to Cope with Second-Generation Gender Bias in Male-Dominated Occupations

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015
Momoko Kitada, Erin Williams and Lisa Loloma Froholdt (eds.)Maritime Women: Global LeadershipWMU Studies in Maritime Affairs310.1007/978-3-662-45385-8_16

How to Cope with Second-Generation Gender Bias in Male-Dominated Occupations

Pınar Özdemir  and Taner Albayrak1

Maritime Faculty, Piri Reis University, Istanbul, Turkey



Pınar Özdemir


It is often discussed that if a person works in a job dominated by the opposite gender, gender-related challenges are likely to arise. For example, women tend to experience difficulties in male-dominated occupations, because they have to cope with the bias set for them because of their gender. It may be less difficult to eliminate bias the women directly face, but additional action must be taken to cope with the so-called second-generation gender bias, which means, unlike intentional and obvious (first-generation) gender bias, invisible customs and practices in an organization that look neutral, but appear to hold women back and prevent them from reaching their full potential. On the other hand, rising to top positions is hard in male-dominated sectors, because of not only the bias in question, but also the glass ceiling that is always there for them. In this study, the hardships women are likely to meet in male-dominated occupations are taken into consideration with an emphasis on the maritime sector and a model to overcome second-generation gender bias and break the glass ceiling that is preventing women from rising to top positions, is suggested. The model, which is a combination of mentoring and participative leadership, is outlined after examining the steps taken to promote the roles of women in the maritime sector.

Career pathsDouble bindsMentoringParticipative leadershipSecond-generation gender bias

1 Introduction

The research conducted by Blades and Pearson (2005), which covered occupations available for the European members of the OECD and the United States and obtained in 2004, show that at least half of all working women are in 11 of the 110 occupations, while half of the men work in more than 20 of them. This suggests that women tend to enter a more restricted range of professions than men do. According to the same data, the number of men working in the maritime sector is 52 times more than the number of women working in the same sector.

Women who work in male-dominated occupations tend to ‘face challenges that differ from those who work in more gender-balanced and female-dominated occupations. These challenges affect their retention and career success. The challenges women face in attempting to penetrate successfully, and persevere in historically male-dominated work environments, emanate from traditional gender hierarchies and norms that prevail in the family and society’ (Martin and Barnard 2013). Despite gender equality and empowerment, the household unit tends to have a traditional structure in general, that makes males the dominant gender. ‘Women who defy conventional female career patterns and choose to pursue careers in male-dominated occupations, often return to careers that accommodate their roles as primary care-givers better’ (Martin and Barnard 2013).

The research (Warren 2009) has found that ‘talent-management systems in male-dominated jobs are frequently vulnerable to pro-male biases, that inevitably result in less diverse employee pools. Because senior leadership teams, which tend to be dominated by men, set the tone for talent management norms, masculine stereotypes can creep into human resource tools. Employees who meet criteria (potentially based on masculine stereotypes) are selected for promotion and/or tapped as future leaders and/or offered developmental opportunities. Because male-dominated industries and occupations tend to be particularly vulnerable to masculine stereotypes due to lack of diversity, women may find excelling in these industries or occupations to be particularly difficult’ (Catalyst 2013).

2 Second Generation Gender Bias

Unlike first-generation gender discrimination, which is intentional acts of bias against women, women in today’s workforce, especially those working in traditionally male-dominated fields such as the maritime environment, are experiencing a much more camouflaged foe-second-generation gender biases that are impeding their advancement and adding stress to their lives. ‘According to researchers (Trefault et al. 2011) at the Center for Gender in Organizations (CGO), second-generation gender biases are “work cultures and practices that appear neutral and natural on their face”, yet they reflect masculine values and life situations of men who have been dominant in the development of traditional work settings. These deeply entrenched gender-biased dynamics exist in our culture, norms, and organizational practices and directly affect hiring decisions, promotion, and salaries’ (Carter 2011). Second-generation gender bias involves ‘social practices and patterns of interaction among groups within workplace, that, over time, exclude non-dominant groups. Exclusion is frequently difficult to trace directly to intentional, discrete actions of particular actors, and may sometimes be visible only in the aggregate’ (Sturm 2001).

