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An Unfair Working Enviroment Essay, Research Paper

In April of 1987, I acquired a job in a company which I percieved to be, at that time of my life, very much a modern-day work environment. I was sixteen years old at the time, and was hired as a bagger for Safeway Stores, Inc. The individual who hired me was a middle-aged, Caucasian male who was the store manager at the time. Safeway prides itself on the fact that it is an equal opportunity employer, discriminating against no one race or gender for employment opportunities. This was evident to me at my young age, as half the employees that I began working with were females, however the percentage of Caucasians working at that store was about 90%. As time went on, I grew close to the manager that hired me. Since I was a bagger making only $6.00 an hour I was cheap labor for him, so he assigned to me all the various tasks in my job that were within the limits of mg union contract, and some that were aboue them. Through completion of uarious tasks with this man, as well as deuelopment of my personal relationship with him, I came to see first-hand the preconceiued notions that this man held towards the female gender in the workplace in general. Briefly, this man had little faith in women’s al3ility @n the workplace, and emploged them out of necessitg. I found through my experience there, that many of the male emplogees adhered to similar misconceptions about women in the work enuironment.Four!jears and two managers later, a class-action lawsuit was brought against Safeway Stores Inc. for its discriminators practices against women regarding managerial positions. When the lawsuit was finalized, Safeway embarked on a campaign to emplog female store managers. Mg manager at the time was quickly transferred out, and a young woman named Sharon was suddenly my boss. We were entering a new era with Safeway, and thereception of a female manager was slow with mg co-workers. I was working with people that had worked with this compang for years and gears of their llues, and all of them had neuer worked under a female manager.Sharon had her own way of doing things, quite different from all the male store managers that had preceded her. This met with hostile reception from most of my male co-workers. I Personally felt that her wag of doing things was far more efficient tha&,,’@he male store managers I had worked for preuiousig. For a couple years after the inception of female managers, this topic was the center of conuersation among male as well as female Safewag employee’s. It is important to note that Sharon was an ehtremeig attractiue, intelligent, and proficient woman. Many of my male co-workers, while they had their own misconceptions about the way women do things, were hopelessly in loue with her.R year later, a scandal followed. Sharon had had sehual relations with one of my male co-workers. She was quickly transferred and demoted, and the male inuolued was transferred to another store. The conuersations that followed regarding women in leadership positions were rich with misconceptions and gender stereotypes regarding women in the workplace. This experience with a female manager is what sparked my interest in gender based seH role stereotypes. The following is an analysis that will discuss the deuelopments that led to women’s place in the modern work enuironment, a brief look into the psychologg of prejudice, the impact of gender stereotypes and cross-seh relationships in the work environment, gender stereotypes and effective leader behauior, and management perceptions of occupational gender stereotgpes.Rs earill as 1776, Rbigail Rdams wrote a letter to her husband John who was attending the Continental Congress to help write the Declaration of2.Independence. In that letter Rbigail wrote, “Remember, all men would be tyrants if they could. If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to fonnent a rebellion, and will not hold ourselues bound by any laws in which we haue no uoice, or representation” (Davis, 1995). It would seem that Rbigail’s letter held no significant weight in determining women’s rights in the years to come.Then in 1963, a book was published by an educated suburban housewife named Bettg Friedan entitled The Feminine Mystique. In her book, she discussed the fact that society’s institutions-gouernment, mass media, aduertising, medicine, education, and organized religion were systematically barring women from becoming anything more than housewives and mothers (Dauis, 1995). @doag -S@ook helped jump-start the women’s rights mouement. In spite of forces that brought millions of women into the work force in the ’40’s and ’50’s such as wartime factory jobs, women were expected to return to the kitchens and children after the men came home from defending the freedoms of democracy.During the time of FOR’s New Deal, women were expected to manage the task of family and home and/or hold down a “woman’s job” such s secretarial work or factory labor. “The idea of career as fulfillment was dismissed as nonsense” (Dauis, 1995). Overnight, Friedan made women question these assumptions. In 1964, a huge boost for women came when senator Howard Smith added “seH” to the list of discrimination “against race, color, religion, or national origin”.In 1966, three hundred women formed the National Organization of Women (NOW), with Friedan as its president. This organization fueled young women into anger and defiance. “Ouer the last three decades, NOW has spearheaded a movement that has fundamentally altered fimerica’s social3makeup” (Dauis, 1995). It has changed marriage and family life, the way we choose or choose not to haue children, and for the purposes of this analysis, most significantly, changed our work enuironment. Truly, the basic shifts in attitude that this group of determined indiuiduals formed has left few corners of Rmerica’s life untouched.Today, women enter the work force in droues. They are competent, energetic, and successful. Yet it would still seem that the male population has been slow to warm to the reality of female competition. Women in todag’s working world haue entered a realm of pre-conceiued notions, discrimination, and stereotypes. todag’s working enuironment is still uery much male dominated, and the gap between the genders’salaries still exists. Pre-concelued notions that women are not as competent as men in the working enuironment would arguably fall under Webster’s definition of prejudice: a bias for or against something without sufficient basis. Is it possible to understand the nature of prejudice?John Duckitt, a Doctor of Psljchology at the Uniuersity of theWitwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Rfrica, states in his Historical flnalusis of Ps!jchology and Preiudice that there are “no adequate general theories or integratiue frameworks [that] exist for understanding prejudice”. There are, howeuer, Six different leuels of possible explanation, that were identified in 1954 by Gordon Rilport, for understanding prejudice. These include the historical, socloculture, situational, personality, phenomenological, and stimulus object leuels. Much research has been done on all six leuels in the past few decades. The study of social psychology in general and the study f prejudice in particular haue been primarily North Rmerican dominated areas of study for most of their history (I 992). Duckitt goes on to describe prejudice as “a natural response to what we belieue to be “inferior people”,as an unconscious defense, as an expression of a pathological need, an expression of group interests, and as a social norm” (I 992). If Duckitt’s ideas on prejudice hold merit, then it was natural for many of my male co-workers to hold preconceiued notions about the idea of them answering to a woman in a work enuironment as they considered themselues superior in company knowledge as well as working ability. It could also be argued that their misconceptions were an unconscious response to a pathological need to feel as if they were better workers, or more capable and responsible managers.Rs more women enter management positions in today’s work enuironment, more of society’s norms as far, as interpersonal relationships at work are concerned, are being challenged. R study was done in 1992 by Irene Deuine, a professor in the school of Rdministration and Information Management at Ryerson Polytechnical Institute in Toronto, and Dorothy Markiewicz, a Doctor of Psychology and Rpplied Social Science at Concordia Uniuersity in Montreal. The findings of this study suggest that “gender stereotypes are significant factors in people’s judgments of persons inuolued in sexual attractions at work” (I 992). The pair examined in depth the importance of relationships for women (a primary concern), and male needs for personal deuelopment. I felt this was applicable in Sharon’s case.The importance of relationships for women is reflected in such tendencies as (1) women’s emphasis on assisting others to achieue the other’s goals: (2) the emphasis on establishing the security of intimate relationships prior to consideration of personal achievement (3) [and) women's inclination towards self disclosure and the deuelopment of close relationships with others (Deulne, Markiewicz. 1992) These factors call to mind the incident regarding my first and only female manager. It can be .5argued that generally the ualue that is placed on interpersonal relationships with women may proulde more of a sense of accomplishment to women than personal achieuement in the workplace. Obulously, Sharon stepped ouer the boundaries regarding interpersonal relationships in the work place.Studies of men, howeuer, suggest that male deuelopment inuolues almost primarily emphasis on work and achieuement, and low emotional inuestment in others. Some of the related themes include (1) relationships as instrumental to attaining one's career goals or dreams; (2) the emphasis on succeeding in one's career during early adulthood; (3) the importance of work and achieuements in designing male identity; (4) [and] men’s tendency to auoid self-discoisure and to deuelop few, if any, close relationships with coworkers. Thus, male role stereotypes reinforce aggressiveness, competitlueness, task orientation, and emotional control. Rs more women enter company’s at management leuel in todag’s working enuironment, they bring with them their own norms of relationships, friendships, and interaction. (Deuine, Markiewicz (I 992).

