Unconscious gender bias is a problem for companies. Today, unconscious gender bias is pervasive and embedded in the systems, structures and cultures of our organizations. Researchers call this “second generation” gender bias, and it operates unseen, beneath the consciousness of both men and women. This bias creates the glass ceiling, the mysterious barrier that denies women access to top levels of management, and costs companies millions of dollars in unwanted turnover, poor decision-making and reduced profits.
Most biases of any type are unintentional. Even good-hearted people have biases. The human brain is wired to instantly identify situations or people as “safe” or “dangerous”. This works well for us when we are walking down a deserted street after dark – we need to label things as safe or dangerous and take immediate, almost unconscious action - but it doesn’t serve us so well in the increasingly diverse workplace. We are all victims of the cultural messages and upbringing of our society in which men and women have traditionally held separate and different roles. Unfortunately, those messages manifest in unfair treatment of women and minorities and sometimes even men. There is no shame or blame in talking about unconscious bias because we all suffer from some type of biased thinking.
.Here are five steps companies can take to address gender bias:
1. Enlist the whole-hearted support of the CEO and executive team.
2. Conduct a current situation assessment.
3. Set goals for gender and minority inclusion at the top level of the organization and for hiring and promotion criteria at all ranks.
4. Mandate attendance at inclusive management training classes because evidence shows that education and heightened awareness leads to change.
5. Create ongoing practices that support inclusion.
The benefits of a more inclusive workplace will benefit all employees, will reduce attrition of good employees and contribute to the financial success of your company!
Kristin Robertson, CEO of Brio Leadership, is dedicated to increasing the number of employees who are excited to go to work on Monday mornings. Services include executive coaching, leadership development classes and company culture consulting. Don’t forget to get a copy of Kristin Robertson’s new book, Your Company Culture Ecosystem, available on Amazon.
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