The corporate world is biased in favor of men who are still commonly considered to be the leaders and high achievers. Women often are disadvantaged due to the glass ceiling.
This claim might seem far-fetched, especially in the developed nations, including in the U.S. where women constitute 46.8% of the total workforce. However, these statistics don’t reveal the entire picture and hide more than what they show. Only 4% or 20 of the Fortune 500 Companies are led by women, which is a dismal figure, especially when the numbers of men and women in the US workforce are almost equal.
According to the United States Department of Labor, only 57% of all women participate in the US workforce, and in the fields of computers and mathematics, only 26% are women. According to the World Bank’s data, globally, only 39.6% of the total workforce in 2014 were women.
These figures show that although the number of women in the workplace is increasing, especially in the developed nations, the workplace is still by and large male-dominated when it comes to career progression and leadership.
Let’s take a look at some of the reasons responsible for male dominance in the business world:
Stereotyping plays a crucial role in the workplace. It exists for both men and women. Certain job roles and responsibilities are considered more suited to men. The above example of computers and mathematics corroborates the stereotyping associated with job roles. Similarly, women form only a small part of the labor force in the engineering and technical industries that were traditionally considered more appropriate for men.
In contrast, occupations like nursing, teaching, human resources, and secretarial and administrative jobs were traditionally considered more suitable for women, which continue to be the reason for the skewed participation of women in these fields. It also means that due to the large-scale participation of women in the fields that have been traditionally considered more suitable to them, there is an even participation of women in the total workforce. In reality, women are still confined more in the jobs considered not masculine enough for men to participate.
Another form of gender stereotype exists while assigning responsibilities. Men are considered leaders while women are expected to be subdued and supportive. It means few women get the opportunities to work in managerial positions. Often, while promoting an employee, the senior management might refrain from appointing a woman into the role of a leader as they believe she would be more occupied with her family and children than her job. Also, the gender bias against them includes a sense of feeling that the subordinates would not respond positive towards a female leader and might even confront her.
Women often reel under the pressure of the social norms that demand them to fulfill their responsibilities towards their family and children. Even if both the spouses work, it is the wife who is expected to take care of the kids and home more than men, simply because the societal notions mandate that these are the wife’s responsibilities. Such expectations or rather bindings force women to forgo several professional activities.
It is quite possible that a high performing female employee would reject an offer to become a manager only because she can’t spend more time at work. Similarly, she might even reject an offer that is better than her current job position and salary because it would require her to move to a different city or to a farther destination within the same city. A man who is single or has a supportive spouse would, on the other hand, be more likely to grab such offers.
There is yet another dimension to this: Women are often required to sacrifice their career for their spouse. If the husband gets an excellent opportunity even in another place or country, the wife is expected to quit her job and move with the husband. All these situations arise from the fact that the society expects women to give precedence to their family over their career.
Insensitivity Towards Women
Women often need a different treatment than men at the workplace. It is because of the several social attributes mandating them to align their priorities in a manner that their family lives come before their personal lives. However, it doesn’t mean that women don’t work efficiently or diligently. It only means that they have to make certain adjustments to do justice to their familial and official responsibilities. It is where the sensitivity of their managers play a crucial role, which lacks to a great extent in most of the workplaces.
Managers remain insensitive towards the needs of their employees in general, and when it comes to their female subordinates, their judgment is clouded by certain prejudices such as women are less serious about their job or incapable of handling higher responsibilities. All these factors lead to insensitivity towards women which further hampers their career progression despite possessing the right skills and potential.
Inability to Participate in After-Work Activities
One of the crucial reasons why workplaces remain male-friendly is because male managers bond with their male subordinates and colleagues through unofficial channels such as after work parties or other activities that are usually conducted after the regular working hours. Some of these activities involve consuming alcohol. These forms of engagements benefit men but lead to a disadvantaged situation for women. Most of the women avoid such engagement as they prioritize their work and family over gossips and camaraderie. Unfortunately, it results in them getting neglected in appraisals and promotions.
Expected Role Plays at the Workplace
In the workplace, it is expected that the men will be tough, fighters, leaders, and aggressive. Contrarily, women are expected to be submissive, polite, and good followers. Even if a woman tries to break the shackles of such expectations, she isn’t positively by her colleagues. As a result, most of the women either continue playing the roles as expected of them or to break the prejudice try to emulate men and their masculine style of leadership. In either case, women have played a role which is starkly different to their true nature and inclination. If the women work as expected of them, it supports masculinity at work.
Contrarily, if they too change their style of working to become more like their male counterparts, they further reinforce the notion that the only style suitable for the workplace is masculine.
It is also the sternness of these perceived roles that often women are expected to adapt. Failure to do so can adversely impact their chances of growth. Women, therefore, have little scope to display their natural leadership style which is entirely different from men. They are forced to either adapt to quit.
Numerous factors have retained and strengthened masculinity at the workplaces, especially the ones mentioned above. It’s not just the corporate echelons that support masculinity but also the society which promotes male dominance. The impact can be seen from the low number of top female managers, especially of the large corporations. To address this issue, it is essential that the business enterprises frame policies that are flexible and adaptive giving women more opportunities to work and lead the teams in a manner most conducive to their natural style. In the current situation, corporations are losing out on capitalizing the real potential of almost half of their workforce.
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