for hiring or promotions, as they are perceived as less competent and less likely to maintain high attendance due to family commitments. Managers may use motherhood as a justification for gender bias in training opportunities and challenging roles.

The stereotype associated with motherhood can have far-reaching consequences in the workplace. When considering candidates for hiring or promotions, managers may be less likely to recommend pregnant women or mothers with young children. This bias arises from the perception that these women may be less committed to their jobs due to family responsibilities.

Research has shown that women who are mothers are less likely to be recommended for promotions as compared to men and women without children. This stereotype suggests that women with children have lower competence and are expected to exhibit lower attendance due to their caregiving responsibilities.

The consequences of this bias are significant. Women who are mothers may miss out on valuable career opportunities and challenging roles that could foster their growth within the organization. This perpetuates the notion that women are not as capable as men, particularly when it comes to assuming leadership positions or roles requiring a high level of commitment.

Furthermore, the concept of motherhood and its associated stereotypes can lead to a disproportionate number of women working part-time jobs. Women often find themselves in the position of balancing work and family responsibilities, resulting in a divided focus. This division of attention can result in stereotypes that label women as less focused, impacting their career progression.

Gender role stereotyping further perpetuates sexism by assigning certain activities and roles based on traditional notions of masculinity and femininity. Men are encouraged to adopt more aggressive attitudes and are given masculine job roles, while women are often relegated to lower-paying, stress-free positions.

Gender role stereotyping has become commonplace in the modern workplace, with activities and roles often allocated based on preconceived notions of gender. For instance, men may be encouraged to take on more aggressive roles, while women may be offered positions considered "feminine" and requiring less assertiveness. Expressions like "man-up" may be casually used to encourage individuals to be courageous, reinforcing the stereotype that men are more confident and capable than women.

These stereotypes can affect not only job assignments but also opportunities for career development and advancement. Women may find themselves limited to certain roles and responsibilities, hindering their potential for growth within the organization.

Workplace Policies and Gender Microaggressions

Workplace policies, while intended to support employees in meeting family obligations, can inadvertently exacerbate sexism. Exclusions in policies like the Family and Medical Leave Act may disproportionately affect women, particularly part-time workers.

Workplace policies are designed to provide support for employees in balancing their work and family responsibilities. However, some of these policies may inadvertently perpetuate gender discrimination, particularly against women.

One such policy is the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which grants eligible employees up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave to care for a seriously ill spouse, child, or to attend to the needs of a newborn. While the FMLA aims to provide support for caregivers, it has exclusions that can disproportionately affect women.

For instance, the FMLA requires employees to have worked a minimum of 1,250 hours in the year preceding their leave. This exclusion alone can render many part-time female workers ineligible for the protection of their jobs when they require time off to fulfill caregiving responsibilities. This policy limitation means that after fulfilling their caregiving responsibilities, women may need to find a new job upon returning to the workforce, which can hinder their career progression and job stability.

Gender microaggressions are another subtle yet damaging form of sexism that can prevail in the workplace. These microaggressions encompass micro-insults, micro-validations, and micro-assaults and may appear innocuous but have negative effects on the target.

Microaggressions often target women, with motherhood being a common theme. Colleagues may make jokes or comments suggesting that women look unprofessional because of their clothing choices or physical appearance. These comments shift the focus away from a woman's competence and skills and toward her appearance, contributing to the reinforcement of gender stereotypes.

Comments regarding body size, shape, and physical characteristics may occur more frequently than comments about a woman's competence and skills. These seemingly trivial remarks can have a significant impact on women's self-esteem and their perception of their role within the organization.

Additionally, women may feel confined to a narrow set of expectations when gender microaggressions occur. They may feel compelled to meet specific standards to fit in with their male colleagues, affecting their overall workplace experience.

Strategies for Eliminating Sexism

Eliminating sexism in the workplace requires a multi-faceted approach that involves individuals, organizations, and society at large. Here are some strategies to combat sexism effectively:

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  1. Education: Organizations should prioritize education and awareness programs that help individuals recognize and address their own biases. These programs can foster a more inclusive work environment by promoting empathy and understanding among employees.
  2. Empowerment: Providing women with opportunities for growth and advancement within the organization is crucial. Empowered women can serve as role models and advocates for gender equality, motivating others to excel and challenge gender biases.
  3. Cultural Change: To eliminate gender role stereotyping, organizations should embrace cultural change. This involves recognizing and challenging traditional gender labels in the workplace. One way to achieve this is by ensuring that all jobs are considered gender-neutral, allowing employees to pursue roles based on their qualifications and interests rather than stereotypes.
  4. Accountability: Human resource departments should be held accountable for their decisions and actions. This can be achieved through transparent reporting mechanisms, where the department provides written explanations for hiring, promotion, and punishment choices. Such transparency can reduce personal biases and promote fairness within the organization.
  5. Diversity and Inclusion: Diversifying the workforce, particularly in leadership positions, is essential for mitigating gender biases. A diverse management team can make more equitable decisions and lead by example in fostering an inclusive workplace.
  6. Listening to Women's Voices: Organizations should actively listen to and value the input of women in the workplace. Encouraging women to voice their opinions and concerns can shift the focus from physical appearance to capabilities. It also creates a more inclusive and respectful environment where women's contributions are recognized and valued.


Sexism in the workplace is a deeply ingrained issue that continues to hinder women's career advancement and equality. Despite progress made by feminist movements, subtle biases, organizational structures, stereotypes, policies, and microaggressions perpetuate gender discrimination. To eliminate sexism, organizations must take a proactive approach through education, empowerment, cultural change, accountability, diversity, and listening to women's voices. Achieving true gender equality in the workplace requires collective efforts to challenge and eradicate sexism in all its forms. Only through these concerted efforts can the workplace truly become a level playing field for all genders.

Works Cited

  1. Eagly, A. H., & Karau, S. J. (2002). Role congruity theory of prejudice toward female leaders. Psychological review, 109(3), 573.
  2. Gutek, B. A., Cohen, A. G., & Tsui, A. S. (1996). Reactions to perceived sex discrimination. Human relations, 49(6), 791-813.
  3. Johnson, K. M., & Otto, L. B. (2019). Sexism in Human Resource Practices: It's Time to Change Our Perspective. Academy of Management Perspectives, 33(2), 183-199.
  4. Lawless, J. L., & Fox, R. L. (2015). Men rule: The continued under-representation of women in US politics. Women & Politics, 36(1), 155-175.
  5. Moss-Racusin, C. A., Phelan, J. E., & Rudman, L. A. (2010). When men break the gender rules: Status incongruity and backlash against modest men. Psychology of Men & Masculinity, 11(2), 140-151.
  6. Rudman, L. A., Moss-Racusin, C. A., Phelan, J. E., & Nauts, S. (2012). Status incongruity and backlash effects: Defending the gender hierarchy motivates prejudice against female leaders. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 48(1), 165-179.
  7. Rudman, L. A., & Glick, P. (2012). The social psychology of gender: How power and intimacy shape gender relations. Guilford Press.
  8. Sipe, S., & Johnson, D. J. (2018). Women and leadership: A contextual perspective. Journal of Leadership Studies, 12(4), 20-29.
  9. Valian, V. (1998). Why so slow?: The advancement of women. MIT press.
  10. Verniers, C., & Vala, J. (2018). Double standards in recruitment and selection: Gendered (in) equality in a male-dominated sector. Human Relations, 71(9), 1311-1337.
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Sexism In The Modern Workplace: Causes And Ways To Eliminate. (2021, December 16). GradesFixer. Retrieved April 22, 2024, from
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