Written on: 8 March 2022
Written by: Frances Hardcastle
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Whether we’re conscious of it or not, gender bias is deeply embedded into our society. There is perhaps nowhere this bias can be more keenly felt than in the workplace, where the gender pay gap and barriers to progression are still present.
In this article, we’ll guide you through some examples of gender bias in the workplace and share practical measures to reduce gender disparity within your organisation.
Gender bias is an attitude or behaviour which places one gender over another. If someone receives different treatment based on their perceived gender identity, this is often the result of gender bias.
Bias can affect individual decisions but can also affect wider policies and processes. In many cases, gender bias favours male characteristics and places women at a disadvantage.
Gender bias can range from outright discrimination – such as unequal pay for men and women within the same role – to more subtle barriers to success, such as written job descriptions that unconsciously favour male candidates, or performance management policies that penalise those with non-standard hours or caring responsibilities.
In many sectors, women still do not have equal representation in the workforce, particularly at senior levels.
According to the Tech Nation Diversity & Inclusion Report, only 26% of the UK’s tech workers are women. At senior levels, the disparity is even more stark – only 9% of C-Suite roles at tech companies are held by women, compared to the 91% held by men.
This amplifies the voice of the majority and can further disadvantage underrepresented groups.
While things are headed in the right direction, as a society we still have a long way to go.
It is not enough to simply believe in equality in the workplace. To achieve true gender parity, we need to examine hidden issues and take positive action to champion women at work. Below, we take you through three key techniques to make an impact.
When it comes to gender equality, warm wishes don’t always lead to action, and a perception of equality does not always match the facts.
According to a 2018 study, almost half of men thought women are well represented in leadership when only 1 in 10 senior leaders in their company was a woman.
If you’re serious about tackling gender bias, you need to get to know your data. Within your organisation you should collect, analyse, and regularly report on your employee demographics. Seek out differences between men and women by headcount, role, department, and seniority.
Gender biases can have a sharp impact on your recruitment activity. Without realising, you could be discouraging qualified candidates from applying, or ruling out amazing people based on narrow views of “good culture fit.”
To tackle this problem, you can implement a gender-neutral recruitment process. When advertising a new role, try to avoid using gender-coded language in your role descriptions.
Keep job titles gender-neutral and avoid aggressive or hyperbolic language – are you really looking for a rockstar marketing expert who’ll smash every target and crush the competition? Or do you want an experienced marketing professional with a track record of successfully implementing digital campaigns?
According to research from Hewlett-Packard, men will apply for a role in they meet 60% of the listed skills and requirements, whereas women are unlikely to apply unless they meet 100% of the criteria.
With this in mind, it can be helpful to review your wish list, clearly define your essentials versus your “nice to haves” and be open about training and development opportunities in the advert text.
Once your candidates start rolling in, you can eliminate unconscious bias by anonymising application documents and standardising your interviews.
When pay is kept a secret, it’s easy for pay gaps to emerge. By contrast, greater transparency links pay progression to performance, rather than negotiating power.
In the UK, employers with over 250 employees must report their gender pay gap data, although some smaller businesses choose to collect and report this data voluntarily.
Choosing to report your gender pay gap information can send a powerful message about your commitment to transparency and equality. Regardless of whether you choose to publish, gender pay disparity is an important metric for leaders to monitor closely.
The above techniques are tried and tested methods of tackling unconscious gender bias throughout an organisation. But what can you do to challenge gender bias as an individual?
Whether you work somewhere with a track record of eliminating discrimination, or your company is just beginning their journey towards gender equality, the most important thing you can do as an individual is to call out biases where you see them.
Ahead of International Women’s Day, IWD 2022 have created a series of #BreakTheBias pledges, which offer an excellent guide to challenging gender bias:
By channelling these seven behaviours, you can challenge gender disparity in the workplace, and become an effective ally – no matter your gender.