Challenging Stereotypes of Women for Inclusive Workplaces


While women face numerous hurdles in the business world, organizational leaders and managers can make a difference within their individual spheres of influence. For leaders and managers, working toward gender parity within their organizations is a question of engaging and empowering the women who work for them. One way is to challenge women to make a difference by learning and growing. This means not only giving female employees room to learn and grow, but also having leaders themselves pursue learning and growth on gender-related topics.

Leaders with this in mind should take a mindful approach to looking at stereotypes of women at work. For example, leaders often look at employees from a descriptive viewpoint (assuming what they are likely to do) or a prescriptive viewpoint (presuming what they should do).

However, many leaders, especially in cultures with hierarchical or high power-distance orientations, look at female employees in a prescriptive way. Leaders with prescriptive viewpoints of women may act in a paternalistic fashion toward their female employees and limit the latter’s potential based on societal constraints placed on women’s behaviors and actions. A result of this may be assuming a woman does not want to become a team lead because it would put her in a situation in which she may have to engage in conflicts with male subordinates, or not suggesting her for a business trip on the assumption she wouldn't want to leave her children.

Achieving gender parity in an organization is about creating a culture that promotes equality for all genders. When organizational leaders make an effort to reduce the use of stereotypes and prescriptive viewpoints, they create workplaces in which women feel valued and included.

And when female employees feel valued and included, the whole organization advances.