Opinion: Gender Inequality at the Workplace, by Grace Stech

According to Elizabeth Broderick (Australian Sex Discrimination Commissioner) “Gender equality is the unfinished business of the 21st century”. Gender inequality still is the main problem causing employees to have different opportunities in the workplace such as promotions and equal pay, among many others. Men are still perceived as the primary source of income, whereas women are seen as housewives. How can companies combat gender inequality in the workplace and create an environment where every employee has the same opportunities? To limit – and potentially eliminate – gender inequality in the workplace, companies can ask for a curriculum vitae without the applicants name or picture, implement quotas, approach gender inequality as a scientific research (i.e. experiment with solutions that may work with the culture of the company, accept failure and learn from it, set achievable goals and track the progress made), involve men in the discussions to make every employee feel part of the change, and tackle gender inequality and career paths from the early ages (schools and universities).

When looking for a position in a company, the first encounter an applicant may have is through his or her CV. However, companies may be biased from the earliest stages and prefer specific candidates because of their appearance or their gender instead of the applicant’s competencies. Therefore, companies in the United States and the United Kingdom now ask for resumes or CVs without the mention of the applicant’s name, gender, or picture. It is an easy solution to eliminate some bias. This solution was presented by Harvard students. Unfortunately, during interviews, interviewers may have the same prejudice and select an individual because they “look the job”. This solution only eliminates bias during the selection procedure for the interviews but does not solve the gender discrimination problems in the company itself.

“Gender auditing, gender mainstreaming and gender awareness training” (“In a World in Which ‘Everyday Sexism’) may be another solution to fight gender inequality. Companies will be forced to have an equal gender distribution among employees. In addition, they will have to implement awareness trainings that educate employees on how to fight gender inequality and why it is important to do so. The interview I conducted with Christin Schreiber (one of six female instructors at Emirates CAE Flight Training) said that having more women in the business would tremendously help as they are clearly underrepresented. According to her, it would help show sexist people that gender is not a factor when it comes to delivering a job: it only depends on the person’s competencies (“Telephone Interview”). However, setting up quotas such as “gender auditing” creates both “political and legal dilemmas” (“In a World in Which ‘Everyday Sexism’ ”). When a company implements quotas, some applicants may be hired as they would complete the quota, but others with better qualifications may be overlooked as the quotas have already been reached.

 Another solution may be to tackle gender inequality in the workplace as an “innovation challenge” (Kaplan and Kang), meaning keeping an open-mind, accepting failure and learning from it, and setting goals to limit or even eliminate gender bias while tracking the progress the company is making. Prof. Sarah Kaplan (Professor at the Institute for Gender and the Economy at the University of Toronto) and Prof. Sonia K Kang (Professor at the Institute for Management and Innovation at the University of Toronto) came up with this approach specifically for the medical field, but it can be applied to any company. Companies can try different approaches to tackling gender inequality and can compare which one had the best results “with an open and scientific attitude, and the willingness to experiment and measure outcomes” (Kaplan and Kang). As every company has a different culture, there is no correct way of finding a viable solution. However, Kang and Kaplan emphasize on the importance of keeping track of the progress made. They believe that it is the most important to set goals and find steps to achieve them all while keeping track of the progress made and the approaches taken.

To make this solution the most effective, it is important to remember that every employee has a say. For example, the Welsh company Chwarae Teg strongly believes that it is vital to hear what male employees think of gender inequality and make them a part of the discussions. As most high-ranking positions are male, they have substantial input in the company and can have a strong influence on the decisions taken. Although this solution is applicable to any company, it requires a lot of time and in some cases money that many are not willing to pay. The research that is put behind solutions may cause some employees to work overtime as they now have more tasks, have new employees whose sole purpose is to find solutions to the rising problem, and invest in awareness programs, among others.

It is just as important to tackle gender inequality in schools and universities as it is in the workplaces. When children are exposed to gender inequality in schools, they are more prone to be blind to it once they enter the corporate world. Therefore, Dr. Mario D. Fantini (former dean of the School of Education at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst) argues that “America depends on education and educators to reflect those values which bring out the best of our aspirations”, gender equality being one of those values. When put in an environment where gender inequality is present, young school children start to see it as the norm and abide by it in an “almost natural fashion” (Fantini).

It is also important to motivate children to pursue any career and limit them by their gender. Prof. Astrid Sinnes and Prof. M. Loken (Professors at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences), urge school teachers to motivate girls and boys to pursue STEM subjects as it should not be limited to boys by using examples in the scientific field. “Adjusting science subjects to match perceived typical girls’ and boys’ interests risks being ineffective” (Sinnes and Loken) as these common interests are based on stereotypes. By encouraging more girls to pursue STEM subjects in higher education, the number of female employees will increase in the scientific field, which in turn reduces gender inequality. Although this solution contributes to fighting gender inequality, it does not limit gender bias employers to continue their practices. It equalizes the ration between men and women in universities. However, companies may still perceive men more suitable for a certain position and women for another. 

In conclusion, gender inequality in the workplace is a very complex issue that many companies and schools are trying to abolish. Solutions such as asking for CVs or resumes without mentioning the name, picture or gender of the applicant, implementing quotas, approaching the problem like an innovative challenge, or even tackling the issue at the earliest stages (schools and universities) may help reduce gender inequality, but they all have their limits making it that much harder.

Works cited

Fantini, Mario D. “Sexism: A Commitment to Solutions”. Journal of Teacher Education, vol. 26, no. 4, 1975, pp. 292-292. SAGE Publications, doi:10.1177/002248717502600402.

“In a World in Which ‘Everyday Sexism’ Remains Rife, Progress on Gender Discrimination Will Require Quotas”. Lexisnexis.Com, 2016, http://www.lexisnexis.com/hottopics/lnacademic/.

Kang, Sonia K, and Sarah Kaplan. “Working Toward Gender Diversity and Inclusion in Medicine: Myths and Solutions”. Science Direct, 2019, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0140673618331386#!. Accessed 25 Mar 2019.

Sinnes, Astrid, and M Loken. Proceedings of The Twentieth Annual Meeting of the Southern African Association for Mathematics, Science and Technology Education. 2nd ed., 2012, pp. 466-467.

Schreiber, Christin. Telephone Interview. By Grace Christina Stech, 02 Mar 2019

Teg, Chwarae. “Men Are Part of the Solution to Gender Inequality at Work”. Lexisnexis.Com.Ezproxy.Aud.Edu, 2017, http://www.lexisnexis.com.ezproxy.aud.edu/hottopics/lnacademic/.

“What Works: Gender Equality by Design.” YouTube, 5 March 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=niH9wfKsUIc

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