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  • Writer's pictureBoss Consulting HR

Gender Bias in the Workplace. Are You Part of the Problem or the Solution?

As an HR professional, you’ve heard the term “gender bias.” You may have even seen firsthand the effect both conscious and unconscious biases can have in the workplace. And because you’re becoming an expert at spotting gender biases in others, you assume you’re an expert at spotting them in yourself as well.

But just like everyone else, HR managers are susceptible to implicit gender bias. In fact, when studied, 51% of hiring managers were found to be unintentionally gender-biased. As a leader, it’s up to you to set the tone for what is, and isn’t, acceptable in your own workplace. Do the work to become aware of how your own biases affect your decision-making so you can hold yourself and your employees accountable.

First, let’s highlight a couple of staggering stats on workplace gender bias from Built In. Then we’ll tackle some steps you can start taking today to curb the effects of gender biases in yourself, your employees, and your workplace as a whole.

Let’s dig in.

Gender Bias → “a person receiving different treatment based on the person’s real or perceived gender identity.”

Measured Effects of Gender Bias in the Workplace

When gender bias is left unchecked it can cost your company both financially and in the satisfaction of its people. And we all know employee satisfaction plays a huge role in any company’s bottom line.

Within the workplace, female-identifying employees routinely face bias during, not only, the hiring process but also as they strive to move up the ranks. In fact, both women and men are twice as likely to hire a male candidate over a female one. Likewise, managerial positions are 30% more likely to go to a man than a woman.

While many of these biases are unconscious and greatly affected by social norms and practices, some are more direct and cross the line into harassment. 59% of women admit to having experienced microaggressions or harassment at work. Yet 93% of women fear reporting these behaviors because of the negative repercussions doing so could have on their careers.

Last year alone, 18,762 sex-based discrimination claims were filed with the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission). Which resulted in over $150 million in compensation owed by employers.

There truly is a real cost to gender bias in the workplace. While your managerial style alone will not erase bias, as an HR professional, there are actions you can (and should) be taking daily to help curb the effects and be a ripple toward change.

​​”HR teams and leaders alike need to be consistent in handling complaints and providing training on how to identify and address microaggressions. To address and correct gender discrimination, and accelerate gender parity in the workplace, HR needs to spot, speak up, and challenge the bias in important people decisions.” – peopleHum

See it. Speak Up. Take Action.

An anti-discrimination policy, while necessary, is not enough to prevent gender bias in the workplace. Instead, we advocate for visible HR. Where HR leaders are out there on the floor engaging with employees and other managers.

When you are doing so, you are able to catch microaggressions as they happen. You are present and available to your employees as concerns arise. When you see biased talk, actions, or workflows as they happen, speak up and say something.

Create the expectation that gender-disparaging behavior is unacceptable by speaking up and calling out the damaging actions. Not as an accusation, but as a challenge to harmful norms. Being consistent in handling complaints and taking action, will create a safe space for your people to challenge biases and set up more equal opportunities for all.

Mentor and Provide Opportunities for Change

Sometimes the bias is internal, born out of longstanding societal and personal factors. Expert Marsha Guerrier notes that “women and especially women of color…lack the professional development at work that is required to advance. [And] without recognition and development, women often wait to be recognized for their contributions and don’t feel confident enough to speak up.”

These internal biases leave the door open for imposter syndrome, perfectionism, and even self-sabotage amongst female-identifying employees. Compounding an already prevalent gender-disparity issue between male and female workers.

As an HR leader, help build an environment that encourages women to take on leadership roles. One that fosters growth and allows for mistakes to be made and learned from, as a form of building confidence and resilience.

It has been seen that “mentoring in the workplace prompts conversations and relationships that can break down barriers and remove stigmas or biases…between men and women and even women and women.”

In other words, good mentorship can play a huge role in company culture. It fosters community and also develops a sense of what behavior is and isn’t acceptable in your workplace. It is one of the most effective, and natural, ways to combat gender bias while also benefiting all employees.

“Culture is created, reinforced, and experienced by people… Mentoring’s ability to engage, advance, and support female employees can lead to a more inclusive workplace of belonging.” – atd

Other Supportive Opportunities & Ideas to Curb the Effects of Gender Bias

  • Accept that everyone has biases

  • Provide people with the tools and education to see where their biases exist

  • Practice inclusive behavior

  • Put together a diverse hiring team

  • Have a consistent hiring process

  • Interview based on skills over experience

While there needs to be a systemic, societal change to fully combat the daily effects of gender bias, you are in a great position to take steps towards change. You can do your part as an HR leader by taking daily action to foster a more inclusive workplace for employees of all genders.

If you’d like to dig deeper, we recommend joining our Quirky HR Coaching Program where no topic is off limits and an HR community is key. We also recommend this amazing resource compiled by SHRM, Women at Work: Overcoming Gender Bias, which includes almost 20 articles from credible sources about overcoming gender bias within the workplace, and action steps you can take now.

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