Gender bias is an interesting subject to say the least. Despite what we may want, deep down, gender bias is still ingrained in our unconscious attitudes and is extremely widespread across the industries.
We may think we are moving forward on this topic however a study which was recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences conducted by Yale University shows otherwise. 127 scientists across six universities reviewed identical CVs that had been randomly given female or male names and typically selected the males to be the more competent and deserving of extra pay. And it wasn’t just men who thought this way, the women voted in a similar fashion. Those who participated in the study communicated shock at their results as they themselves thought they were above such stereotyping yet clearly the results showed differently.
A similar study also by Yale produced comparative results when individuals viewed the CVs for a police chief position. When no names were attached to the CVs, participants automatically chose the one with the higher education. When names were attached, preference went to the one with the male name regardless of the education status.
So what can we learn? Basically it is really difficult to shed ourselves of these gender bias thoughts when they colour our every waking moment; the main challenge to overcoming it however is firstly recognising when we do it. If we stand there pointing our finger at others and don’t recognise that we do the same, things will never change. We need to notice it, start conversations and encourage change where we can; this goes for men as well as women.
Are there areas in your work place which need change? Is there a department in which lazy stereotyping is rampant in your organisation? And more importantly are you holding yourself back from progression by holding onto gender bias, either subconsciously or otherwise?
Women, as we know, have the ability and potential to reach top leadership positions in companies – there is no denying that – but unconscious associations still occur. While we see women striving and working hard to reach powerful titles, in reality only 5% of Fortune 500 CEOs are women and in many industries, there are still huge disparities in the pay cheque. Deep down we still think the men should be pilots and doctors and the women nurses and teaches. And sometimes that can be hard to admit to.
We need to focus on these narratives and make a change. We can of course view CVs with names and gender removed from the text when hiring staff but in reality, we need to go further than that to really instil change. We might not be to blame for the problem we all face in our daily lives in terms of gender divide but we need to be all very much a part of the solution. We need to be aware of the rational decisions which came into play when we made specific choices – understanding it is half the battle.
Gender bias starts when we are born – pink for girl, blue for boy; dolls for the girls and blocks for the boys and even though we have made much stride forward in the past few decades, some things just never seem to change. But it can…it might just take us a little longer than we anticipated.