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Negative gender stereotypes persist at work, survey shows

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Men and women still experience stark differences in the workplace, and transgender and gender diverse professionals face unique challenges as well, according to a July 11 report from Coqual, a global think tank.

In the U.S., about 67% of men have been promoted or considered for a promotion at their company in the last four years, as compared with about 53% of women. 

“All around the world, professionals from historically marginalized gender identity groups are still required to navigate exclusionary, inequitable and hostile workplace environments that make it difficult to achieve their full potential,” Lanaya Irvin, CEO of Coqual, said in a statement.

A survey of more than 5,400 full-time employed professionals across eight countries showed that significant progress has been made toward gender equity in recent years but that it still remains a challenge globally. Through an intersectional lens, the report shows how race, class, caste, sexuality and other identities can complicate how gender is seen, experienced and understood in employees’ daily lives.

For instance, about 42% of Black women in the U.S. said they’ve often considered leaving their job in the past year, as compared with lower numbers among other races, ethnicities and genders.

In addition, the majority of transgender and gender diverse professionals — 60% — say that gender non-conforming employees experience negative stereotypes and social interactions in the workplace. However, only 39% of cisgender professionals agree.

Other concerning trends appeared in the report. Nearly half of transgender and gender diverse professionals in the U.S. say they’re often told that their gender non-conformity is “just a phase,” and more than half are misgendered. About 2 in 5 have been told they make their colleagues uncomfortable due to their gender identity.

Similar gender inequity trends were reported in other countries. On average, women perform more childcare and housework than men, and women are more likely to report a “motherhood penalty” that hurts their careers, while men are more likely to report a “fatherhood bonus” that helps their careers. Non-White employees and those in lower castes are more likely to experience gender-based prejudice than White employees and those in higher castes. Transgender and gender diverse employees are more likely to face barriers at work.

“Organizations must look beyond the binary and create more equitable workplaces through gender-inclusive policies, programs and people management strategies,” Irvin said.

Coqual created a framework — “define, refine, reimagine” — to provide tangible solutions and guide leaders in advancing gender equity in the workplace:

  1. Define: Companies should define the mission, vision and purpose of any diversity, equity and inclusion initiative. This should include clear definitions of key terms, as well as familiarity with the evolving language around gender identity, particularly when pursuing company-wide self-identification campaigns. This step requires an ongoing commitment to assess employee needs, sensibilities and sensitivities.
  2. Refine: Employers should continually evaluate existing policies, programs and procedures for equitable outcomes. Many existing efforts can be refined rather than reinvented entirely. This step should consider ways to refine norms and policies to support career advancement for women and gender diverse professionals, as well as address caregiving responsibilities. 
  3. Reimagine: Just as successful companies anticipate and react to market trends, they should do the same for employee needs. To prepare for the future global workplace, companies need to reimagine leadership norms, gender, masculinity and intersectional concerns to support workers of all types.

For many employers, retention is key, according to a recent report. In recent years, companies are only breaking even when it comes to turnover of women. Flexible working policies, parental leave policies, caregiver support and comprehensive benefits packages could help, research shows.

Inclusive initiatives could also help attract and retain LGBTQ+ and gender diverse employees who feel that being out at work may hurt their careers. About 40% of LGBTQ+ workers haven’t disclosed their identity at work, according to a recent SHRM report, and 20% believe it could affect their chances for promotion or career advancement. Embracing a diverse workforce from the top down can make a difference, sources previously told HR Dive.

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