How To Fight Gender Bias

This woman's job title is "executive." What does an executive look like? Try to be conscious of your own gender bias.
What does an executive look like? Try to be conscious of your own gender bias.

By Krista Pouncy-Dyson
Founder of DiversityEmployed.com
April 14, 2021 at 12:00 pm

Gender bias is a preference or prejudice toward one gender over another.

Gender bias is a global issue. In many countries, eliminating gender bias is the basis of many laws, including those that govern workplaces, family courts, and even the voting booth.

Yet, to this day, gender bias manifests itself in many ways and disproportionately impacts people who identify as female.

Here are some of the ways that you can recognize gender bias in a workplace:

  • When men occupy the majority of authoritative and leadership positions.
  • A wage gap that pays men more than women who do the same work.
  • When hiring managers prefer to promote male candidates rather than women who are equally qualified.

Are you ready to avoid gender biases in your work environment? If so, here are some tips:

  1. Be Aware: “Bias is a problem ingrained in us. It is systematic,” says Jay Hardy, an assistant professor of management in Oregon State University’s College of Business. “It’s not typically about bad intent. It is a natural response of human beings to make sense of our complex world by taking mental shortcuts. However, these cognitive shortcuts can have big consequences for us when high stakes rewards like a sought-after job are on the line. Our goal is to better understand it so we can find solutions.”  
  2. Ask Questions, Question Others: “When you hear inappropriate narratives that reinforce negative stereotypes of women, speak up,” says Sherylle J. Tan, Ph.D, an author, leadership coach, and educator. “Language and phrases like ‘she is so emotional’ or ‘she is too bossy’ subverts women’s capability and competence to lead. Call it out and shift the narrative.”
  3. Get Educated: Remember that you are helping your organization by reducing gender bias. A typical Fortune 500 company that hires 8,000 new employees a year with a 1% gender bias effect can expect 32 additional failed hires and many more sub-optimal hiring decisions, resulting in productivity losses of about $2.8 million per year, according to Hardy’s research published today in the Journal of Management. A 4% bias effect would lead to an additional 192 failed hires and an additional $17 million in lost productivity.
  4. Take Action: Ensure there is gender balance when shortlisting candidates, says Connson Locke, a senior lecturer at the London School of Economics. Try to assess candidates in a gender-blind way (assuming, of course, that the pool of applicants is gender-balanced – if it is not, then removing gender from CVs might only exacerbate the existing imbalance).

Krista Pouncy-Dyson is the founder of DiversityEmployed.com and managing principal for Performance First Digital, a marketing agency in New Orleans. You can connect with the author on LinkedIn.

Learn More About Gender Bias

Gender Bias In the Hiring Process