Gender Inequality in the Work Place: Its Effects and Elimination Strategies
Despite the fight for increased gender equality in the work place and subsequent formulation of laws to guard against gender discrimination, the vice has continued to thrive under the most unexpected circumstances. Formerly, gender discrimination manifested in the most common form of unequal payment of females and males in the work place. Gender discrimination takes the most unconventional forms, some of which are strengthened by organizational cultures and practices which encourage the vice, although not openly. Turner (2016) claims that gender inequality in the work place is so hidden that 59 percent of men are unaware that the vice ever occurs. Organizational cultures such as processes, strategies, and the work climate all work together towards the reinforcement of gender inequality. These organizational characteristics form a self-reinforcing system whereby if any of the parts practices gender discrimination, the effect trickles down to all the other parts (Stamarski & Sonhing, 2015). The effects of gender discrimination are also significantly varied and numerous. This calls for the need to find ways of combating the vice beginning from organizational cultures to change of individual attitudes concerning gender discrimination.
Gender Discrimination and its Effects in the work place
In the work place, gender inequality results in discrimination, which can take variable forms. While most people believe that only women experience gender discrimination in the work place, discrimination can be bidirectional. In organizational cultures that masculine functions prevail, women are more likely to be discriminated against. Similarly, where feminine roles prevail and female employees constitute a greater percentage of the staff, the males are likely to face discrimination. It is therefore critical that organizational cultures formulate strategies that not only protect women against work place discrimination, but also address the issue in its entirety.
Gender discrimination in the work place takes many forms. The most common forms include sexism and pay inequality. Previously, women in most organizations earned much less than their male counterparts in similar roles. According to Kelsy (2015), women earned about 77 percent of what their male colleagues earned in same roles as at 2011. This assertion is also confirmed from a research by Corbett and Hill who found out that the median annual earnings for females in nearly all professions were much lower than those of males (2012). Despite the belief that pay inequalities comprise of only lower overall remuneration, it is confirmed that inequality in overall remuneration comes about due to inequality in various other forms of compensation. Unequal pay comes about through forms such as reduction in the total wages, reduction in pension plans for women and diminished social security funds. The unequal pay factor formed the greatest point of concern in gender discrimination issues in the early years. However, with the advocacy for gender equality and the formulation of laws that guard against unequal pay structures, this issue has been sufficiently addressed by most organizations. However, other forms of gender discrimination still dominate work places.
Apart from unequal pay, sexism has also contributed immensely to gender discrimination in the work place. Various forms of sexism arise in the work place context, with results being sexual harassment and gender stereotyping. In the contemporary times, females experience the greatest percentage of sexism-aligned abuses. Sexual harassment in the work place mostly takes place through sexual harassment by superiors where the victim is forced to make a choice between what is morally acceptable and catering for the needs of the family. Moreover, organizational cultures have also reinforced the instances of hostile sexism in the work place through the absence of appropriate structures for addressing such concerns. Heilman et al (2004) assert that cultural biases have contributed to the development of some practices which not only reinforce sexism, but also make it easy for other forms of gender discrimination to manifest.
In contemporary times, females have continued to experience discrimination through various acts, which make it more difficult to perform in their assigned roles. It is the opinion of Williams and Bornstein (2008) that women in male dominated roles are judged by more strict standards when championing for positions in the work place. While men are judged by their capacity to perform, women are judged based on past achievements. This only implies that women have to work harder in order to achieve the same level of professional development as the men. Moreover women have to work harder at confirming their competence while men have to provide a stronger demonstration of their incompetence to be judged as being incompetent (Reskin, 2000). Although this is the conventional work place outlook, men may also experience the same kind of discrimination in the female dominated work environment.
Gender discrimination in the workplace results in many effects on the work process as well as on the employees’ attitudes towards the organization as a whole. Gluck (2015) discusses the various effects of gender discrimination in the work place. Lost productivity can be experienced by an organization where gender biased comments prevail in most of the work processes. Gender biased comments, which allude to the inferiority of a particular gender such as generalizations that men are not effective at housekeeping jobs or women cannot address technical tasks, make it difficult for the perceived inferior gender to actively participate in productivity. This is because their participation would not be appreciated however much they try. This can result in lost productivity due to lack of motivation among the discriminated members. Secondly, when lower tasks are assigned to employees of a particular gender due to the presumption of inferiority, the capacity of the available man power is not utilized completely hence resulting in reduced productivity since other people will have to cover up for the individual being assigned lower tasks.
Reskin (2000) opines that when gender discrimination is openly displayed in the work place context, the discriminated individuals could be made to be destructive in their activities. This could be as a form of getting back at the organization or the person who practices gender discrimination. The purported destruction can be either physical, through the destruction of property or causing injury to individuals; or through malicious talk. The talk could be meant to taint either the name of the individual involved in gender discrimination or the organization name. The main reason why individuals in a company may resort to destruction in averting gender discrimination is because discrimination has other effects which make it difficult for people to cope with.
When there is gender discrimination in an organization, individuals may be passed over during promotions. In companies that encourage masculinity in its structure and practices, it is possible for females to be passed over during promotions. Females are in most cases passed over, and given reasons such as family responsibilities. While some view family commitments as a hindrance to effective professional practice, research has shown that females with families are more effective in their professional responsibilities due to increased resilience and increased need in their families. They are more likely to put in greater effort in making sure they achieve their professional targets. Eagly and Karau (2002) say that the practice of passing over females due to their family responsibilities is reinforced by cultural biasness which has made men be perceived as providers and task effective while women are considered as home makers and inferior.
