Diversity Management

Diversity Management

The purpose of the essay is to discuss how Equal Employment Opportunity/Affirmative Action and diversity management approaches can assist female workers to get a fair go in the workplace by helping to overcome gender discrimination. The essay will be structured into five parts, beginning with a brief introduction to the film North Country, which addresses the issue of gender discrimination. The second part of the essay talks about the remaining sexual harassment and other gender discrimination in recent years. It includes selective sexual harassment, promotion discrimination and pregnancy discrimination, all being relevant and important issues to the female worker. The third part compares the uniformed stereotype of gender discrimination and reality. It involves in difference between how women behave and how society require women behave. The treatment that female experienced due to gender stereotype is going to cover in the fourth part. Those treatments include limited advancement, unfair wage, and difficulties on finding jobs due to pregnancy discrimination. The final part consists of the proposal of diversity management approaches, productivity diversity approach and valuing diversity approach, which may help female workers away from discrimination.

The film North Country, based on the facts of a true story, described Josey Aimes, a divorced female worker had been suffered sexual harassment when she work at the local iron mines. Josey Aimes divorced and returned to her hometown Minnesota with her children. As she needs to raise her children, she had to go to work. Her close friend Glory brought her to local iron mines to work. Only a few women work in the mines and majority are men since it is a very heavy job for women. She had already prepared to take the risk of the job and suffer the tiredness of the work. However, what beyond her expectation is all the unexpected sexual harassment from those male workers. In order to survive in the world, she kept her mouth shut at first when she was facing those unfair treatments. However, she finally realized that she could not keep quiet like that forever, and then she started fight. Since other women are used to the harassment and afraid of break the unfair treatment, she was so lack of help at first time. When she started fight back, treatment just got worse. With help from Bill White, Josey Aimes get the case after all. The consequences were that all female employees sued the mines company and they won the case with about $1 million compensation (Caro, 2005). This story brought people an idea of fight back for their own rights and initiated the concept of Affirmative Action.

Sexual harassment, really the core issue of the firm North Country, is one of most common forms of gender discrimination in the workplace. Tangri, Burt and Johnson (1982, as cited in McDonald & Backstrom, 2008) explain that sexual harassment occurs due to nature when both male and female workers in the workplace. But in fact, not only sexual harassment but also all gender discrimination is perpetrators’ intentional behaviour in order to maintain their power (McDonald & Backstrom, 2008). According to Australian Human Rights Commission’s (2004) survey, a total of 28% of interviewees aged between 18 and 64 had been sexual harassed. Furthermore, 65% of these respondents experienced sexual harassment in the workplace. From the perspective of timeframe, 40% of the interviewees experienced sexual harassment more than 5 years ago and 22% of them experienced it less than one year ago. From the data, it provided that sexual harassment still exists in the society. Even thought there is great progress on affirmative action, victims may have difficulties to speak up about these issues which allow an existence of sexual harassment to continue. McDonald & Backstory (2008) stated five tactics that are commonly used by harasser. These include a cover-up of the problem, devaluation, reinterpretation of what happened, thwarting the procedures of an official channel as well as intimidation and possibly bribery. The cover-up behaviours refer to harass female workers out of public eyes therefore there is no witness that could help victims. Devaluation of women and interpretation of their behaviour as being friendly twisted those females valuation into self-contempt. Impediment of female voices the harassment to official channel and threatens victims created such greater fear that victims feel helpless and no way out of harassment. It psychologically creates barriers for female workers to fight for their rights. Over time sexual harassment has adapted and has transformed itself into selective sexual harassment. Hoffmann (2004) explains selective sexual harassment to refer to male workers restricting their harassment to a group of women that they labelled out of all female workers in the organisation. It creates difficulties for a court to recognise those women who had been harassed are not simply oversensitive. Therefore, sexual harassment has not been substantially eliminated yet. Nowadays, gender discrimination is not only sexual harassment but also pregnancy discrimination (Hayes, 2010). From business profit point of view companies are trying to avoid to hire women who may be thinking of becoming pregnant. When organisation recruiting new staff, many employers worry about their new female employee may take leave during pregnancy. Due to nature differences, women are in a disadvantage when they are facing trade-off between family and work.

