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Sex and Gender Stereotypes

Sexual stereotypes and discrimination.

In this day and age, we all wish that this was not still an active topic, especially in the workplace.   But it is.  From hiring processes and job descriptions that are gender-based, to the work culture, to the rate of pay, there are still many areas that still have insensitive wording and policies.  This chapter is going to address the issues around sexual stereotypes and ways to discourage this type of work culture.

Employer Responsibility

Sexual stereotypes lead to sexual discrimination.  This can be a problem in the workplace.  This type of behavior falls under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and is federally monitored and has very serious consequences.  An employer must ensure that there is no difference between male and female employees in the workplace.
Some of the areas of particular note are:

  • Job descriptions and hiring processes
  • Salaries and later promotions
  • Quotas and responsibilities of the position.

HR and Best Practices

The first step to ensuring a well-rounded workforce, is to examine the hiring processes of the company.  HR needs to design the processes and policies to be all-inclusive for both women and men, except in certain cases where a particular gender is necessary.  Accepting applications and performing interviews that are fair is extremely important.  One gender or the other should not be discouraged from applying for any position.

Hiring managers need to be trained in sensitivity to this issue during entry to their positions.  The questioning and considerations that are given each candidate need to be the same.  Salaries and job expectations need to be the same for both men and women.  These policies need to be monitored on a regular basis to ensure that strict adherence to the federal law is being followed.

The Elephant in the Room

The elephant in the room – sexual stereotypes, there are so many.  And they go to both men and women.  Both are negative and offensive.  Here are just a few:

  • Men are stronger and better at manual labor.
  • Men are smarter and better with finances.
  • Women are more sensitive and better at socially active jobs.
  • Women are less capable of physical labor.

 Overcoming Stereotypes

Employing both men and women is a beginning step to a positive work culture that embraces employees of all sexes.  Avoiding teams and departments of one or the other sex must be a policy.  Ensuring all pay scales are equal for all employees performing the same duties.  This will promote a message of equality.

Another way to ensure an inclusive work culture is to educate all employees the consequences to participating in any type of discrimination or harassment.  Orientation chapters and training sessions that cover the reporting and discipline resulting of such behaviors.  This will also communicate a culture that discourages any sort of sexism, in any form.

Practical Illustration

Stacy and Reba are co-workers as well as friends. Stacy was so excited to tell her that she and a male co-worker were promoted to team leads. Reba was so excited for Stacy and asked her the details of the new position, salary increase, and so on. Stacy explained that her new role requires her to be a subject matter expert for less experienced team members. She also said that with the position comes a $5,000 annual raise.

As Stacy and Reba were celebrating, Brad, the other employee who was promoted walked up to them. He congratulated Stacy and said, “That $7,000 raise will really come in handy, huh?” Stacy looked surprised, and said, “Yeah, it will.” When Brad walked away, Stacy began complaining to Reba that she feels she got less of a raise because she is a woman. Reba said the company can’t legally do that, and convinced Stacy to speak with her manager regarding her concern.

After a long conversation with her manager, Heather, Stacy felt relieved to know that it wasn’t her sex that kept her from getting a $7,000 raise, it was the additional experience that Brad has as a subject matter expert, which she didn’t know about.


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