Gendered Experience in the Workplace Sexual Discrimination Term Paper

Pages: 5 (1793 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: ≈ 3  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Sports - Women

Gendered Experience in the Workplace

Sexual discrimination is a reality in the workforce. Despite many recent and well- publicized advances of individual women in business, and some prominent examples of female leadership of once male-dominated corporate entities, in the everyday experience of most workers, common workplace relations remain 'gendered' in terms of leadership. Gender constructs that favor promoting males to positions of leadership still affect the perceptions of managers, and their employees. I know this from my own personal experience, even though I am male.

No, I did not face some sort of "Disclosure"-like scenario, as dramatized in the (very) fictional film with Michael Douglas and Demi Moore. Penned by Michael Crichton, the film showed a man discriminated against by his female boss because she refused to submit to his advances. But in my more common, real-life case, I was the male beneficiary of discrimination, albeit and unwitting one.

I was been working at "El Pollo Loco" for eight months when I was offered a promotion. I was eager to assume the role of assistant manager, at first. Working with food at in entry-level occupation is hard, grueling work, with poor pay and few emotional rewards. Even the regular customers are often rude to employees behind the counter. My only consolation was that I liked my fellow workers.

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I felt I must have been doing an excellent job, and had shown myself to be highly competent to have been promoted relatively quickly. I knew another woman I worked with, a friend who was also known as a credible and loyal employee had worked at "El Pollo Loco" for four years. She had lobbied for the same position I received, but was denied the offer. I didn't know why, and I felt odd bringing up the subject with her, although the new status I had been suddenly and unexpectedly given did create some discomfort between the two of us.

Term Paper on Gendered Experience in the Workplace Sexual Discrimination Assignment

A hoped that our rift was not noticeable. But I suppose it was, because the manager who had promoted me soon took me aside. He said not to worry about the girl's coldness. Then he added that the reason he had not promoted her was that had no interest in promoting female managers. They were unreliable, frequently took common sexually oriented jests and other personal conflicts too seriously, and often left to have children. This was why, he explained, he was only going to promote males to management positions. "Just between you and me." That was why I got the promotion.

I was stunned. Even though I had wanted the position, I felt that I had deserved the promotion because of the quality of my work, not my gender. Furthermore, I found the manger's assumption I shared his prejudices to be distasteful. I didn't know what to do, as I could not afford, financially, the ethical purity of either quitting my job or refusing the promotion.

The woman who had been working side by side with me in the Mexican fast food trenches ended up quitting a few weeks later. I have reflected upon this experience many times during this course in gender studies. One comment by the manager has particularly stayed with me, the idea that 'women' as a group take things too personally. I wish my female colleague, instead of directing her anger me, had turned her anger against the manager who engaged in the discriminatory practice. True, I was her friend, not he -- but the anger she exhibited towards me, and her leaving the workplace was not an effectual means of resistance. However, Renzetti and Curan's discussion in Chapter 5 of Women, Men, and Society about how women are socialized to deal with conflict in childhood was helpful in understanding why this female worker used such strategies to cope with her plight of being unrecognized by management after four years of hard work. For the wage gap to continue, despite prominent public examples of women breaking the glass ceiling, the perceptions of women as leaders must change culturally across all levels. It must extend beyond that of merely making much of a few women in high positions of power.

Female-ness and leadership must not be constructed as incompatible in the cultural constructs available to mangers. Also, when women's rights are violated, effective means must be sought by women to redress those problems, rather than to simply direct their anger towards individual men in the workplace, such as myself, who seemed to temporarily benefit.

One thing that surprised me about the experience in myself, however, was how disappointed I felt, even after the promotion, to discover the sexist reasoning behind my advancement. I can only imagine the blow to the self-esteem of my female colleague, but one set of researchers, as chronicled by Kristine Anthis in Sex Roles: A Journal of Research, attempted to do just that. According to Anthis, exist discrimination against women "is manifested in a variety of ways, including but not limited to sexist name calling (e.g., "*****" in reference to normal assertive behavior), sexual harassment, and workplace decisions that promote men over women with equal education and experience." (Anthis, 2002, p.1) the author attempted to study the role of sexism in the in women's professional identity development. Her conclusions suggested that the recent experience of sexist discrimination is worthy of classification as a stressful life event, such as a divorce or a death of a loved one, that provokes adult women to increase their exploration of, but not necessarily alter commitments to, their professional identities. (Anthis, 2002, p.3) Her study delt with the effects of discrimination over a five-month period, but Anthis pointed out that "it could very we ll be that facing obstacles of a lifetime sexist discrimination in the workplace could associated with even more profoudnd changes in identity commitment, over much longer periods of time. (Anthis, 2002, p.4)

Of particular interest to the practice of workplace discrimination, it was noted that workplace inflicted sexism such as being fired or laid-off was one of the most potent stressors, in comparision to purely personal experiences of sexism. However, even more so than singular events that "can be conceptualized as a single event type," events such as experiencing financial difficulties, being unemployed, and consistently being unrewarded in the workplace, were more harmful to identity than single stressors and could "be thought of as an ongoing dilemma; each may have unique repercussions for [negative] changes in adult identity." (Anthis, 2002, p.4)

The result of persistent workplace discrimination, of a woman not being rewarded for loyalty to a company and personal excellence, says Mindi D. Foster and Kenneth L. Dion is often what they call a professional and psychic state of 'learned helplessness.' if, upon experiencing discrimination, a woman makes a global attribution for that experience (i.e., the event can affect many contexts in life), common sense would suggest that this woman may reason as follows: "It's at home, at school, at work -- it's everywhere -- I give up, I can't change anything, I might as well accept it," in other words, accept that one will never 'get ahead.' (Foster & Dixon, 2002, p.1)

Even I was tempted to extrapolate a negative lesson from my own experience with discrimination, about my competance -- although my benefitting from discrimination was no more a testimony to my incompetance than my co-worker's, it was only testimony to the senior manager's sexism. A experimental study that tested the causal relationship between perceived pervasive discrimination and well-being, where the researchers manipulated situations of pervasive vs. rare discrimination and "found that those exposed to pervasive discrimination reported lower self-esteem and less positive affect than those exposed to rare discrimination." (Foster & Dixon, 2002, p.1)

But Mindi D. Foster and Kenneth L. Dion also suggest alternative theories, namely theories of group consciousness, to urge against simply assuming 'learned helplessness' is the inevitable consequence of experiencing sexism. When the sexism is percieved as a personal event, and the victim simply removes herself from the situtation, as transpired in my case, the results are negative to the self-esteem of everyone involved. but, in the context of groups, the authors argue "women came together to talk about everyday experiences," and in doing so, hear "about each others' experiences of domestic abuse; harassment from teachers, bosses, and on the streets from strangers; pay inequities and limited career opportunities; and other types of sexism." (Foster & Dixon, 2002, p.1) When taken out of the realm of the personal, sexist experiences are less immiediately hurtful to the professional esteem of women. "In hearing about the wide variety of contexts in which gender discrimination affected women, participants in these groups began to reinterpret what was previously thought to be an isolated incident into something that was affecting many aspects of their lives." (Foster & Dixon, 2002, p.1)

But this realization of 'it's not my fault,' called an "a-ha" experience by the authors, although it can be motivational, group consciousness theories also recognize that such experiences can be overwhelming, and often… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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