Training Course Report: ExpressMoore Communications, Inc.

The purpose of the following report is to both establish and resolve gender-related issues present in the workplace of ExpressMore Communications, Inc. Working in this business media company are over 350 men and women. For the purposes of this program, we have selected 12 employees to participate in an eight-week training course which includes addressing employee issues, learning to resolve those issues, and understanding how to prevent those issues from reoccurring in the future. In selecting the employees, we had contacted each individual one week prior to the first, opening session via company e-mail, expressing the nature of the training program and inquiring about any relevant issues they may have. In total, we received 40 employee responses. After thorough reviews of each response, we determined the eight most prevalent and damaging issues expressed. Participants included six men and six women from all levels of management and positions within the corporation, with issues including sexual harassment, wage gap, the glass ceiling effect, sexism, and a lack of effective communication. For each weekly session, one issue was highlighted and discussed. Solutions were developed concluding each session, and participants submitted short prompts regarding their perspectives, feelings, and opinions of the session. These prompts ranged from two or three simple sentences to developed paragraphs; there was no length requirement, just a free writing exercise to express their thoughts. During the final eighth week, a review of the information gathered was conducted, and participants all shared their parting takeaways and hopes for the future workplace environment.
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Female Participants

Katherine Meyers is a 42 year old, Caucasian woman who is the Director of Sales at ExpressMore Communications, working within the company for almost seven years. In her initial response, Katherine reported exhibiting the glass ceiling effect; after working her way up in the corporation, she has been stuck in her position as director for the last two and a half years, despite her pleas and extra efforts to obtain a higher position. She feels that both the President and Vice President of the corporation hold “sexist views against every damn woman working here,” and are preventing her from joining them at the executive level, “all because I three body parts they do not, though one may be debatable, depending on the day…” Being with the corporation for almost as long as its establishment as well as being equally as qualified—on paper— as both gentlemen, Katherine doesn’t understand why she isn’t being afforded the same opportunity and is fed up.

41 year old Samantha Simmons, also a Caucasian female, works as a supervisor within the corporation. Samantha is in charge of ensuring all deadlines and corporate targets are met within their designated time frames. Samantha expressed concern over the apparent wage gap between her and a fellow male supervisor. She explains that they, “do the same amount of work, put in the same amount of hours, so how is it fair we are getting paid different wages?” She hasn’t expressed her thoughts to higher management because she feels uncomfortable to ask for a higher salary, and she feels that none of the male executives view their female employees as equal counterparts so it would ultimately be, “nothing but a waste of time and a surefire annoyance that will most definitely come back to bite me in the you-know-what.” An interesting note about Mrs. Simmons: she obtained higher education from an immensely respectable university with better academic standings, prior work experience, and qualifications than her fellow male co-worker supervisor.

ExpressMore Communications Director of Marketing, Marquetta Kennedy, is a 47 year old African American woman. Marquetta is responsible for planning, developing, and implementing the corporations marketing strategies and communications. She coordinates with all other necessary departments for a given project. Marquetta also expresses feelings of inequality for being a woman, “and a Black woman at that, honey,” put onto her by higher management. She feels the male executives exude chauvinistic airs, and treat the women as less than. Marquetta notes feeling as though her race puts her at a disadvantage in the workplace, making her an “easy target for the white folks to blame for mishaps and problems.” Similar to Mrs. Meyers, Ms. Kennedy feels the executives hold sexist beliefs that are proving to affect her work and her feelings toward her work.

Betty Gustman, a sweet-souled woman who is a 55 year old Caucasian woman, works as the President of the corporation’s secretary, or as she calls it, “Mr. Miller’s right-hand gal he’d be lost without.” Betty has known Mr. Miller for over 25 years, being closely acquainted with his family. While she spoke rather highly of him, she did not shy away from his sexist tendencies towards the women in the corporation. “Old Reid is a spit of his old man, acting just as crazy as he did when it comes to women,” she expresses to us. She further describes his childhood environment as coming from a hardworking, breadwinning father, and a weak-willed and subordinate mother, even noting that, “its no wonder the boy turned out the way he did; that was all he saw growing up, can you really blame him?” She supports the women’s notion that there is not equal opportunity within the corporation, and is just as bothered by the fact. She is seemingly optimistic that this experience will “do the trick and ship them up fast.”

