Stereotypes in Business

The same presentation but different speakers. Female speakers go first. The audience evaluates their speech as emotional. Then male speakers take their turn. Their speech is evaluated as authoritative. How is it possible that the same speech has such different perceptions? The answer is simple: gender stereotypes. The situation becomes even more complex if you take into account racial and cultural stereotypes. Although business communication aims to be inclusive, in many cases it does not meet that goal. Not necessarily it is done on purpose. However, it further exacerbates the vulnerable position of certain groups of people.

There are many gender and racial stereotypes in the workplace. They are often used in internal communication regardless of the fact how discriminatory and unfair they are. This could lead to a lack of encouragement, education and awareness of opportunities, which could negatively affect professional growth. Gender and racial stereotypes which have become part of a company’s culture can also affect the well-being of employees who are stereotyped. On many occasions, they feel that they are perceived through discriminatory lenses. That leads to their dissatisfaction with the company’s culture, which in turn decreases their performance.    

It is a common practice to train employees on behviour in target international markets. If this training is based on cultural stereotypes, it can harm one’s business. For example, Italian cultural norms accept ‘considerably looser timing’ compared to American norms. However, that does not mean that all Italians tolerate late meetings or vendors who are not punctual. Businesses which organize training based on cultural stereotypes risk offending their clients and losing some profit. Any training should be culturally sensitive to conduct business in a respectful manner.

Due to gender stereotypes, women are often prevented from participating in international assignments. Research shows that male-only networks might be responsible for establishing gender stereotypes as the norm and cultivating negative attitudes and prejudices towards female managers. It has been discovered that if women had better access to male-dominated networks, they could get senior positions and participate in international management more easily. These findings show that gender stereotypes hinder the career of women. They are often perceived as being less capable of taking a senior role despite their work experience and qualifications. 

There is a tendency among multinational companies to automatically assign Asian looking employees to assignments in the Asia region without properly checking if they have the right competences for the job. Cultural stereotypes put them at a disadvantage. In many cases, they are 3rd or 4th generation descendants of Asian immigrants who no longer speak the local language, while their managers think that they are actually deceiving them. This perception can negatively affect the assignment. There is also a risk of harming relations with one’s target audience if only looks determine who is assigned to the job.  

Anger is a common emotion in the workplace. Research shows that when black women are angry, their anger is often attributed to their personality rather than the situation. The angry black woman stereotype, penetrating American culture, characterizes black women as “more hostile, aggressive, overbearing, illogical, ill-tempered and bitter”. It is believed that it prevents black women from realizing their full potential in the workplace. They are severely underrepresented in leadership positions. They need to put more effort to prove that they are capable of taking a demanding role and reaching the targets. 

References:  Keith Evans, | Exaptica, | Daphna Motro et al.,