Women and People with Disabilities in the Workplace

Introduction

The workplace environment is the place many people spend much time in, as every person needs to sustain themselves and support their families. Working can often be hard and tiring, and the need to be able to work while not feeling additional stress is something many people would value. In many cases, one’s job has the basic necessities to make people’s presence comfortable and their work efficient. However, some groups of people require special accommodation to take into account their needs as individuals. Women, for example, need different approaches from men, and the needs connected with female-specific anatomy need to be met. A breastfeeding woman on the job might require a specific handle to make her life easier. Disabled people are another common example of the need to take individuals into consideration. Some of them have impairments that affect their senses, like sight, smell, or hearing; others might have trouble walking or breathing. In some cases, a disabled person may even have trouble getting inside the building. The existence of such special groups creates a need for workplaces to bring innovation and comfort to their structure, to promote better well-being of their employees. This essay will examine the topic of workplace accommodation in regards to women and disabled people. The main idea is that employers need to listen to their workers more, especially in concern with marginalized groups.

Why Accommodation is Important

Accounting for the people’s needs and effectively meeting them is one of the core challenges of any business. The need to increase worker performance while also maximizing profit is a driving factor for many companies, and some of them might not understand the role motivation and accommodation play in this process. An employee, in retrospect, has no real incentive to work hard to bring profit to somebody else, so the company needs to motivate people to work harder. This can be accomplished through a variety of tactics, ranging from intimidation to reward schemes. Ultimately, what drives any person is the feeling of being cared for and the fulfillment of their most basic needs. If one feels that their need for comfort and nourishment is being met, they are more compliant in making a positive contribution, both in the workplace and in the community. A happy individual that is not burdened by the fact that their workplace is ill-suited for them is far more likely to perform better and waste less time on unrelated activities.

Accommodating for Women

Throughout the years, women have enjoyed fewer privileges than men, and have been put in compromising situations by society. Oftentimes, women’s needs are not recognized as being valid, and not enough research is being done on the women-specific struggles in the workplace. Since many of today’s work conventions were conveyed by men, they simply have no way of taking into account the needs of female workers. Men’s and women’s biological differences make it integral to take into account the specific needs each sex has. This is one of the primary reasons that the workplace should strive to include more accommodations for women. Specifically, breastfeeding women are the class that has not seen enough coverage. Breastfeeding is a natural process, an integral part of raising a child. Without proper nourishment, a woman’s child may greatly suffer. Sadly, many individuals and companies still consider the process of breastfeeding to be indecent or detrimental to the work environment. According to Gardner, “the need to make open breastfeeding more socially accepted and easily available exists in the workplace” (Gardner, 2002, p. 288). Furthermore, research shows that women recovering from breast cancer are not often being taken into account as well (Neumark et al., 2015). Special accommodation including a flexible schedule is reported to improve workplace performance for women and lead to better results. Overall, any workplace needs to listen to their female employees more carefully and make suitable accommodation for them.

Accommodating for Disabled people

Disabled people are another group that deserves to be discussed more. According to Taggart, “employing a disabled person can give a company the opportunity to improve their workplace conditions and take a look at the issues of accommodation from a different perspective” (Taggart, 2009, p. 54). In many cases, people with disabilities are not able to perform work on the same level as their able-bodied counterparts. This is, however, not due to their inability to work, but the lack of suitable accommodation that would take their specific challenges into account. Oftentimes, the company focuses on treating a disabled person the same as the colleagues, as to avoid discrimination (Schwab & Willborn, 2002) This approach is ineffective, as such people need more support to function properly, and treating them the same as everyone else without realizing their needs is discriminatory in itself. Companies can also use their power and influence to promote better conditions for workers with disabilities and provide them with an increased quality of accommodation (Henry & Thomas, 2011). One of the beneficial ways to address workplace disability is to give affected employees the means of support and self-care. Similarly to women, much can be accomplished by taking into account the opinions and preferences of disabled people, and letting them have agency over how their condition is managed in the workplace.

Conclusion

In conclusion, this paper has covered the questions of workplace accommodation for two groups of people. Both women and disabled people are often disenfranchised by their workplace, having no ability to exercise influence over the practices applicable to them. Women display needs different from men, having to account for the difference in biology and the society’s attitudes towards such practices as breastfeeding. A workplace should accommodate a woman’s need to feed their child and respect the right to publicly breastfeed. The company may also offer flexible work hours to their female employees based on the need to breastfeed. Women in recovery from breast cancer and similar diseases also need to be consulted and offered an ability to manage their treatment and work schedule. Such an approach to the problem of women’s accommodations in the workplace was shown to improve women’s performance. Disabled people, in a similar vein, have to be consulted and taken into consideration when considering scheduling, physical accommodations, and professional approaches. The need to show disabled people special treatment to maximize their potential is crucial to creating an effective workplace environment.

References

Gardner, L. M. (2002). A step toward true equality in the workplace: Requiring employer accomodation for breastfeeding women. Wisconsin Women’s Law Journal, 17(2), 259–290.

Henry G., & Thomas G., (2011). Disability management and workplace integration: International Research Findings. Routledge.

Neumark, D., Bradley, C. J., Henry, M., & Dahman, B. (2015). Work continuation while treated for breast cancer: The role of workplace accomodations. ILR Review: The Journal of Work and Policy, 68(4), 916–954.

Schwab, S. J., & Willborn, S. L. (2002). Reasonable accomodation of workplace disabilities. William and Mary Law Review, 44(3), 1197–1284.

Taggart, A. (2009). Innovative workplace accomodation. Profiles in Diversity Journal, 11(3), 54.

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