How Women Can Overcome Bias At Work

woman presiding meeting

Gender bias in the workplace is real. A 2017 investigation from the Harvard Business Review concluded that the disparity of women in senior positions boiled largely down to implicit bias, and that biases against women affect how their actions are perceived while also hampering womens’ ability to advance within their chosen fields.

What’s more, unconscious bias in the workplace impedes women by creating an environment where they are more likely to withdraw because they aren’t respected equally to their male counterparts. So, how do we tackle this problem head-on? There are various strategies both women and men can employ to encourage more equity. Here are a few to keep in mind.

Identifying Gender Bias

It’s much easier to fight against a problem when you know what it looks like, so the first step in combating gender bias is being able to identify it.

For example, gender bias can exist within the hiring process, from the gendered associations within job descriptions to the interview questions themselves. 

Take this study, for instance, which reveals hiring managers may ask men to take more math-based challenges while presenting female candidates with verbal ones, or the evidence suggesting men will apply for jobs they only meet 60% of the requirements for while women tend to apply only for those they meet 100% of the requirements for.

Being able to recognize where bias is taking place is key to dismantling the stumbling blocks that impede womens’ advancement in the workplace, and, at times, even prevents them from getting in the door.

Calling Attention To Harassment

If there’s one area where everyone in the workplace should speak up on, it’s harassment and abuse. Gender-based and sexual harassment contribute to the type of toxic environment that makes it difficult for women to succeed, and it should be called out wherever it occurs.

For men, this means sticking up for female coworkers when you know they are being victimized. For women, this means more of the same, and, in addition, taking action when that abuse or harassment is directed at you. If necessary, get a workplace harassment lawyer and learn the appropriate actions to take in the event of offensive workplace behavior.

Providing Support Outside Of Work

Helping women overcome bias at work also entails providing support outside of work. For instance, societal factors make it so that women are often more likely to have caregiving responsibilities at home, starving them of time and resources. Simply fighting bias in the workplace does nothing to mitigate this outside issue, and, where possible, women should push for employer-sponsored childcare, flexible working hours, and other benefits that will help them better balance home and career responsibilities so they can advance on equal footing at work.

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