Research

Gender stereotypes biggest barrier for women

15 Jul 2021 By Jyoti Rambhai

A study has identified the interrelated problems faced by women in the workplace

Gender stereotypes are the biggest barrier facing women in corporate jobs, research by Nyenrode Business University has found.

The study identified key areas that often disadvantage women in work, including gender stereotypes, bias in recruitment, devaluation of women, masculine organisational culture, work-family issues and a lack of professional support.

According to researchers, these barriers are interrelated and intertwined, resulting in a vicious cycle.

Gender stereotypes doubly disadvantage women, as they assume women are not competent, yet when they have proven themselves, they are disliked.

Rosalien van ‘t Foort-Diepeveen, one of the researchers, said gender stereotypes seems to be the “most persistent barrier” facing women and result in prejudice against their “societal, economic, organisational and working environment”.

Van ‘t Foort-Diepeveen added that their analysis showed some of the barriers are related to women’s own choices, motivations, incentives and self-perception around career preferences.

She said: “A lack of self-promotion has a reciprocal effect. Women can be blamed for not having leadership competencies, but if they promote themselves, they risk being negatively judged. 

“The barriers of organisational culture and work-family balance and conflict are also intertwined. Patriarchal and male-gendered working structures facilitate the association of full-time work, unbroken career paths and long working hours with commitment. 

“We found women with a family will find it difficult to comply with these norms and so may be regarded as less committed than men and therefore excluded from leadership positions.”

The study goes on to warn that the lack of women in leadership positions in the corporate world also affects women’s access to female mentors and role models. To change this, businesses need to introduce specific policies and measures that do not disadvantage women in the workplace, it says.

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