Co-workers tend to be highly sensitlue to the possibility of sexual relationships in the workplace. This was euident at my company under Sharon’s management as euery male, it would seem, seemed to know what was happening in Sharon’s personal life. In Deuine and Markwiewicz’s test, “female managers were judged as working harder than males to perform well, and were also percieued as being satisfied with their work. Tgpically, females are stereotyped as less competent than males and expectations are that they haue to work harder than males to achieue the same successes” (Deuine, Markiewicz. 1992). Perhaps people in organizations are more accustomed to the “high status” male manager and the “low status” female secretary. In my experiences under Sharon, I found this to be true.6Especially in the middle aged caucasion male category at my workplace, they were just uncaccustomed to being under a woman’s direction, a woman that was much younger than most of them, and subject to her disciplinary measures. Rt this point in my life, I had been well under my mother’s direction and subject to her disciplinary measures, so a woman manager was neuer uncomfortable to me.The study concludes stating “As more women take thier place in non traditional roles in the organization, we can expect an increase in sexual relationships at work” (1992). This may contribute to the escalating problem of directed prejudices in the workplace directed towards women of position. Perhaps men under an attractiue woman’s direction are drawn to her, and in the case of my employment, many of the males uiewed Sharon as a powerful woman, as well as seductress.In another study, Arnie Cann and William Siegfried, both psychologists at the Uniuersity of North Carolina at Charlotte, found that effectiue management from either sex requires “consideration as well as structural factors”. In the study, a correspondece between gender stereotypes and dimensions of effectiue leadership behaulor was found. “Results indicate that consideration behauiors are perceiued to be feminine, while structuring behauiors are perceiued to be masculine” (Cann, Sie@ied. 1990). Rccording to studies that Cann and Siegfried used in their analysis, effectiue leadership is “percieved to require traits characerized as masculine” Most models of leadership assume a need for consideration, or employee-oriented behaviors, as well as a need for stucturing, or directlue production-oriented behauiors” (1990). In the case of my place of employment, pre-Sharon days we’re characterized among males of the store as being under directive, production oriented behauiors. When Sharon entered our work enuironment a shift took7place with more of an emphasis on emplogee-related behaviors, interpersonal relationships (e.g. making sure we all worked well together as a team), rather than on directive, production oriented behauiors. Perhaps some of the other males that are my co-workers, after working under directive superuision, were slow to adapt to the shift in emphasis on the emploljee-oriented behaulor approach, and this may account for some of their notions towards women regarding leadership behauior.While women gaining high positions of status continue to enter the workforce, dsicrimination agianst them still exists. “Gender stereotypes relfect preualling cultural stereotypes and beliefs about how persons of the non-traditonal sex are likely to perform the jobs. They generally are negatiue, reflecting a belief that gender-related characteristics are likely to detract from performance effectlueness” (Comer, 1992). In corporate sales positions, gender stereotypes center around three aspects of effectiveness Selling of material goods requires extensive product knowledge and the skills to apply that knowledge to on-the-job experiences. Managers who stereotype tend to feel that women often lack the aptitude to learn their jobs. The existence of stereotypes concerning selling ability is suggested in reports that Lucette 0. Comer, a professional in the Department of Marketing and Enuironment at the Unluersity of Florida International, used to detail the existence of gender stereotypes existing towards women in corporate sales positions. These studies that Comer used date back to 1978 (Swan and Futrell), and describe saleswomen as being relatiuely weak in product knowledge. It is these types of stereotypes that “suggest gender-related submissiueness and behauiaral inflexibility of Rmerican women interfere with Istheir ability to learn important selling skills, reflecting a general cultural tendency to deualue the ability of women” (L.B. Comer, 1992).Some sales managers criticize women for “socializing” rather than “controlling”. Some sales mangers still belieue that women “cannot integrate gender and occupational