Psychology of Women in the Workplace

Society has experienced a revolution in gender-related attitudes, practices, and policies. However approximately one sixth of the Fortune 500 companies of America still have no female officers. Lisa Belkin of the New York Times Magazine reports that less than 2 percent of corporate offices are held by African-American, Asian-American, or Hispanic women. The vast majority of women in top jobs in corporate America hold staff jobs rather than positions that classically generate CEOs.

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Women account for just 6 percent of the top corporate earners. In academic circles, women staff members earn 14 percent less than men. In spite of four decades of equal prospect legislation, the labor force remains divided and stratified by gender. Women are more represented at the substructure and less placed at the top. The best-trained women are still significantly found in different kinds of jobs than men; jobs with a lesser amount of pay, position, and authority.

As far politics and government is concerned, the United States ranks fifty-ninth in the world in voting for women leaders. This data convincingly proves that gender bias has not been legislated away. Women remain under represent in positions of headship. Even though modern theories of leadership stress inter-personal traits commonly associated with women, such as assistance and teamwork, the majority of traits related with leaders are masculine exhibiting dominance, power, dynamic aspiration, unwavering determination, stern willpower, and so on. Contrarily women could seem soft, unable or reluctant to make tough calls obligatory in position of supreme authority.

Or if they imitate the male model, they are frequently viewed as vociferous and excessively forceful. At work places, women are held to higher standards, and their competence is rated lower than their male counterparts.

Women are expected to be, the principal caregivers, particularly of the very young and very old. Many men are dedicated to equality in principle but not in practice as they are reluctant or incapable of organizing their lives to uphold it. Less than 15 percent of Fortune 100 companies proffer the same compensated parental leave to fathers as to mothers. America is just about alone among developed nations in failing to promise paid parental leaves. And premium, inexpensive childcare is not available for many women who endeavor to toil their way up the leadership hierarchy.

Women’s work is viewed as trivial, and therefore they were historically confined to menial tasks such as rolling cigars and folding books (Renzetti and Curran 1999). in the present day the circumstances have progressed, in that women are now present in various fields. What has albeit not changed, is the approach that women’s work is by some means less important in merit, which justifies their lower wages and their higher concentration in lower-prestige positions (Renzetti and Curran 1999).

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Currently terms such as “glass ceiling,” “sticky floor,” “pay gap”and“second shift” have surfaced in American dictionary as a consequence of more women penetrating the work force and struggling to obtain equal benefits as their male counterparts. “The glass wall” symbol expresses professional isolation attributed to employment obstacles that limit the entry of women to some variety of jobs. Glass walls are likely to persist when organizational traditions produce obstacles to revolutionize and when the expertise crucial to execute certain jobs in an agency are not greatly appreciated elsewhere (Miller et al., 1999, p. 2).

The glass ceiling is an idiom used to portray the unfairness of men and women inside the workforce. It look as if women can be employed in an agency but tend to get into an imperceptible obstruction when they try to move up the ladder of hierarchy within the organization (Baxter & Wright, 2000, p. 1).

Women earn significantly less than men even in the same type of jobs. The differences may fluctuate, but the pattern is constant and instantly recognizable. Amongst permanent workforce, double the men are in the higher part of earnings in contrast to women.

The earnings women are significantly lower than men in places that employ more women and to add to it, women’s wages are likely to ascend more gradually with age and experience.

Thus wages of women are by and large lower in occupations that employ more women resulting in a larger negative impact on the pay of women working in such occupations. The choices open to men and women are significantly prejudiced by employment and selection procedures which are not always ‘gender-neutral’.

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Gender is noticeable in the workplace in various ways with women in lower-ranking positions, and being less likely to hold positions of power. As a result they also earn less than men (Reskin and Padavic 1994). One prominent example of this is found in the world of academia, a major focus of this study. Men are likely to occupy the higher-ranking positions, such as principals and professors, while women are usually teachers and teacher’s aids (Renzetti and Curran 1999).

This distinction not only causes unfairness in position, but also in pay and promotions, additionally enhancing gender inequality in the workplace.

Promotions are exceedingly difficult for women to obtain. Kaufman stated, “women fail to meet one of the most important professional criteria: They are not men (1984:154).”

Women’s earnings have been held back along with their promotions.

An excellent example of is the case of India’s the country’s first woman IPS officer, Kiran Bedi saying that injustice was done to her during the appointment of Delhi Police Commissioner. She complained there was gender bias in appointments to top posts, a day after her junior colleague, Y.S. Dadwal, pipped her to the post of Delhi Police chief.

Bedi, who made her displeasure clear recently, said it was too much of a coincidence that two women bureaucrats had earlier lost out to men for the posts of Cabinet Secretary and Foreign Secretary.

In cases where women are able to ascend to the highest positions in their field, they still face great resistance from their colleagues. Women in senior rank positions are enforced to prove that their professional life will not suffer due to their family responsibility. As a result of this, women will continue to face barriers in the professional dome.

While society has altered immensely with regards to its view on women working outside the home, the conventional visions are hard to break away. Managing both, child care and work responsibilities, a lot of women are not offered flexibility in their jobs, and thus experience a negative impact on their long-term career ambitions for exercising this type of flexibility.

