We all have biases and preferences. That is not a problem. We discriminate when we choose friends, for example- some of us like outgoing friends and some of us prefer quieter friends. We want different things- which makes the world interesting. So, bias itself is not a problem. In fact, we rely on it to navigate the world.
However, when bias leaves one group of people disadvantaged or with a lack of equality, that is a problem. Sometimes, we have operated in a paradigm inside our culture for so long, bias is invisible to us. It still impacts us, and talking about it, waking up to it and taking steps to end it is important.
One thing that is very important to me is to end the gender gap, both in pay and in influence, in my lifetime. The statistics are not in our favor. Current trends are not in our favor. However, I believe that we, together, can make it happen.
First, we must recognize that we have either been unaware of it or have participated in the continuation of gender stereotyping, at least by not intervening. I certainly have. It is understandable that when you are simply living life, trying to make it in life, you go along with the ‘way things are’.
My own culpability includes allowing sexual harassment to go unchecked- I needed to take care of my daughter and myself and I had seen what happened to one woman who attempted to intervene (not good), so I kept my mouth shut. I also was asleep to women in the same job being paid less than men for decades. I just ‘assumed’ that people were paid for positions and performance. I also held invisible biases that held certain leadership traits as male. I am sure there are other ways in which I participated in the status quo.
I am aware now. In fact, I spend time researching and coaching women on breaking through the gender stereotypes, making strides to ending the gender gap and moving into positions of power. I speak about it professionally. I train women professionally, and I write about it. I am committed. We will make a difference.
One group that is making a positive difference is the LeanIn organization. They have groups throughout the country, do training, and produce a research report, among other actions. I came across this video titled WHY WOMEN HAVE TO TRY TWICE AS HARD AT WORK. It is a brilliant video. Take the time to watch it and think about how you could impact gender bias at your own place of work. One bias they discuss is called Prove It Again Bias. How they say it shows up:
- Women’s mistakes tend to be noticed more, remembered longer.
- Women’s successes tend to be attributed to getting lucky, working hard, or help from others, while men’s successes are attributed to skill.
- Objective requirements are often applied rigorously to women but leniently to men.
- Women tend to be evaluated more harshly than men.
- When a woman states an idea, it may be overlooked, but when a man repeats it, everyone notices. This is called the “stolen idea.”
I think it is important for each of us to take the time to question where our actions and assumptions are biased, then take some new actions. If we wake up, get super aware, and take new actions, we can end the gender gap.