Many misconceptions about gender can contribute to bias in the workplace. Where men are seen as assertive or ambitious, women tend to be seen as demanding or aggressive. In addition to the unequal treatment by their colleagues, clients with high risk ventures tend to have more confidence in men to carry out their projects (Koper, 2017). This idea is greatly influenced by the stereotype that women are ruled by their hormones especially when mother nature rolls around once a month. Such stereotypes have really deterred the reputation of female professionals even though they have proven to be equally as hardworking, reliable, and ambitious as their male counterparts.
The lack of female Chief Executive Officers in North America is almost common knowledge. 57% of all bachelor’s programs and 60% of all master’s programs have been completed by women and yet the ever-present “glass-ceiling” remains (Koper, 2017). The “glass-ceiling” I’m speaking of is the invisible barrier that prevents women from rising beyond a certain level of the managerial hierarchy. 2018’s Fortune 500 had only included 24 female CEOs making up 4.8% of the entire list, down 1.6% from 2017’s list of Chief Executives (Mejia, 2018). Though this may surprise you, this is a fairly accurate representation of the number of females in this prestigious business position.
The technology industry is also well known for its lack of gender diversity. Isn’t it ironic how a 2016 study found that “women are actually considered better coders when they hide their gender (Warner, 2017)?” Honestly, I can’t say that I’m surprised. Though the issue is prominent in this industry, many companies are rising to the challenge of gender inclusion. New statistics have brought to light the benefits of having high volumes of women working at the executive levels. Businesses with a woman on the executive team usually have a 64% larger initial valuation and a 49% larger final valuation (Next Generation, 2018). Moreover, Fortune 500 companies with the highest representation of female board of directors had sales returns at least 42% higher than those with the lowest female representation (Next Generation, 2018). With figures like these, people are starting to pull up their bootstraps and tackle the problem at hand.
Women in law, especially women of color, frequently draw the short straw. Female lawyers are usually expected to take charge of pesky office tasks including party planning, scheduling meetings, and clean up after meetings. This expectation is based on the gender stereotypes of women doing the “housework”. Organizations are also more likely to assign women to these tasks because women are more likely to agree to perform them (Elsessor, 2018). This behavior only reinforces the sexist work culture. Female lawyers of color were eight times more likely than white men to report that they had been mistaken for custodial staff, administrative staff, or court personnel, with 57% reporting mistaken identity (Elsessor, 2018). Why do women get assigned the office chores? Why are female lawyers being mistaken for janitors? Why are 65.9% of all interruptions in the Supreme Court, directed at only female Supreme Court Justices, which accounts for 3.5% of all Justices (Elsessor, 2018)?
There are plenty of industries that still lack equal gender representation in prestigious and powerful positions. This issue has been around for a long time and it’s not likely to disappear any time soon. In the words of Cathy Engelbert, Deloitte CEO, more women need to “Speak up, make needs known, prevail against challenging circumstances, and employ strategies to succeed.” Because after all, women make up half the world, so it’s only logical they make up half the workforce (Next Generation, 2018).
Written by: Chelsea Okankwu, JMWL Ambassador (2018-2019)
Editor: Amanda Kane