Feminism and Sexism in Corporate America Assignment

Feminism and Sexism in Corporate America Assignment Words: 2169

Introduction: Take it all in all a man has a certain chance to get along in life. A woman, on the other hand, has little or none. The world’s work is open to her, but she cannot do it. She lacks the physical strength for laying bricks or digging coal. If put to work on a steel beam a hundred feet above the ground, she would fall off. For the pursuit of business her head is all wrong. Figures confuse her. She lacks sustained attention and in point of morals the average woman is, even for business, too crooked. ???Stephen Leacock, October 1915 Women have faced several obstacles in their pursuit of equal rights.

In the early 1900’s they struggled to be heard and recognized. After a long hard fought battle, they won their right to vote on that historic day in August. Women are receiving recognition in all areas of society for the ways they touch others’ lives. Great women from Marie Curie to Sally Ride have affected the way society lives and dreams. They nominated a woman, Geraldine Ferraro, to be the running mate of Walter Mondale in the 1984 Presidential Election. Although women have made remarkable strides in opening the doors of opportunity, they still face prejudicial barriers in modern society.

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Sexism is defined as “prejudice or discrimination based on sex; especially: discrimination against women; behavior, conditions, or attitudes that foster stereotypes of social roles based on sex. ” (Merriam-Webster, 2004. ) Of all the accomplishments women have achieved, the one hurdle they constantly face is sexism in the work place. Mechanisms have been established that prohibit women from reaching the upper echelons of the Corporate Structure. Women are generally paid less wages then men for the same performance, even when all conditions are equal, including education, position and tenure.

To be successful in Corporate America, having a supportive mentor will have a profound influence on an individual. Fewer individuals are willing to become mentors to women proteges, adding yet another challenge to climbing the corporate ladder. Statistically speaking, women make up a majority of today’s workforce, with 63% of women entering the work place. (Dreher, Ash, 1990. ) Although most women in society work, only three women are Corporate Executive Officers (CEO’s) in the 100 best companies for which to work. (Fortune, January 2001).

Of all the line positions held by corporate officers, women hold only 6. 2%, as opposed to 93. 8% held by men (Catalyst, 2000). Three out of four women, 77%, are dissatisfied with the availability of mentors in their organizations (Catalyst, 2003). An example of income discrimination is reflected in the banking industry. The average male Chief Financial Officer (CFO) earns $103,482, while the average female CFO earns $68,426. To prove the distinction between income discrepancies further, a male Director can expect to earn $99,024 while a female Director can expect $70,663 (Vaughan, 2004).

Studies have been conducted to try to determine the reasons why gender discrimination takes place within corporations. While not every corporation practices sexism, a majority display this form of discrimination. In 2000, Catalyst did a census reflecting that 12. 5% of corporate officers in America’s largest 500 companies are women. The percentage of women officers has increased since 1995 but only 1,622 of the 12,945 officers are women. (Catalyst, 2000). Why are women less likely to be hired for these high level positions? Personality, availability of mentors and perceived abilities present potential obstacles for women to reach their goals.

Studies have been conducted to determine the validity of these factors. Perceptions of gender influence the level of the hierarchy a woman may obtain. Women possess traits such as warmth, kindness, sensitivity, gentleness, understanding, awareness of others’ feelings and being helpful to others. From the time they were young children, they were taught to be feminine. These characteristics are also typical of individuals, both male and female, who work in lower level positions. Masculine traits, such as aggressiveness, strength, force, rationality, self-confidence, ompetitiveness and independence are found in individuals who are employed in upper level opportunities. Individuals with higher education levels are also perceived to be less feminine than those who are less educated. It has been found that women who are employed in the upper levels of an organization are more likely to perceive themselves fitting the masculine profile that is characteristic of effective managers. “Upper-level” attributes would be a less sexist description of an individual who displays strong leadership abilities. (Fagenson, 1990).

Possessing feminine traits is a disadvantage to women who wish to climb the corporate ladder. Hiring discrimination results from a conflict that arises between typical personality traits and job descriptions. Research indicates there are stereotypical ideals which women are expected to follow. Individuals who display more masculine traits, are deemed agentic, whereas those who exhibit more feminine traits are viewed as communal. If a job description for a manager is written to reflect effective people skills, supporting others and having an ability to listen to clients’ concerns, it is considered to be feminized.

A feminized job description discusses traits a female would be able to perform based on her stereotypical characteristics; the qualified candidate would be likely to exhibit communal characteristics. A competent woman who displays agentic qualities may be perceived as lacking interpersonal skills and may face hiring discrimination as a result. A potential option for a woman to overcome this obstacle is to present herself as highly communal and agentic. However, to fulfill both requisites of being feminine and agentic could cause anxiety and self-consciousness, which would reduce task performance.

Regardless of how she presents herself, the outcome could prohibit a woman from being hired or succeeding in a management role. (Rudman, Glick, 1999). Having a mentor plays a significant role in the overall success of an individual. Establishing a relationship with someone of higher status will cultivate those traits necessary to elevate themselves within the organization. The challenge facing women in terms of finding a suitable mentor in organizations with tradition power structures lies in the following aspects. The first has been determined that most mentor-protege relationships are influenced by similarities of race and gender.

Individuals are more likely to seek out others who are similar to themselves. Secondly, white males are typically chosen as mentors since they dominate the upper level positions within large firms. These male mentors offer more advantages, support and influence of a protege’s career. Consider that white males dominate the upper tier of the corporations as well as the common practice of seeking out those with similar backgrounds for support; it would suggest that women may have less accessibility to these individuals to promote their careers.

