Gender Diversity in Today’s Classroom and Workplace

Gender Diversity in the Office and Classroom

Gender diversity in the classroom, as well as gender diversity in the workplace, can play a role in our lives.

Gender Diversity in the Classroom

According to a report by the Center for Teaching Excellence, by the end of the 1990s, women began outnumbering men at U.S. colleges. They earn the majority of both bachelor’s and master’s degrees today and have since the end of the last century. Despite this, there are still obstacles to female students that carry through the classroom—and can manifest themselves later in the workplace. The same Center for Teaching Excellence study cites several other studies that examine classrooms, ranging from kindergarten through graduate school, and how teachers relate to male and female students. The studies found the following:

  • Teachers are more likely to call on male students
  • Teachers give male students longer to formulate an answer
  • Teachers provide more eye contact to male students
  • Teachers remember the names of male students better
  • Teachers call on male students more often for questions that require “higher order” critical thinking

How can we change the way gender diversity in the classroom today impacts the children of tomorrow? Classroom teachers can find creative ways to help make everyone feel included. For example, Gender Spectrum offers some unique ideas for educators to break down some traditional barriers. Skip lining up by boys and girls—instead, line up kids by odd and even birthdates or something equally creative. Find new and creative ways to talk to kids and turn challenges into something positive—always seek out new learning opportunities. The challenges of gender diversity in the classroom can lead to challenges that we see in the workplace.

Gender Diversity in the Workplace

According to the Women Matter 2016 study (Link will download PDF) by McKinsey & Company, if countries around the world narrow the gender gap in the global labor market, they could add $12 trillion to the global gross domestic product (GDP) by 2025. The study shows it would require tackling the part-time and unpaid work gaps for women and adding women to the high-productivity sectors, where they are currently underrepresented. Despite these astronomical numbers, however, the same report showed some fascinating facts (based on Western European nations):

  • Only 17% of Executive Committee members in Western Europe are women (up only 6% in the past four years)
  • 88% of employees do not believe their company is working to improve gender diversity
  • While most people seek top executive level positions in their lifetimes, only 25% of women believe they will ever become a top level executive
  • In Western Europe, women devote 2.1 times as much time to domestic tasks as their male counterparts who also work full time: 4.5 hours per day, compared to approximately 2.25 for men

Yet across the board, companies find that gender diversity is vital to a workplace. According to a Gallup study conducted in 2014, specifically on retail and hospitality industries, gender-diverse retail companies had 14% higher revenues than their less diverse competitors, while gender-diverse hospitality companies showed 19% higher revenues.

Increased revenues are only one advantage to a diverse workforce. “There are many advantages to having a diverse workplace,” says Annabelle Goodwin, PhD, LMFT Foundations Faculty in Marriage and Family Sciences in the School of Social and Behavioral Sciences at Northcentral University. “All forms of diversity will help to enhance the work environment as well as the work product. A few of the advantages of gender diversity in the workplace include the fact that a diverse workforce is more likely to represent the customer base. Additionally, including people from diverse backgrounds means that there will be more diversity in thought, values, and life experiences. When we have a diverse workforce, we broaden our approach to the work because of our differences in experience and context. When we enhance our diversity across the board, we bring different viewpoints, ideas, and problem-solving strategies.”

“Perhaps women are not receiving the same mentoring that men receive." - Dr. Goodwin

Despite these obvious advantages, women are still underrepresented in corporate America. In a McKinsey & Company and LeanIn.Org Women in the Workplace 2016 comprehensive study about the state of women in corporate America, it showed that gender diversity in the workplace is lagging. “Women are less likely to receive the first critical promotion to manager,” the report finds. This then leads far fewer women down the path to leadership and on toward those critical senior positions.

Goodwin believes that some of the issue has to do with the pipeline. “Perhaps women are not receiving the same mentoring that men receive. I wonder what would happen if more companies invested themselves in helping women to thrive in the work environment?” Goodwin asks rhetorically.

The McKinsey/LeanIn.Org report agrees with Goodwin. “Corporate America promotes men at 30 percent higher rates than women during their early career stages, and entry-level women are significantly more likely than men to have spent five or more years in the same role.”

“Another important piece of this puzzle is bias. How are women viewed as workers? Are their unique talents recognized and valued?” Goodwin points out that this issue is particularly sensitive when looking at women as negotiators. “One barrier to [women] negotiating is violating a social norm that women be agreeable and unassuming. They may fear that they will be punished for trying.”

Goodwin cites “Knowing When to Ask: The Cost of Leaning-in” by Exley, Niederle, and Vesterlund that found women are often directed to “lean in” and are criticized for not negotiating better. “The study actually found that women have some sophisticated strategies compared to their male colleagues. Specifically, women seem to have more awareness of when not to ask for more because, in some cases, the outcome can actually be worse for them,” explains Goodwin.

A factor that Goodwin mentions and that the McKinsey/LeanIn.Org report brings up is that the challenge of gender diversity in the workplace is even more difficult for women of color. According to McKinsey/LeanIn.Org, “Our research finds that, compared with white women, women of color face the most barriers and experience the steepest drop-offs with seniority despite having higher aspirations for becoming a top executive.”

Gender diversity in the classroom can lead to gender diversity in the workplace, but both must be part of a greater effort at both the corporate and government levels. It is also up to individuals to work toward better education, better mentorship, and a better understanding of how to change thought patterns, access for women to mentors and encouragement up the corporate pipeline.

Northcentral University celebrates diversity in education through our faculty and student body, which are located around the world. As a University, we embrace the value of equity in education and aim to maintain varied, inclusive representation among our faculty, team members and students. For more information, please check NCU’s Diversity Committee.

Northcentral University offers doctoral, master’s, and certificate programs in Psychology with gender diversity specializations. These programs can help provide psychologists, educators, business leaders, and others with the tools they need in offering greater understanding of the issues surrounding gender diversity in the classroom and gender diversity in the workplace.

For more information about our graduation rates, the median debt of students who completed programs, and other important information, please click here.