Eagly (1987, as cited in Deborah & Carranza, 2002) held the opinion that “gender stereotypes are closely linked to traditional social roles and power inequalities between women and men.” Uninformed gender stereotype believes that women possess and should continue to possess feminine traits such as being warm and caring which has been a females’ traditional social role. Over time, more and more female move into workplace for various reasons. They may need to raise their kids, gain their career path or chase their dream. The reality is that women have taken not only traditional roles but also additional roles once they invlove in work. To be successful in their job, women are required to represent the additional trait such as highly intelligent, efficient and rational. Ryan, Bongiorno, Haslam, & Hersby(2011) also stated that successful female managers have both masculine and feminine traits. Burgess and Borgida’s review (1999, as cited in Kenneth, Tyler, Tyler, & Gugel, 2008) of the research literature emphasis the differences between descriptive and prescriptive component of gender stereotypes. Descriptive stereotype refer to how men and women actually behave, while prescriptive stereotype refers to how men and women are suppose to behave.

Different gender discrimination stereotypes would cause different results, Kenneth et al (2008) stated, “incidents of sex discrimination that result in adverse impact are more likely to reflect the descriptive stereotype and incidents of sex discrimination that involve disparate treatment are more likely reflect the prescriptive stereotype.” Deborah & Carranza (2002) also claimed that female who violate prescriptive stereotype may face various punishment and devaluation. Female workers experienced a lot of gender discrimination such as unfair treatment, sexual harassment and devaluation since women take masculine role in workplace and maintain their feminie role in their lives.The disparate treatment such as female limited advancement in the workplace is a reflection of violation of gender stereotype. According to data that provided by Federal Glass Ceiling Commission, 95% of senior level managers were male in the US in 1995 (Bjerk, 2008). Nowadays, only 24% of women are in managerial position even though about 50% females employed in higher education in Australia (Wallace, 2007). Why only a few women has been represented as top level managers is the very question that people would like to argue. Even though Bjerk (2008) disagree with the argument of few female advancement due to gender discrimination, the reality is that female as a minority in the organisation may not get enough chance to show people what they can do. It may not be a direct discrimination, but somehow it indirectly impede female career path due to indirect discrimination.Wage discrimination is another treatment that female may get due to gender discrimination. Male and female workers who are at the same job level get unequal payment(Olson & Becker, 1983). Since women physically can not work during pregnancy and have to focus on their children which society require women to play their feminie role, pregnancy discrimination arise when women are in a job interview (Hayes, 2010).

Diversity management is a mechanism to reduce discrimination. It is a process of managing employees based on their needs and differences. “In Australia there are binding regulations that address diversity, discrimination and equity issues in the workplace” (Burgess, French, & Strachan, 2009). In Australia equity legislation incorporates two approaches which are anti-discrimination and affirmative action. Anti-discrimination Act in Australia prohibit direct and indirect discrimination (Ronald and Pepper, 2004, as cited in Burgess, French, & Strachan, 2009). “The anti-discrimination legislation, according to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women 1981, has dual obligations of both prohibiting discrimination and ensuring equality of outcomes” (Sex Discrimination Act, 1984 as cited in Burgess, French, & Strachan, 2009). Affirmative action do not focus on individual but universal solutions, which means it will benefits all female and help them react to unfairness. Burgess, French, & Strachan (2009) proposed two approach of managing diversity which are productive diversity and valuing diversity. The productive diversity approach refers to utilise diverse employee to maximize the productivity of business and competitive advantages. Apply productivity diversity approach to reduce gender discrimination, female employees could been assigned on part of job that match their advantages. For example, as many argued male are more rational and women are more sensitive (Boeckmann, 2007), women could provide a great performance on customer service field. Meanwhile, some more practical work could distribute to male employees. Therefore, distribute female and male employee work on different field could possibly avoid promotion discrimination and maximize productivity of business at same time. Comparing the productivity diversity, the valuing diversity approach emphasis more on value of employees differences. The desired result for value diversity of is “mutual adaption of individual and the organisation” rather than productivity maximization(Burgess, French, & Strachan, 2009). Valuing diversity approach takes much longer time then productivity diversity approach since it takes time for organisation and employees adjust their own value until mutual adaption. As mentioned above, many hold the opinion that women are more sensitive than men. By using valuing diversity approach, organisation could provide more trainings or programs particularly for female employee, which would offset female employees’ imbalance of discrimination. Bassett-Jones (2005) stated that “diversity management is defined as the aggregate effect of HRM sub-systems, including recruitment, reward, performance appraisal, employee development and individual managerial behaviours in delivering competitive advantage through leader ship and team work”. Each organisation has its very own diversity management approach, for example, Coles Group’s training programs called Coles Myer Equal Opportunity Program and leadership programs for women(Burgess, French, & Strachan, 2009).

