How to avoid gender bias in the workplace

Written on: 12 September 2019

Written by: Freya King

Topic

[employers]

Whether we’re conscious of it or not, we all have biases. From the idea of having set gender roles within the home, to school subjects being considered either stereotypically masculine or feminine, gender bias is deeply embedded into our society.

There is perhaps nowhere this can be more keenly felt than in the workplace. While it’s true that things are headed in the right direction, we still have a long way to go. It is not enough to be simply impartial; we need to acknowledge the causes of gender bias and take steps to rise above it.

Train your staff

By making your staff aware of gender bias and its negative effect on the workplace, you can start to facilitate a culture of tolerance and consideration. Instead of punishing individuals for displaying biases, try educating and working with them to improve their attitudes towards women in the workplace. If they don’t know there is a problem, they won’t be able to adjust their behaviour.

Encourage progression for all

Deep-rooted societal prejudices mean that women can often be overlooked as leaders. Typically masculine traits like being tough, determined and ambitious, are accepted and even encouraged in male leaders, while the same traits are perceived as aggressive and bossy when displayed by their female counterparts.

For your staff to break through the glass ceiling, make sure that there are opportunities for everyone within your company to progress, regardless of gender. Normalising career development for women working within stereotypically “male” sectors such as IT, can empower and inspire your female staff.

Choose your words carefully

Language is a powerful tool for communication, which means that it can have damaging effects if not handled with care. To keep your messaging neutral, try to avoid using gender coded language in both written and verbal communication.

Although it’s all too often women who feel the negative effects of gender bias, it’s not always a one-way street. Men can also fall victim to negative stereotyping and can be reluctant to be seen to be expressing typically “feminine” emotions. Be wary of using exclusionary language for all genders within your job adverts, emails and marketing material.

Review your gender pay gap

It might seem obvious, but workplace equality cannot be achieved without gender pay equality. In the UK, large employers are being held accountable for any wage gaps between their male and female employees. Any organisation with 250 employees or more must publish their gender pay gap; if it highlights an imbalance, they should take steps towards improving this. No matter the size of your business, you should aim for transparency and consistency in your payroll.

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