Nancy Lee, a 26 year old Asian American woman, is the receptionist for the office, where she takes all phone calls, schedules meetings and appointments, greets individuals upon their arrival to the office, and informs employees of when those individuals have arrived. Nancy similarly noted feeling that the executives treated women unfavorably, but also reported instances of harassment by a Department Manager, Paul Thomas. She describes Mr. Thomas as having “stalker-like tendencies,” claiming he will appear almost everywhere she goes, and has even driven by her home on multiple occasions. He has made inappropriate references to her regarding his attraction to “such beautiful Asian women like yourself,” and even after being asked to stop he continues. She feels as though his “infatuation” is growing stronger and is growing more fearful of him, herself. Given her cultural background, however, Nancy holds conflicting feelings towards keeping within her traditional role as a woman and staying quiet and passive about the situation—“after all, he is my male authority figure,”— and making her voice heard. She is afraid of the consequences that may come about, feeling as though mens’ superiority, and, in essence, her inferiority, is inevitable and just shouldn’t be contested.

The last female participant, Janet Garcia, is a 21 year old, Latina college student aspiring to be a successful business woman. Janet possesses a great work ethic, and is quite intelligent. She just recently started working for ExpressMore Communications roughly seven months ago. Janet had reported one of the more damaging and unacceptable issues taking place within the workplace, with grave concern of losing her job over speaking her truth. She informed us that since her employment, a male supervisor, Vikas Alaigh, has repeatedly sexually harassed her and engaged in inappropriate communication with her; he has offered her a higher position in the corporation in exchange for sex. Janet has only shared this information with Nancy, because she feels, “everyone will think I’m some dirty, desperate Spanish whore, or a complete liar only looking for guys’ attention.” She also notes that she had attempted, once and only once, to inform Mr. Johnson of the situation, to which she was told that if that were in fact true, she is to blame since she is, “a hot girl who dresses promiscuously and brings it on herself.” In addition to the inappropriate advances, Mr. Alaigh continues to make comments about Janet to his fellow co-workers, which she describes as slander saying, “he keeps telling people in the office I come onto him all the time, and practically throw myself at him whenever I get the chance.” Janet feels that higher management is not doing its part to resolve this issue.

Male Participants

The President of ExpressMore Communications, Reid Miller, agreed to partake in this training program, “as to continue the family legacy of running a respectable business.” Mr. Miller is a 65 year old Caucasian male, who began working with the corporation when he was just a small boy. His grandfather had originally began the business, with each passing generation (of the men in the family) succeeding him. Mr. Miller did express some hesitation with participating, but ultimately felt it was both the necessary and right thing to do. According to Mr. Miller, “this corporation was built off men’s backs, while the women merely make them (the men) look good.” If he could have it his way, “the only roles women are capable of playing are those that don’t involve great intelligence, skills, or hard labor; they’re best work is done in the home and with the children.”

Mr. Miller’s “old pal,” and college roommate, Daniel Johnson, serves as the corporations Vice President. The two men met in college and have remained not only good friends but business partners ever since. Mr. Johnson, a 56 year old Caucasian male, also holds similar views when it comes to women as does Mr. Miller. He finds them to be “occupying space in a man’s territory,” and “fooling themselves to think they even have a chance of having a hand in this business.” Mr. Johnson did make note of Ms. Garcia’s sexual harassment complaint, but was quick to brush it off, referring to her as,  “just another attention-seeking, twenty-something year old girl, trying to use her looks to manipulate others.” He finds there is no issue present, but rather just a case of “typical office-talk, gossip, B.S.”

Vikas “Vick” Alaigh, a supervisor within the company who is at the core of the sexual harassment claim involving Ms. Garcia, is a 34 year old Indian male. In the corporation, he goes by nickname of Vick, being that it “blends in more with the others, and quite frankly, is much easier to pronounce for most Americans.” Spending a large portion of his growing up in India, Mr. Alaigh seems to have a hard time adjusting to American culture. Only moving to the U.S a year prior to his employment with ExpressMore Communications, he admits that he, “still has a lot to get used to in this country.” Back home, it is not uncommon for older men to engage in relationships (or just relations) with younger women, and is certainly not something seen as taboo. For Mr. Alaigh, most of the men in his family are married to women that are much younger, so it is not far out of the norm for him. He thinks the women here are rather “stuck-up” and quick to point the finger at men when it comes to sexual harassment. He claims that he felt Ms. Garcia was making clear advances towards him, “because she was staring intently into my eyes, and in India, that is basically giving a man the ‘green light,’ as you Americans say.” In his opinion, the women are equally at fault for leading the men on by giving such mixed signals.