The quality of a mentoring relationship depends on the intimacy and emotional attachment that is established. This bond between cross-gender mentor-protege relationship can cause conflict for one or both parties as emotions and expectations may be misinterpreted. When a non-romantic relationship is viewed by others, the perception of romantic attachment may be interpreted, which can lead to negative consequences for both individuals. This conflict may prohibit women to reach out for the additional support required to reach their desired goals. Dreher, Cox, 1996). Women often face obstacles in their pursuit of their goals in the work place. These obstacles are considered “glass ceilings”; visualizing the desired goals but not being able to reach them as a result of hiring managers. Catalyst spoke with female executives to determine the barriers of advancement. Women associate their inability to reach upper management with corporate culture. Influences include stereotyping, exclusion from informal communication networks and the lack of general management experience. Catalyst, 1999. ) Glass ceilings are prevalent given the perception of feminine characteristics and the limitations these traits represent. The inaccessibility of mentors lend to reinforcing the glass ceiling concept. A mentor has access to key personnel who can assist in the promotion of a competent woman. This person in an advantageous role could help a woman beyond the obstacles and challenges she might face in becoming an upper level employee. As stated earlier, not every corporation practices sexism.

Those companies have taken advantage of the positive influence women can offer within the company. They have recognized that women make up a large part of the talent available. (Catalyst, 1999. ). Corporations are beginning to embrace the benefits of having having a woman in a senior or other upper level position. While it may be challenging for a woman to reach the upper levels, once she is there, she exhibits her own unique ability to make decisions, motivate and to cope with different situations as they arise. On average, women hold higher standards of ethics compared to men.

This standard lends credibility to her decisions pertaining to leadership, performance appraisals, managerial advancement and mentoring relationships. A woman’s ability to evince higher ethical standards confirms that organizations should promote the use of female mentors for new employees of both sexes. This would educate new proteges on the process of ethical decision making as well as reinforce it’s continued practice. Women are less likely to break rules since the repercussions go beyond the apparent right and wrong. Frank, Crown & Spake, 1997) Women will face gender and professional persecution for overstepping the boundaries of agency and communality. The consequences of unethical decisions are severe but ultimately offers a strength most women will protect. Female leaders have been shown to be slightly more effective than their male counterparts when evaluated by both sexes. As motivators, women tend to be effective when presenting a communal perspective, offering stereotypical feminine attributes such as listening with empathy.

Women leaders are more helpful and will do favors for their subordinates, are likely to explain procedures and make themselves readily available for assistance. A female manager will include her team in the decision making process, creating acceptance from potentially skeptical staff members. This friendly cooperative behavior enhances a woman’s influence over her subordinates. Both men and women are capable of coping, yet women are readily able to identify and face difficulties with confidence.

They are capable of expressing their frustrations and difficulties in terms of their external environment and possess the ability to display a measure of self-confidence and self-esteem. Women are also capable of being less confrontational when faced with situations requiring positive or negative interaction. Although both genders are active copers, women may find they have to be stronger than men to handle the conflicts, impediments and disadvantageous stereotypes imposed upon them in order to establish credibility within a small group. (Pratch, Jacobowitz, 1996. )

Sexism in Corporate America manifests itself as a result of traditional views that women are less capable than men to form relationships that promote positive influence for success in the business world. As more women enter the work force, companies are accepting this new field of expertise into their ranks. Traditional views are difficult to overcome but can be achieved. Organizations such as The Glass Ceiling Commission, were established to make recommendations for eliminating this ever-present obstacle for women with the desire to succeed as upper level management.

Recommendations include instituting formal mentoring programs which would help not only women but those from other races. Women are likely to find themselves frustrated with sexism and the challenges they face as a result, within the corporate environment. An option for entrpreneurial women is starting their own businesses to escape the standard protocols of corporations. (Gurer, 2002) Unless corporations change their culture, they will be losing a very talented group of individuals, thus denying their firm the benefits of competent women. Professional References: Dreher, G. F. and Ash, R.

A. (1990). A Comparative Study of Mentoring Among Men and Women in Managerial, Professional, and Technical Positions. Journal of Applied Psychology , 75, 539-546. Dreher, G. F. and Cox, T. (1996). Race, Gender and Opportunity: A Study of Compensation Attainment and the Establishment of Mentoring Relationships. Journal of Applied Psychology, 81, 297-308. Fagenson, E. (1990). Perceived Masculine and Feminine Attributes Examined as a Function of Individual’s Sex and Level in the Organizational Power Hierarchy: A Test of Four Theoretical Perspectives. Journal of Applied Psychology, 75, 204-211.

Franke, G. R. , Crown D. F. , and Spake, D. F. (1997). Gender Differences in Ethical Perceptions of Business Practices, A Social Role Theory Perspective. Journal of Applied Psychology, 82, 920-934. Pratch, L and Jacobowitz, J. (1996). Gender, Motivation and Coping in the Evaluation of Leadership Effectiveness. Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, 48, 203-220. Rudman, L. A and Glick, P. (1999). Feminized Management and Backlash Toward Agentic Women: The Hidden Costs to Women of a Kinder, Gentler Image of Middle Managers. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 77, 1004-1010.

Additional Resources: Catalyst, (2003). Women in U. S. Corporate Leadership: 2003. Gurer, D. (2002). Why are Women Leaving Corporate America and Where are They Going? CobolReport. com. Vaughan, R (2004) Commentary: Women still have a long way to go in the banking industry. www. workdayminnesota. org/permanent/working_life/history/womens_history/willmar_commentary. php. www. collections. ic. gc. ca/famous5/roles/conventions-anti-feminist. html www. ewowfacts. com/wowfacts/chap4. html www. catalystwomen. org/press_room/factsheets/factwicl. htm www. m-w. com

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