Occupational sexism

Sexism O Occupational sexism

Thu, 23 Mar 2017 Source: Daniel Adjei

By Daniel Adjei

Occupational sexism (also called sexism in the workplace and employment sexism) refers to any discriminatory practices, statements, actions, etc. based on a person's sex that are present or occur in a place of employment.

Archismitachoudhury wrote that sexism is usually defined as “discrimination against the members of one sex, usually women”. If “sexism” sounds like an unfamiliar term to you, it may be that you know it by its synonyms – sexual discrimination, chauvinism, etc. Sexism is prevalent in basically all of the major, “civilised” societies on our planet and exists in many forms and in all spheres – the private sphere such as home and family as well as the public sphere, such as transport and the workplace.

Because sexism exists in such subtle forms, especially in the workplace, it sometimes becomes hard to detect, especially since most of us are so desensitised to the discrimination that it has become “normal” for us.

Social role theory may explain one reason for why occupational sexism exists. Historically women's place was in the home, while the males were in the workforce. This division consequently formed expectancies for both men and women in society and occupations.

These expectancies, in turn, gave rise to gender stereotypes that play a role in the formation of sexism in the workplace, i.e., occupational sexism. According to a reference, there are three common patterns associated with social role theory that might help explain the relationship between the theory and occupational sexism. The three patterns are as follows:

Women tend to take on more domestic tasks; Women and men often have different occupational roles; and

In occupations, women often have lower status

These patterns can work as the foreground for the commonality of occupational stereotypes. One example of this in action is the expectancy-value model. This model describes how expectancies may be linked to gender discrimination in occupations. For example, females are expected by society to be more successful in health-related fields while men are expected to be more successful in science related fields.

Therefore, men are discriminated against when attempting to enter health-related fields, and females are discriminated against when attempting to enter science-related fields.

The forefront of this model is based on an individual's aspirations towards a career. These aspirations, in turn, led to expectancies of successful careers. However, socialisation trumps the effects of personal aspirations and expectations, because socialisation has the tendency to shape individuals self-perceptions. Therefore, when a man enters a stereotypic female career, his socialised self-perceptions might influence him to be more aware of possible occupational sexism (and the same applies to women).

Sexism in education is clearly associated with sexism in the workplace. When women are expected to “stay in the home,” they are unable to access the necessary educational resources to compete with men in the job market. If by chance they are able to secure a position, women may be less prepared educationally for the task, and thus draw lower wages as expressed by CliffsNotes.

In recent decades more women have entered the corporate workforce. Before about 30 percent of women were employed outside the home; today, in this 21st century, the figure is well over 50 percent. (Some estimates approach 75 percent if “part?time” jobs are included.) Yet women are far from treated equally on the job. Typically, they hold lower?paying, lower?status jobs than men.

In fact, women may account for only 25 percent of the upper?level managers in large corporations. And although half of the employees in the largest, most prestigious firms around the United States may be women, perhaps as few as 5 percent or less actually hold senior positions, what about Africa or Ghana today? Your guess is as good as what I am thinking right now.

In general, women are under?represented in the higher?status, higher?paying occupations, such as university teaching, law, engineering, and medicine. In contrast, women are over?represented in the lower?paying occupations, such as public?school teaching, nursing, and secretarial work. In stereotypical female jobs, referred to as women's ghettos, women are subordinate to the positions of men. For example, executives supervise secretaries who are likely to be women, and lawyers supervise paralegals, who are also likely to be women.

Women in the same jobs as men usually earn less, even though these women may have the same or better training, education, and skills. As a general statistic, women make only 60 percent or less than men in comparable positions. Why this disparity? Sociologists speculate that, in some cases, the fact that women often must take time off to have and raise children interrupts their career path. As much as you may hate to admit it, women still bear the primary responsibilities of child?rearing.

Conflicting demands may partly explain why married women with children are more likely to leave their jobs than are childless and single women. Also, men are seen as the “chief breadwinners,” so the belief is that they should be paid more than women in order to support their families. Whatever the reason, paying women less than men for equally demanding work is discrimination.Archismita stated the following ways sexism still exists at our workplace:


This is, of course, one of the most blatant signs of sexism at the workplace. A pay gap, even in white collar jobs where both genders – men and women – are equally qualified for the job and put in the same effort and time, it is present and glaring. In fact, there is even a policy in some offices that co-workers should not ask about each others’ pay packets but as is bound to happen in at least some of the cases, word gets out about salaries and almost always, the women have a lower pay packet than their equally qualified and working male counterparts. This is a form of overt sexism at the workplace.


