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Sexism in The Modern Workplace: Causes and Ways to Eliminate

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The structural and attitudinal factors in the modern workplace have rendered women at a disadvantage and made them more vulnerable to the hardships they might face in their workplace. This is because of sexism, which is quite common despite claims to the contrary. Sexism defines gender inequality based on discrimination and stereotyping against women based on their sex. Sexism has influenced women in their career outcomes. Various womens rights movements have emancipated and integrated women at every social level, forcing changes in the discrimination against them. Sexism in the modern work environment, which is influenced by the human resource department in their functions, the concept of motherhood as caregivers, gender role stereotyping, and workplace policies; can be eliminated through the educating of personnel on the concept of feminism and providing promotional opportunities for women in the organization in order to neutralize gender role stereotyping. 

Sexism in the modern workplace is manifested in ostensibly and subtler, more benign beliefs which include the denial of the constant discrimination and antagonism towards women and their demands for equality. This newer form of sexism is characterized by individuals’ beliefs that discrimination against women does not happen today all while those who make such claims practice unfair and discriminatory behavior towards women without perceiving themselves as doing so. The unfair treatment is presented towards women through the suggestion of economic special favors or demands (quid pro quo). The discriminators believe that in our modern society where the two sexes are given an even playground upon which they can compete, the under-representation of women in certain activities and roles must be a result of their inferiority or choices as opposed to discrimination. Research indicates that the development of appropriate social relationships in the workplace is directly associated with positive outcomes in one’s career such as satisfaction with pay, promotions, greater career advancements, and earnings. These social relationships are forged through the concept of work-related advice and informational resources. When workers seek advice and information with and between each other, their social bonds are strengthened, fostering the development of social relationships among these employees. Research has also shown that when seeking advice, modern sexists prefer to obtain it from their male colleagues as opposed to the female associates.

The sexist believes that men are more competent than women and they evaluate the two members of the sexes differently, especially in the concept of workplace competence. Workplace relationships are among the key factors attributed to advancement to upper management positions. Some researchers argue that social relationships in and of themselves can be considered human capital due to their importance in career advancement. It is especially valuable when one forms social relationships with those having greater power, knowledge, influence, and status in the organization. Evidence shows that these influential positions are held largely by men. These positions are enhanced through mentorships and the concept of advice seeking, where the individuals considered mentors are given the status. Workers often rely on men for work-related advice, making them mentors thus earning them the higher positions in the organization. The perception is due to the belief that male mentors are more legitimate as compared to female mentors. Some researchers argue that the concept of sexism in the workplace arises from the human resource department in the organization because they are concerned with selection, leadership succession, training, and performance evaluation in the organization. Human resource policies have been reported to be biased against specific groups of individuals; specifically, women. The human resource department presents sexism in various aspects of their functionality, perhaps not intentionally, particularly in performance evaluations. These evaluations determine the organizational rewards for the employees in terms of employment opportunities, compensation, and punishments. The criteria used by the human resources department in this function systematically favors men over women. One of the performance evaluation metrics is face time, a concept which rewards employees who are in their offices more than the rest. Given the caregiver primary role of women, they use flexible work arrangements and consequently face penalties because they have lower face time as compared to men. This criterion is biased and the policies used by human resources in the performance evaluation might give rise to the concept of sexism. The human resources department influences the concept of sexism towards women at a personal level. The functionality of the human resources relates to the decision-making which involves the evaluation of an individual’s potential, deservingness, and competence (Johnson & Otto, 2019). This functionality is influenced by social cognition, making it open to personal biases. 

Meta-analysis showcases that during the selection process, female candidates are evaluated negatively and considered less for employment because the human resource personnel believe that women might not be competent enough for the job. The department is skeptical about the expertise of women in jobs which are considered male-typed, while giving men the benefit of the doubt. This discrimination during job selection generates the concept of sexism in the workplace. The concept of motherhood is one of the most influential concepts of sexism in the workplace. This aspect of sexism also applies to the human resource department in the organization. When selecting employees for hire, human resources are reported to be less likely to recommend pregnant women when hiring for a position. Research has shown that women who are mothers are less likely to be recommended for promotions as compared to men and women without children (Verniers & Vala, 2018). The stereotype based on this discrimination is that women with children have low competence and are expected to exhibited low attendance, as the majority of their efforts will be focused on their families rather than the job. This aspect has used the concept of women as caregivers to lay the ground on the discrimination of mothers. A majority of managers enhancing sexism in the workplace use this concept of motherhood as a justification in gender biases by giving women fewer training opportunities and challenging roles that might foster their growth in the organization. 

