Training Course for HUGS Employees: Creating Awareness of Gender Issues in the Workplace

Helping Us Grow Stronger, or HUGS, is a non-for-profit corporation for adults who are suffering from mental illnesses. These community day centers exist all over the United States. The clients, or the individuals attending this day program, require some daily assistance and are not able to live fully functional lives on their own at that point in time. HUGS offers a variety of activities during the day such as support groups, physical activity, other types of activity groups, current events, local outings, sheltered workshop groups, and free lunch and transportation. HUGS has been around for 20 years and has been a great source for the many adults suffering from mental illnesses who have attended.

The HUGS community day center in Baltimore, Maryland currently has 38 clients who attend this center on a daily basis with some of them coming and going as they recover and are able to move on. In addition, this specific center is made up of 30 employees with different types of backgrounds, races, cultures, etc. Unfortunately, there have been some recent observations, concerns, and experiences regarding gender issues that have been brought up by a few of the employees. Because of these recent issues, consulting psychologists with years of experience in the gender field have been brought in.

Twelve employees of HUGS were interviewed, after volunteering, and allowed to report their observations, concerns, and experiences to these consulting psychologists. Employees brought up a number of gender-related issues. Among them were such topics as sexualharassment, pay disparity, and power differences. To address these gender related issues, and to increase awareness of what can be done about them, these consulting psychologists have devised a training program for the 12 employees that work in this specific center of HUGS. In addition, this training course consists of eight weeks of sessions with each week focusing on a different topic pertaining to gender issues in the workplace. This goal of these various sessions is to increase the comfort of the employees, both men and women, of HUGS, in the workplace and bring to attention ways in which these gender issues can be resolved.

Female Participants

Beth is a 28 year old Caucasian woman who is the assistant program director of this center in Baltimore, Maryland. Beth has been with HUGS for three years, originally starting out as a group leader. She was promoted in less than a year to the assistant program director by Bob, the program director. Per Beth: Ever since I began working at HUGS, Bob has been making subtle gestures and comments in my direction such as winking and saying things such as “sweetheart.” I addressed my feelings with him that these things made me feel uncomfortable and he responded by saying that he can promote me to the assistant program director if I didn’t say anything. I am making a lot more money than I thought I would be here so I wasn’t hesitant to take the position. However, I am having second doubts now as these gestures and comments are beginning to worsen.

Audrey is a 32 year old Caucasian woman who helps to run the activity groups. She has been running activity groups at this HUGS center for five years now and enjoys her time there helping the clients. She has recently been chatting with another male employee about pay, although this has been advised not to do. Per Audrey: I don’t want to say any names, but a male coworker and I have been chatting about our pay rates and his is much higher than mine. However, he has been there for only a year and I have put in five years of my times into this company. We have the same experience and educational backgrounds, so it’s a bit frustrating.

Gwen is a 27 year old African American woman who also helps to run the activity groups. She has had much experience working as a group leader in the mental health field and has much to offer to HUGS. So far, Gwen has been working at this center for a little over two years. Per Gwen: I think everything goes great around here but I have some suggestions based on things that have worked in my past experiences. I have brought up my suggestions in multiple team meetings but none of the higher-ups seems to take them seriously.

Evelyn is a 41 year old Caucasian woman who is the secretary at this center. Evelyn has been with HUGS for 12 years and really enjoys working as the secretary. Per Evelyn: I really like my work here and I think the other staff members feel as if they can really rely on me as their secretary. However, some of the younger men seem to like to whistle at me as they walk past. I know it’s nothing serious, but I feel as if since I am holding a stereotypically female job, that they feel as if they have control over me and that I am seen as inferior to them because of this.

Penny is a 20 year old Caucasian woman who is a psychology student intern at this HUGS center. She is in the process of obtaining her bachelor’s degree in psychology from a small local university and is in the middle of her six month long internship here. Per Penny: I have quite enjoyed my time here with HUGS so far and I have learned a lot about mental health in general. However, I have a strong interest in physical activity as it relates to mental health and my internship coordinator continues to place me as a leader in social skills and craft groups. It’s not that I don’t think these things are important, but my interest really lies within another area and I would really like to gain experience in that area. I have spoken to my internship coordinator a few times and he is friendly yet somewhat hesitant to allow me a part in the physical activity groups. Also, another one of the group leaders, Hector, is often looking and staring at me from across the room. It makes me very uncomfortable.

