Sexism in the Workplace: Consider the 2013 Oscars
Posted on March 5, 2013 by TNS Consulting Team (via Scott Spayd)
If you happened to catch the Oscars recently (or even if you didn’t you probably couldn’t avoid reading about it online) you should know something of the debate occurring over this year’s host, Seth McFarlane’s choices about joke material. The problem many saw with his hosting style was that his focus on gender differences went too far. However, some pointed out that the biggest problem with the 2013 Oscars is that many did not even notice the sexist nature of Seth McFarlane’s jokes until after someone pointed them out. That is, much of the material probably seemed quite funny until the pattern of the jokes was made apparent. The fact that it may not have been obvious that the jokes in the 2013 Oscars were sexist because we as a society are so accustomed to hearing information about how women are different from men that the information was not perceived to be extraordinary.
I think this is an important point to bring up because, whether you think that Seth McFarlane’s hosting style was offensive or not, the issue of stereotypes is still a problem in many aspects of life, including work. While many claim to be completely unbiased in interpersonal interactions, it’s the subtle behaviors that we don’t even think twice about that convey stereotypes and prejudice toward specific groups. We can also make jokes that unintentionally hurt others because of the way we compare group differences without even realizing that it may be offensive because it’s so engrained in the way we think (e.g., we think of males as the norm and females as the “other”).
Our recent global panel data shows some interesting insight into issues of respect and fairness at work. While males and females responded similarly on each item, our data suggests that 66% of all employees feel that they are respected by their supervisor but only 58% feel that all employees are treated with respect. This may indicate a number of explanations. First, this could simply mean that employees are more likely to report a negative construct on an employee survey (such as respect issues) for others than for themselves in order to preserve their social desirability to anyone who may view the results. However, this could also mean the employees don’t perceive issues of fairness and respect in the same way for themselves as they might for others.
Regardless, the 58% that feel all employees in their company are treated with respect is a somewhat low percentage and should be taken into account when considering potential intervention strategies for respect and fairness issues at work.