Sunday 8th March 2020 marked International Women’s Day – a day where across the globe, the achievements of women are celebrated and we are reminded of the worldwide discrimination issues that women face. Recent studies reveal that it will take us 95 years to reach global gender equality: a sobering thought.
According to wellbeing experts, findings from over 200,000 participants conclude that women make better leaders than men in the workplace, due to having more personality traits associated with workplace wellbeing. Leading wellbeing experts advise against promoting people by default with great technical skills, because technical skills are very different from leadership skills. This particular study came to the conclusion that women aged 55 to 64 ranked as the best bosses.
As we drive for equal participation and equality in the workplace, we first must clarify that measures taken to fight gender bias should be implemented daily and not just celebrated once a year. As the industry experts on all things people, we whole-heartedly believe that a company’s values form the foundations of its success.
Ways to fight gender bias in the workplace
The UK’s leading membership organisation for building an inclusive workplace, Inclusive Employers, offers a fantastic selection of resources. LeanIn.Org advocates for women in the workplace and has multiple free resources that are powerful and thought provoking. 50 Ways to Fight Bias is an insightful activity which allows teams in the workplace to combat gender bias together. The activity is a series of 50 cards with scenarios of gender bias happening in the workplace and solutions on the reverse of the cards. The cards are insightful and inclusive of both gender biases. Lean In also offer an engaging and interactive free presentation on ways to fight bias, which would serve as fantastic training material for SME’s looking to address gender bias and be informative. There are 5 types of gender bias in the workplace, as defined by Lean In, and we will explore those in more detail.
Performance bias is the perception of men being overestimated and women being underestimated in terms of workplace performance. As a result, women often have to accomplish more to feel equal.
One study conducted by ten orchestras used blind auditions to remove gender bias from the decision making process. A 50% improvement was found in women making it past the first round of auditions. Performance bias often leads to missed opportunities for women, having a huge impact on overall career progression.
Attribution Bias perceives women as less competent, ultimately rewarding them less credit for their accomplishments. Women in the workplace typically receive more blame for failure. This results in women feeling like they have to hit higher standards than men do.
Women’s contributions at work may be interpreted as less valuable than men’s. One study showed that men interrupted women nearly three times as often as they interrupted other men in meetings. Women were also likely to interrupt other women in meetings but to rarely interrupt men, confidence possibly being a factor here.
Likeability bias is a social outcome when women assert themselves in the workplace. Stereotypes and dated outlooks paint men as the natural leader and women as kind and caring, so when women assert themselves, we tend to dislike it.
When words like ‘bossy’ and ‘intimidating’ surface in the workplace, this can create an unpleasant environment for everyone, including the individual being referred to as bossy.
Maternal bias happens when motherhood triggers the automatic assumption that women care any less about their careers than men do. We judge mothers in the workplace, because we assume that they won’t be committed to their jobs once they have a family. Studies display that maternal bias is the strongest type of gender bias in the workplace.
Men face paternal pushback too, with studies revealing that fathers who take time out of work for family matters receive lower performance ratings than mothers who take time out.
Affinity Bias theorises that humans are drawn towards people like themselves, avoiding people with a different background or even a different appearance. This tendency is unconscious and can impact the equality and diversity you strive to embed into the workplace.
Affinity Bias describes the way in which we all want to be surrounded by people that we can relate to and make us feel comfortable. Though surely working in a diverse team will uncover far more creativity and improve team performance?
The Final Word: Gender Equality is a human right, not a female fight
Bias isn’t just limited to gender. Double discrimination presents itself when women struggle with bias in relation to other aspects of their identity. Black women tend to face double discrimination, as do women from the LGBTQ community.
We all rely on stereotypes to make sense of the world around us, which can be defined as unconscious bias. We must be aware that these assumptions are harmful: in a recent study, 76% of participants made a snap judgement of men relating to their career but for women this judgement related to their family. Make no mistake, unconscious bias does not excuse discriminatory behaviour. We must hold ourselves accountable for our own behaviour and speak up when we see biased decisions in the workplace. There is now a significant amount of evidence available informing us that a diverse workforce benefits us all: we all rise when women rise.
Gender equality is at the forefront of our recruitment process
Futures is committed to embedding diversity and inclusion as a crucial part of the recruitment process across the public and private sectors. Females currently make up 47% of the interim candidates we place. We strive to make sure that our clients meet their own gender equality targets, helping them to remove any barriers from the recruitment process.