Prejudices are learned practically from birth. They shape our perception of ourselves and how we evaluate others. In addition to our culturally influenced learned behaviors, there is also an evolutionary component to sex differences which play a significant role in how we interact with others throughout our careers.
Women in male-dominated industries often participate in spreading rumors about other women using their sexuality to climb their way up the corporate ladder. It screams jealousy and insecurity, but worst of all, it supports the notion that women are not capable of earning a leadership position without the help of a man.
Men are also sometimes threatened by women in higher roles because of society’s view of women as the weaker sex, intellectually, physically, and emotionally. Some men still believe that women are to be at home raising children, keeping house, cooking meals, running errands, and planning holidays.
In the workplace, women tend to put in twice as much effort as men, even when they are not forced to, because their peers believe that men are naturally more gifted in technical skills, and that women are more adept in people skills. As a result of these preconceived notions, women are expected to prove their adequacy while men are innately presumed to be competent.
More evident amongst older-generation women than millennials, females are prematurely skeptical of another woman’s ability to perform work duties traditionally assigned to men. Another trend that is emerging in the workforce is that women are becoming more outspoken in the company of men. Many women view this as a threat or inappropriate behavior, versus the small victory it may have been.
Success is highly unlikely when every woman must fend for herself. The biggest obstacle along the path to gender equality is the group of women who are clinging to their traditional roles of damsels in distress out of fear, comfort, or plain old selfishness.
In the modern workplace, women are highly regarded, even by each other, only when they exhibit a professional demeanor and feeble humility. They should always smile, look nicely put-together, and never dare to curse. Men and women alike expect to see females dressing modestly and speaking graciously. If at any time a woman shows a bit of anger or argues with a man, especially a supervisor or executive, her coworkers react with disapproval and immediately spread rumors about what they portray as a spectacle.
This almost always goes unnoticed with men. Women are giving men power before they have earned it. When women publicly disagree with each other and argue, they are labeled as being “catty” and degraded to the point of humiliation and defeat. This is not the case amongst men.
Society does not look down upon men who argue with each other because competitiveness is a masculine trait. Men are just treating women how women treat each other. As they see it, when women are treating other women the same way, then they must be okay with it.
Most women refrain from speaking up when they witness another woman being offended and disrespected. We tend to mirror our behavior to blend in with the group, in this case the guys with whom we work. We tend to worry if they will do the same to us if we have the audacity to defend her. If we do that, then our credibility will be tainted. Would it be worth wasting all our hard work to make it this far on a woman who is trying to take my spot for a promotion? The competition is merely a delusion. It needs to stop.
Women must admit and accept that they are just as guilty of assigning gender-specific expectations to their coworkers as men are. In the minority of workplaces where women are encouraging and standing behind one another, men are supporting and respecting them too.
Instead of joining in on the mockery, women should stop treating one another like competitors and start defending each other as human beings with the same level of respect as the men in their workplace. It is extremely important for women to recognize that their personal achievements and the fight for gender equality are two separate battles, one having a bigger impact on society, as well as the potential to make a permanent difference for future generations.
Who cares if supporting other women in the work place gets you fired? How wonderful a job could it possibly have been? The more women refuse to accept inequality, the less likely it is to occur, and the more likely we are to get paid the same as our male colleagues!
Of course, going against the grain is not easy. Yes, it is going to take a long time and a lot of trust and fortitude; but the first step must be women supporting women all the way to the top. Even when that happens, no one person can change a group. The group must come together and decide to change. The gender gap is slowly narrowing, but not nearly enough.