Overcoming unconscious gender bias in the workplace
Gender bias, both conscious and unconscious, has always been a significant barrier to the empowerment and equity of women in the workforce. Today, corporations across the globe are putting significant efforts into eliminating conscious bias, but unconscious discrimination continues to impact women at all levels. This unconscious bias is rooted in age-old traditions and manifests itself in a variety of ways, such as unintentional underrepresentation, bias in pay gaps, lower share of voice, lack of flexibility, lack of support, and unfair treatment.
Women are often seen as the caretakers of the home and family, and are therefore stereotyped as being less progressive and less dedicated than their male counterparts. As a result, women are often perceived as being better suited for "softer" jobs, while men are seen as the first choice for senior leadership roles.
This bias is often embedded in the initial recruitment process, and carries through to multiple operational levels in terms of career progression and competencies.
Women have made significant strides in the corporate workforce in recent decades, but underrepresentation of women in leadership positions remains a pervasive issue. According to research by LinkedIn, men are 42% more likely to be promoted to leadership positions in India and the representation of female leaders has dropped from 29% at the senior level to 18% at the managerial level. The State of Working India Report 2021 by Azim Premji Foundation found that 61% of men remained employed during the pandemic, compared to only 19% of women. Businesses with a commitment to diversity and inclusivity are leading the way and setting a positive example for attracting untapped female talent, fostering creativity and resilience, and promoting success.
Strategies for building a culture of inclusion
There is no one-size-fits-all solution to overcoming gender bias in the workplace, but implementing inclusive and fair recruitment and performance management practices, as well as robust leadership development programmes, can help employers bridge the gender gap. By de-biasing the workplace culture, companies can improve decision-making and drive better outcomes and sustained growth.
Another way to build awareness around this is to educate the employees about implicit bias and its consequences, which often hamper the growth of the organisation as well as the economy.
To overcome gender bias in the workplace, companies must acknowledge the bias and use data analytics to identify biased practices and processes. Collection and analysis of employee demographics and compensation and attrition trends can help identify gaps. Implementing gender-neutral hiring practices, offering equal pay and benefits, and providing standard leadership training and mentoring can help promote diversity at the board level. Regular review of diversity policies and diversifying the board room can help sustain these efforts. Standardized culture and SOPs across the hierarchy are also important.
Companies have invested billions of dollars to eliminate gender inequality in the workplace, but the goal remains elusive because inclusion must be emphasized and exercised mindfully as part of daily culture, from the ground up to the boardroom. Gender balance should be at the core of businesses, making it an integral part of the culture. Additionally, businesses should set gender ratio goals just as they do with revenue strategies. The gender mindset shift must become more than a trend and should be the mainstream standard in order to bring about needed, pervasive, and systematic change.