Jason Marks, head of Human Resources, presented us with an interesting issue; one that has never been addressed in years prior of our consulting work. Mr. Marks is a Jewish male, 32 years old, who started as an intern within the corporation and has worked his way up. Both Mr. Miller and Mr. Johnson praise him on being “the ideal employee” and speak quite highly of him as both an employee and a human being. Mr. Marks was recently married to his longtime girlfriend, Yamit, and the two are now expecting their first child. His issue lies in fact that men do not receive the same leave rights as women do when it comes to having a child; he doesn’t expect the same amount of time, given that he’s, “not the one pushing the sucker out and dealing with the same physical demands as women do,” but he does argue that, emotionally speaking, it is just as tolling on a man as it is on a woman. His requests to take some time off upon the birth of his child have been denied numerous times, merely because, “its called maternity leave, not Jason-wants-to-spend-more-time-with-his-new-wife-and-baby-on-our-clock,” as he recalls Mr. Miller specifically saying to him.
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Head Manager of the Sales Department, 39 year old Jermaine Fletcher, presented yet another first for us as a consulting firm; Mr. Fletcher reported being sexually harassed by the Director of Sales, Mrs. Katherine Meyers. Fletcher, an African American male, describes how Mrs. Meyers would “frequent his office, making small talk about sports, the weather, my suit; anything that would keep my attention.” He noted when he first began to feel uncomfortable by her persistent company as when, “Karen and I were working on a project together and [Katherine] came into the conference room and was visibly upset by our partnership; she started acting similar to a possessive ex-girlfriend, making awkward jokes about Karen making sure she ‘knew her place.’” Mrs. Meyers would call Mr. Fletcher into her office daily, probing him with questions regarding his feelings towards Ms. Kennedy, as well as his feelings towards her. When he brushed aside the conversation, she persisted for an answer. He also describes her behavior during their daily meetings as being rather sensual: “sitting on top of her desk with her legs spread open enough to see up her skirt when I walk in her office, and when I sit down she begins playing footsie with my upper thigh.” Fletcher insists she has made repeated comments about how attractive she finds him, along with other sexual-based remarks. He is unsure of how to handle this situation because, “number one, I am a Black man; number two, when have you ever heard of a man being sexually harassed by a woman? And number three, I am a Black man. ”

The final male participant, Paul Thomas, is a 40 year old Caucasian male who, like majority of the male employees, has quite pretty discriminatory beliefs and perceptions about women. There are quite a few complaints circulating the corporation about Mr. Thomas, the Department of Marketing’s Head Manager, mostly involving his chauvinistic ways and disrespectful demeanor towards the female employees. There is also talk of Mr. Thomas acting extremely inappropriate with the corporations receptionist, Nancy Lee, about possible stalking and harassment. Mr. Thomas feels that women generally cannot work at the same level as men, “in any sense of the word,” and are more of a disservice to ExpressMore Communications than of any benefit.

Session One: Introduction of Program and General Consensus

The first session of the training course served as the introduction of the program. Its main objective was to give participants a basic overview of the program, including its purpose, goals, and what they were to expect for each session. Then, relevant issues and concerns were established, as well as an overall consensus of the work environment. Each participant filled out a personal questionnaire, which inquired about their unique perceptions and experiences about their co-workers, bosses, and general environment. Upon completing these questionnaires, participants were then asked to share their thoughts with the group; their perceptions and experiences working within the corporations, general thoughts and concerns, and what they would like to see change. At the end of the session, participants were asked to submit a short prompt expressing their thoughts about the session.

Session Two: Sexual Harassment

For the second session of the program, the issue addressed was sexual harassment. The session’s objective was to establish ethically appropriate behaviors and interactions with the opposite gender, as well as various sociocultural populations. We presented the participants with a PowerPoint Presentation, which highlighted and covered topics such as the corporation’s Ethics Code of Conduct, appropriate versus inappropriate behavior towards employees within the workplace, and also information and guidance on how to personally handle a situation involving sexual harassment. After presenting such material, participants were then encouraged to discuss their thoughts and opinions on the issue. While all six of the male participants offered little to no feedback, all of the female participants, aside of Ms. Lee, expressed their concerns. This was especially interesting, as Mr. Fletcher initially expressed his feelings of being sexually harassed by Mrs. Meyers. As Helgeson (2012) notes, men may be less likely to report sexual harassment than women because they, “are expected to handle these kinds of situations on their own; admitting to harassment means admitting to victim status, which is inconsistent with the male gender role,” (p. 479). For this session’s activity, we employed a computer-based training method, which research suggests may, “increase training effectiveness and reduce employers’ legal concerns,” (Perry, Kulik, & Field, 2009). Participants were presented with information and then asked a series of questions intended to evaluate their understanding of the material (Perry, Kulik, & Field, 2009). At the end of the session, participants were asked to submit a short prompt expressing their thoughts about the session.

