How gender stereotypes impact our work and careers choices

career Dec 07, 2022
Woman holding mug like a boss


The silent killer of parity.

Did you know, there are more CEO’s named John than there is female CEO’s in the world? In fact, according to a 2022 Leadership survey by LinkedIn, women account for less than a third of senior level positions worldwide and are 30% less likely to be considered for a promotion than men.

We value white, middle-aged men so much more than women that we fail to consider them worthy for higher level jobs. Even though we know women are more productive and work 10% more than men according to a LinkedIn survey, which clearly indicates status in the workplace is purely based off gender.

Women in the workplace have always been seen as an added bonus, a statistic, to tick off the boxes.

Regardless of how far we think we have come in the working world, women are still not valued and respected like men are. This article will discuss the gender stereotypes that have so intertwined in society and culture that they seep their way into work and careers. In particular, how some sectors dominated by women still employ men for their positions over these women.

You would think, a woman in a female dominated sector where she works alongside women everyday, would be more likely to obtain a senior position in her workplace? Well think again.


So ingrained are our gender stereotypes that even when men work in female dominated industries they still rise to occupy the most senior and therefore highly paid positions. Frustratingly, there is a name for this phenomenon, and it is called occupational feminisation. Occupational feminisation refers to the point at which an industry becomes female dominatedwhich coincides with the point at which female earnings in that industry begin to decline, and men begin to dominate senior roles.

Take HR for example, hiring and firing.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2021 women held 80% of all HR positions. However, the gap in representation at the senior and most high paying roles mean that women earn 91 cents for each dollar a man in HR earns. In the UK there are three times as many women than men working in HR, but only 19% of those women work at an executive level. This means that while HR is a female led industry men working in HR are still more likely to hold the most senior positions and therefore command the highest salaries.

Another sector where we can see this is healthcare. Women account for 90% of the nursing workforce worldwide, but only have a third of the chance a man does to climb up the management ladder.

But why is this-

The excuses are beginning to run out.

Women are more educated than they have ever been. When a woman is applying for the same job as a man, and presents the exact same skills and achievements on her resume she is 30% less likely to be considered for that job just because of gender-In fact, women are more likely to be overqualified for their position in comparison to men, which just shows how gender inequality has perpetrated decision making in hiring.

In 2022 gender still prevails as the ultimate deciding factor in employment, not productivity, not skill, or experience. Gender.

This shows the stereotypes that are here to stay no matter how much we try to progress. When you hear the word nurse, you tend to visualise a woman, in a tunic. You don’t think of a man straight away. When you think of a successful entrepreneur, a CEO, more often than not we see a white man in a suit.

Brilliance bias is a term used in psychology to describe how we tend to view men as more authoritative, more intelligent, more brilliant than women.

But is this any surprise when our history books are literally flooding with pictures and stories of all the great MEN over time?

We grow up as children being inspired by these stories of male success, the female success stories do exist, they just tend to be tucked away discreetly into the corners of society.


It could potentially be for this reason that there is an area of controversial discussion that exists around men working in female dominated sectors. A notion that men entering female dominated sectors can actually be positive, as it increases the pay across the organisation. Often when more and more women enter female dominated sectors, the pay across the board starts to decline.

 Take computer programming as an example, a sector that has went from a mixed balance of gender to predominately male. One study identified that as men flooded into this field over the years, the wages started to gradually but surely increase.

So people argue, as men continue to obtain jobs in these female industries, it can’t be denied the pay will increase. This reinforces the detrimental stereotype that women cease to exist without man. That there is no other possibility for high wages and senior level positions for women in organisations, if there are not a high number of men employed there too.

But simply nothing can be fair within the workplace until we consider the gender imbalances and stereotypes that exist in the home.

Women take on more unpaid work in the home than men, 22 hours compared to their male counterparts 12 hours, as well as caring responsibilities, whilst trying to achieve their goals in the workplace. This means women have to change and adapt their work life and schedule more than men do when they have children. Because of this, women suffer gaps in their employment, which in turn is used against them to prevent promotions.

However, if we look at same-sex couples and the dynamics in their homes we see that in lesbian couples both woman spend less time at paid work in comparison to same-sex male couples, But when it comes to unpaid work the division of labour is divided equally between partners in both same-sex female and male relationships. This makes me question if the traditional husband and wife relationship is responsible for many of the work-life challenges faced by heterosexual women. We design our society in such a way that inevitably sets women up for failure, in both professional and personal domains.

Pause for 60

Pause for 60 seconds. Think about the gendered stereotypes that exist in your OWN life. Are these shaped by you, by society, your family? Do you think that because we created this structure, that perhaps we have the power to change it?

So pause for 60 seconds now, and think to yourself, have you ever doubted your own abilities as a working professional? If yes, did you attribute your failures to your OWN personal abilities or your gender as a woman?

Pause again for another 60. If you have children, have you considered leaving work because of issues with work-life balance? Do you think having children and being a mother has negatively impacted your career? If yes, why?




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