For millions of women in Indiana and across the country, getting ahead at work is an uphill battle, and gender parity a daily struggle to remain competitive in a male-dominated workplace. The lack of accountability for workplace discrimination can exist in many different settings, from corporate and STEM jobs to customer service, hospitality, and healthcare work.
Women in America comprise more than half the population, and yet make up only 27% of legislators and 25% of all Fortune 500 board seats. The World Economic Forum ranks the United States 30th for gender equality, and sadly, among states Indiana is ranked 40th when comparing a woman’s income, executive representation, work hours and educational attainment against a man’s.
When an employee feels targeted by harassment or unfair treatment, such as being paid less, passed over for a promotion, or disciplined without cause, it is important to realize that there are federal and state protections in place to address this treatment. Finding out more is the first step toward fighting for your rights.
The psychological toll of implicit cultural bias
In theory, skill, education, qualifications and an exemplary work record should be the litmus test for getting ahead. But cultural biases persist, and those in power often are blind to their own shortcomings concerning race or gender. Unfortunately, this weakness can negatively affect careers, lifetime earnings and prosperity.
Although the glass ceiling does not exist in theory or in a legal sense, it is there all the same in the practice of daily decision making. It manifests most obviously in the vast underrepresentation of women and minorities in upper management positions.
For example, qualified women with seniority may be more likely assigned to train the new manager than to fill that position. They may find themselves left out of important communications, and can encounter small daily slights on the job that make the work environment begin to feel toxic.
The disempowerment that many women feel from such behavior can have profound psychological effects, leading to self-doubt, resentment and a feeling of isolation. The effects of such a work environment can develop into chronic stress, anxiety, or depression, conditions that manifest as:
- Irritability, anger, or sadness
- Sleep issues, headaches
- Increased heart rate or rapid breathing
- Loss of interest in activities
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
These symptoms can contribute to serious health problems, such high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and a weakened immune system.
Taking action against a toxic work culture
It can take time to realize that your feelings and mental or physical conditions may be due to an unhealthy work environment. But once you realize that it is not your fault and that it is time to take action, there are several things you can do:
- Remain in the job and fight for parity or to raise awareness to change the status quo.
- Take your skills and qualifications elsewhere.
- File a discrimination or harassment claim with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Taking proactive measures can be not only good for your career, but it can also be a lifesaver.