Photo by Mapbox on Unsplash
Normality is a made-up construct, and it is constantly changing and updating itself. People ditch stigmatized old terms and come up with new names all the time. In recent years, gender and sexuality are two of those concepts undergoing radical changes. Being an international researcher who has traveled to many countries, gender equality has always been a topic of importance for me because of its complicated relationship with people, culture, and time.
We live in an era where mankind is going through and adapting to many new normals, while each of those adaptations means breaking down historical stereotypes and biases. Taking workplace discrimination against women as an example, studies have found consistent beliefs about men and women where men are believed to be more agentic and women more communal. Stereotypically feminine traits, such as communication skills, are not believed to be as important as masculine traits in work settings due to masculine defaults–the association of necessary work-skills with the male gender role—which many organizations and institutions in male-dominated fields still hold. The aftermath of this bias is reflected in workplace gender inequality, and contributes greatly to gender disparity in most traditionally “male” disciplines . In this case, being a woman in historically male-dominated workplaces is breaking an old normal and can be a difficult experience for individual women.
This conflict between the old and the new normal is even more prominent for gender minorities, as it is difficult to bring a minority identity to work when clichés related to a specific community increase the occurrence and severity of discrimination. Similar to masculine defaults, heteronormativity is another old normal experiencing change. Especially in work settings, heterosexuality has been the norm. This notion is strongly institutionalized within society, leaving people with other sexualities marginalized. With fear of receiving discrimination for their minority group membership, many people choose to suppress their identity or conceal their invisible identity. Hence, people might choose to manage and hide their minority identity for their own wellbeing, but with many people collectively doing so, the current underrepresentation of gender minorities in the workplace will be exacerbated. Eventually, we are left with this vicious circle of discrimination and underrepresentation.
To adapt and advance the new normals, efforts have been made with ample studies looking at workplace wellbeing, gender equality and diversity. In my own research I will investigate gender’s role in people’s workplace burnout experience. An already developed vicious circle is always hard to break, but adaptation to the new normal is an inevitable process at this stage of human history. It will break the shackle of many people and will be an exciting and meaningful movement to be a part of.
Cheryan, S., & Markus, H. R. (2020, August 17). Masculine Defaults: Identifying and Mitigating Hidden Cultural Biases. Psychological Review.
McFadden, C. (2015). Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Careers and Human Resource Development: A Systematic Literature Review. Human Resource Development Review, 14(2), 125–162.
Williams, C., & Giuffre, P. (2011). From Organizational Sexuality to Queer Organizations: Research on Homosexuality and the Workplace. Sociology Compass, 5(7), 551–563.
Being well prepared — A gender-related career setback training (Finland)