Other effects of gender discrimination in the work place include increased immorality and hostile sexism. From these effects, it can be said that gender discrimination is a circular habit where the cause- and effect have a bidirectional relationship. The same practices that make an organization be referred to as practicing gender inequality are also results of the same gender inequality. For instance, in organizations where the practice of hostile sexism is the norm, i.e. there are no strategies for dealing with sexual harassment and other sexist vices, the same will thrive and even new employees will be initiated into the practice. This explains why in some organizations, sexual relations among employees, particularly initiated by superiors is the norm. Similarly, in organizations where immorality takes center place, i.e. where females are considered as sexual objects, the same is bound to thrive. Dealing with gender discrimination in the work place is therefore a difficult task since the solution has to address all facets of the problem. Not only does it have to address individual values, but it also has to dig t practices that encourage the continuation of vile practices.
Achieving Gender Equality in the Work Place
The shift from gender inequality to thriving equality is a step that most organizations are yet to achieve completely. From biased HR practices to gender biased comments, organizations work over time to deal with the menace. Stamarski and Sonhing (2015) provide various ways in which organizational managers and owners can help to prevent gender discrimination and to attain gender equality. The first step recommended towards achieving gender equality is for organizational managers to get rid of all barriers to the participation of all employees in all the available organizational tasks. In organizations where gender issues arise when it comes to task allocation, the employees develop the opinion that a certain gender is inferior when it comes to certain tasks. Moreover, the employees get to develop the habit of using the same measure in assigning other roles. Ridding the work environment completely of cultures that enhance gender discrimination takes time and dedication and can only be achieved with sufficient motivation.
For an employer to effectively rid the workplace environment of gender discriminating practices, it is mandatory for the employer to familiarize with all laws that regulate gender biasness in the work place. It is only through this that an understanding of what constitutes biasness can be created and hence be possible for those practices to be terminated. Not only does the management have to familiarize with these laws but they have to be taught to the entire work force. Penalties for violation of each of the laws should also be made clear so that each employee is aware of the cost of violating the laws. Similarly, the management should make it clear that the organization is law abiding and that any practices that go contrary to the law would not be tolerated. Gluck (2015) asserts that the only way to initiate a change towards gender equity in the work place is to begin through practice. This implies that employment laws should also be taken into consideration when hiring. It is difficult to convince a predominantly male work force that an organization believes in gender equality and that women can also be competent in the roles assigned to men. It is therefore essential for organizations to begin gender equality through advocating for equal opportunity employment.
Besides, understanding the gender discrimination laws, managers should also focus on changing people’s attitudes and perspectives towards gender discrimination. Although most organizations form policies and programs to cater for women in the work environment, it is rather necessary for a change of attitudes towards gender discrimination. Berhane (2015) recognizes the importance of attitude change apart from the conventional policy formation practices. When employees change their attitudes regarding gender discrimination, those practices will be eventually eliminated without need for further intervention. How to achieve this change of attitude is however a challenge in the conventional workplace where resistance to change is the norm. Moreover, some of those practices have been reinforced through cultural practices, which make gender discrimination a necessary part of life. For instance, it would be difficult to change the attitudes of people in a work environment within a country where the scale of masculinity is high. This calls for strong advocacy, particularly by men.
Another way of increasing gender equality in the work place is through creation of strong policies against gender discrimination and provision of training on the same. Policies have a way of controlling actions of people. Through awareness of organizational policies, it is possible for people to avoid practices that go against those policies. This recommendation, made by Berhane (2015) is suggested to work through creating a sense of insecurity. With the increasing competition in the work place and the lack of employment opportunities, individuals take personal responsibilities to ensure they are secure in their jobs. Therefore, no one would want to lose their employment by failing to adhere to company policies. The management can therefore make it easy to do the right thing by formulating policies that advocate for the right course of action in the organizational set up. Training can help advance the policies further through explanations of the scope of each policy. Once people are made aware of the implications of their actions, it is easy to monitor how they behave. Policies also make it easy to report instances of supposed gender discrimination and to make corrections when there is need to do so.
Furthermore, gender equality can be attained through celebration of success in every situation. When incentives are promised for successful employees, gender discrimination should not occur during award of those incentives once success has been achieved or on a periodic basis. Both male and female employees who perform exemplarily in their tasks should be awarded similarly. Moreover, the value of the incentives provided should also be equal for both male and female employees. It is difficult to convince the work place that the contributions of both male and female employees are valued when only a single gender is awarded significantly. This also breeds contempt and unproductive competition among employees of different genders who are assigned to similar tasks.
Finally, assigning roles should be based on abilities rather than genders. Role assignment should take into consideration both academic qualification and technical experience. Consideration of gender and other gender biased factors such as family responsibilities during recruitment of employees brings out the image of a gender biased organization, the effects of which are myriad. A combination of equal opportunity employment and role assignment with equal pay structures can enhance the feeling of gender equality and further increase the possibility of changing peoples’ attitudes towards other genders in the work place. Lack of gender biasness in recruitment practices can therefore be considered as a starting point for eliminating gender discriminating practices from the work place.
Gender discrimination in the work place is one of the issues that have raised various concerns in the contemporary work environment. Despite the formation of various equal pay policies and laws, other forms of gender discrimination such as hostile sexism, lack of equal work evaluation scales, and unequal employment opportunities still persist in the work environment. These forms of discrimination have consequently resulted in issues such as destruction, lost productivity, and increased immorality in the work place. It is therefore necessary for organizations to use strategies such as formulation of policies to enhance equality, advocating for attitude change, equal pay structures and ability based recruitment to reduce gender discrimination.
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