Mind-set is one of the major challenges faced by women who work in conventionally male oriented domains. Women tend to face binding labels, which seek to tag them and avert them from progressing. Women in male dominated fields feel their gender requires them to have to “work twice as hard to prove [themselves].” Simultaneously, a strong woman is supposed a threat to the maleness and the conventions of certain vocations. A female Senior Vice President of Retail Banking noticed, “I have to slow my work, and I must press hard to accomplish [tasks]. I walk a fine line; I don’t want to be viewed as a pushy broad.”

Sexual harassment remains a persistent dilemma in today’s society. However, a commonly established characterization of harassment does not so far exist. This is predominantly problematical in cases in which the behavior is vague and open to interpretation.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) offers a definition that lends itself to diverse interpretations. The EEOC defines sexual harassment as unwanted sexual attention that has “the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment” (U.S. EEOC, 1980, pp. 74677). Since the axis of the definition is the reaction of the victim and not the action of the executor, the interpretation of harassing behavior is ambiguous (see Lewitin, 1991).

There is still no concrete legislation that undertakes the dilemma of sexual harassment of women in the workplace. Women have been at the receiving end of varying shades of gender discrimination, professional and sexual.

Latest high profile allegations and incidents of sexual harassment are examples of a deep-rooted problem. In Wilson College, Mumbai, India, an assistant librarian committed suicide because the college authorities had supposedly harassed her. Similarly a court case against Infosys has made headlines over the last few months. (Online edition of India’s National Newspaper, Dec 21, 2003)

In most cases, there is no way for the oppressed woman to speak up. While leading forms of harassment may be either verbal or psychological, a major number of women report unwanted stroke, sexual gesticulation and exhibitionism. Episodes of harassment are most often committed by people in power, such as superior or specialist doctors and even patients and their families, supposed to have the power to manipulate the women’s job safety in the organization.

In the proposition to address the multitude of problems that women face at the workplace women need to take steps to curtail these problems if not eradicate them totally.

A homogeneous sisterhood should be encouraged among all women in the fight against stark inequalities and exploitation based on gender or otherwise.

Women must battle gender prejudice by demanding impartiality and must fight for acknowledgment of gender dissimilarity by demanding accommodation of diversity. These battles should be planned strategically and fought with political and legal tactics.

The objectives that women should be battling for remain similar to those that motivated the contemporary women’s society.

By imparting appropriate training to women will ensure that they are prepared to meet the challenges opposite them as employees. Likewise training is also obligatory to prevent sexual harassment and to ensure that women have the skills required for career advancement.

Amends in public policy pertaining to equal opportunity and development of job enhancement strategies for women to ensure their success in their respective fields, must be made. The enforcement and affirmative action of quality child and elder care and paid family leave, should be included in the objectives of women’s struggle with society. Women should simultaneously battle for changes in organizational policies to increase commitment to equity and diversity. Accommodation of women workers with significant family and other socially valued commitments must be prioritized. Research on gender-related issues, including the socialization patterns, workplace practices, and public policies should be academically supported in order to promote gender equality and a better quality of life for women. Public awareness programs must be held in order to implement changes in individual and group behaviors of organizations which hire women for work.

Approaches to prevent sexual harassment in workplaces as suggested, by Susan L. Webb, in Step Forward, states that those companies and organizations that effectively want to end or avert harassment have wide-ranging programs in place that include six elements:

  1. top management support;
  2. a written, posted policy statement;
  3. procedures for receiving and handling complaints;
  4. experience in handling complaints;
  5. training for all employees;
  6. follow through.

Law can be an important tool for the promotion of these goals by placing legal prohibition on sex-based prejudice and harassment in any form, whether physical, verbal or psychological. Legal entitlements pertaining to family leave and confirmatory action should remain fundamental forces in the struggle for equal employment opportunity. Newspaper reports of victories in class action lawsuits against the likes of Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley symbolize powerfully regarding the price one has to pay for gender discrimination. Women ought to keep constant track such remedies alongside their effort of demanding for changes which would enable the law to become more effectual in augmenting prospects of employment for women.

Along with the legal strategies and suggestions to bring about changes in the workplace regarding the various prejudices so often faced by women, there are a number of psychological changes in their own attitudes that women desperately need to bring about in order to accomplish the set goals.

Women must primarily visualize themselves as representatives of revolution, by developing an absolutely uncompromising attitude towards inequity in gender and employing the strategies which are so very crucial in achieving this purpose. Not only should they defy the regular norms of unequal pay, power and status in the outside world, but also refuse to accept unequal domestic burdens, which are very often highly instrumental in curtailing their career successes. Their major agenda should include fighting for the status and rights of women within the agenda of the struggle as a whole.

An active rather than a passive attitude needs to be developed among women in their willingness and readiness to take up a stand on these conventional issues of prejudice and struggles that women regularly have been facing for ages. The conservative perceptions among women need a desperate uplifting in order to motivate them to challenge gender inequities with fervor and enthusiasm. Women should constantly bear in their minds that truth is the only weapon they are armored with in their fight against the injustice meted out to them globally. By remaining silent, they will not only crush their self-esteems but also the likely prospects of improvement to the coming generations.

The act of taking actions collectively with the help of organizations will not only double the chances of wining battles but also safeguard them from dangers. The collective efforts of women’s groups and women’s organizations for common interests could dramatically change situations in their favor. Standing united is the key for a sure and safe win and in achieving success in their struggles and concerns at the workplace.


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Menaghan, Elizabeth G. and Toby L. Parcel. 1990. “Parental Employment and Family Life: Research in the 1980s.” Journal of Marriage and the Family, 52: 1079-1098.

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