No two people are the same, especially at work. What should distinguish you from your colleagues should be your resume, education or skills, not what lies between your legs. Sexism in corporate culture is a systematic issue that has tainted the way not only men, but also women view being ambitious and having a career. We’ve heard the age-old tale of women being branded as selfish for prioritising their career and sleeping their way to the top. These have rooted themselves into modern society and despite being in 2021, sexism in corporate culture is still playing a major role in female representation.
Shalini Agarwal, Partner in Se Legal says,
The #Metoo movement did a lot to bring these issues to the forefront of debate- but they have also unleashed an uncertainty for both sexes. Reporting an abuse can lead to remedial actions and punishment but it can equally result in diminished opportunities for women as men have a heightened fear of being misunderstood or sanctioned. Knowledge, training and a collective will to address these issues is needed.
For instance, in 2018, nearly 40% of female engineers in India were unemployed primarily because of their gender. Conducted by the Society of Women Engineers and the Center for WorkLife Law at University of California’s Hastings College of the Law, this survey shed some much needed light on the sexist corporate attitude towards female engineers. It stated that 76% of women engineers reported having to prove themselves repeatedly to get the same level of respect as their colleagues; 77% of said they were confined to a narrower range of acceptable behaviors. As many as 40% of women engineers reported bias against mothers in their workplaces.
Unfortunately, it’s not just women engineers getting unfair treatment, but women across all professions and industries. A survey by Monster.com depicted that nearly 60% working Indian women face discrimination in their corporate culture and over 1/3rd of the women believe that they are rarely considered for top management roles. While these statistics are bad, what’s worse is that you probably weren’t even surprised while reading them.
This is the straight-up insulting and demeaning outlook and treatment towards women at work. Expecting a woman to take notes in the meeting, calling her out for being “too emotional”, ignoring her suggestions in every way, mansplaining and manerrupting, denying her opportunities she deserves, objectifying her at work and making sexually inappropriate statements are all a a part of hostile sexism at work. It’s like working in the Sterling Cooper office with Don Draper, Pete Campbell and Roger Sterling IRL, but worse.
This is unconscious workplace sexism that appears to stem from a place of care and concern, but is extremely sexist in nature. It assumes women to be weak and emotional. When men leave women out of late meetings assuming they have to go home and take care of their family, when men don’t oppose or critique a woman’s ideas to avoid hurting her feelings or making her “cry” and when women aren’t given responsibility because it may be “too much to handle” for them are all part of benevolent sexism.
Sexism in corporate culture can have disastrous effects on women. It affects their representation in the workforce. It affects how not only society views women, but how women view themselves. The following are often the result of sexism at work:
When women are seen and treated as inferior to men, it shows in their salaries too. Do you think the Women’s Indian Cricket Team gets multi-crore endorsements and seven-figure salaries? Not in our wildest dreams. Women are paid less (averagely 19% less) for the same job as their male counterparts. This gap widens along with tenure. This links to the archaic thought that women don’t need to earn as much as men because they’re not primary bread-winners or that they probably already have a husband to take care of them financially. Not such a great outlook for the 21st century woman, right?
Women are assumed to be emotionally mercurial and temperamental, especially when it’s that time of the month (of-course). It’s assumed that they’re bad multi-taskers and giving them too much responsibility is a one-way street to doomsday. According to the Monster Salary Index in 2019, around 46% women believed that there was a perception that they would quit after maternity leave, making them “bad investments” for companies. Many women realised that they’re essentially a climbing a ladder, only to be knocked off on the last step, so why bother climbing it? The wage-gap disheartens women from joining the work-force and being ambitious.
According to a study conducted by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, when everyone around finds them inferior and incapable, women start viewing themselves the same way too. This can lead to depression, anxiety and paranoia. It brings about low self-worth and self-respect, which affects their personal and professional life too. Women who are openly objectified and sexually harassed at work can develop PTSD, body-image issues and sleep disorders too. Women like to come back from work feeling accomplished and with a nice paycheck, not feeling depressed and inadequate.
Sometimes, occupational sexism can lead to sexual assault and harassment. Some men who find nothing wrong with degrading a woman, may very easily assault her too. She may be slut-shamed, cat-called and objectified. While most companies have very strong harassment policies in place with stronger ramifications, some workplace harassment still goes by unnoticed.
Thanks to the wave of strong feminism and loud female voices, harassment and sexism in corporate culture has been called out multiple times. It has become easier for a woman to raise her objections and speak up on any and all sexism she faces at work. Companies that have been called out for their sexist nature and “gender-washing” have lost goodwill and destroyed their public image and hard-earned reputation.
Actor and Entrepreneur, Masumeh Makhija says,
See it. Name It. Stop It. The best way to combat sexism for women is to support and promote each another. Especially women in a position of power should make sure men and women get equal pay and create an environment where it’s safe to talk about such things.
Men should ensure they refrain from stereotyping, allowing women equal opportunities, double-checking their jokes and statements for sexism and holding sexist co-workers responsible for their actions too.
Have you ever faced sexism in corporate culture? Share it with us in the comments below.