Women have come a long way in fighting for their right to work, own property, and vote--basically, to live and choose as men freely can. But although biases against females still exist, some portrayals of women in modern times create a real phenomenon called reverse discrimination. In an attempt to combat bias against women, we are ironically discriminating men.
This is acutely more observed in March, the National Women’s History Month. Titles like “The Results Are In: Women Are Better Leaders” (Forbes) and Three Reasons Why Women are Better Leaders (The Business Woman Media) become common. While some are backed with research, the generalizations hurt our goal to uphold gender parity, which encompasses not just women but also men and all who fall within the spectrum.
A healthy working environment supports and enables all genders to thrive. Here’s how to fight gender bias in the workplace.
Establish Clear Criteria for Evaluation
Having a gender-blind performance benchmark ensures fairness in evaluating an employee’s performance. It particularly helps when we have to put our subconscious biases aside such as when comparing employees of opposite sex for a promotion. Because of the prejudices of our parents, culture, or upbringing, we tend to believe that “men are more authoritarian” and “women are more collaborative.” However, an authoritarian woman and a collaborative man exist, and both ought to have equal chances to climb into higher positions.
Sometimes in an attempt to diversify, a woman is chosen to fill a vacated managerial position just because she is a woman. Don’t you think it’s just as discriminating as when men are favored for being men? Being transparent in your hiring and promotion decisions helps eliminate these unwanted practices.
Step Away from Stereotypes
When women file for leaves to spend more time with their families, it is received readily. We understand that they are nurturing and caring by nature. When men try to do the same, they are seen as weak because their main role is supposed to be the providers. They “don’t have to be as emotionally attached.” These generalizations may be true in the past, but they do not stand as absolute truth anymore in modern times because societies evolve (e.g. these men may be single parents, etc.)
Equal Pay and Promotions
The Pay Gap is real despite the Equal Pay Act of 1963. In 2016, women make 76 cents for every dollar earned by men in the US. Worse, some are blaming the "opportunity gap" to be the reason why men and women have such a huge difference in their salaries by their mid-careers as the former tend to be more favored to get the higher-level posts.
Listen and Do Not Tolerate Any Form of Bias
Professor Emma Johnston from the Sydney Institute of Marine Science in her article How Men and Women Can Help Reduce Gender Bias in the Workplace advises not to deny, diminish, defend, or derail discussion on gender discrimination.
The first step in fighting off discrimination is by acknowledging that it happens. This will prompt us to take proper actions to show that it is not tolerated and will not happen again. When complaints are brought up, those in the management should not downplay it ("You’re making a big deal out of it") or defend it ("They didn't mean it that way."). They should listen to both sides and take matters seriously.
Neutral Working Spaces
Whatever the nature of your business, you have to pay attention to your working space especially when your staff includes various genders. This ensures that they’ll generally feel a sense of belongingness. This includes room colors, the graphics, and art designs. Have representations of different genders, or go neutral.
Educate on What Is and What Is not Discrimination
Educate as some may not be aware of their implicit biases. Have a clear set of standards of acceptable and unacceptable behavior. Create a clear and non-retaliatory way that employees can bring up a complaint. Get the group to talk openly together, no matter how uncomfortable, about discrimination.
'Positively stereotyping' women in the hopes of empowering them has led to a hypocritical imbalance. And as repeated acts become habits, we have to be conscientious about the new norms we are forming and embracing. Regardless of gender, race, or religion, all must be treated with respect (Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964), and equally granted the conditions needed for their socioeconomic growth and personal progress.