A few years back there was a post that went viral about how a man accidentally discovered gender bias. Kim, who had sales and engineering experience, had excelled in his career thus far, looking for an upgrade he started applying for jobs. Confounded when he didn’t get a single interview call for months, he decided to take a second look at his CV. He made just one change that day, he prefixed his gender neutral name with "Mr". That was all it took.
This is just one of the many ways in how gender bias affects women and their careers.
The 2016 Women in the Workplace Report by Lean In and McKinsey & Company came out just a couple of weeks back. The studies were conducted in and for corporate America, but I believe the findings are applicable in most places where the gender diversity challenge persistently sticks on, despite organizations pursuing gender parity fervently.
The conclusions from the report are the following:
“On average, women are promoted and hired at lower rates than men, so far fewer women become senior leaders. “
“At more senior levels, we see women shift from line to staff roles, so very few end up on the path to becoming CEO.’
One of the steps the report urges companies to take is to “Invest in more employee training” and in this “Bias training is particularly important”.
Biases may be conscious or subconscious and ALL of us have them. You may be a liberal minded man or woman (yes, women have biases towards women as well), believing in gender equality, but cultural conditionings are so ingrained that you may not even realize when your judgment has been impaired by bias.
Organizations are offering incentives to get more women in the workplace -flexi-hours, work from home opportunities, special internship programs for women who have been on a break etc. While these seem great initially, a lot of talented and ambitious women end up either opting out or demotivated due to the lack of growth. Therefore, as a manager you have to ask yourself, are you making biased judgments, costing a female resource, her promotion or job offer and costing you the skills of a talented resource?
As with everything self-awareness goes a long way in making a change. Maintaining a regular internal check by asking yourself where a judgment is coming from , is a simple way to handle this. Making yourself aware of the most common biases against women in the workplace is also imperative to help you make better decisions. A few examples of these would be:
The Likeability Bias –a woman who has an affable personality is not likely to be seen as competent.
The Assertiveness Bias - a woman who is ambitious, passionate and asserts herself at work is seen as aggressive, pushy and unlikeable.
The Motherhood Bias – a woman who is a mother, is not likely to make work a priority, basically questioning her commitment to work.
The Performance Bias – while her male counterpart will be promoted on the promise or potential that he shows for a role, the woman has to have a proven track record before the role is given to her.
Needless to say Gender Bias is a very significant reason, why there aren’t more women in leadership positions.
“Gender Bias” is just one of the topics that BreadCrumbsCo’s Leadership for Women and Gender Diversity coaching program covers. Get in touch to learn more.