This is another obvious and overt way by which sexism manifests itself at the workplace. Sexual harassment is often described as “the unwelcome directing of sexual remarks, looks, or advances, usually at a woman in the workplace”. Now, this definition holds value in discussions about sexual harassment and its nature, but it should be kept in mind that it is a rather general definition. Another aspect of sexual harassment is that, although the vast majority of it takes place against women, men are also its victims – and that is often overlooked. Sexual harassment is a source of much trauma to the victim and is one of the worst ways we see sexism at the workplace.


I am sure all of us agree that the people interested in their careers are also interested in their promotions, and that includes both men and women. However, in spite of women asking for promotions and furthermore, being as qualified or even more qualified than their male counterparts, it can be seen that the promotions are mostly in favour of the men, rather than the women, so, although, there is no lack of trying, women can rarely move up to the higher levels of their workplace.

This goes on to such an extent that women become desensitised to such treatments and rarely if ever, raise their voices at this type of injustice. This form of sexism, although is not as overt as the ones previously mentioned, is very real and present in the workplace.although it might stem from a common branch, that is, sexism. Low raises in


This form of sexism is a bit related to the previous point, but it should be kept in mind that these are very separate issues in their own right, comparison to their male counterparts are very common in women’s experiences in the workplace. It is also shown through a few surveys conducted that women usually have to “strategize” better when asking for a raise than men. There are also a lot of sexist notions that come into play here, such as – “men need it more to support their family”. Regardless of the fact that the woman might also have a family to support, and the man might not.


Another way in which women are on the receiving end of sexism is that women in the workplace often face a variety of stereotypes, mostly unconscious, which are instrumental in holding back or blocking their advancements up the ladder of success in their respective careers. Such stereotypes are often shining examples of sexism – sometimes subtle, but often glaringly so. Some examples of these stereotypes and prejudices are – they don’t need more money because they are not a “primary breadwinner”, conveniently ignoring the fact that increasing numbers of women are supporting families, often single-handedly as well and that many are choosing not to marry. Other stereotypes are about how they can’t do particular jobs which are thought of as “men’s work”, and how they are supposed to act “feminine” in the workplace and mostly about how they are not committed to their jobs since society still sees them as the primary caregivers to children.


Another way sexism exists in the workplace is when you see your boss asking only women to get him coffees and lattes or make coffee for meetings. An almost unconscious perception present in most workplaces is that it is the work of women employees or women interns to run petty errands such as getting coffees, cleaning up, or answering the phone in the absence of a receptionist. This form of sexism may or may not be overt, but almost always the employees involved become desensitised to it to the point of feeling that it is normal for things to be this way, even though that is far from the truth since sexism is never justified and should not be a normal state of affairs.


Another problem in workplaces which stems from sexism is the issue of a severe lack of inclusiveness in most office environments which fails to see women as “one of us”. There is often a distinct “boys’ club” in which women are not welcome. This attitude is expressed in many ways which leave women feeling out of place and excluded, such as not being invited to activities of the “boys’ club” like invitations to a golf club, etc.


Another way sexism is present in the workplace is, of course, situations in which bearing a child or rearing one comes up where companies often see maternity leave as some sort of a block in the company’s progress, which is why they refuse to take women in jobs seriously. This can easily be avoided if paternity leave is given as well as acceptance of the fact that childbearing and rearing are essential functions in a society – I requested for paternity leave from my female boss when our first child was born almost about twelve years ago and my female boss said “what are you going to do as a man” – the leave was not granted. The option is better if given to both parents, not just the moms as that will help in less discrimination of women, and better looking after of a child – the future worker in our economy and this “problem” won’t be the domain of a single sex.


In many offices, a lot of the standards which are required or regarded as “normal” in an office culture, that is norms, are almost always centred around males or are better suited to men. This, in turn, makes women feel out of place and discriminated against. It is a very subtle form of sexism and very often ignored or looked over by the men in charge. This form of sexism exists in almost all workplaces unless steps are taken to check it.


This is often number one in sexist attitudes around the workplace where women are often treated as grown-up children or individuals who don’t know any better and need to be shown the way by men. This leads to women having a lower self-confidence, as well as moments of self-doubt. This type of sexism is very insidious and very often, men who take part in it don’t even realise it since, for them, it is “normal”. Regardless, steps should be taken and women should speak up to curb it. Let us all help to make the 21st-century workplace a better environment for all irrespective of your gender, status and believe, at the end of the day the power is yours.

Columnist: Daniel Adjei