Nearly half of American women work in places where they outnumber the men. But for millions of other women, employment in a male-dominated workplace can be stressful, dangerous and harmful to their careers.
A Pew Research Center survey confirmed that women in majority-male workplaces are more likely to experience gender discrimination and sexual harassment. The mistreatment is often worst in traditionally male jobs and workplaces without women in positions of authority.
Gender ratios are linked to gender discrimination
TheÂ Pew Research surveyÂ was conducted in 2017 before the #MeToo movement put a national spotlight on sexual harassment. The research gave credence to a known phenomenon:
- Sex discriminationÂ â€“ In majority-male workplaces, women were more likely to say they (a) are paid less than men, (b) are treated as not competent, (c) received less support from leadership than their male counterparts, and (d) suffered small but repeated slights based on their gender.
- Sexual harassmentÂ â€“ Women in majority-male workplaces were more likely to say that they had personally been sexually harassed (28 percent). Harassment occurs even in female-dominated occupations, but both men and women said it was less of a problem in those work settings.
Fire station lawsuit is â€śExhibit Aâ€ť of boysâ€™ club mentality
The Justice Department has filed a discrimination lawsuit against the City of Houston. The suit alleges years of egregiousÂ harassment against three female firefightersÂ â€“ the only female firefighters â€“ who worked at Houstonâ€™s Station 54 firehouse. The lawsuit describes male firefighters behaving badly in a concerted campaign: Racial epithets. Death threats. Ostracizing. Juvenile pranks. Mocking a womanâ€™s dead daughter. AndÂ literally marking their territoryÂ in the womenâ€™s dorm â€“ urinating on toilet seats, urinating on the carpet and defecating in the womenâ€™s toilet after covering up the flushing sensor.
Itâ€™s definitely a guy thing
While the misconduct alleged at Station 54 is over the top, it fits a pattern.Â Gender discrimination, a hostile work environment andÂ sexual harassmentÂ are often worst in traditionally male occupations: firefighting, dock work, auto repair, law enforcement, computer programming, engineering, construction and landscaping, to name a few. The higher the ratio of men, the more pervasive or brazen the misconduct is likely to be.
The Pew survey noted that women in male-dominated workplaces do not differ much from women in gender-balanced or majority-female workplaces. They have similar demographics as far as age, education, race and ethnicity. The variable is male attitudes toward their female co-workers and subordinates. Many men in majority-male fields view women not as equals but intruders. Management sets a poor example or downplays complaints.
In the #MeToo era, fewer women are willing to put up with the status quo.
This blog was originally published atÂ Passman & Kaplan, P.C., Attorneys at LawÂ on March 15, 2018. Reprinted with permission.
About the Authors:Â Founded in 1990 by Edward H. Passman and Joseph V. Kaplan, Passman & Kaplan, P.C., Attorneys at Law, is focused on protecting the rights of federal employees and promoting workplace fairness.Â The attorneys of Passman & Kaplan (Edward H. Passman, Joseph V. Kaplan, Adria S. Zeldin, Andrew J. Perlmutter, Johnathan P. Lloyd and Erik D. Snyder) represent federal employees before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB), the Office of Special Counsel (OSC), the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and other federal administrative agencies, and also represent employees in U.S. District and Appeals Courts.