Session Three: Gender Wage Gap

In the third session of the course, the issue of the apparent gender wage gap within the corporation was discussed. This session’s objective was to apply knowledge of empirical findings on gender, gender roles, and gender similarities and differences to make informed decisions regarding human behavior. Hill (2009) reports, “in 2012, as in 2002, among full-time, year-round workers, women were paid 77 percent of what men were paid,” continuing that the wage gap only increases with age, with women earning roughly 90 percent of what men are paid before the age of 35, after which the, “median earnings for women are typically 75–80 percent of what men are paid.” After presenting the participants with statistical data of the wage gap, another group discussion was generated, this time, geared towards the male participants’ thoughts and opinions. It sparked a heated debate between Mr. Johnson and Mrs. Simmons, which resulted in Mrs. Simmons leaving the session early. By the end of the session, after highlighting society’s influence over the prevalent pay disparity, the male participants, including Mr. Miller and Mr. Johnson, all seemingly appeared to be affected by the information; that is, they seemed to develop an increased awareness to what they were unwilling to confront for years prior. Again, at the end of the session, participants were asked to submit a short prompt expressing their thoughts about the session. It should be noted, that Mr. Miller’s response expressed empathy for the women, and a willingness to re-examine some employee salaries.

Session Four: Glass Ceiling Effect

Carnes and Radojevich-Kelley (2011) define glass ceiling as, “an invisible barrier that prevents women from reaching key positions in corporations.” In this fourth session of the training course, we addressed the issue of female employees within the corporation not being afforded the same, equal opportunities as male employees in securing an executive position. The main objective was to apply knowledge of theoretical perspectives on gender roles, and gender similarities and differences to make informed decisions regarding human behavior, effectively utilizing female employee’s strengths, and tolerating ambiguity. The activity for this session consisted of each male and female participant partnering up and expressing their perspectives on the current situation in the workplace. After meeting with each other for several minutes, the male participants served as representatives of the pairings and spoke to the rest of the group on what they and their female partner discussed. Similar to session three’s activity, the male participants were clearly affected by the information. For this session’s ending prompt, we asked the male participants to write their female partners a letter expressing how, or even if, their perspectives and opinions have began to shift. The females, on the other hand, were asked to also write to their male counterpart, expressing what they hope was taken away from the session, and why they feel all female employees should be given equal opportunity for reaching a key position in the corporation.


 

Session Five: Sexism

In the fifth session of the training program, issues regarding sexism were addressed. The main objectives for the session included valuing diversity and creating equal opportunity for all employees. Overcoming Sexism (2008) defines sexism as, “discrimination or abusive behavior toward an individual that is based on gender and that violates the victim’s dignity, or behavior that creates an intimidating and hostile environment for the victim… [and] is defined not by the perpetrator’s intention but by the impact of that person’s behavior upon the victim.” As this week’s activity, we brought in the CEO of Lockheed Martin, Marillyn Hewson (Aitoro, 2013), as a guest speaker on women in the workforce and equal opportunity. She discussed her great success, hard work, and the trials and tribulations faced along her journey. After her presentation, we offered a Question and Answer segment, where participants were able to ask Mrs. Hewson questions about her work and her experiences. Ms. Kennedy, Mrs. Meyers, and Ms. Gustman all inquired how she handled sexism throughout her career, and asked for pieces of advice to take with them. Wrapping up the end of the session, we again had all participants write a short prompt expressing their thoughts of the session and what they took away from it.

Session Six: Communication

One of the most common and destructive issues we come across as a consulting firm is the breakdown of communication between employees and management. The main objective of this session was to establish clear and effective channels of communication by applying knowledge of theoretical perspectives of sex differences in communication. Helgeson (2012) suggests men use direct, succinct, and instrumental language when communicating, whereas women use indirect, elaborative, and affective language when communicating (p. 234). Two theories explaining why these differences exist, status theory and social role theory, are highlighted in the text. Both rather self explanatory, status theory simply suggests that, “any differences in communication between men and women are due to their unequal status,” while social role theory suggests, “the roles women and men hold in society are responsible for the differences in communication,” (Helgeson, 2012, pp. 252). Through a powerpoint presentation, we briefed participants on the differing communication styles men and women possess. As for this session’s activity, we split the participants into three groups of four, with two men and two women per group, where their task was to correctly piece together a sequence of events that told a story. Each group was given five different panels portraying different settings and characters, and had to communicate not only within each group, but with the other groups as well, so as they can piece together the entire story, start to finish, in its proper sequence. After completion of the activity, participants were asked to write a prompt discussing how they were able to communicate with one another to come to a conclusion, and how they can communicate better in the future.

