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Gender Dynamics Within The Workplace: Dismantling Bias and Expectations for Women

A woman in business can deal with an array of challenges due to gender. If you pick up others' slack, show compassion for others, or apologize too much, you’re seen as weak. If you stand your ground or show ambition by asking for a promotion, you’re seen as pushy. Power dynamics, expectations, and biases affect society and the structures within it, including the environments that women encounter in their careers. Many students face firsthand the negative impact of such structures within their personal and professional lives. Though, an awareness and understanding of why power structures came into place, how a microaggression or bias is defined, and the identities of people unlike oneself can better equip individuals to succeed in a business environment.


Graduating marketing student and Senior Vice President of UBWA, Tori Holzworth spoke with me about the impact minoring in Women’s Studies has had on her outlook on life. Tori has been heavily involved with UBWA since freshman year, taking on several committees and roles throughout her time within the organization. She spoke fondly of her time in UBWA, saying that she is “constantly inspired by the members of UBWA” and loves that she has “been able to be a part of such an uplifting and supportive community…to get out of [her] comfort zone in a safe space.” Tori will take the skills developed throughout her education, internships, and time at UBWA, as she graduates in the spring and begins working at Mettler Toledo in Columbus in the Marketing Early Career Program.


Ohio State’s Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies minor shows to be a valuable addition to a business degree in terms of enlightening students on how gender, sexual, and other identities impact how individuals interact with one another. A WGSST minor provides a greater understanding of not only dynamics within society as a whole, but also speaks to how gender interacts within a professional environment. Even if you don’t opt to take the minor, being aware of the stereotypes, biases, and behaviors that can negatively impact success within a workplace, a business student can be better equipped to navigate an array of situations.


Tori described her experience taking Women’s studies classes as “welcoming,” “thought-provoking,” and “diverse.” She took WGSST 1100, Gender, Sex, and Power, her freshman year and decided to minor in Women’s Studies after that. Tori was able to apply her interest in identity, being adopted from China, as well as social justice issues through the minor. Even though Women’s Studies is not directly related to a career in business, Tori expressed that “I will be able to use things I have learned every day within both my professional and personal lives,” as “it is always helpful to better understand yourself and others.”


By learning more about gender dynamics and expectations, Tori has been able to adapt to professional situations she has encountered. In general, women are viewed as nurturing figures in the workplace - taking on more roles, helping others, and not taking up too much space. When women deviate from this stereotype, they are commonly viewed as too ambitious, pushy, and bitchy, even though their male counterparts are accepted or praised for the same behavior. Since Tori became aware of this dynamic in her own life, she explained that she tries “to speak up and share my own thoughts during group discussions and not default to doing all of the organizational tasks in a project.” She also tries to “be more straightforward and use less hedges” in emails. Due to stereotypes perpetuated in society, it is important for businesswomen to not shy away from assertiveness and ambition in their careers. Women are equally as entitled as men to be confident in the workplace.


Increased self awareness, emotional intelligence, and interpersonal skills were all takeaways from Tori’s experience with her minor. These are important traits that can be overlooked or not implicitly taught in general business classes, but are still important no matter what field a student goes into. Knowing how to combat biases and be an ally to those who are more likely to be hindered by them is important not just in a professional setting but in life. Tori articulates this sentiment wonderfully, expressing her biggest takeaway in her minor: “while people have various identities, thought processes, and perspectives, most people want to feel valued and safe. Therefore, it is important to treat people with kindness and try to understand them, even if you do not agree with them.”


Gender dynamics may be more apparent within society, but less obvious dynamics include microaggressions and unconscious bias. According to the Oxford Dictionary, a microaggression is an “indirect, subtle, or unintentional discrimination against members of a marginalized group.” Tori expressed that in her educational career, she has overheard people say, "you're good at math for a girl" or "you're really artistic for a guy.” Microaggressions can negatively impact an individual’s self-image and mental health, as well as the ability to work and learn.

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