Career fear: Driving characteristic of a male-coded workplace

What needs to change in the male-coded workplace?

The male-coded workplace is defined by several characteristics that discourage female participation, and career fear is at the heart of it.

Our current workplaces were built by men for men. In historical terms, women have entered the organisational fray only relatively recently. It is therefore hardly surprising that male values and norms dominate our workplace cultures. We measure success and failure against these values and use them as benchmarks for career progression.

But what are these values that contribute to and define organisational culture?

Characteristics of a male-coded workplace

There are a number of characteristics of a male-coded workplace. Yet all are under-pinned by career fear and gender-based expectations and stereotypes.

Total commitment

Showing total commitment is the hall mark of an ambitious and successful corporate executive. It is accompanied by a willingness to sacrifice personal and family time and goals. In today’s digital age, presenteeism and connectivity pushes men towards excessive hours. This has an impact on physical and mental health, causing burnout, depression and even suicide.

In the European Union, 77% of reported suicide cases in 2015  involved men. Male gender roles tend to emphasise greater levels of strength, independence, risk-taking behaviour, control of emotions, economic and social success, and individualism. Reinforcement of gender roles and expectations often prevents men from sharing details of their emotional state or from seeking help.

Ironically the 40 hour working week was instituted to protect lower paid and less qualified workers. But today this has changed. Long hours are associated with a successful professional career. In today’s “presence culture,” overwork is the new norm. It is perceived as a badge of honour and resilience by some. We have seen the emergence of a culture of long hours. Employees are expected to be “on call” with a willingness to be available 24/7/365. It is viewed as part of the golden conveyor to career success.

Amy told us how her boss became frustrated with her because she didn’t answer emails at the weekend, when she was on holiday in the Caribbean with a six hour time difference. “It was a routine matter which could have waited until Monday or even my return from holiday.”

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