Rosa is a 35 year old Hispanic woman who is in charge of the cleaning and laundry at this center. Rosa has been with HUGS for just under 10 years and has remained in the same position with a similar wage to when she first began. Per Rosa: When I first came to America I applied for my position with HUGS and was immediately hired for the cleaning and laundry position, with hopes of moving up in positions. Since I have been working here I have been a great employee – I am always on time, I am friendly to everyone, and the clients really seem to like me. I feel as if I can offer more to this company but the higher-ups seem uncertain about this. Perhaps it’s because I am from Mexico.

Male Participants

Bob is a 45 year old Caucasian man who is the program director of this center in Baltimore, Maryland. Bob has been with HUGS for over 20 years now, starting out as a group leader and moving up quickly in promotions. It is evident that he has conformed to the traditional gender role attitude and this has carried over into his position at this center. Per Bob: I am the program director here at HUGS so I am in charge of basically everything, except for the CEO of the company of course. I know who the best people for each of our positions here are but other employees are coming up to me at times and asking for raises, promotions, different positions, etc. It makes me mad to know that certain employeesdon’t trust my judgment. Beth, my assistant program director is basically the only woman who listens to me and will do anything I ask of her.

Spencer is a 39 year old Caucasian man who is the Human Resources Manager of this center. He has been with HUGS for eight years now and has been promoted a few years ago from group leader to Human Resources Manager. Per Spencer: I like working at HUGS and I enjoy working with all of my co-workers. As Human Resources Manager, I am here to improve the performance of the other employees and improve their comfort level here at HUGS. I have noticed another female employee appears to be depressed lately but every time I go up to her to try and talk and figure out what’s going on, she says she fine. Her performance has remained the same, but because of my job title, it’s my duty to address these kinds of issues.

Isaac is a 26 year old Asian man who helps to run the activity groups. He has been with HUGS for two years now and has been going through some difficult times at home due to taking care of his sick father. Per Isaac: My time here at HUGS has been a great experience thus far. However, I am dealing with a few things at home that are causing me to feel a bit down lately. I have tried to address my issue with the Human Resources Manager, but he simply told me to man up and I will get through it.

Kyle is a 38 year old Caucasian man who does the cooking for this center and steps in at times to help run activity groups.Kyle is also homosexual. Kyle has been with HUGSfor 15 years so far and the clients absolutely love him and the fun he brings to this center. Per Kyle: I love my job here at HUGS and I consider it a career here. I think I bring a great attitude to this place and I would love to be the group leader supervisor one day. Others have been promoted and hired for this position that have been here less time than me and I am starting to wonder if it is my sexual orientation that is holding them back.

Hector is a 30 year old Hispanic man who helps to run the activity groups. He has been with HUGS for four years now and is often very quiet. Per Hector: I like working here but I sometimes get negative comments from some of the younger women. They often say I have a staring problem but I really have not noticed that.

Ezekiel is a 23 year old African American man who is a psychology student intern. He has recently started a couple of months ago for his yearlong graduate student internship in counseling psychology. Per Ezekiel: I have adjusted well so far to HUGS and have had a great experience here just within the last couple of months. My focus is in counseling psychology and I would love to run some of the support-type groups. For some reason I have been placed in charge of current events groups and physical activity groups. I have addressed this issue with my internship coordinator here at HUGS multiple times but nothing has come of it yet.

Training Course

Based on the interviews between these 12 employees of HUGS and the consulting psychologists, the consulting psychologists devised the following eight sessions to be completed over a period of eight weeks to address the found issues related to gender. Each session will of course lead to more appropriate interactions, tolerance of differences, and how to approach problems relating to gender in the workplace.

