Unconscious Gender Bias – Identifying & Managing it.

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As organizations seek to build a more diverse and multi-cultural workforce, one of the more significant impediments towards developing an equitable environment are the unconscious gender biases affecting behavior and lack of processes addressing them. Some such points to consider when developing related diversity initiatives are:

  1. The trap of “Act like a man” and “Don’t be a girl”.
    • Our socio-cultural environment has common gender normative concepts such as “men don’t cry” or that “women are emotional” that establish behavior and expectations. These concepts are reinforced in the work sphere where women in leadership roles are judged as being masculine or aggressive. Part of developing the right culture at work is educating your work force and establishing the philosophy that there is no typical male or female behavior i.e. “gender specific behavior”, but instead there is only leadership behavior – which is gender neutral.
  2. Recognizing that gender bias exists and take steps to address it
    • The first step in resolving a problem is identifying and accepting that there is in fact a problem. Unconscious gender bias is a reality – once managers and employees receive training in identifying biases as well as critically examining their responses and/or decisions from a gender bias lens, there is a potential for future behavior modification.
  3. Mechanisms to protect 
    • While developing appropriate policy and procedure at an organizational level is essential for eliminating discrimination and bias, one overlooked component are institutional protection mechanisms for women employees and leaders. Effective, well established and well-governed processes that offer women in the workspace protection and security, from potential ramifications are an essential component of over all policy.

Further reading:

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