Gender Inclusion In The Workplace: Addressing Gender Role Expectations & Stereotypes

business man silhouette

Ravikumar at work is a high-performing project manager co-leading the year’s most prestigious project with an equally brilliant female colleague.

Ravikumar at home is a son, husband and father in a patriarchal family where he is the sole earning member.

How does Ravikumar reconcile his personal and professional roles? How can he be an inclusive, empowering male colleague who collaborates and plays for the team, when perhaps everything at home conditions him to be competitive, keep his job and position secure, and grow his career at all costs?

business woman silhouette

Natasha at work is confident, career-oriented professional who believes in working hard and letting her performance speak for herself.

Natasha at home is a daughter who is allowed to work while her father looks for an eligible match who doesn’t need her to work another day.

How does Natasha explain her professional priorities to herself? How can she be a secure, confident performer respectful of her male colleagues when perhaps everything at home reinforces that she has to make difficult choices everyday and needs to grow “despite” everyone.

We are all Ravikumars and Natashas. Or at the very least, know Ravikumars and Natashas.

Recognizing Gender Role Expectations & Stereotypes

In designing for gender inclusion, this is something organizations often tend to miss: What happens in the workplace is an organizational manifestation of complex social and cultural realities.

And in these realities, stereotypes and expectations of gender roles make it difficult for men and women whose preferences do not conform. Here are two examples. If you haven’t seen these videos, you must. And if you have, take another look. They are great reminders of how we often reinforce gender role stereotypes. Knowingly or unknowingly. In our sons and our daughters.

“Boys don’t cry” and “You run like a girl” are both deeply ingrained. “She is absolutely focused on her career” and “He is clear he wants to be a stay-at-home dad” are both frowned upon.

Addressing Gender Role Expectations & Stereotypes

Gender inclusion is not about having 30% women in the workforce. It affects more than women. It goes beyond numbers into mindsets. It challenges gender role expectations and stereotypes.

For a gender inclusive workplace, it must be able to recognize and be willing to address such stereotypes. It would help to think about:

  • Honest Conversations: How can we encourage open, honest and inclusive conversations about gender role expectations, stereotypes and their personal and organizational impact?
  • Equal Opportunities: How can we provide equal opportunities to men and women, not only for learning and growth, but also for performance and establishing credibility?
  • Similar Choices: How can we ensure that organizational culture, policies and processes allow the same freedom of choice for both men and women without imposing gender role assumptions on them?

Have you considered these or similar questions in your workplace? If yes, how did you do it? And if not, would you like to? Share your thoughts and experiences. Leave a comment below.

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