Time To Change The Stereotypes and Be Real About Women In The Workplace

All women are assigned stereotypes based on any presumption of a negative behavior.

All women are assigned stereotypes based on any presumption of a negative behavior.

According to the Oxford Dictionary, a stereotype is “a widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing.” The example given is “the stereotype of the woman as the caretaker.“Ask any woman leader, entrepreneur or business owner, and it is likely she will tell you that stereotypes work against her, not in her favor.Bossy, bitchy, short-tempered, scattered, distracted, under-qualified, all these stereotypes work against women in the workplace. But so do polite, timid, uninvolved, and the universal stereotype— ready to leave at any time for her family.[bctt tweet=“Ask any woman leader and she will likely tell you that stereotypes work against her #womeninbusiness” username=“takeleadwomen”]New research from the NatWest in the United Kingdom shows that gender stereotypes negatively impact many women in the workplace. “Some 20 percent of businesswomen who took part in NatWest research said they have been called ‘opinionated,’ while 18 percent said they had been described as ‘self-assured,’” writes Nick Levine in Refinery29.“Meanwhile, 13 percent said they had been branded ‘feisty’ and 12 percent said they had been called ‘vocal.’ In total, 52 percent of women questioned said they have faced some kind of stereotypical gender label while conducting business,” Levine writes.That is more than half of the women surveyed. And these reductive labels are not meant as compliments.Sam Smethers of women’s equality charity the Fawcett Society told the Yorkshire Post: “This research shows that lazy gender stereotypes are still dominating the way we think about women in business, and women entrepreneurs in particular. Women face additional practical, cultural and attitudinal barriers all the time. I wonder how those feisty or opinionated men would like it?“Yet, some women leaders responded that stereotypes work to inspire drive and ambition.Louise Woollard, a director of Louise Woollard Financial, based in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, told Greg White in the Yorkshire Post, “I don’t feel I’ve been stereotyped during my career and would happily be considered feisty,’’ she added. “Who wouldn’t want to be seen as lively, determined and courageous?”But for many, stereotypes can serve as invisible roadblocks to advancement and even mask true perceptions of who an employee or leader really is. Still, stereotypes have deep roots in gendered behaviors.

“Stereotype was the word of the day among some women at Davos,” for the World Economic Forum last week, writes Claire Zillman in Fortune.

“At a panel discussion, Reshma Saujani, founder and CEO of the non-profit Girls Who Code, pointed to antiquated gender norms as one factor keeping women out of tech. Because girls are sometimes conditioned to be more risk-averse, they can be turned off from math or computer science by the difficulty of the courses and the prospect of failing. Boys, meanwhile, are taught to be fearless, she said,” writes Zillman.

A 2010 Swiss study examined the gendered concept of “stereotype threat” for women’s appetite for risk levels and competitive attitudes. Researchers found that “women react less to competitive incentives. Women tend not to compete with men in areas where they (rightly or wrongly) think that they will lose anyway-and the same holds for men, although to a lower extent.”According to the study, “Being competitive in itself is regarded as stereotypically rather male, and… being competitive in ‘male settings’ for women still includes a negative stigma of being bitchy.”Another study, this one recently out of Northwestern University, shows that stereotypes are working against women even before they get the job—in the hiring process. The study sent out identical resumes under the names James or Julia Cabot with more elite aspects to their resumes, skewed toward higher socioeconomic assumptions. Then the researchers sent out identical resumes under the names James or Julia Clark, with lower socioeconomic characteristics.According to Emily Peck in the Huffington Post, well-off white men are three times more likely to get a job interview than a woman, much of that bias due to the stereotypical belief that women will quit to start a family.“This is a key mechanism that is keeping women out of high-paying occupations,” Lauren Rivera, a professor at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and a co-author of the study, told Peck.“Firms are screening out high-performing women not because of something they’ve done or haven’t done, but because of the firms’ own speculation about what they might someday do. The reasons for doing this “are completely in the heads of organizations,” Rivera told Peck.“Yet any woman who’s thought twice about wearing a wedding ring to a job interview would probably not be shocked to learn a pre-motherhood penalty exists,” Peck writes.“Even at progressive companies that say they value hiring and promoting women, the default assumption is still that a woman will want to downshift her career once she becomes a mother, if she can afford it,” Peck writes.However, the lawyers questioned Julia’s commitment, wondering if she “really wanted to be a lawyer,” the researchers write in their paper. Some declared she was “biding her time” until she could become a “stay-at-home mom.”The media also reinforces gendered stereotypes, according to a new study by The Rockefeller Foundation and the Global Strategy Group. The study looked into “how the media influences perception of women in leadership and examined 100 news stories about 20 CEOs – 11 of those were women – found female CEOs were blamed as the source of the crisis in 80 per cent of the stories versus 31 per cent of the time for their male counterparts,” writes Andrew Seale in Yahoo Finance. “The study also found differences in the way the media treated female CEOs versus males with 16 per cent of the articles about women in leadership roles delving into their personal life versus only 8 per cent of the male CEO-focused pieces talking about their personal life. In the articles that discussed females CEO’s personal life 78 per cent spoke about family. None of the articles discussed male CEOs’ children or family,” Seale writes.Back to those same stereotypes again.Addressing the stereotypes directly and telling stories that are antithetical to these preconceived clichés may work to erase stereotypes, some say.[bctt tweet=“Addressing the stereotypes directly may work to erase them #womenintheworkplace” username=“takeleadwomen”]That is the goal of the Her Story series hosted by Grand Valley State University’s Women’s Commission. “When we talk about women in leadership, there are a lot of stereotypes, or there’s a stigma attached,” Jennifer Palm, co-chair of the Women’s Commission.  “And the idea of Her Story is to give a fuller picture and talk about women in leadership in a positive way,” Palm told Dylan Grosser in Lanthorn.