Sexism is about a person’s beliefs on the fundamental nature of both men and women and their role in society. However, these gender stereotypes seem to have also infiltrated the workplace with severe consequences for employees’ wellbeing and professional development. What is sexism? Are there bastions of sexism and gender based discrimination at work around Europe? How does Greece compare to the rest of Europe? These are some of the questions that we will try to answer in this blog.
What does a sexist person believe?
First of all, let’s clarify that not everyone that behaves in a sexist way acknowledges it. Many of the gender stereotypes are subconscious biases. Their development has a lot to do with a person’s life experiences and the social environment they grew up.
Indeed some genuinely believe in the superiority of one sex over the other or that men and women have distinct and complementary characteristics. However, scientists do not think that is true.
The effects of sexism in the society and the workplace
The problem with sexism is that it limits what a person, either female or male, can achieve. These man made social roles act as ceilings that limit people’s potential and their desire to do whatever they truly want to do. This, of course, has detrimental effects on their wellbeing; it increases further gender inequality and leads to loss of talent and human capital.
For example, we can see how sexism is omnipresent in the 21st century just by looking at the gender segregation in the European labor market. According to the European Institute of Gender Equality (EIGE) report, the share of women among the science and engineering professionals in the EU is 25%. In comparison, the percentage of men among the EU teaching professionals is 31%.
Examples of sexism in the workplace
Both males are females can fall victims to gender discrimination at work. However, women are those who seem to suffer more from gender stereotypes through systemic structural and historical inequalities. Let’s find some examples of casual sexism in the workplace that are not uncommon.
1. The glass ceiling
I am sure you have heard this term as it is widespread discrimination at work against women. This term denotes an invisible and impenetrable wall for women when they rise through the ranks and are close to the top. There are only 15% (74 women) of the Fortune 500 companies are female-led as of March 2022. However, even this low number is a positive change considering that in 2021 there were 41 women, and in 2002, only 7.
2. Sexual harassment
According to EIGE sexual harassment is “any form of unwanted verbal, non-verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature occurs, with the purpose or effect of violating the dignity of a person, in particular when creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment.”
Sexual harassment is not something you would expect to happen in a professional setting. It seems that closed doors and power politics encourage this behavior, considering that 6 out of 10 women report being victims of sexual harassment or violence at the workplace.
3. Judgment based on appearance
Every person is unique, and to be truly ourselves, we must bring that uniqueness to the place of our employment. However, employers or colleagues judge books by their cover rather than their content. As such, they tend to make assumptions about people who are different or that they look a certain way. As long as the clothing or appearance is within the professional limits, the only point of discussion should be how they perform and not how they look.
4. Pregnancy and family
Unfortunately, even in 2022, pregnancy or the willingness to create a family is something negative for employers. This is probably where sexism in the workplace reaches a peak. Employers see women who are either pregnant or who think of having children as bad job candidates. They villainize maternity, an integral part of being a woman.
For this reason, women often have to lie or postpone bearing children to avoid missing out on their careers. Even though the EU protects maternity with Article 33 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, employers are inventive in their ways to circumvent that.
Is there sexism in the Greek workplace?
At first sight, Greece doesn’t look like it’s doing a great job regarding gender equality in society. In the European Gender Equality Index, Greece ranks last with a value of 52.5 when the 27-EU average is 68.
This index measures gender equality at work, money, knowledge, time, power, and Health. The best indicator for Greece was in the domain of health with 84.3 in comparison to the EU-27 average of 87.8. On the other hand, the lowest indicator that Greece has to seriously improve on is that of power. In that metric Greece only scores 27 points compared to the EU-27 average of 55, ranking second from bottom.
The power indicator is about gender equality in economic decision-making. It measures things like the share of female ministers, MEPs, members of the board, etc. This indicator is the perfect example of how sexism in the Greek workplace is alive in the form of the glass ceiling we talked about above.
To add insult to injury, in a 2020 research by ActionAid Hellas, it was found that 85% of Greek women faced sexual harassment at work. The industries that seem to be the worst in this regard are the tourism and service industries which are the country’s largest areas of employment.
22% of women in these sectors report having been victims of sexual assault or rape while at work, which is 13% of the general population. Further, 1 in 10 women report being victims of attempted assault, while 1 out of 5 have been sexually blackmailed. Unfortunately, of all these assaults in Greek workplaces, only 6% of Greek women said they reported the incident to the authorities.
The above disturbing statistics indicate that sexism in the Greek workplace is a nightmarish reality for many women in 2022. Sexual harassment, gender-based violence, and discrimination are directly linked to sexism which has a lot to do with power balance.
For this reason, those who are typically discriminated against in a workplace are employees with very little power. To this category typically belong young, inexperienced professionals, and especially women. This imbalance of power, coupled with sexist stereotypes and generalizations, leads to predatory practices like sexual harassment. Considering that Greece is almost rock bottom in gender equality in power, it is evident that the Greek work culture is a toxic environment with thriving sexism targeted mainly against women.
However, many things are currently being done in Greece to reverse the rampant sexism in society and the workplace. Have a look at FREASCO’s work in reducing sexism and sexual harassment at European schools.
FREASCO: Free from sexism and sexual harassment at school
FREASCO is an EU funded programme under the Rights, Equality and Citizenship Programme (REC) to tackle gender-based stereotypes and their consequences like sexual harassment and homophobic violence within educational institutions and universities.
By highlighting stereotypes as the main problem, FREASCO seeks to:
Specifically, this organizational self-assessment procedure will do the following:
This tool will be the first step in defining a “quality label” for schools and universities that meet basic requirements. The technique has significant parallels that are consistent with the goals of the organizational “gender audit.”
If you are also interested in gender equality and want to make an impact, you can contact us to discuss partnerships for EU funding on this topic. Finally, you can also read our social inclusion and human rights blogs to learn more about this important topic.