People across the world continue to make positive change. But gender bias still exists. In this article I explore what these biases are and how together we can start to tackle them.
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Are you aware of gender bias? No? I was in your shoes not so long ago. If you have and you’re one of the 8.2 million people in the UK who have experienced gender discrimination, I'm with you.
I have also experienced gender discrimination without knowing, which left me reflecting on my own professional capability - this is not ok. Once I became aware of the issue, I still felt an inability to avoid it and so I became motivated to support in overcoming it.
Gender bias is prejudice actions or thoughts based on the gender-based perception that women, and people who identify as women, are not equal to men. This also influences many other gender based issues, such as the authority gap.
A recent study of 352 female participants - all of whom are either in employment, higher education or are business owners, revealed that 69% considered themselves leaders in their role. When asked whether their voice was heard, 84% responded ‘yes’.
The shocking reality of this initial question is that 16% of female leaders don’t feel heard. So why are women in leadership roles struggling?
The study continued to ask respondents how confident they feel in being able to influence decision making, this is where cracks start to show.
Only 12% answered ‘always’, 36% ‘often’ and 52% ‘sometimes’, ‘barely’ or ‘never’. Broken down into position, still only 21% of business owners responded ‘always’.
This displays a striking difference between what it is to be heard compared to influential.
To gain insight into this difference, the survey asked respondents who reported that their voices were heard, whether they feel able to influence decision making.
45% answered ‘always’ or ‘often’, whilst 55% felt they were only able to influence decision making ‘sometimes’ or ‘rarely’.
Being heard therefore, is not synonymous with being influential.
Can you relate to this? I certainly can. Whether we can immediately recognise the barrier to being heard or being influential, it’s clear there’s a common issue - it’s not just you! So, how does this link to gender bias…
The study respondents were asked to share possible explanations for this barrier:
They were then asked what they thought the main barriers were to influencing decision making. A key theme that arose was - Gender Bias.
The respondents shared some experiences of this:
What many of the respondents were describing, and the often unconscious gender bias behind such experiences, is an ‘authority gap’ - where women are taken less seriously than men.
So, how can we help overcome gender bias and in turn the authority gap?
The issue of gender bias requires a collective solution, all need to participate - all genders. We also need to address the unconscious level, people applying these bias’ without realising. Here are a few suggestions that can help us move in the right direction:
As an ambitious female within a creative industry I've experienced gender bias throughout my career.
A few years ago, the Design Council released figures that showed how 78% of the design workforce is male, despite 63% of all students studying design and creative courses being female.
Focusing on advertising, only 29% of directors are female.
There is a clear and vast gender gap, and this is not going to change until we address gender bias.
Research conducted by Catalyst shows that gender equal companies display lower employee turnover, higher levels of job satisfaction and productivity.
Similarly, Accenture found that a culture of equality in a workplace environment helps everyone advance to higher positions, accelerates innovation and growth, leading to higher economic potential. It’s clear that there are endless positive implications of women in the workplace that it’s hard to believe that gender bias is still an issue.
If we start to increase awareness and educate people, by adopting some of the solutions stated above, we can create more diverse and inclusive workplaces - where everyone prospers and benefits.
At Yoke, we strive to keep ourselves educated and aware by; attending seminars and workshops; implementing inclusion and diversity policies; acting as advocates for clients and employees alike; and we will continue to develop our knowledge and spread the word to ensure the bias is removed.
It’s clear that equality should be at the top of everyone’s agenda.
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