GoodCourse has discussed ten different kinds of workplace bias before, but don’t worry — we’re not unpacking every single type of bias right now! Today, we’re gonna take a deep dive into just one: the issue of gender bias.
Gender bias, in basic terms, is treating someone differently based on their gender, rather than their abilities or qualifications. It’s a type of confirmation bias, which means that we value information that confirms our pre-existing beliefs and stereotypes. This can affect our judgement.
Gender bias can manifest fairly innocently, like if you were to assume a girl is better at cooking, or that a man is an expert at DIY. It even shows up implicitly in the words we use every day, like referring to women as ‘girls’ in the same breath as calling men ‘men’, or equating the phrase ‘man up’ to exhibiting strength and resilience. These assumptions might not seem like a big deal, but they’re based on gendered presumptions and, frankly, make very little sense.
Unfortunately, gender bias can be directed at anyone, but it most commonly happens to women, and trans and non-binary people. It manifests in a variety of ways, from unequal pay to a lack of promotions, and can seriously impact someone’s career.
This post will answer three key questions:
- What effect does gender bias have?
- How are different genders affected, in particular transgender and non-binary people?
- How to solve the issue of gender bias in the workplace?
What effect does gender bias have?
One of the most obvious effects of workplace gender bias is the gender pay gap. Women are often paid significantly less than men for doing the same job, despite being equally capable and qualified. This causes things like financial insecurity, lack of motivation, as well as disillusionment. The Gender Pay Gap Bot on twitter shows us the reality of just how true this is, highlighting the exact percentage of pay gap between men and women for over 10k organisations and counting - pretty shocking, right?
Gender bias causes a lack of opportunities for career advancement — women might be overlooked for a promotion or a leadership role, simply because they aren’t ‘seen’ as CEOs. If women can’t reach their full potential or advance their careers, it can cause frustration and lack of engagement, even causing women to leave their job.
Not to mention, gender bias impacts mental health and well-being. If someone regularly faces discrimination for something they can’t help, it can cause low self-esteem, anxiety, or even depression. Research from the University of Cambridge ties mental illnesses in women such as depression and severe anxiety to gender discrimination, particularly to the link between sexual harassment at work and mental illness.
How are different genders affected, in particular transgender and non-binary people?
It's worth noting that men and women are affected differently by gender bias in the workplace. Although women are more typically victims of discrimination, men can also experience bias based on their gender, albeit to a lesser extent. For example, men who work in traditionally female-dominated fields may be subject to stereotypes and assumptions about their abilities or motives. Additionally, men who take on caregiving responsibilities may face stigma and discrimination for not conforming to traditional gender roles. It's important to recognise that gender bias affects everyone in the workplace, regardless of gender identity or expression.
Trans and non-binary individuals also face significant challenges in the workplace due to gender bias. They may experience discrimination based on their gender identity, which can happen in various ways, such as being misgendered or excluded from certain opportunities. Like with all kinds of discrimination, it can have a negative impact on mental health and job satisfaction, as they may feel unsupported and undervalued by their colleagues and employer. A 2021 study found that the number of trans people that feel the need to hide their identity at work is actually increasing, from 52% five years ago to 65%, indicating that we’re not progressing fast enough in this area.
Organisations should take steps to promote inclusivity and respect for all individuals, regardless of their gender identity or expression. This could include implementing policies that prohibit discrimination based on gender identity, providing training for employees on how to support trans and non-binary colleagues, and creating a culture of acceptance and understanding. By addressing gender bias in all its forms, we can create a more equitable and inclusive workplace for everyone.
How to Solve the Issue of Gender Bias in the Workplace
Okay, we’re not totally naive; we know that a quick five-step guide isn’t going to solve gender bias — we’re dealing with a sizeable issue with deep roots here. However, there are things that can be done in every organisation to minimise the effects of gender bias. This requires both individual and organisational efforts.
Here are five steps that can be taken to promote gender equality and create a more inclusive work environment:
1. Promote Diversity and Inclusion
Organisations should prioritise diversity and inclusion by implementing policies and practices that support all employees, regardless of their gender or identity. This can include creating safe spaces for employees to discuss bias, providing training on unconscious bias, and ensuring that all employees have equal access to opportunities for career advancement.
2. Implement Equal Pay Policies
One of the most important steps toward achieving gender equality is ensuring everyone is paid equally for their work. Companies should conduct regular pay equity audits to identify any discrepancies in pay between employees of different genders, and take action to address these disparities.
3. Provide Flexibility and Support for Caregivers
Women often bear the disproportionate burden of caregiving responsibilities, which can make it difficult for them to balance work and family obligations. Providing flexible work arrangements such as remote working, job sharing, or part-time schedules can help caregivers better manage their responsibilities at home while still advancing their careers.
4. Encourage Employee Feedback
Organisations should encourage open communication between managers and employees about issues related to gender bias in the workplace. This can include conducting regular employee surveys or focus groups to gather feedback on how well diversity initiatives are working, as well as soliciting suggestions for improvement.
5. Hold Leaders Accountable
Leadership plays a critical role in addressing gender bias in the workplace. Senior employees must set an example by promoting diversity and inclusion at all levels of a business, holding themselves accountable for progress toward achieving gender equality goals, and ensuring that there are consequences for discriminatory behavior.
By taking these steps towards promoting gender equality in the workplace, companies can create a more inclusive environment where everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed based on their abilities — rather than their gender or identity.
Gender bias in the workplace is a serious issue that can have a significant impact on employees and organisations. By taking proactive steps to promote diversity and inclusion, we can create a workplace that is fair, supportive, and empowering for all employees.