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March 5th, 2021

Even in the 21st century shocking statistics demonstrate that gender bias still exists in the workplace with an expected 100 year timeframe to close the current global gender pay gap. Action is even more vital after reports that Covid-19 could reverse decades of progress made in gender equalities after a large scale of women were forced to give up work in order to manage childcare during the pandemic.

Research demonstrates that bias contributes to women being overlooked for jobs and promotions as well as only 1 in 3 employees, including managers, challenging bias in the workplace even though 3 in 4 have experienced bias first-hand. Companies have a vital role to play in accelerating the movement towards women’s equality.

Monday 8th March 2021 marks International Women’s Day and this year the theme is #ChooseToChallenge. This day not only celebrates the social, economic, political and cultural achievements of women but it also accelerates the need for women’s equality.

In line with this year’s theme we understand that from challenge comes change. Here are four ways to take responsibility and challenge gender bias in the workplace.


Implement a gender neutral recruitment process

There are many ways that you can help reduce gender bias when hiring for a new position. Examining language used in job adverts and any external communications is a good starting point. Choosing phrases to describe behaviours e.g. ‘ability to work well autonomously and as part of a team’ instead of phrases that would describe who would be considered for the role e.g. ‘results driven’ leaves less room for biased interpretations.

Totaljobs have a useful ‘Gender Bias Decoder’ tool which checks your text for hidden gender bias after research has proven there are many words associated with masculine and feminine stereotypes that can influence who your advert appeals to and targets. Total discovered that there are 478,175 words which carry gender bias after analysing 77,000 job adverts. That’s a whopping average of 6 per advert!

To give you an idea of which words fall into each category, some of the most commonly used male-gendered words in UK adverts include lead, analyse, competitive, active and confident.

Support, responsible, understanding, dependable and committed fall into the most frequently used female-gendered word group.

Inclusive gender neutral words can be used in their place including integrity, curious, trustworthy, work alongside, relationship building, self-motivate and adaptable.

An even more concerning find is that a distinct male-bias was found in adverts for senior positions and a female bias for supporting positions which indicates female employees are being discouraged from higher positions.


Introduce flexible working conditions and parental leave benefits

It’s no coincidence that many successful companies have introduced flexible working and generous parental leave benefits for employees. This is another action that companies can take to help address underlying discrimination. As well as proven to increase staff retention, more transparency on flexible working policies and family related leave is a starting point to tackle gender bias at the recruitment stage.

A shift in mindset to assessing performance through achievements as opposed to time spent in the office is beneficial for everyone and not just working mums. This is backed up by the increasing volume of candidates looking for flexible working and often valuing this higher than salary.

Some information SMEs can publish to help eliminate bias include:

  • Policies relating to Maternity and Paternity leave and pay
  • Childcare policies
  • Parental and Shared Parental leave and pay
  • Flexible working policies including formal and informal flexible working available


Be transparent and accountable

There are many ways companies can use transparency to help eliminate gender bias. Sharing gender diversity stats internally when it comes to hiring new positions and any promotions can help highlight progress.

Producing a voluntary gender pay gap report for smaller SMEs who don’t fall into the 250+ employees category, who legally have to share this data, is another way to help tackle bias.

Companies can take an open and honest approach with their workforce by clearly communicating their mission to eliminate gender bias, as well as sharing details of any action you are taking to close the gender pay gap.


Promote workplace meritocracy

By creating a working environment where everyone’s views are valued you are also helping to tackle gender bias. Employees should feel that they can voice their opinion no matter what gender, position or race without thinking that there will be a negative consequence.

One way to promote meritocracy in your business is through the use of performance reward systems as a scale for bonuses, promotions and other rewards.

Adopting meritocracy in your organisation can mean happier and more motivated employees knowing their achievements are recognised and contribution valued.




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