Sexism at work is a lasting problem that impacts millions of people around the world. Despite progress made in recent years, many employees still experience unfair treatment based on gender, including discrimination and harassment.
Consequently, sexism negatively impacts company culture, employee well-being and retaining valuable team members. This article will look into what workplace sexism is, what it impacts and what are ways to fight against it.
What is sexism in the workplace?
Sexism in the workplace is a practice of unfair treatment of employees based on their gender. This is often because of deep-rooted stereotypes from culture, society and gendered language. As a result, it creates unequal treatment by relying on preconceptions rather than considering everyone's skills.
While sexism affects all genders, it particularly impacts female workers. For example, people often see women as better for support roles and men as more fitting for leadership. This originates in gender stereotypes that associate women with nurturing qualities and men with assertiveness. As a result, women in the workplace might encounter barriers to advancement and leadership opportunities.
Workplace sexism examples
Examples of sexism in the workplace vary greatly. Some of them are more visible, such as verbal sexist remarks or out-of-place jokes aimed at female employees.
However, unconscious bias and gender stereotypical thinking also reflect in areas which are less apparent at first glance. Typical examples are the great imbalance between men and women in leadership positions, or salary differences between genders.
Sexism in the workplace includes:
- Gender pay gap
- Biases in promotions (leading to not enough women in leadership roles)
- Limited opportunities based on gender
- Imbalances in maternity/paternity leave
- Sexual harassment, sexual assault
- Sexist comments, sexist jokes
How does sexism affect the workplace?
Sex discrimination and gender bias greatly impact both employees and the company. If unaddressed, they can lead to numerous negative consequences.
Some of them are:
- Sexual harassment and sexist comments negatively affect the mental health of the victims. As a result, they become less motivated and their productivity suffers.
Inefficient Use of Competencies
- Sexist assumptions and subconscious biases limit employees' full potential. Women face obstacles in reaching senior positions, often directed towards roles linked to traditional 'female' skills.
- Social stigma also affects male workers. According to LSE Business Review, men leave female-dominated fields to avoid judgment, even opting for unemployment. In these situations, both women and men limit their possibilities, which results in a loss of valuable human resources.
Costly Ctaff Changes
- Workplace sexism leads to frequent staff changes, increasing expenses for hiring, training, and productivity losses during transitions.
Negative Brand Reputation
- Sexism harms the company's image, which creates a negative perception among employees, clients and the public.
Hostile Company Culture
- Experiencing workplace sexism leads to lower job satisfaction, increased stress, and restricted career growth. It mainly impacts women and marginalized groups, affecting both their work and personal lives. This contributes to negative morale and poor company culture.
Actionable steps on how to deal with sexism at work
1. Have a Cear Policy
Establish a strong policy that explicitly states zero tolerance for sexism in the workplace. Clearly communicate the consequences for such behaviour and how to report sexism at work. Taking an official stance against the issue will set the standard for respectful work practices.
2. Train your Employees
Conduct thorough training sessions for all staff members. Train both the employees and the management on unconscious gender bias and how to prevent it. Teach them how to address sexism at work and where can they report it. Additionally, empower them to self-advocate against sexist behaviour.
3. Have an Easy Reporting Channel
Reporting cases of sexism can be challenging. Make it easy for victims or witnesses to speak up without judgment or negative consequences. Establish a simple and confidential reporting channel to encourage a safe reporting environment.
If possible, have an anonymous reporting option to make sure everyone feels comfortable sharing their experiences. Discover the benefits of anonymous reporting, and find other ways to encourage employees to speak up in this article.
4. Perform Quick and Fair Investigations
After receiving the report, act swiftly. Respond quickly to the person reporting the issue, it will show you take the issue seriously.
Review the evidence without bias. Conducting an impartial investigation ensures fair treatment for all parties, emphasizing a commitment to workplace fairness.
In case you identify the issues, take the necessary steps, and address them accordingly. Transparently communicate the outcomes to your team while making sure the parties involved remain confidential. This approach will not only resolve the problem but also promote openness and accountability in the workplace.
5. Build a Respectful and Inclusive Workplace
Addressing sexism is an ongoing effort. It can not be resolved in a single day. Because of that, it is important to continuously work towards fostering a workplace culture built on respect.
Make sure your workplace is welcoming for all. Encourage diversity in leadership roles. Celebrate achievements regardless of gender, and create platforms for open discussions on gender-related issues. This will make everyone in your workspace feel valued and respected.
How can an Internal Whistleblowing Software Help?
Internal whistleblowing software helps fight workplace sexism by offering a safe and secure way for reporting it. It assures confidentiality, promotes a safe reporting environment, and enables swift HR responses.
What is more, whistleblowing software can be useful for documenting incidents, identifying education needs, and ensuring legal compliance. By using this technology, organisations can proactively address sexism, as well as other workplace misconduct.
Explore Walor's whistleblowing software, which is ready to use in only 5 minutes!
Sexism at work is a complex issue, which is not discussed enough. It affects individuals by limiting job opportunities, promoting unfair treatment, and negatively impacting mental well-being. For companies, it leads to issues like damaged work culture, harm to brand image, and less productivity.
Addressing sexism is therefore both the right thing to do and a strategic move. Actively putting in measures for equality will help companies not only avoid the bad effects of sexism but also build a work culture where everyone feels welcome, safe, and heard. This is not just the right thing to do; it is a smart move that makes workplaces better for everyone.