Gender bias has been an ever-trending topic in the world of work. Specifically, topics like equal pay and promotion have occupied most of the debate. Interestingly, there has been a significant increase in the search term “gender bias”. According to Google, people searching for the term almost doubled from the year 2016 to 2019. During the same period, people seeking understanding of women promotion at work has remained stable. However, it seems that the growing trend on women promotion is specifically aimed at getting more women in a leadership position across male-dominated industries like tech and finance.
With more people graduating from universities than ever before, it’s safe to assume that there should be enough eligible women to fill seats in top management positions. So, what could be preventing women from getting into the C-suite?
Organizational citizenship behaviour (OCB) is a good beginning to understand the issue. OCB is a person voluntary action that isn’t part of their contractual agreement. Have you ever stayed past your official working hours to help out a friend/colleague? If so, then you exhibited organizational citizenship behaviour. Some companies have a culture that is high on OCB and others don’t. The general understanding is that it can contribute to organizational performance.
But how does it affect women promotion to c-suite?
Gender bias is in simple terms the stereotypical behaviour that we associate with each gender. Bias is critical in the way that OCB influences organization decision-makers. As such, organization decision-makers may consciously or unconsciously associate certain behavioural traits to each gender that may influence opportunities. When a man exhibit OCB then they usually are seen as more competent and more of team players among their peers. This, in turn, can boost their chances for promotion significantly, even more so, when a decision-maker is also a man. According to research findings, Women do not experience the same benefits when the decision-maker is of the opposite sex. Women organizational citizenship behaviour gets taken into their performance evaluation when the leader is also of the same sex. Considering the lack of women in top management positions in male-dominated industries, the actual input of women may not even be noticeable to key decision-makers.
What can you do about it?
We all have heard at some point that preventing bias is good business and can boost performance. However, most organizations still struggle with creating good strategies to combat our natural human tendencies that are bad for organizational performance. Although every organization is unique in its own way, the below tips are a good starting point to reduce gender bias and the negative impact that it has on women promotion.
Clear metrics in a hierarchy - It is important to create clear metrics because it prevents the feeling of unfairness. Although having clear metrics has been popularized recently, still very few organizations have been able to get it right. That is due in part to the uniqueness of every organization. Secondly, by creating clear metrics in a hierarchy, we acknowledge factors that are indirectly related but can be influential on employees and organizational performance. The benefit of this model is that it provides us with a wider scope of information which contributes to a more accurate judgement.
A diverse team - Diversity and inclusion are crucial in countering our internal biases and unconscious behaviours. By creating a diverse team, we adopt a greater perspective and become less inclined to act from a habitual pattern. When developing performance metrics, it's important to have women to contribute to the development. This creates a fair and more accurate judgment by bringing together the perspectives of both genders.
Empowerment - A diverse team cannot be successful without empowerment. It's important for organizations to make each employee feel valued. This is easier said than done because of the many intricacies involved in this process. When employees are not empowered to speak their mind freely then no amount of intention to create a diverse team will be successful. This could end up exacerbating the problem because unempowered employees are likely to end up agreeing with the general consensus. In male-dominated industries, this usually means agreeing to their male superiors against their will. Subsequently, creating an even narrower perspective within the organization.
Lack of diversity and empowerment leaves an entire organization more susceptible to gender bias that may be preventing women from getting their well-deserved promotion.
So, have you ever taken the time to think about how your organization deal with gender bias and women promotion?
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