The ‘G’ word. From the recent ‘Me Too’ movement sprung by the Harvey Weinstein scandal, to calls for equal gender quotas, gender has dominated headlines increasingly over the last 12 months. But how can a business avoid gender bias in their workplace?
This article explores gender bias globally, the impact it has on the workplace, as well as how businesses can practically breakdown gender bias through working conditions, staff composition and awareness.
Global Gender Bias
Gender bias is a global issue. In the USA, women earn on average 21% less than men, and only 4% of fortune 500 companies are lead by women. Despite the 1970 Equal Pay Act, UK women earn 81p for every pound earned by men in 2018.
Closer to home, Irish women face a pay gap of 13.9%, with occupations remaining divided significantly by gender. Meanwhile, Iceland and other Nordic countries take the top spots for equal pay.
Gender bias remains global. Its impact can be detrimental to any working environment, its demographics and its diversity.
The Impact of Gender Bias
Workplace dynamics can be severely impacted by gender bias. Women returning from maternity leave may face bias for promotion, due to their absence while other male co-workers have continued within the workplace network.
Others may face bias within work meetings, as their voices may not be heard over male colleagues, or their opinions not listened to adequately.
- Staff Turnover
If you are a small business, increased staff turnover can cause a loss of talent and performance, damaging your reputation.
- Lack of Diversity
Businesses which do not take this cultural issue seriously will lack the ability to change in the future.
A lack of diversity can harm your business, showcasing its inability to create a culture of equality. Skills gaps can form as a result, making attracting new talent difficult for your workplace.
How Can Your Business Tackle Gender Bias?
Consciously or unconsciously, most workplaces are host to some element of gender bias. But businesses can act now to tackle this bias and transform their working environments.
- Equal Work Means Equal Work
Equal work should mean equal work. Promotions won’t happen by making sure the rubbish is done every Wednesday.
By assigning equal tasks for both men and women, a business can breakdown gender bias in the workplace, providing all colleagues with equal opportunities for career progression.
Rather than asking for volunteers, a weekly rota for general ‘household’ and administrative tasks could be established. Management can ensure all staff are given equal assignments which will allow them to develop their careers and experience.
- Awareness and Training
Allowing colleagues the time to reflect on their thoughts can make them more aware of how easily unconscious gender bias can creep into the workplace and give them training to prevent it.
- Decisions, Decisions: A Group Approach
Avoid this by making all staff decisions with fellow management or supervisory colleagues. Of course, depending on the size of a business, any present HR professionals should also be involved in crucial decisions.
This will help to breakdown gender bias, and ensure all decisions reflect the merits of staff, not their sex or gender.
- Fair Targets for All
Organisations can also ensure that all assignments are given to staff according to the targets they are expected to meet. Both men and women can be evaluated and monitored equally, giving equal opportunity of progression to all.
What About Gender Quotas?
Adoption of gender quotas has increased gradually in recent years, sparking debate over their value.
While these targets may mean businesses have figures to achieve, ensuring women are given more senior roles, others have argued that the reduction of women to numbers may mean their promotion will not be based rightfully on their merits, skills or experience, but rather their gender.
On the other hand, as the statistics presented at the beginning demonstrate, a clear need to address gender bias globally persists.
Whether you are for or against gender quotas, you can act now to breakdown gender bias, introduce better diversity within the workplace and ensure all colleagues receive equal opportunities.