Bias is all around us, whether it be conscious or unconscious. Battling workplace bias requires deliberate strategies, including learning to say no, getting comfortable talking about uncomfortable topics, and helping others behind you!
Gender bias is defined as “Gender bias is behavior that shows favoritism toward one gender over another. Most often, gender bias is the act of favoring men and/or boys over women and/or girls.” - Wiley
However, it’s important to note that gender bias can also affect men and boys - it’s situational and very dependent on the environment that you’re in. Gender bias is more likely to be prevalent in a workplace where there is a gender imbalance, as well as in a line of work that is deemed more “masculine” or “feminine” - and it can go all the way down to specific tasks that we have gendered through societal norms.
Here are our 5 tips for navigating gender bias in the workplace
Make the unconscious, conscious
Unconscious bias! We’ve spoken about it time and time again, but unconscious bias is something that we are all susceptible to, whether it’s from our own views, how we’ve been brought up or the environment that we’ve been in.
One of the first steps to navigating gender bias is confronting what you unconsciously think about specific genders. Unpacking that and seeing where your biases lie not only makes them conscious, but they enable you to unlearn them and challenge them quicker. You may want to do this individually but also in a group setting:
“Establish a safe forum for people to discuss and share their experience, concerns and approaches to unconscious bias. Lead by example - show an openness and honesty in examining your own behaviours and expectations. Coach and train managers to lead these discussions within their own teams. Encourage them to actively listen and respond to issues raised by team members and feedback issues.” - Legal Island
Find allies, and be an ally to others
Calling out instances of gender bias and showing solidarity in the workplace is crucial to making a difference! Being an ally to others and actively demonstrating that you’re on someone’s side makes a huge difference.
Not only does it enable you to build stronger interpersonal relationships at work, but it also encourages others to engage in the same behaviours as you’re leading by example. Particularly for those who are senior or have juniors reporting to them - being an ally and engaging in this behaviour sets a great precedent for your team.
Rotate responsibilities, regardless of gender
Unconscious bias can creep up on us at any time, so rotating simple responsibilities within a team (for example who is taking notes during a meeting) leaves less room for this and also ensures that everybody is getting involved. In some workplaces, this may not be possible for every group task. But, where you can, rotate responsibilities to avoid unconscious bias overall.
Don’t punish, instead educate
People are going to make mistakes, and not everything will be done out of malice. Instead of punishing someone for making a mistake or engaging in gender bias, use it as a chance for education.
People are going to be resistant to making a change if they feel like they’re being forced or it’s insincere. At the end of the day, we all have biases and if there is a culture of learning vs a culture of punishment, you’re likely to have better success in the long term!
Create resources that people can refer to, call people out on certain language or phrases, and do it from a place of love and understanding. There is a huge fear of saying the “wrong” thing, which in many instances holds people back (even when they want to make a difference). Dissipating this will enable you to see progress much quicker.
Whether you’re a leader looking to combat gender bias within your team, or a business owner trying to make true change, it’s important to be intentional and not rush. Creating gender balance and calling out gender bias isn’t going to resolve itself overnight.
As much as we’d love to tell you that you can achieve incredible results quickly, it takes a lot of unlearning (from both men and women) - so be intentional, don’t rush it, and focus on smaller, incremental changes that will make an impact on your team/organisation.