Continuing our Professional Development Series workshop profiles, we’ve recapped our “Gender Roles and Women in the Workplace” workshop as hosted by Jonathan Monslave and Stephanie Ahkter. Being policy analysts from the Council for State Government Justice Center, and representatives of both genders, Jonathan and Stephanie were able to lend legalistic credibility and a thorough perspective in clearing up a historically cloudy subject, prompting a productive dialogue with our varied participants.
Gender roles have progressed substantially in American history, from universal women’s suffrage in 1920 to a strong contender for first female president with Hilary Clinton – and due to such change and the gender stereotypes that many of our participants grew up with, it is an important topic for consideration. Using a series of different examples of workplace conduct, from role-playing how to be cautious when complimenting a female coworker’s shirt to shaking the hands of participants, the workshop hosts encouraged discourse through concrete examples. When Jonathan complimented Stephanie’s shirt, participants noted that he stared excessively at said region. When Jonathan and Stephanie shook each participant’s hand at the end, they proved exactly how sexist simple actions instinctively become by reminding participants that despite discussing gender roles in the workplace – they had still shaken Stephanie’s hand differently than Jonathan’s.
By the conclusion of the session, the group surmised that the definition of sexual harassment was “any unwelcome advance.” While the understanding of the gender dichotomy may have been different when the majority of participants were growing up, they were engaged and eager to understand current workplace dynamics and left with a fresh understanding of their own instinctive misassumptions and a better outlook as to appropriate workplace behavior.