Session One

The focus of Session One will be Gender Stereotypes in the workplace. The objective for this session is to make employees aware of the gender stereotypes that exist at work and to make them aware of the implications for these gender stereotypes. Women and men are seen differently based on their abilities and this could lead to stereotype threat, which is the negative effect of stereotypes and labeling on one’s performance based on their gender (Helgeson, 2012, p. 196). This session will create a general awareness of these things as these issues are oftentimes hiding in the shadows. This session will be primarily a group discussion of stereotypes such as one that would take place within a school classroom, including each employee’s opinion of what counts as a stereotype and what can be done to reduce stereotypes in the workplace. The employee, Spencer, has brought attention to this gender issue as he is stereotyping against women vs. men in the diagnosis of depression. Depression is often seen as a “feminine” disorder and Spencer demonstrates his stereotype of this.

A website that goes along with this training session for the employees is: This particular website includes everything and anything that relates to help and guidance for mental and physical health, including gender related issues at the workplace. This page in particular focuses on some of the gender stereotypes that exist at work, which are shown to be different for women and men. Other viewers of this particular page have rated the information as accurate and helpful.

Two journal articles that the employees will be provided with regarding this training session are Occupational Stereotypes: Activation of Male Bias in a Gender-Neutral World is about how using gender-neutral language rather than male-biased language can buffer against the use and abuse of female stereotypes upon mention of a female employee or co-worker (Lassonde& O’Brien, 2013). And, Is the Ratio of Women to Men a Powerful Determinant? is about how traditionally male-orientated jobs vs. traditionally female-oriented jobs tend to carry more gender stereotypes about the same and opposite gender (Adachi, 2013).

Session Two

The focus of Session Two will be Ambivalent Sexism in the workplace. The objective for this session is to aid the employees in understanding sexism and that there are multiple kinds of sexism. Both hostile and benevolent sexism can take place at work, but both of them can lead to negative attitudes about women (Helgeson, 2012, p. 71). After this session, employees will be able to identify and describe each type of sexism and list examples that would fall under each. In this session, each male will be randomly paired up with a female after a brief discussion of what each type of sexism means. Each partner will have to verbalize to the other a type of hostile sexism and a type of benevolent sexism that they have experienced at the workplace within their lifetime.All names will remain anonymous. Then, each partner will have the opportunity to rotate to another partner so that each person will have the opportunity to discuss their experiences with each other person of the opposite gender. Bob, the program director has brought to attention this gender related issue of sexism by believing that he is superior to women.

A website that goes along with this training session for the employees is: This website is from the Equal Rights Advocates, which is an organization designed to improve the image of women and girls in society in addition to advocating for them to have equal opportunities. This particular webpage in this website focuses on the discrimination that women face at work, including various definitions, examples, resources, and what can be done about it.

Two journal articles that the employees will be provided with regarding this training session are: When Female Applicants Meet Sexist Interviewers: The Costs of Being a Target of Benevolent Sexism is about how male interviewers with ambivalent sexism negatively impact the hiring of women based on competence, ratings, and hierability (Good, & Rudman, 2010). And, The Emotional Impact of Ambivalent Sexism: Forecasts Versus Real Experiences is about the impact of interpretations of ambivalent sexism – in fact, it states that women often underestimate the negative impact that benevolent sexism can have on their work performance even though benevolent sexism sounds more positive than hostile sexism (Bosson, Pinel, & Vandello, 2010).

Session Three

The focus of Session Three will be Sexual Harassment in the workplace. The objective for this session is to identify behaviors and actions that fall under the category of sexual harassment in addition to reducing these behaviors and actions. There are different types of sexual harassment that can occur in the workplace and it can be defined differently by different individuals (Helgeson, 2012, p. 475 & 476). Again, a discussion will begin this session in addition to any employee who would like to share a story of sexual harassment if they have encountered it within their place of work. And again, all names will remain anonymous. Following, a series of training videos will be viewed by the employees about sexual harassment in the workplace and the types of things that can be done to fix this. Beth in particular has brought to attention this issue, as she believes a case of sexual harassment is currently happening to her at HUGS.

A website that goes along with this training session for the employees is: This website is the website for the American Association of University Women and is all about advocacy for women, including a range of topics that pertain to their education, research, and the voice that they have today. This particular page includes information on understanding women’s rights in the workplace that are related to sexual harassment.

