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Louise Ripley

Gender Issues in Management

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boss overloading secretary with work


The basis of most of the problems in gender differences is our tendency to stereotype people. Stereotypes aren't all bad; they make our lives easier. When we stereotype all citrus juice as "sour but necessary morning beverage" we ease our decision-making process for facing the morning ("Will I drink orange juice again this morning?").

Where it goes wrong is when we stereotype people based on their gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnic group, religion, geographical region of origin, or any other of a number of categories. You cannot ever say, "All x people are y." When we act on those stereotypes to ensure that a particular kind of person does not get a fair shake, that is discrimination and often also harassment. Stereotypes abound, in addition to and most often in combination with those about gender.

Race - Black women suffer from additional stereotypes that men (and sometimes women) hold about them. A black female colleague tells the story of "sand and sea, and rum" -- the stereotypical view and assumptions of too many men about women of colour. She was at a social/business gathering when a client sidled up to her, drink in hand, murmuring, "sand and sea, sand and sea." 

palm tree at beach She had absolutely no idea what he was talking about until someone later told her that the guy was insinuating that because she was black, she must come from an exotic island where she basks in the sun and drinks rum all day. 

These stereotypes can be disastrous to a woman's career. No matter what you do, it's not enough. If you ignore them, the perpetrators assume they have a right to continue. If you speak up, you're labelled a complainer. 

This is the same colleague who, when working as a high-powered management consultant, was waiting in the reception area for the client she had come to see. The receptionist had announced her, he had said he would be right out. When he arrived, he looked around the room, said to the receptionist, "There's no one here." These stories happened in the 1990's, not the 1890's. Racism or sexism is bad enough; together they are a deadly combination. Black women also suffer from stereotypes that black men hold about them.

Even seemingly "good" stereotypes can have evil effects. The Asian male who is stereotyped as "brilliant at math" may not see this as a compliment when he is struggling to pass tenth grade geometry and feels a more miserable failure because he is supposed to be good at it. In addition to the burdensome stereotype of the "super-minority," Asian myths also include the dangerous one of docility for women.

waving hand Exercise
Bad Stereotyping
Give an example of "bad" stereotyping in relation to men and women in management.
Post your answer in the Moodle Discussion Group.   


waving hand Exercise
"Good" Stereotyping
Give an example of the so-called "good stereotyping" in relation to men and women in management.
Post your answer in the Moodle Discussion Group.   

First Nations women suffer from a dichotomous stereotype; one is either an overworked squaw or a Cherokee princess. The assumption that a First Nations man will automatically have a problem with alcohol is demeaning and dangerous.

Class is a source of stereotypes rampant in our supposedly class-free society. Was your father a working man? Did your mother's family come from "the wrong side of the tracks?" Does your brother work as a labourer? Are you the first person in your family ever to go to university? 

At some time in my family history, every one of those statements has been true for someone. Yet I am a University professor, a member of the supposed "elite." York is not quite so snobbish about the "grove of academe" as some other universities in the city (which shall remain nameless) but we've got our share of class snobbery. During the 1997 YUFA strike, while captaining the exceptionally dangerous Sentinel Road picket line on the late evening shift, I wore 

the safety equipment I'm required to wear in my academic research, which is on trucks -- yellow hard hat and steel-toed boots. I didn't wear these for effect; I wore them for safety. I literally stood in the middle of the east lane of Sentinel Road between two moving streams of cars, Ripley on picket duty 1997 YUFA strike

many filled with angry anti-union drivers. I wore that equipment for safety, yet there were many YUFA colleagues who could not abide the fact that I wore a "WORKING MAN'S HAT." (For those who may not know, yellow is the working person's hat, white is the supervisor's hat, and green is often the environmental control person's hat). I took a lot of grief over my "working class hat" and listened to (too) many always male York professors talk about how we shouldn't even be on strike because it made us look like  _____________ (steelworkers, longshoremen, coal miners -- you fill in the blank and be sure to say it with a long and arrogant sniff of your turned-up nose) and you'll get the idea. All work is honourable; all work is important. Classism has no place in Canadian society. Why did only men object? I'm not sure, but it may have to do with the macho image of the construction worker as well - consider the extreme amount of prejudice that women in the construction trades face.

Sexual Orientation also provides avenues for stereotyping. Do all gay men drink to excess and have seventeen new partners each evening? My colleague Steven at Simon Fraser University in B.C. does not; my shoestring brother Milt who came out of the closet a quarter century ago does not; many of my close friends are gay men and none of them live this lifestyle that the heterosexist community likes to push onto them. I realize this is anecdotal evidence, but by the rules of logic, while you cannot prove a thing is universally true solely by citing one example, you can prove it is NOT universally true by citing examples where it is not so. 

Lesbians? Well, everyone knows, right? 
No you don't, and don't even presume to think you do if you aren't one or close to one. 

Triple Discrimination If you think it's difficult dealing with discrimination as a woman, or as a person of colour, or as a gay or lesbian, consider the case of the person facing all three.
A student who took this course the year of the 1997 YUFA strike touched my heart deeply by choosing my class to come out.

She produced a booklet for that class on triple discrimination (she is female, black, and lesbian), which she later published and we used in the course. Below is a quote from that booklet.

cover of Darlene Bellefeuille's book

"Minority women are subject to preconceived stereotypes long before they are given the chance to succeed in their chosen profession or even interviewed for the job. Furthermore, lesbians differ in many aspects from the traditional roles that heterosexual women often conform to and sometimes benefit from. While white women have to deal with sexism in their place of business, lesbians of colour encounter sexism, racism, and homophobia."


waving hand Exercise
Sexual Orientation
What can a good manager do about the things we tend to take for granted in organizations, such as social events, that automatically tend to exclude or make life difficult for gays and lesbians?
Post your answer in the Moodle Discussion Group.

Straight White Men don't get off easily either. Who could possibly measure up to John Wayne or Sergeant Preston of the Northwest Mounted Police?!

I have colleagues (and a husband!) who shudder in horror that I even mention Robert Bly's Iron John in a women's studies class, but I highly recommend it if you want to hear at least one view of men in today's world and how the way they have been socialized and stereotyped from early youth can affect the way they treat women and the way they suffer in their lives. 

Click here to read something about Robert Bly's book, Iron John

waving hand Exercise
Iron John
Relate the review of Iron John. What are your reactions? Can you relate it to gender in management?
Post your answer in the Moodle Discussion Group.


Sheryl Sandberg's Book Lean In

waving hand Exercise
Sandberg Stereotypes
How does Sheryl Sandbert's book Lean In help you further understand the topic of this unit?
Post your answer in the Moodle  Discussion Group.


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Return To Course Syllabus

AP/ADMS/WMST3120 3.0 Gender Issues in Management
York University, Toronto
M Louise Ripley, M.B.A., Ph.D.