Gender Equity isn’t always equal – Mary T. O’Sullivan

By Mary T. O’Sullivan, MSOL

Ethics and equity and the principles of justice do not change with the calendar.” – D. H. Lawrence

Gender equity and awareness is a topic of personal interest to many women. There are interesting parallels between what we “modern” women experience and the world of women from many other countries. For the last several years, much literature has come to light focusing on the topic of the oppression of women in developing countries, mainly Afghanistan, Somalia, Iran, and India. In Muslim countries, it is believed that the Prophet dictates the role of women in the Hadith as well as the Koran, the Muslim holy book, and carried out in Sharia law. In many countries, like Saudi Arabia, women are not permitted out in public unless accompanied by a male relative and are not permitted to drive (this is recently starting to change) or work. Women have no choice in marriage and must be completely covered in public.

The actions against women in the Islamist government in Iran are well known. Women are not permitted to work or go to school, the same is reflected in the Saudi constraints against women. The atrocities of the Taliban in Afghanistan of the 1980s, the public executions, the beatings, as well as the lack of education for women have all been exposed to the world. Tragically, when many of these people immigrate to the United States and other Western nations, the ways of their former countries follow them. Women and girls are still mistreated, with mandatory head and face covering, honor beatings and killings, as well as female circumcisions still going on in their new countries today.

Why is this a topic of interest to so many women now? Surprisingly, women still face discrimination in the workplace. Women, especially older women are still subject to harassment, bullying, slights, insults, being passed over for advancement, and other forms of discrimination in corporate America in 2022.

Since the days of women’s liberation in the 1960s and 1970s, we all know that gender awareness has had an impact on ethics in the workplace. It has been documented that many companies that gender inequity manifests itself in many ways. For one woman, working for a big company, even though her office was located right next to the print shop, no one would ever dream of asking her to make copies. Yet, when she transferred to a different division of that same company, to a higher paying job, the boss continuously asked her to make copies, take notes, write on the whiteboard, etc. While corporations may have more visible women in the workplace, often the mentality of the men who work there has not undergone any significant change. In addition, to put a more diverse face on a large corporation, many less qualified women, especially younger women are promoted and put forth in leadership roles. This fix looks good on the recruiting posters but doesn’t do much good for women in general who are trying to make their way to the top in the corporate workplace.

It’s easy to identify many instances where gender equity has a profound effect on performance, career development and professional relationships within the sphere of work of many women.  Although gender discrimination is against the law, some subtlies are used to keep women in check. In particular, a dislike for women who voice opinions is often not well hidden. Women in the workforce have not been beaten or and don’t have to wear a burka, but still are “punished” for speaking out. Specifically, as one story tells it, a male was hired as a counterpart to a woman. The man was not as qualified as the woman for the job. However, she was forced in several close working situations with him and had to navigate his incompetence time after time. This caused some tension between them, and tempers flared. As a result, he complained to management and even to HR. Things got worse once the woman was promoted. However, she continued to be placed in difficult working situations with the man. His ideas and thoughts on topics relative to the project were based on guessing, and his judgments would be considered poor by industry standards.

Yet, this woman was pushed time and time again into accepting his faulty opinions over her own. What followed devolved into name calling and pigeon holing: the woman was portrayed as every negative female stereotype. It was so bad; she was even told by HR to fight this perception. Additionally, the man’s workplace was physically located closer to company headquarters, and he took full advantage, making himself visible to management. He began to backstab the woman, by portraying her ideas as “old” and saying that he was taking various projects of hers to the “next level”. Management must have been afraid of the HR complaints that because she began to be cut out of these projects completely. Meetings took place that she never knew about.

In addition, a new manager came on board, and decided getting the woman “in line” would be his ticket to a higher level. He intensified this treatment by bullying her into projects that were extremely challenging and almost impossible. When she refused, a workplace nightmare scenario unfolded for her. The whole incident showed that his innate prejudice overruled clear thinking.

Typical, as for many women, the woman’s job performance never wavered. She continued to work at the same capacity as always. Although her boss lowered her rating and gave her a substandard raise one year, the year he tried to fire her she received one of the highest raises outside of her promotion.

So, in today’s world, there are no burkas, no foot binding, no arranged marriages, however, in a dominate male workplace, women still face many challenges. Speaking out, disagreeing, expressing opinions, and stereotyping among other unconscious biases still exist. Women need to use everything in their power to prevail and overcome.

“People call me a feminist whenever I express statements that distinguish me from a doormat.” ― Rebecca West


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Mary T. O’Sullivan, Master of Science, Organizational Leadership, International Coaching Federation Professional Certified Coach, Society of Human Resource Management, “Senior Certified Professional. Graduate Certificate in Executive and Professional Career Coaching, University of Texas at Dallas.

Member, Beta Gamma Sigma, the International Honor Society.

Advanced Studies in Education from Montclair University, SUNY Oswego and Syracuse University.

Mary is also a certified Six Sigma Specialist, Contract Specialist, IPT Leader and holds a Certificate in Essentials of Human Resource Management from SHRM.