Women are perceived as both givers and receivers, a disadvantageous concept in the influence of sexism. This impacts their work time, forcing most of the women to work part-time jobs. Research reports that 44 percent of full-time workers consist of women, but they also account for 70 percent of all part-time workers (Stamarski & Son Hing, 2015). The part-time working is influenced by the concept of family, where women act as givers to their family. While men work to receive their pay-back, women work to get the money to take care of their families. They are often faced with the challenge of deciding where to focus more attention, on giving to their families, or receiving more hours of pay from their job. This divided indecision has influenced sexism in the workplace, where managers consider them incompetent for some jobs that may require deep concentrations (Elwer et al., 2013). Those in part-time jobs are considered as more focused towards their families, thus they are not provided with any opportunities which might foster their growth in the organization. Gender role stereotyping has become common in the modern workplace. This concept is witnessed in the allocation of activities in the organization through gender labeling and it fosters sexism. Women are often considered soft and emotional, while men are considered aggressive and masculine. This stereotype has been applied in the workplace where men are given jobs which are considered masculine, requiring a more aggressive attitude, while women are given the low paying stress-free jobs. Expressions such as ‘man-up’ are considered normality when urging an individual to be courageous, displaying the stereotype that men are more confident as compared to women. Men are often advised to be less feminine when handling situations in the workplace, implying that women are weaker as compared to men. 

Workplace policies foster the concept of sexism in some organizations. These policies are meant to make it easier for employees to meet family obligations and responsibilities while keeping their connection in their jobs. One of these policies is the Family and Medical Leave Act, which gives an employee twelve weeks of unpaid leave to take care of a seriously ill spouse, child or to care for a newborn. These policies, however, tend to have exclusions that affect women more than men. The policy of family and medical leave requires an employee to have worked for at least 1250 hours in the year preceding the leave (Barnett, 2015). This specific exclusion alone eliminates the effectiveness of the policy towards 70 percent of the employees who are part-time women workers. This policy among others makes the majority of women ineligible for the protection of their jobs when on leave. After these women have fulfilled their caretaker responsibilities, they have to find a replacement job when they are ready to return to work. Gender microaggression is a concept contributing to sexism in the workplace. Forms of microaggressions consist of micro-insults, micro-validations, and micro-assaults which may appear innocent but they exert negative effects on the target. Women are particular recipients of these microaggressions, with motherhood being considered as the driving force. Their colleagues might joke about how they look unprofessional because their clothing is not masculine enough or is too feminine. Their colleagues are more preoccupied with a woman’s physical appearance rather than what they have to say. Comments on body size, shape, and physical characteristics are more frequent than comments regarding their competence and skills. This concept might appear trivial, but it creates a big dent in fostering an environment of sexism. Women will feel stereotyped, with a confined section of expectations which they must meet to fit in with the rest of their male colleagues. 

The development of feminism plays a major role in the elimination of sexism in the workplace. Feminism endorses the rights of women and advocates for equality of genders. The concept involves various campaigns and political movements that have been formed with the aim of reformation on the issues of gender inequality and sexism. Feminism started as women rebelled against unfair treatment during the medieval period; a suffrage movement; but later grew as a movement that fought for gender equality. The concept of feminism has often been overlooked, with people claiming to be feminist while treating women unfairly. The irony in this aspect is the lack of understanding of these individuals on the concept of feminism. Most of these individuals believed that feminism defines the special treatment given to women over men. This concept is, however, wrong and might be considered sexism to some extent. Feminism defines the equal treatment of all genders, where they are both provided with equal opportunities and similar fighting ground in their areas of expertise. Eliminating the culture of sexism in the workplace should commence from the human resource department. The human resource department has diverse initiatives that are aimed at altering the workforce composition including employee recruitment and promotion. This department should consider gender equality while performing its obligations. They should avoid dismissing women based on their stereotypes and beliefs. This could be eliminated by diversifying the human resource personnel. The organization needs to include an equal number of men and women in upper management positions for the department to have an equal chance of biases towards each of these group of individuals. Although, diversification should not stop at gender specification. 

