Unconscious Gender Bias in the Workplace and its Repercussions

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Posted 14-Feb -2020

Globally, women are underrepresented in the business world, and the stake of women drops at every step up the organization hierarchy. Combating many barriers to growth into corporate senior positions, the gender-based discrimination and gender microaggression remain to be on top for women.

“Companies should be utilizing the full spectrum of the workforce. We need to make sure we aren’t unintentionally limiting our capability, leadership or future due to unconscious biases.” – Dave Smith

According to McKinsey & Company, 64% of women have experienced unconscious gender bias in the workplace. An unintentional and mechanized mental action based on gender, springing from culture, family, and personal experience is called gender microaggression. The general perception that management is a man’s job is holding women back from advancing into senior corporate positions.

Indisputably, women have achieved significant ground in the world of work in the past few years, but the unconscious gender bias within an organization remains intact and unacknowledged. The common human resource practices and company structure are usually biased towards men and prevent women from getting an equal chance to excel in senior management roles.

Performance Evaluation

Programs that reflect stereotypically masculine performance indicators such as “unfailing availability and geographical mobility” clearly put women in worse positions and lessen their chances to gain potential opportunities. Generally, men have lesser domestic obligations than women, making them more available and geographically mobile.

Assigning Potential Projects

Projects with higher potential and significant responsibilities involve senior management, and they are the decision-makers of a project assignee, while the business managers have critical powers for low-key assignments. In either case, the decision is highly impacted by unconscious biases and stereotypes rather than analyzing the employee’s skills and competencies.

Leadership Development Programs

Men and women do not get equal opportunities to participate in leadership development programs. Women indicated that they get far lesser opportunities to interact with a senior leader or CEO than their male counterparts, and this gap widens with every step of the corporate hierarchy.

Regular Workplace Norms

The common approach to favor men usually exists when men hold senior positions in the organization, disrupting women’s careers significantly. Organizations should be conscious of the presence of minorities within the workforce and the impact it has on the typecasting of social groups.

Assessing Unconscious Gender Bias & Taking Necessary Measures

However unintentional, gender microaggression is a major setback in the advancement of any woman’s career. The first and foremost thing is for companies to examine unconscious gender bias in their culture and measure its impact on the workforce. Methods such as language analysis, perceptions survey, scrutinizing gender-based pay parity, and career growth can help in assessing the magnitude of gender microaggression in the organization. Another method is to ensure that the hiring and promotion processes of the company extend equal opportunities to men and women.

Although most companies have these policies that support unbiased performance review and promotion, there’s no certainty that they are followed or implemented effectively. Organizations should also invest in workforce training that exclusively focuses on unconscious gender bias, augmented with the capacity building so that people learn ways to alleviate the volume of their unconscious biases.

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