Despite the idea that we’re becoming a more equal society, there’s still a lot of data out there showing the societal and institutional inequalities in the treatment of women in male-dominated fields of work. Legislation might side with marginalized groups in general, but there are ways in which employers and co-workers still have a long journey to make. Let’s take a look at the data supporting the challenges that women still face in the workplace, particularly in those fields where they’re likely to be outnumbered by their male counterparts.
Increased pressure and stress
A study from Indiana University Bloomington suggests that women face genuine health concerns when working in male-dominated fields. In particular, stress can play a much bigger role in their lives. The study shows that in fields where 85% of workers are male, women are more likely to suffer from irregular production of cortisol, most commonly known as cortisol. In comparison, the men in these fields do not show the same evidence of irregular cortisol profiles. Amongst the common stressors are named isolation, a lack of support in the workplace, and a crucial factor in our next point: sexual harassment.
Hostile workplace environments and harassment
The culture of certain male-dominated fields seems to also allow for a greater prevalence of sexual harassment and gender-hostile workplaces, too. It’s not always down to gender alone, but also the workplace culture as a study from the University of Minnesota details. In an office where obscene language and discourse is permitted, for instance, cases of sexual harassment are 3 times as likely. In workplaces where dirty jokes are allowed, that figure goes up to 7 times as likely. Again, the majority of complaints about this hostility come from male-dominated fields. As noted by many a sexual harassment attorney, unreported cases are even higher because many women and men alike note fears of reprisal from their employer. However, attorneys are able to seek payment for such retaliation as well, regardless of the outcome of a sexual harassment claim.
Isolation and otherness
Pressure to conform to gender norms in male-dominated positions exists both as a problem for women in male-dominated. For instance, many women report experiencing isolation and hostility when they are said to break said gender norms. However, a Michigan State undergrad study by over 600 students also saw that women looking for positions in these companies who tend to describe themselves with traits they would regularly attribute with masculinity would see more success in applications. Evidence that a “bro culture” has started to become evident in startups means that this might not just be a holdout of older, male-dominated fields. This might be more indicative of issues in broader society.
Above all mentioned above, the gender wage gap still remains a hotly debated topic, with many saying the illegality of the practice is enough to prove that it doesn’t exist as a problem. Legality isn’t enough alone to stem the societal issues lingering through generations of inequality, however. We need to look at the educational and socializing efforts that must be made to give the women in our workplace the same platform men enjoy.