To counteract sexism in the workplace, the human resource department should ensure accountability for every decision they make. This could be done in the form of a report. During their recruitment and promotional role, the department should report to upper management with a written explanation for dismissing a qualified candidate for a position (Barnett, 2015). When doing performance evaluations, they should provide a valid and reasonable explanation for any punishment given to anyone, man or woman. This would avoid personal biases when making their decisions which often fosters sexism, promoting fairness and justification for any dismissals. Another initiative to promote cultural change aimed towards eliminating sexism is the empowerment of the current female employees in the organization. The women could be empowered by providing them with promotional opportunities. Any promotion directed towards a specific woman would empower the other ladies to work harder to reach the same level of competence to be given the opportunity of a promotion. The organization could also launch women-led mentorship programs for the other females in the organization to participate in. The mentorship programs would give the women a chance to create social relationships in the workplace through the advice-seeking concept, which would give them an opportunity in the higher ranks of the organizational structure. 

The organization could take action in neutralizing the gender role stereotyping and gender labeling. The first step in this action is to accept that the concept of sexism is in the organization and that it is being used in leadership and promotional activities. The concept of ‘male jobs’ and ‘female jobs’ should be eliminated and all jobs should be considered gender-neutral. The human resource department needs to avoid not hiring women because the job is considered ‘masculine’ and rather take a chance on those qualified enough for the job (Elwer et al., 2013). The management team needs to distribute the sexes equally in all activities. Both men and women should have a turn in cleaning the offices or buying lunch for everyone, among other roles. During meetings, the role of chair and minute/note-taker should rotate among all individuals in the meetings. Educating the organization’s personnel on the concept of sexism could play a major role in eliminating it. Most individuals in the organization do not grasp the actual concept of sexism. They are aware that sexism is the unfair treatment of women, but they do not fully understand the concept enough to know when they are practicing it. When making microaggressions, individuals think that they are funny and often consider the jokes innocent rather than sexist. This is due to their ignorance on the concept of sexism. The organization, therefore, needs to take the initiative and establish an opportunity for all personnel to learn about this topic, how it might affect individuals, and how to avoid it. The organization could value the voices of women. More often than not, women in the organization are ignored and their views are dismissed as trivial. The organization should avoid dismissing any suggestion given by women, rather listen to it, and carefully consider it. This would foster respect towards women in that specific organization and give equal opportunity for every individual to share their thoughts. The respect would also shift the attention directed towards women from their appearance to their capabilities. When the organization listens to women they have employed, they might discover the intelligence they present. The managers in the organization could also ensure that the conversations they are having with the women in the workplace is focused on content and capability, not physical appearance. 

Living in a period where feminism has initiated numerous gender equality movements, there is an ongoing belief that sexism is in existence in the modern workplace. Ironically, those individuals spreading this concept are sexists who believe that sexism directed towards women is their fault since they have been given a gender-neutral field to compete in. Looking into the 40 percent statistics of the number of women in the workplace, it appears that feminist movements have a long way to go before achieving their 50-50 objective for gender roles. The movements have, however, played a major role in shedding some light on the topic of sexism, especially in the workplace, and the remaining role will continue to be left in the hands of organizations and women themselves. Only these women can ensure that they are given equal opportunities with the men in their organization, and only they have the power to push the organization in taking action against the inequality they face. Women need to accept that their workplace is gender-biased as a first step towards achieving the 50-50 objective. They then need to embrace their femininity as an opportunity in making a difference and voice their interests and thoughts. Through the voice of the woman, sexism in the workplace will be eliminated and gender equality will soon be achieved.

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