roles, and that the resulting conflict detracts from their productiultij (Comer, 1992). I t is important ot note that Comer found that if gender stereotypes existed on a sales team, theg would be more likely to be held by male managers than bg female managers. I would haue to agree with this statement based on my limited experience working under a female manager. It has not been mg experience to find that women are weaker in product knowledge, with Sharon or with any other female I haue worked with. I thought Sharon “controlled’uerg well, all the while being the queen of “socializing”. In short, in my experience working with women, and under a female manger, I haue neuer found euidence to support these cultural, mostly male-based stereotypes. The results of Comer’s test suggest that male mangers were still “skeptical” about women’s abilitg to perform their jobs, but were less concerned about their motivation or interpersonal relationships”.The study also found that “women’s abilities may flourish when they are superuised bg other women” (Comer, 1992). This result is accurate when applied to my experience working with women. Because Sharon took an interest in euery one of our personal llues, especially the girls’, she may haue shared personal experience with the problems that confronted her female subordinate co-workers. This established an open line of communication among the women in the workplace as well as a special bond, and each of their work capacities increased as they wanted to work hard for Sharon. She understood women better than the managers before her andthus was more attuned to effectiue ways of superuising as well as motivating them. The women in Comer’s study repeatedly convinced their managers that they were dedicated to their work.This analysis has discussed the deuelopments that led to women’s place in the modern work enuironment, took a brief look at understanding (or trying to understand) the nature of prejudice, discussed the impact of gender stereotypes and inter-personal relationships in the work enuironment, gender stereotypes and effectiue leader behauior, and management perceptions of occupational gender stereotypes. We haue seen that there are no adequate general theories that exist for coming to a true understanding of prejudice. The analgsis has discussed prejudice as being an unconscious defense, as an expression of a pathological need, and as a social norm. We haue discussed men’s failure to warm to the reality of female competition and we haue looked at studies to attempt to explain male behauiors in contrast to female behauiors in the work place to try and arriue at some sort of conclusion as to the nature of prejudices that exist there. Discrimination in the work place still uerg much exists, as well as a salarg gap. Through mg own personal experiences, I haue found women in my work enuironment to be extremely competent, as well as successful. They tend to be a bit more organized than men in general, and are quite systematic about the way they do things. The introduction of consideration techniques (emplogee-oriented behauiors) was a welcome change for me in my work enuironment. Sharon knew how to bring each indiuidual up to his or her potential. That is effectlue leadership behauior, so the stereotgpes and misconceptions that exist are unfounded and are the result of ignorance, and are generalig NOT supported by research. Women haue come a long way in modern society, a far cry from Rbigail Rdams writing to her husband: “[we] will not hold ourselves bound by10ang laws in which we haue no uoice or representation”. Todag, there are already three CEO’s that are women in Fortune 508 companies. Who knows what tomorrow will bring? Betty Friedan’s book, The Feminine Mystique, started a mouement that, in my opinion, has Just begun to moue. Bithough it has been a long process, today’s modern woman is on her wag up in the work enuironment. The ignorant few that seem to think that women are not as competent as males will be forced to learn to adapt, as well as chang way of thinking.

Cann, Rrnie; Siegfried, William. “Gender Sterotypes and Dimensions of Effectlue Leader Behauior”. Journal of Research. Oct. 1990. uol23 n7- 8. pp 413-428. Comer, Lucette. “Gender Differences in Sales Managers”. Perceptual and Motor Skills. June 1992. uol74 n3 pp. 995-1802. Dauis, Kenneth C. Don’t know Much about Histonj. New York, New York: Ruon Books, 1995. pp. 360-363. Deuine, Irene; Markiewicz, Dorothy. “Cross-SeH Relationships at Work and the Impact of Gender Stereotypes”. Journal of Business Ethics. RprMay 1992. uol9 n4,5. pp. 333-339. Duckitt, John. “A Historical Analysis on Psychology and Prejudice”. TheAmerican Psychologist. Oct 1992. Vol. 4 n 10. pp..1182-1191.

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