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Is sex discrimination a myth or do we deny it exists?
According to Kyle Smith, a contributor writing for Forbes: one or two surveys provide enough validation to claim that ‘sex bias…may be an urban legend of our time...'. But has he done his research? And what can research tell us about why women don't relate their experience regarding sex bias at work?
Smith cites the results from Gallup, a survey carried out in the US: approximately 2000 women were contacted by telephone and were asked specific questions about their situation at work: only 15% of women feel they lost out on a promotion or other opportunity at work and only 13% report being denied a raise because of their sex.
Perhaps if Smith spent a little more time studying the complexity of gender bias in the workplace, as opposed to focusing on how rare the low Gallup figures are by comparing them to 12% of Americans, last May, who believed the Mayan Apocalypse would be the end of the world, his article might help to deepen our understanding of gender issues at work as opposed to make light of them.
So why are these survey results from Gallup so low? And why, when women are asked specific questions about their personal situation at work, do they not appear to be ‘deprived’ compared to men, even though much research, for example from Bloomberg highlights the opposite is true?
According to Clayton and Crosby (1992) many different groups, including groups of women, who experience discrimination or difficulties are happy to report difficulties that relate to the group, but rarely relate personal difficulties. This phenomenon is described as the ‘denial of personal disadvantage’ by researchers. This is where a group member accepts the notion that the group as a whole is treated unfavourably but denies that she or he has been treated unfavourably.
According to Virginia Valian, author of Why So Slow: ‘What is not possible is that no individual has experienced discrimination even though the whole group has. Everyone, it appears, sees herself or himself as an exception’.