Research finds women 'turn inward' when they experience ambiguous workplace incidents

That gender discrimination is wrong is beyond argument. But identifying which incidents are cases of it is not always so clear cut. That's why researchers are recommending that organizations develop processes that encourage workers to share their concerns when they suspect but aren't sure that they have experienced discriminatory treatment based on their gender.

While employees may want to keep suspicions to themselves for fear of reprisal if they're mistaken, the consequences of doing so carry risks to workplace culture and performance, the researchers say.

"Not every ambiguous incident is discriminatory—some are simply misunderstandings," says researcher Laura Doering, an associate professor of strategic management at the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management.

"In order to adjudicate between discrimination and misunderstandings, we suggest that organizations look for patterns. Are people repeatedly sharing concerns about the same person or situation? If so, it's worth investigating as possible cases of discrimination."



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