5 Ways to Reduce Gender Bias at Work

At the current rate of progress, it will take another 108 years to reach gender parity, according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap report. If we want to see more gender equality in our lifetime and create more empowering workplaces for our children and grandchildren, we all have an important role to play.

Toxic work cultures and microaggressions continue to plague the workplace, making it hard for some employees to bring their full selves to work while achieving their desired career progression. So, what can we do to combat the problem? Here are 5 actionable strategies:

  1. Educate Yourself & Your Colleagues 

If your colleagues aren’t aware there’s a gender bias issue, they won’t make changes. Make sure your team knows what gender bias looks like (the outright and the subtle) and how to avoid it in the workplace. Showcasing clear examples and going through exercises can help illustrate the point. 

Below are some steps to overcoming gender bias that addresses the wider system rather than expecting individual women to solve this problem:

  • Awareness & Action. Put on ‘Bias filter glasses’ and when you notice a colleague’s comment or actions being taken at work that deepens bias, take action. Here are some practical case scenarios with tips on how to respond.
  • Analysis. Collect data on your organization to reveal the true picture. Find out the gender balance among all applicants compared to successful applicants. Look at the gender balance in your shortlists. Examine performance reviews by gender and role to see if there is gender bias occurring at that level (e.g. a finance company found that women were receiving systematically lower performance reviews in male-dominated roles). The data will help you figure out where to concentrate your efforts.
  • Systemic change. The only way we will create meaningful change is to become more acutely aware of policies and champion changes. For example, ensuring there is a balance of genders when shortlisting candidates for interviews or creating panel interviews to reduce bias in the hiring process.

Also let’s remember that gender bias works both ways, not just towards one gender. With more education, we can be better prepared to identify bias when we see it or hear it.

  1. Evaluate and Champion for Equal Pay

We’ve all heard about the gender pay gap. This shows that women are paid less than men based on the same amount of work. In 2020, women still make 81 cents to every dollar a man makes. This might be the case in your company, it might not. It takes courage to open up the conversation regarding pay equity- and it’s an important one. Evaluate your current pay structure to make sure you’re aware of any discrepancies that might fall in line with this national average.

People should be paid the same amount for the same job, period. Women should be encouraged to go after raises just as much as men. By evaluating compensation trends, you can be aware of any patterns, inconsistent policies, or obvious bias that may exist. By acknowledging it, you can take steps to make compensation systems more progressive and reflective of equal pay for equal work.

  1. Stand Up to Gender Bias When It Happens

Whether it’s a side comment or a bad joke at lunch, gender inequality, bias and microaggressions need to be called out in real-time. It’s how you increase awareness of what gender bias looks like and sounds like. This doesn’t mean berating colleagues or superiors. It can present an opportunity to teach someone else what is the preferred treatment in the workplace.

This doesn’t mean it’s an easy task. It’s often awkward and uncomfortable for all involved, but the more it is called out and dissuaded, especially by managers and leaders, the more likely an organization is to eliminate gender bias in the workplace. Try to keep it light and stay positive. If it was an inappropriate joke, try asking:

“Why do you think that’s funny?” or “Do you think that joke works equally well with a male and female audience?” 

You will be forcing people to evaluate their words and setting a powerful precedent that biased jokes or microaggressions have no place here.

  1. Create Flexible Work Policies

Work is moving further away from the physical office every day. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance and practicality of remote work now more than ever. But remote work isn’t just safer, it can also minimize gender bias, allowing men and women to optimize their working hours from the location of their choice and around their other life responsibilities.

For organizations with contingent or hourly workers, this could mean more predictable and consistent scheduling to allow women greater control to work around life’s obligations. Family-friendly policies and flexibility allow employees to maintain autonomy and consistency, improving satisfaction and engagement for female employees.

  1. Establish Mentoring Programs

Sometimes, it’s not enough just to encourage women within the workplace with a one-time compliment or pat on the back. Some need extra guidance, courageous feedback, and organizational insider acumen in order to achieve their career ambitions and rise to new levels of leadership.

Research suggests that mentoring programs make for a more diverse leadership pipeline. They give minorities and women a brighter spotlight and help them climb the professional jungle gym with the help of strategic advocates, skills, and organizational knowledge.

Successful mentoring relationships pair women with senior leaders or colleagues who can illuminate steps and knowledge needed to get to their next promotion or transition. These mentors don’t have to be of the same gender. It is beneficial for men to mentor women, as men still hold the majority of senior leadership positions in Fortune 500 companies across the globe. Whether it’s mentoring circles, flash mentoring, or high potential mentoring, modern mentoring imparts a feeling of community that can help women feel more connected and engaged at work and in life.

(If you’re looking for more information on Mentoring Programs, check this out here)

It may not always feel like big strides, but we are taking steps to reduce and remove gender bias in the workplace. If we ever want to reach parity, we all have a role to play and we need to work diligently every day. The workplace should feel safe, equitable, and empowering for all.

What are some of the things you’re doing to reduce gender bias in the workplace? 

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