Two journal articles that the employees will be provided with regarding this training session are: Impact of Work Experience on Attitudes toward Sexual Harassment is about various theories that explain the gender differences in perception of what counts as sexual harassment in the workplace and what does not (Konrad, & Gutek, 1986). And, Sexual Harassment Training: Recommendations to Address Gaps between the Practitioners and Research Literatures is about how there should exist a bridge between practitioner literature and actual research literature as the two are very different; in addition, there are suggestions for the human resources personal along the lines of improving the training quality for the sexual harassment training in the workplace (Perry, Kulik, & Field, 2009).

Session Four

The focus of Session Four will be Pay Disparity in the workplace. The objective for this session is to identify the discrimination involved in the workplace between men and women involving the pay disparity. There are many differences in the wage gap that exists for genders, cultures, and ages (Helgeson, 2012, p. 461). A discussion on the pay disparity will start off the session and the possible reasons behind it will be explained. Employees will have an opportunity to share and then will read a packet and answer questions about their reading that pertain to this pay disparity. This reading and the questions will consist of general information about the wage gap in addition to vignette scenarios regarding anonymous people. The vignette scenarios will be read and employees will have a chance to analyze the situations. Everyone will have the opportunity to share their ideas at the end.

A website that goes along with this training session for the employees is: This is another webpage from the American Association of University Women. This specific page focuses on how women can fight for the same pay that men have. There are a variety of facts and blogs about the pay disparity in addition to what can be done to change this gap.

Two journal articles that the employees will be provided with regarding this training session are: The Gender Wage Gap among Young Adults in the United States is about some of the various factors that may account for the differences in earnings at work between men and women, with the importance of money vs. work being a strong factor (Fortin, 2008). The Sexual Orientation Wage Gap: The Role of Occupational Sorting and Human Capital is about how human capitol along the lines of education has a greater impact then the type or title of the job on the gender pay disparity, as was studied on heterosexual and homosexual people (Antecol, Jong, & Steinberger, 2008).

Session Five

The focus of Session Five will be the Glass Ceiling Effect in the workplace. The objective for this session is to bring to attention the glass ceiling effect that occurs in the workplace and some ways in which this effect can be reduced. Women in organizations often face barriers to advancements in the organizations in which they work (Helgeson, 2012, p. 459).

This session will consist of a discussion of the glass ceiling effects and a series of identifications of various job positions in order to test each employee’s perceptions of how positions are often gendered and labeled. In addition, each employee will have the opportunity to lead a blind mock interviewof another employee for various job positions in order to decide who they should “hire.” Voices of each employee will be skewed with so that gender bias does not occur. This drill will allow each employee to judge the interviewees based on experience and skill set rather than gender. The purpose is to be an eye opener for who really qualifies for each employee. Rosa has brought the glass ceiling effect to attention by showing that she has potential and great experience but perhaps because of her gender and culture, she has remained in the same position for years without a promotion.

A website that goes along with this training session for the employees is: This website is from the Feminist Majority Foundation, which is all about advocacy and equality for women. This specific webpage looks at how women can be empowered at their place of work. More specifically, in-depth information on the glass ceiling effect that still remains in workplaces today.

Two journal articles that the employees will be provided with regarding this training session are: Glass Ceiling? What Glass Ceiling? A Qualitative Study of How Women View the Glass Ceiling in Public Relations and Communication Management is about identifying the factors that contribute to the glass ceiling effect that exists for women in the workplace in addition to identifying some of the strategies that can be used to overcome this effect (Wrigley, 2002). And, Bosses’ Perceptions of Family-Work Conflict and Women’s Promotability: Glass Ceiling Effects if abouthow bosses’ perceive women to have more conflict in their work-family roles and thus, are less able to promote and hire women for higher status jobs (Hoobler, Wayne, & Lemmon, 2009).

Session Six

The focus of Session Six will be on Gender and Culture within the workplace. The objective for this session is to identify and discuss cultural and diversity issues that relate to differences at work such as gender roles, workplace values, and definitions of each culture. For instance, one culture may put more emphasis on family and therefore, call out of work more for family issues. After this session, each employee will have a better understanding of where each culture is coming from regarding workplace decisions. This session will consist of a discussion of cultural differences, readings of actual happenings that have occurred relating to cultural discrimination within the workplace, and a sharing of opinions on this matter at the end of the session. Statistics will be provided about the cultures standings and positions within various workplaces. Kyle, because of his homosexual lifestyle, which can be considered a cultural difference in a sense, has brought attention to the discrimination that has been taking place within this HUGS center due to his lack of promotion although he has gained quite a bit of experience. Perhaps the person in charge of his promotion is discriminating against his homosexual lifestyle.

