After deciding that I had experienced too many bad gender days and had observed too many others do the same, I wrote Gender Shrapnel in the Academic Workplace to describe gender problems in the workplace, provide new terminology to give shape to gender phenomena, and offer solutions. The book first provides new descriptive terms, then giving voice and texture to gender problems in the workplace through real-life stories, offers a set of concrete solutions for employers and employees, and finally outlines training principles to create a workplace more focused on equitable treatment. “Bad gender days” can be alleviated with more knowledge and deliberate actions proposed in this book, in which vivid stories of gender shrapnel make the notion of gender in the workplace come alive.
Gender Shrapnel employs the image of “shrapnel,” bits of scattered metal that can hit purposeful targets or unwitting bystanders, to narrate the story of workplace power and gender discrimination. The project interweaves stories of gender shrapnel with an examination of national rhetoric surrounding business, education, and law to uncover underlying phenomena that contribute to discourse on privilege and gender in the workplace. Sample terms include the “feminist fuse,” the “last straw phenomenon,” the “professional mystique,” “being radioactive,” and, of course, “gender shrapnel.” I establish concrete examples that serve as case studies for subsequent discussion of data about women in the workforce, language use and misuse, sexual harassment, silence and shutting up, and hiring, training, promotion, and the glass ceiling. This book examines how one small comment or one minor deed that relays gender inequity takes a series of zigzag paths—the route(s) of gender shrapnel—to arrive at bigger organizational mishap and entrenched labor and cultural problems in the workplace. The examination of these paths is part of the storytelling component of Gender Shrapnel.
Gender Shrapnel in the Workplace is unique for three principal reasons: (1) It combines a sometimes funny, always hard-hitting, narrative voice with solid, up-to-date research on sexual harassment, discrimination, and retaliation and is therefore highly readable but also chock-full of information; (2) it appeals to employees, employers, and full organizations—helping all three groups to understand how gender dynamics gone bad have negative consequences for all involved; and (3) it provides tools (glossary, case studies, training sessions) to teach organizations how to create equitable work environments.
Now that you understand the notion of gender shrapnel, make sure to tune in to next week’s post.