Session Seven: Putting it into Practice

In the seventh session, the objective was to review and summarize all the information and material gathered from the past sessions. This session’s sole activity, after review of all shared information via PowerPoint, was a group discussion, consisting of participants sharing how they have grown, how their perceptions and opinions have changed, what they would like to see happen within the work environment, and how they will hold themselves accountable for ensuring these issues are no longer a problem in the workplace. We also opened the discussion up for participants to express any appreciation or praise for their fellow participants. Throughout the discussion it was noted several times that employees were effectively addressing and working through their initial concerns, and keeping an open-mind in valuing and appreciating the differing perspectives held by the male and female employees.

Session Eight: Meeting with the Execs

In this final session of our training program, we met with all the executive members of the corporation, and discussed all the presented employee issues, how to approach these issues in the future, and what we felt was the next appropriate course of action for the corporation. We presented the executives with all the workshop materials that were used throughout the program, maintaining employee anonymity, except for cases in which we found significant action needed to be taken in order to resolve relevant issues.

Final Training Report

After employing our training program within the workplace of ExpressMore Communications, Inc., our consulting firm feels confident our course has improved employee understanding, ways of relating, and tolerance among one another. In this final report, we will provide specific changes we recommended to the corporate executives to address the concerns and issues presented to us during our consultation. First and foremost, we recommend imposing an immediate suspension, with termination to be determined by executive leaders, who violate any ethical standards, namely that of sexual harassment. We did inform the corporate leaders of the more serious cases we found to be involving sexual harassment, inappropriate behavior, and unethical intentions. Next, we recommended the corporation establish new salaries, namely for the female employees who have been undeniably overlooked and taken great advantage of; it is our recommendation that equal work deserves equal pay. In addition, we recommended the executives incorporate semi-annual, personal development seminars in the office, as to instill the new thoughts and perceptions established from this training course; it is our hope that the seminars will reinforce what was discovered and decided upon in the course, only now affording the opportunity to any and all employees who are interested. We also recommended holding what we call, “Monthly Wellness Meetings,” where corporate leaders take the time to check in on their employees, discuss how things are going in the workplace and the dynamic between the employees, and establish any new issues or concerns and their solutions.

Most specifically, we suggested the corporate leaders investigate the sexual harassment claim by Ms. Garcia against Mr. Alaigh, as we found his actions toward her to be grounds for immediate termination from the corporation. In the case of Jason Marks and his desired paternity leave, we found it unfair and unjust to deny him of time off, and recommended the corporate leaders consider allowing him four to six weeks leave, in addition to any male who is in a similar position. Given most maternity leaves are for durations of six to eight weeks and longer, we find our suggestion of four to six weeks paternity leaves to be adequate and appropriate. We also informed the executives about the alleged stalking behaviors exhibited by Mr. Thomas, and though no action can be taken as the allegations have occurred outside of the office and were ultimately deemed hearsay, they have agreed to take closer consideration of the matter, and stay vigilant.
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References

Aitoro, J. (2013, February 1). Marillyn hewson: Inside out. Washington Business Journal. Retrieved from http://www.bizjournals.com/washington/print-edition/2013/02/01/marillyn-hewson-inside-out.html?page=all

 

Carnes, W. J., & Radojevich-Kelley, N. (2011). The effects of the glass ceiling on women in the workforce: Where are they and where are they going?. Review Of Management Innovation & Creativity, 4(10), 70-79.

 

Helgeson, V. S. (2012). Psychology of gender (4th ed.) (pp. 234, 479). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.

Hill, C. (2014, March 10). The simple truth about the gender pay gap (2014). AAUW: Empowering Women Since 1881. Retrieved from http://www.aauw.org/research/the-simple-truth-about-the-gender-pay-gap/

 

Overcoming sexism in the workplace. (2008, January 30). CBSNews. Retrieved from http://www.cbsnews.com/news/overcoming-sexism-in-the-workplace/

 

Perry, E. L., Kulik, C. T., & Field, M. P. (2009). Sexual harassment training: Recommendations to address gaps between the practitioner and research literatures. Human Resource Management, 48(5), 817-837.

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