Has this ever happened at your workplace: Your department is planning an offsite meeting. Almost by default, female employees are expected to pick up food and serve as meeting “hosts,” even if it isn’t part of their job. Or have you been in a meeting where a female colleague makes a great point that gets glossed over, but when the same point is made later by a man, the meeting leader heaps praise?
These are examples of unconscious gender bias in the workplace. Despite our best efforts, bias creeps into our daily lives as our brains are designed to quickly make sense of the situations, events and people we encounter. Simply defined, gender bias is the tendency to prefer one gender over another. In professional business environments, this can result in women being treated less favorably than men in a variety of ways, including the examples noted earlier. Many times, the person who is exhibiting the biased behavior doesn’t realize it’s happening. At best, this leads to reduced job satisfaction and frustration for the employee and can lead to a poor working environment for all.
It’s important to remember that bias doesn’t mean a person is prejudiced. Both men and women can have these biases, even toward their own gender. The following questions can help you look at your organization and better understand times or situations where bias might be happening, however subtle it may be.
1) Are women given credit in the same way as male counterparts?
As noted in the example above, it’s surprisingly common for women’s comments to be ignored during meetings. According to a Harvard Business Review study, women feel less effective in meetings than other business situations. Company leaders and managers should work to negate that, and give everyone a chance to be heard during a meeting.
2) Are women overlooked for promotions or awards?
This is a more obvious form of bias since it’s easy to track who on a team gets promoted or receives awards. When determining who receives an award, what metrics do you use? Making awards non-subjective can help eliminate bias.
3) Is the workplace designed so all will be comfortable?
There may be aspects of a workplace that create bias. Are there appropriate facilities for breastfeeding? If the office is in a high crime area, are there provisions to have secure parking? These should be explored as you consider bias in your organization.
4) Do your job descriptions use a lot of masculine words?
Recent studies show job descriptions that include masculine words tend to be less attractive to women candidates. Take the time to review job descriptions to ensure they appeal to everyone.
5) How does your organization help with work/life balance?
Outside of work, women often carry a larger burden of household and family tasks. This has only increased during the pandemic. Flexible work, parental leave, on-site childcare, work-from-home and other provisions can help provide a more favorable environment for women.
6) Are your interview questions gender based?
Open-ended interviews with non-standardized questions are a way to introduce bias into the hiring process. Moving toward standard questions that are asked of each candidate can make the selection process fair.
7) Are women compensated equitably?
The gender pay gap continues to be a concern. Having a set pay scale formula for annual pay raises can help eliminate bias from compensation decisions.
8) Does your company offer awareness training to identify bias?
Awareness training can help break down unconscious bias that may be present among employees.
9) Does your hiring process include skill tests?
Skills tests are a way to minimize bias and subjective judgments of individuals during the hiring process.
10) Do the same people get the high-profile assignments?
Do your team leaders always turn to the same people to do the high-profile work, looking past equally qualified women? This can be a sign of gender bias. Look to find ways to offer opportunities more broadly.
Ready to take the next step? See how Paycor’s Recruiting software can help reduce unconscious bias, find top talent and fill open positions in your organization.