Workplace gender equality

The workplace can often be a precarious space for women.

GIWL research on gender stereotypes and roles, precarious masculinity, perceptions of risk, and more—helps to explain the roots of gender inequalities in the workplace. The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted workplace gender equality, and has exacerbated existing gender inequalities across domains—from gendered divisions of labour to economic stability. Tackling these structural inequalities is vital to the creation of a gender equal workplace.

Gender inequalities are across all workplaces

Our research challenges gendered assumptions about women in the workplace. In “The Gendered Consequences of Risk-Taking at Work: Are Women Averse to Risk or to Poor Consequences?”, GIWL Director Michelle Ryan and Dr Thekla Morgenroth challenge the simple assumption that women are averse to workplace risks and suggest that if and when women do avoid risks, it is because their risk-taking leads to less rewarding consequences. Workplace gender equality initiatives should therefore tackle any inequities of consequences rather than encouraging women to “lean in” and take more risks.

Sexual harrassment is an issue that plagues workplaces. GIWL research investigates how salient norms associated with the social identity of ‘women’ affect coping with sexual harassment.

We have also examined medical workplaces, and found that those individuals (particularly men) who overestimate the true progress that has been made in women’s representation who are at highest risk of undermining it.

Fixing the workplace, not fixing women

Solving gender equality does not come down to ‘improving women’s confidence’. Studies demonstrate that external barriers play a significant role in women’s career decision making.

GIWL research indicates that women’s increased opportunities in leadership are constrained by the declining status or shrinking nature of the institution to which they are gaining access. Taking an evidence-based approach, GIWL seeks to fix these institutions by exposing and addressing the gendered beliefs they are built upon.

External workplace barriers guide individuals' internal decisions to make sacrifices for the advancement of their careers. Our research indicates that, in traditionally male-dominated fields, women are less willing to make sacrifices for their career because discrimination and lower fit with people up the ladder make sacrifices less worthwhile.

GIWL aims to identify the barriers for women entering and progressing within workplaces, and address the systemic obstacles that women face. 

Read more about the work we are doing to achieve gender equality in the workplace:

  • Intersectional invisibility in women’s diversity interventions: We found evidence of intersectional invisibility where organizations were more likely to address agency-enhancing intervention needs while failing to include other intervention needs relevant for Black women and Asian women. 
  • We identified the three mistakes universities make when they attempt to improve gender equity.

To advance equality for all women, we need to use the evidence.


Updated:  30 September 2022/Responsible Officer:  Institute Director/Page Contact:  CASS Marketing & Communications