Do, Schmitt, Styles, Wang, Wincek, & Zeddies (2005) proposed three stage approaches for organisations to avoid gender discrimination. At first stage, they suggest to constitute female officer support networks, reinforce existing enforcement mechanism and establish external oversight. Female officer support networks provide women with a better environment to discuss the professional issue. As long as sexual harassment and discrimination exists in the workplace it is always better to reinforce existing enforcement. External oversight could help everyone in the society realise the issue and assist those females who suffer discrimination. The authors further suggest, in the second stage, for the organisation to provide extensive gender discrimination and sexual harassment training for all employee, reinforcement of internal enforcement mechanism and female officer mentoring program. If there is no extensive sexual harassment training program, gender discrimination is going to continue and become worse, and what worst is coming gender bias, disrespect and wrong value in the whole society. Both reinforcement of internal enforcement mechanism and mentoring program try to internally change the uniformed stereotype of gender discrimination. The final stage, as proposed by Do et al (2005) is “to measure broad policy that would combine with other policies to significantly reduce the incidence of sexual harassment and discrimination over time”. To reduce the occurance of promotion discrimination, Metz & Moss (2008) proposed four suggestions. First, the employer needs to investigate real barriers of women limited promotion to make sure whether the discrimination exist. As there is always an argument said that women blame their limited advancement on discrimination simply because they are over sensitive, so investigation is very necessary. Second, recruiters must be unbiased, otherwise they can not equally treat all employee. In the other words, discrimination would occur as recruiters could not make judgement equivalently. Third, promotion decisions must not be effected by gender, roles and aspiration etc. If promotion decisions effected by gender, it is obvious that the promotion decisions will in favour of either male or female, and then gender discrimination arises. Last but not least, organisation should monitor advancement decision makers to be sure they do not have unfavourable stereotypes. If decision makers have a favouable stereotype, they may consciously or subconsciously benefit one that they are in favour.

In conclusion, sexual harassment continues to exist in the workplace, and results from perpetrators wanting to maintain their power. Victims of sexual harassment have many difficulties in fighting back, partly this may be the result of being psychologically controlled by the prepetrators. Prepetrators cam use a number of tackics to shield themselves from this, including a cover-up of the problem, devaluation, reinterpretation of what happened, thwarting the procedures of an official channel as well as intimidation and possibly bribery. In today’s workplace, not all women suffer sexual harassment, but selective sexual harassment exists. Other gender discrimination such as promotion discrimination and pregnancy discrimination all remain in the workplace. The uninformed stereotype believes that women possess and should continue to possess feminine traits such as being warm and caring. However, with more and more women needing to work, women reveal not just their naturally feminine traits, but also masculine traits such as high intelligence, rationality and efficiency. The gender stereotype determined how women would be treat in the workplace. Due to gender discrimination, there were some unfair treatments, which contained limited advancement and relatively lower wages than male workers who perform the same tasks and work at the same job level. Women are now facing themselves in a disadvantage in the labour market due to pregnancy discrimination. There are two diversity management approaches – productivity diversity approach and valuing diversity approach. The productive diversity approach refers to utilise diverse employee to maximize the productivity of business and competitive advantages. Comparing the productivity diversity, the value diversity emphasis more on value of employees differences. In order to reduce occurrence of gender discrimination, there are some diversity management approach, three stages approach and four suggestions provided by Metz & Moss (2008) mentioned above. The first stage refers to constitute female officer support networks, reinforce existing enforcement mechanism and establish external oversight. The second stage refers to extensive gender discrimination and sexual harassment training for all employee, reinforcement of internal enforcement mechanism and female officer mentoring program. The final stage refers to measure broad policy that would combine with other policies to significantly reduce the incidence of sexual harassment and discrimination over time. Metz & Moss (2008) thought employer should have to investigate real barrier of women limited promotion to make sure whether the discrimination exist. Second, recruiters must be unbiased. Third, promotion decisions must not be effected by gender, roles and aspiration etc.. Last but not least, organisation should monitor advancement decision makers to be sure they do not have unfavourable stereotypes. There is no cure-all for elimination of gender discrimination, each organisation should find out their very own solution.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

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Caro, N. (Director). (2005). North Country [Motion Picture].

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Wallace, M. (2007). Human resource development and female middle managers in Australian universities. Sydney: Promaco Conventions Pty Ltd.

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