How Sexism Affects the Workplace essay

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Sexism in the Workplace

The idea that men and women are treated differently in the workplace has been around ever since both genders began organized work. However, it is important to explore how much of that difference is sensible and due to actual differences between the way genders handle work and process information, and how much of it equates to actual sexism. This is an important issue, as it relates to interaction between the genders and also to fairness when it comes to pay and treatment in the workplace, as well as hiring practices. There have been plenty of stories heard over the years of "women's work" and "men's work," but much of that has gone by the wayside in recent times. The majority of that has come from women's demand for equal rights, as well as men's increasing interest in some types of jobs (such as nursing and related medical jobs) that were traditionally held by women.

Sexism addresses the idea that men are only capable of and good at particular types of work, and that the same is true for women. Those who hold sexist beliefs generally still feel that this is the case in modern society, with most of the sexism being directed toward women who allegedly are not capable of performing as well as men when it comes to work duties. This is, naturally, an important concern for women because they feel as though they are being treated as second class citizens. They also generally do not make as much money as men for the same amount of work, so there is a discrepancy there that must be addressed in order to ensure that sexism is avoided and both genders are treated equally. This paper explores the literature on sexism, as well as addressing a methodology that will allow the concept of sexism in the modern workplace to be studied.

Literature Review

The main theory that is addressed in sexism is that men are more likely to be hired, overall, than women (Bojarska, 2012; Kail & Cavanaugh, 2010). Additionally, men are also more likely to be treated with a higher level of generosity on a professional level than women in the same jobs and who have identical qualifications (Bojarska, 2012). This is believed to be because sexism is still very much present in modern society, despite efforts to eradicate it and despite the number of companies and individuals who insist it is not something in which they engage. Research has been conducted in support of the theory that sexism is still a very present force within society today, and there are a number of studies that have provided general confirmation of this opinion (Macklem, 2004; Atwell, 2002; Hurst, 2007; Schneps & Colmez, 2013). Here, those studies will be addressed as a way to show not only what has been previously studied, but also to show that there are valid reasons in which to engage in further studies of the matter.

Without doing so, it becomes much more difficult to make a true determination of why sexism is so much of an issue and why it has not been corrected as societal problem. For example, King, et al. (2012) conducted a study of a group of managers within the energy industry, and found that the tasks given to the women in the group were not as challenging or as demanding as the tasks given to men in that same group. This was believed by the authors to be a clear example of sexism in the workplace, because the men and women were in the same industry and the same job titles (King, et al., 2012). They should have had virtually identical pay and duties, affected only by a difference in what companies might require of all of their managers and/or their level of qualifications such as education and prior work experience (King, et al., 2012). However, when controlling for all other variables it was still seen that women did not get the same level of work as men (King, et al., 2012).

The authors hypothesized that this was due only to gender, and an overarching sexist belief that women cannot perform a job as well as men (King, et al., 2012). In the energy industry and some other industries that are dominated mostly by men, this level of sexism is often seen (King, et al., 2012). That does not make it acceptable, but it is more commonplace. Seeing it in other industries where women are typically more equal or where women are generally more dominant is still possible, but the sexism in those industries is often not as strong or as pronounced (Kail & Cavanaugh, 2010). This is much better for women who work in these industries, and also better for men who work there because they are taught that women are truly equal and that the company values the contributions of all of the employees, regardless of gender. That is an important point that many industries overlook (Schneps & Colmez, 2013). When they are sexist, they indicate that they do not find women valuable, which can cause those women to struggle in other areas of their lives.

However, this sexist behavior also teaches their male employees that they have dominance and that they are not to value the opinions of women as highly as their own (Bojarska, 2012). That can be even more damaging to both the men and the women of the group, and can lead women to file lawsuits for discrimination or to simply leave the company and look for another opportunity where they will be more accepted based on their value and qualifications, without gender becoming an issue (Macklem, 2004). When women are provided with work that is not as challenging as the work given to men who hold the same positions in the same industries, it clearly devalues those women and indicates to them that what they can offer to their industries and companies is not as important as what men can offer (Matsumoto, 2001; Atwell, 2002). Of course, that is a serious concern because it is important to value all employees of a company, regardless of their gender. The male/female dichotomy should not come into play in the workplace at all, because all that matters is that the people hired for jobs perform them correctly (Atwell, 2002).

Another study (Young & Nauta, 2013) looked at men and women in the military, and found that women were 30% less likely to receive a promotion in rank than men were. This is a significant difference in the way men and women are valued in the military, and a clear example of sexism. It can be used as a way to predict attitudes toward women both in the military in a generic sense and in combat situations (Young & Nauta, 2013). Women generally want to be equal, but while they are allowed to do much more than in years past and they are getting involved with numerous different types of jobs and industries, there are still areas of life where being a male holds much more weight than being a female (Hurst, 2007). This is something that should change, but there does not seem to be a change in sight. When men and women do not see one another as equals, their thoughts about themselves are also different than they would be if the situation were different (Hurst, 2007).

In other words, men generally see themselves as being above women in status and value, while women see themselves as not having as much value as men and needing to defer to men in order to get their questions answered or make large life decisions (Matsumoto, 2001). This is a generalization, of course, and not true of all men or women. Studies do show, however, that men and women, when taken as separate groups, do possess these traits and differences (Bojarska, 2012; Matsumoto, 2001; Kail & Cavanaugh, 2010). That may work well for some of them, and may even be perfectly acceptable to them in their home lives, but there is no place for sexism in the workplace. Judging a person's ability to perform a job based on his or her gender has been deemed unacceptable by most of society and by the courts, but people still continue to make sexism part of the workplace in both subtle and not so subtle ways (Schneps & Colmez, 2013; Kail & Cavanaugh, 2010). It is unfortunate that this has become the case, and even more unfortunate that over the years nothing has changed to ensure that there are no longer sexist teachings in any workplace. Because the issue has not been resolved, studies continue to be done (Bojarska, 2012).

The goal of most of these studies is to attempt to determine why there is still so much sexism in the workplace, and why people still feel that men and women are so deeply unequal in nature. There are many speculative reasons why this could be the case,…[continue]

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