‘Benevolent sexism’ undermines Asian women with accents in workplace: study

‘Benevolent sexism’ undermines Asian women with accents in workplace: study‘Benevolent sexism’ undermines Asian women with accents in workplace: study
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“Benevolent sexism,” disguised as warmth bias, limits career advancement for Asian women with accents in Canadian workplaces, a new study reveals.
Understanding the accent bias: A recent study led by Ivona Hideg, Samantha Hancock and Winny Shen from York University and Western University in Canada sheds light on the often-overlooked phenomenon of accent bias against women in the workplace. The research, published in Sage Journals in April, delved into the experiences of women with non-native English accents, specifically Mandarin. 
Methodology: The researchers relied on the stereotype content model, which identifies two key aspects of how we perceive others: warmth and competence. These are linked to our perception of someone’s potential threat or value, which the study used to understand how workplace dynamics affect Asian women with accents.
Benevolent sexism unmasked:  The study found that Asian women with a Mandarin accent were often perceived as more friendly, trustworthy and sincere than their counterparts without accents. This tendency, rooted in benevolent sexism, could appear beneficial at first glance, as it led to higher perceived hireability. However, this perception of warmth, while seemingly positive, might contribute to occupational gender segregation. Industries traditionally associated with femininity, like fashion and cosmetics, might benefit from this bias, while traditionally masculine sectors like oil and gas may not see similar advantages.
Addressing bias at work: The study argues that immigrants’ non-native accents unfairly hurt their job prospects, even though this is not explicitly covered by Canada’s Human Rights Act. The authors called for government recognition of accent discrimination and company-level action to address it. This means ditching accent reduction programs and instead removing systemic barriers and fostering positive attitudes towards accents in the workplace.

“Accent reduction programs stigmatize accents by suggesting they need to be corrected. Instead of focusing on what workers with accents can do to ‘fit in,’ organizations need to focus on removing systemic barriers that workers with accents face. Our research serves as a reminder to not evaluate workers based on stereotypes. Even purportedly positive stereotypes can undermine the careers of racialized women.”

Global implications: The study further placed the issue in a broader context, pointing out that the global workforce is highly accent diverse, especially in traditional immigrant and developed countries like Australia, Canada and the United States. The authors argued that the phenomenon of speaking with a non-native accent is intricately linked with immigration and the prevalence of English as a lingua franca, making this a common global workforce challenge.
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