Business of Men

Gender bias in the workplace: understand it to overcome it


Men have long dominated the workplace. As a consequence, women have always grappled with bias in the workplace. As such, women experience gender bias in different forms regardless of the industry or location. But all the same, women are adversely affected regardless of their job description or rank. That is why in men-dominated workplaces, we need to understand gender bias and how it can be overcome.

Gender bias in the workplace is the unconscious tendency of preferring a certain gender over the other in the workplace, without any sound and logical reason behind it other than the mere fact of gender. Simply put, one gender receives more opportunities than the other regardless of actual competence.

To demonstrate gender bias, if one searches the top richest people in the world, Forbes would predominantly have men in their list. In fact, women would only account for three percent (3%) of Fortune 500 CEOs. Less than fifteen percent (15%) of them have executive positions or board membership in top companies.

Forms of gender bias in the workplace

Diving further into the different challenges of women in the workplace, the following are the different forms of gender bias in the workplace:

  1. Lesser career opportunities for women Men generally have more options than women when selecting a job. There are many industries such as construction, transportation, or manufacturing that women are perceived to be unsuitable in. Often, too, women are limited to jobs perceived to be suitable for them such as being teachers, care-givers, or health associates generally have lower pay as well.

  1. Salary Discrimination – Women receive lesser pay than men. While there are several studies having different variables involved such as geography, ethnicity, or work industry, most, if not all, point to a consensus that women earn less than men do. For instance, in a study last 2018 by Census Bureau, they have pointed out that on average women just earn 82 cents for every $1 earned by men. This average factors in the different races of both parties involved.

  1. Pregnancy Risk – Women who do not have children yet, but are currently married, are given less opportunities to take leadership roles since it is possible that they may leave the company to start a family later on. If they eventually get pregnant, they may need to take a long leave from work to attend to their pregnancy and birth.

  1. Maternal Wall – Women who are already mothers would also likely be given less chances of taking responsibilities. After all, mothers have a higher chance of taking leaves from work to attend to the concerns of their children. Organizations are not just wary of adding responsibilities for them, but are also cautious in hiring them right off the start.

  1. Glass Ceiling – When women are employed and have overcome challenges in relation to salaries or biases directed towards motherhood, women now face a glass ceiling — a barrier for further advancement in their career due to the gender bias. For instance, a man and woman may have equal aptitude and skills. And ideally, both of them should have the same chances of being promoted. However, the man is more likely to be promoted since there is an irrational and unbiased perception that they are inherently better, whereas women have to overcome various assumptions about their competence.

In short, women have to work twice as hard.

Why gender bias exists

Gender bias exists due to the social constructs of what being a man or woman must be. Stereotypes are formed from such social constructs. For instance, men are stereotypically seen as more assertive and decisive. Meanwhile, women are stereotypically seen as being the nurturers in the household. However, these are qualities that may be present in any individual, not just in any gender.

Gender bias continues in the workplace because those at the top management have not experienced such forms of biases themselves. Hence, gender bias is treated as business-as-usual only, instead of having proactive actions and adopting gender-inclusive policies.

How to overcome gender bias

The first and most important step is to acknowledge that having such biases exist in the workplace. Whether consciously or not, the management, hiring personnels, or superiors should all be reminded of this. Even outside the context of a workplace, humans are hard-wired to follow their own personal beliefs, these beliefs being molded based on each individual’s past experiences, environment, or the people around them.

The second step is to revamp the entire processes in any given workplace to ensure that gender will not be a factor in determining opportunities for individuals. The hiring process is a good start where a so-called “blind hiring” may be used. A standard system to evaluate the organization’s employees in a manner that does not distinguish between genders must be adopted. A quota for the number of employees, officers, or directors who belong to a particular gender may be followed. Mentorship programs may be boosted in order to give all employees more, yet equal, opportunities to grow, regardless of gender.

Promising trends

In recent times, however, we cannot discount the fact that there are many notable women in executive or leadership positions that achieved excellence. As a most prominent example, in entertainment, we have Oprah Winfrey, who was able to make a name for herself despite having a traumatizing childhood,

In the sports industry, we have Cynthia Marshall who was very young when she ran to be the first black class president in her school, a portending event to who she is right now as the CEO of Dallas Mavericks.

In business, we have, for instance, Melanie Perkins who is the CEO of Canva, a popular platform to do creative works. Despite the young age, at 32 years old, Perkins has managed to raise the current net worth value of Canva to Forty Billion Dollars (USD$40,000,000,000.00).

A final note

But other than providing fairness and equality to women, an organization would also benefit from addressing gender bias in the workplace. Organizations would have more options in selecting viable employees for the company, whether it be for a promotion or new hires. Especially in the upper echelons of an organization, more women should be in the boardroom as it can bring benefits to the company.

Being gender-inclusive would provide a morale boost to its employees since the employees know that the organizations care for them. Consequently, this would reduce their employee turnover rate. Moreover, this would increase employee satisfaction, leading to a boost of productivity, as well.

Interestingly, all in all, having a diverse and unbiased workforce would make any organization a healthier place to work for, again, not just for women, but for everyone else as well.

Further References:

About Business Woman Media

Our women don’t want to settle for anything but the best. They understand that success is a journey involving personal growth, savvy optimism and the tenacity to be the best. We believe in pragmatism, having fun, hard-work and sharing inspiration. LinkedIn

Recommended for you