A website that goes along with this training session for the employees is: This website is from the International Women’s Development Agency, Inc., which is an agency based in Australia that focuses on women’s rights and equality in addition to bringing attention to cultural differences and similarities. This specific page on this website narrows down on the issues that workplaces face regarding gender and differences in cultures, including statistics and further resources.

Two journal articles that the employees will be provided with regarding this training session are: Contextual Influence on Work and Family Roles: Gender, Culture, and Socioeconomic Factors is about the frameworks for international populations and cultures in addition to gender as it relates to workplace sensitivity (Perrone-McGovern, Wright, Howell, & Barnum, 2014). And, The More Things Change, the More they stay the same: Gender, Culture, and College Students’ Views about Work and Family is about how less acculturated students were more likely to uphold the traditional belief that women should stay home with the children rather than work, in addition to the idea that mothers’ views regarding employment greatly influenced children’s roles about female vs. male employment outside of the home (Goldberg, Kelly, Matthews, Kang, Li, & Sumaroka, 2012).

Session Seven

The focus of Session Seven will be Mental and Physical Health Relating to Gender in the workplace. The objective for this session is to bring awareness to the mental and physical health as it pertains to gender differences, at work. As always, the session will be begin with a discussion of how mental and physical health is seen by each gender and how it affects the workplace. Each employee will complete an online module that takes them through a series of scenarios as they pertain to mental and physical health in the workplace. Each scenario will consist of various decisions that must be made and problems that must be solved that relate back to gender, such as the how to approach someone who is suffering from depression. This exercise will allow each employee to delve deep into the aspects of health and confront any stereotypes or feelings that relate back to this. The employee, Isaac, has brought attention to this issue, specifically, due to his recent suffering of depression. The Human Resources Manager does not seem to be concerned with Isaac’s case because he perhaps does not believe that men can suffer from depression because they are supposed to be “masculine” and depression is not a “masculine” thing.

A website that goes along with this training session for the employees is: This webpage stems from the European Agency for Safety and Health Work, which is about making the workplace safer for people of all ages, genders, cultures, etc. and to improve the working conditions in Europe. This specific page focuses on the female gender at work and how they are difference from men along the lines of health. In addition, there are further references and publications that are available on this topic.

Two journal articles that the employees will be provided with regarding this training session are: The Relationships between Mothers’ Work Pathways and Physical and Mental Health is about how women tend to have better health when working full-time and continuously after the birth of their first children than women who didn’t work at all or worked part-time and/or not continuously (Frech, & Damaske, 2012). And, Its Peoples Whole Lives: Gender, Class, and Emotion Work of User Involvement in Mental Health Services is about how experience and display of emotion at work was different in men vs. women, which has contributed to the male-dominated workforce (Lewis, 2012).

Session Eight

The focus of Session Eight will be Relationships in the workplace. The objective for this session is to help employees realize that healthy and appropriate relationships/friendships can exist at work and to improve understanding and ways of relating to others at work. This session is also a way of summing up everything that has been learned in the previous sessions by applying the new found knowledge to an actual situation relating to relationships and friendships at work. In this session, a brief discussion followed by the creation of a presentation in groups of six will occur. Three women and three men will make up each group to create this presentation on gender issues at work and present it to two other workplaces or companies in their community. With this project, the employees will have a chance to demonstrate that they understand what they have learned in this training course in addition to showing that with healthy communication and interaction, women and men can work appropriately together in relationships as a team. Evelyn has brought to attention the issue of inappropriate and unhealthy relationships at this HUGS center. Other’s feel as if they can rely on her, but oftentimes place all of their specific work on her because it is considered “feminine” work. In addition, many of the men are inappropriate with her, showing these inappropriate and unhealthy relationships that exist.

A website that goes along with this training session for the employees is: This website is all about having inappropriate and healthy relationships at work, as it is called Positive Relationships at Work. They have a variety of interests relating to this topic such as creating awareness of resources that exist, research and studies, and having face to face meetings about what can be done to better their mission on building more supportive and positive relationships at the workplace.