Second-generation bias does not ‘necessarily produce direct, immediate harm to any individual. Rather, it creates a context in which women fail to thrive or reach their full potential. Feeling less connected to one’s male colleagues, being advised to take a staff role to accommodate family, finding oneself excluded from consideration for key positions—all these situations reflect work structures and practices that put women at a disadvantage’ (Ibarra et al. 2013).

An article published in Harvard Business Review in September, 2013 (Ibarra et al. 2013) does not focus on deliberate exclusion of women, but focuses on investigating “second-generation” forms of gender bias as the primary cause of women’s persistent underrepresentation in leadership roles. ‘This bias erects powerful, but subtle and often invisible barriers for women, that arise from cultural assumptions and organized structures, practices and patterns of interaction that inadvertently benefit men, while putting women at a disadvantage’ (Ibarra et al. 2013). According to Ibarra et al. (2013), invisible barriers for women include: a paucity of role models for women; gendered career paths and gendered work; women’s lack of access to networks and sponsors; and double binds.

A Paucity of Role Models for Women

There are not many women role models for the women. This discourages women from working in male-dominated occupations. They have no one to depend on when they need advice or support. What’s more, they think they will be hindered by the glass ceiling, and no matter how hard they work, they won’t be promoted to top positions.

Gendered Career Paths and Gendered Work

Once there were not as many women in the work force as there are now. At that time, all the organizational structures and work force were designed to meet the needs of men. There is a tendency in the organizations to reward the heroic work, usually performed by men, and undervalue the backstage work usually done by women.

‘These practices were not designed to be discriminatory, but their cumulative effect disadvantages women and a vicious cycle ensues: Men appear to be best suited to leadership roles, and this perception propels more of them to seek and attain such positions, thus reinforcing the notion that they are simply better leaders’ (Ibarra et al. 2013).

Women’s Lack of Access to Networks and Sponsors

Networks in an organization are particularly important for people aiming for top positions. Unfortunately, women have a lesser chance to access influential networks in male-dominated organizations. This prevents them from reaching prominent people and getting important information beforehand. They are less likely to find sponsors or mentors in the organizations, because people have a tendency to choose the people of the same gender to work with and to sponsor.

Double Binds

Some features are closely linked by the genders and positions in an organization. The qualities linked to the men are decisiveness, assertiveness and independence, which are also connotated with the leaders. On the other hand, the features linked by the women are niceness, unselfishness and altruism, which contradict the qualities a leader is supposed to have.

Ibarra et al. (2013) state that ‘women who excel in traditionally male domains, are often viewed as competent, but less likable than their male counterparts. Behaviours, which are seen as self-confidence and assertiveness in men, often appear arrogant or abrasive in women’. On the other hand, women behaving in a feminine style in positions of authority are liked, but not respected.

‘For women, the difficulty of penetrating historically male-dominated occupations, coupled with the unwillingness to accommodate them in those occupations, makes the environment unattractive for enticing substantial numbers of women into these fields and retaining them there. Further, a lack of understanding of the challenges that women face, and how they cope in these environments, may add to the poor integration and advancement of women in historically male-dominated occupations’ (Martin and Barnard 2013).

3 Challenges Faced by Women in the Maritime Sector

Working on board a ship is one of the most challenging jobs a woman does, due to its traditional nature as a male-dominated occupation. There are 1.25 million sailors in the world and only 2 % of them are women. Of this number, 51.2 % come from OECD countries. In the remaining 48.8 %, women in Eastern European countries have a 23.6 % share, while women in Far Eastern countries represent 13.7 % and those in Latin America, Africa and Middle East countries have a 11.5 % share (Deniz Haber Ajansı 2006).

As in all other male-dominated jobs, women in the maritime sector tend to experience a number of challenges, some of which arise from the bias, and some of which do not. In the scope of this study, an online search was made to identify problems of women working in the maritime sector. A wide range of interviews given by the women in the maritime sector were searched through the internet and scanned to determine what the underlying problems they are likely to meet. As a result, ten major challenges, which are listed below, have been revealed:


Not being able to rise to the top positions;

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