Talk teaches tricks against workplace bias, gender typing


Gannon University students and faculty sipped tea and discussed gender stereotypes as part of the Women’s Tea Series at the Knight Club Monday evening.

Jessica Hartnett, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the psychology department, gave the lecture titled Life After Gannon: How Gender Perceptions Effect the Workplace.

Hartnett, dressed in an unbuttoned blazer that showed off her baby bump, represented women in the workplace as well as mothers in the workplace. But she focused on issues more applicable to undergraduate and graduate students.

Hartnett cited a recent video of Arizona University sorority sisters who were the subject of sportscasting jokes and said that men exhibiting this behavior do not encounter this type of treatment.

She went on to display statistics from the Pew Research Center that showed subtle sexism and how women are underrepresented in leadership positions such as the senate and as college presidents.

Research shows women living up to nurturing stereotypes does not help them at work. Neither does being assertive and demanding like the male stereotype.

Men, however, benefit at work when they do not fit stereotypes and act more nurturing. Hartnett cited a study that determined the different treatments of men and women based on their helping or non-helping behavior in the workplace.

Hartnett said men are rewarded more consistently at work for displaying stereotypical “feminine” behavior while women don’t get brownie points for acting how they are expected to act.

Sheryl Sandburg, a Facebook executive, writes on sexism in the workplace and how to work within existing bias to move up. Hartnett used these tips as an example in the context of professional interviews.

One of these techniques is for women to use specific manners while elevating themselves.

Hartnett asked students to think of something they were proud of, and then describe it in a way that gave the credit elsewhere. She used the example of being offered a publication opportunity because her research was helpful to her colleagues and students at the university, which got the publisher’s attention.

Hartnett said she didn’t brag about her teaching skills or research in mentioning the publication.

While downplaying accomplishments only enough as to not seem conceited is helpful for women, they have the tendency to do so naturally.

“Women have more self-value doubts than men,” Hartnett said.

This is true even in the case of esteemed women, like surgical interns. One study discussed how women interns said success was the result of the situation, while men said it was due to their skills.

On the other hand, women attribute failure to themselves while men blame it on the situation.

In the workplace, men apply for jobs when they meet 60 percent of the requirements but women don’t apply unless they are 100 percent qualified.

Colleen Cummings, a sophomore occupational therapy major, said she attended the talk for her Women in Western Philosophy class.

Cummings said she encountered bias when she applied for a technical theater program at her high school and they were reluctant to admit her. Still, she said the content of the discussion was kind of surprising.

“I didn’t realize there was gender bias in the workplace,” Cummings said. “Obviously it’s present in society, but I didn’t really think people took that into the field.”

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