Two journal articles that the employees will be provided with regarding this training session are: Relationships between Telecommuting Workers and their Managers: An Exploratory Study is about the various relationships that may occur between women and men in those with telecommuting jobs (Reinsch, 1997). And, Between You and Me: Setting Work-Nonwork Boundaries in the Context of Workplace Relationships is abouthow work on the setting of boundaries between men and women in the workplace can in fact have a positive impact on the various types of relationships that occur in the workplace (Trefalt, 2013).

Final Training Report

After this training course, the 12 employees of this HUGS center will have gained the knowledge and the skills that will help them to be effective in their contributions to work regarding gender issues. Among these are included respect, awareness of gender issues, and a more equal, balanced, and comfortable working environment. After these training sessions are completed, there are six recommendations for employees to address at this place of work.

One of these changes is specific to the human resources department; specifically, the Human Resources Manager. Human resources personnel are in charge of increasing the effectiveness of the company and therefore, overseeing the well-being of the employees, which includes guidance. The change that is recommended is to reduce the gender stereotypes and sexism that is now occurring at HUGS. The Human Resources Manager will be made aware of these issue with this training program and now, be more conscientious of what is said and what types of actions are made. For instance, more guidance will be provided to employees for mental health issues regardless of gender. In addition, more monitoring of sexist attitudes of other employees will be enforced on a stricter basis so that the issue will be able to be addressed right away.

The second change is that an employee improvement meeting will be held once a month for one hour. This meeting with consist of all of the employees and 100% honesty. In this meeting, everyone will sit around in a circle and each individual will bring one thing to the table that they want to address or one improvement that they have noticed in the workplace. The primary focus of this meeting will be gender and cultural related issues, but may broaden out as time goes on as gender and cultural factors improve.

The third change is a recommendation to have a “three strikes and you’re out” policy.Several employees at this center at HUGS have reported uncomfortable feelings from other employees including sexist remarks, sexual/cultural harassment, and sexism in general. There are all adults working in this center and each employee will be trusted with being honest about their report. The basis of this change is to remove the employees who are not following the rules and who refuse to conform to the company’s policy about gender and cultural equality. This policy would state that each employee has the opportunity, if they feel they are being a victim of sexual/cultural harassment or sexism, to report the person who is the perpetrator.Basically, when one perpetrator gets three reports – whether they are by the same person or different people – their case will be looked into and possible termination or counseling may result. This recommendation shows that there is a zero tolerance for this type of behavior.

The fourth change is a recommendation to have each employees’ position looked at, in addition to their experience, pay rate, and satisfaction. Because certain employees were concerned about pay and promotions due to gender and/or culture, this issue is central in removing any discrimination based on gender and/or culture. The goal here is to have employees who enjoy their jobs, are satisfied, and feel as if they are being treated as equally as everyone else. For example, if an employee has been at this particular HUGS center for years without a raise and is making a significant amount less than someone of the opposite gender who has been there for the same amount of time, some type of action is recommended to be taken. With employee satisfaction comes better service to the clients at HUGS as well as more fulfilled and content employees who will be willing to give it their all.

The fifth change isa recommendation for further training sessions, but less intense as this present one. These further training sessions will consist of an online workshop once per month with various topics such as those that the training sessions included in this one. Each month will be featured a different topic that is related to a gender issue that is common to workplaces in general. Consistency and repetition of information is often the best way to learn information and to retain it. Therefore, further learning on these topics will continue to provide information and knowledge about these types of issues to the employees of HUGS.

The sixth and last change that is recommended for the company of HUGS to include in their program is to have anonymous counseling services available to their employees. Because HUGS includes not just this one center, but many centers all over the United States, many employees would have access to these free employee counseling services. These counseling services will be primarily related to gender issues, but also for the improvement of general mental health.


A company such as HUGS puts much time and effort into the care and comfort of the clients they serve. However, employee comfort, satisfaction, and happiness isoftentimes overlooked, with gender related factors being a major cause of this. This training session is geared towards each employee at this HUGS center and has the purpose of making aware the gender related issues that do exist here and at other companies. After this training session, employees will have a better understanding of these issues and be prepared to put their knowledge to improving their workplace and making it a more relaxed and appropriate atmosphere for all.

















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