Leadership tips – Removing gender bias
Men are more decisive.
Women are detail-oriented.
Men are loud.
Women are more sensitive.
blah, blah, yadda, yadda...
None of it is backed by science. However, gender bias is so systematically baked into the business world that we are often unaware of the traps of gender stereotypes.
Moreover, there is a lack of representation of women in leadership levels and the pay gap between male and female employees does exist in many industries. Gender diversity has improved in many industries, but gender equality still has to catch up.
As a leader, removing gender bias is not only the right thing to do; it's also proven to be good for the bottom line.
Gender diversity decreases as we move up the ladder
Let's take a look at the US as an example. Women represent more than 60% of college graduates, based on figures from Stanford University. And women make up 47% of the workforce, according to the US Bureau of Labor.
As we move up the corporate ladder, female representation decreases: 37% of managerial positions 33% of senior managerial positions 29% of vice presidents and only 19% of c-suite.
Less gender bias and more gender diversity are good for business
Women employees score higher in empathy, reading non-verbal cues, and collaboration, according to Mckinsey & Company. These are positive qualities for collective decision making and culture building.
Research from the consulting firm also indicated that organizations in the top 25% of gender diversity are 15% more likely to have financial returns above the medians of their respective industries. And according to Catalyst, companies with the most women on the board of directors have a 16% higher return on sales.
So how best to manage different elements of a company to eliminate gender bias and achieve gender diversity. Here are a few steps.
Educate – What gender bias looks and feels like?
First and foremost, people can't change if they don't know what's wrong.
Leadership must educate employees on what gender bias look and feel like. Gender bias comes in all shapes and forms. Some will hit you in the head, and some quite subtle.
Clearly define what isn't unacceptable so that they can identify bias when they see and hear it. Only then can a company as a whole move forward.
Set fair standards
The pay gap is a good example. In many companies, women make less than their men counterparts in the same job positions. This is definitely one tangible standard that is exacerbating gender equality and bias in an organization.
Reevaluate your compensation guideline, hiring process, promotion pattern, etc. to check for inconsistencies between genders. Acknowledge the problems and set new practices to address the problems.
Good leadership stands up for what's right
Whether it's everyday behaviors such as making snide comments and sexist jokes or systematic issues like hiring practices, a good leader calls out these issues. Stand up for those facing inequality. This will not be easy, but leadership is not supposed to be.
Fact-based decisions and transparency
For companies that are "stuck with the old ways," this might be the most difficult.
Leadership must remove biased subjectivity by mandating human resource management decisions based on facts, evidence, and transparency. Most importantly, communicate the reasons behind decisions, whether it's promotion, recruiting, team restructuring or performance reviews.
A transparent standard of operations stops ambiguity and avoids the biased interpretation of situations. It can also help others understand how the decision came to be, holding managers and executives at all levels accountable.