Ways to eliminate gender bias in the workplace

Gender bias

Ways to eliminate gender bias in the workplace

While we’ve come a long way in terms of gender equality, we still have so far to go. Gender bias is prominent in the workplace.

More than half of women in Australia say they have experienced gender discrimination. The glass ceiling, the pay gap and limited pathways for women to progress are all documented phenomena in Australian workplaces.

Here we look at what gender biases exist in the workplace, the advantages of a fair and equal workforce, and ways to eliminate gender bias.


Gender bias in the workplace


According to International Women’s Day (IWD), bias in the workplace contributes to women being passed over for jobs and promotions. Research indicates more than half of women regularly experience microaggressions at work, with women of colour, LGBTQ+ women, and women with disabilities facing more acute biases.

Sadly, fewer than half of women surveyed say they have spoken out about biased behaviour in the workplace.

And the truth is – we shouldn’t be placing the burden on women to monitor, report or reprimand. All workplaces should be safe, and the burden lies with employers and employees to create fair and equal workplaces for all.

Gender bias can be present in several ways in the workplace. This includes:


    • Assuming the gender of a person based on their position. For example, assuming a doctor or COO is a male.
    • Using language with gendered associations in a job description. Confident or decisive are often considered male.
    • Evidence of a glass ceiling. This limits the number of opportunities given to female employees to excel within a workplace.


Advantages of diversity in the workplace


Eliminating gender bias in the workplace is not only the right thing to do but makes the most sense for your business.

Having a combination of genders, ethnicities, abilities, and skills in the workplace contributes to greater diversity. Workplaces with greater diversity report:


    • increased productivity.
    • more innovations.
    • improved reputation.
    • more cultural awareness, that allows the business to better deal with things that pop up in the global market.


Five ways to eliminate gender bias


1. Collect demographic data


You can’t work towards greater equality without first having an accurate picture of the demographics of your workplace. Specifically, look at the number of men and women at different levels of seniorities, in different departments or functions of your business, and tenures. Next, compare salaries and consider pay gaps.

The data should paint a clear picture of where imbalances in your organisation lie.


2. Remove gender bias in communications


This is particularly important for job advertisements. A tool like gender decoder will help you identify whether your ad is masculine, feminine, or neutral.


3. Where possible, automate


Biased thinking leads to biased decision making.

Where possible, automate steps in your recruitment process to remove unconscious bias from decisions. This is particularly useful in the initial screening stages where you can compare candidates based on skill or merit.

It’s even more useful if you use blind applications, which conceal a candidate’s name and can prevent you from assuming their gender.


4. Talk about the existence of gender bias


Biases are not set in stone. The best way to unlearn something is to continue to talk about the issue. Having regular training on the subject matter will help you become conscious of patterns of problems in your processes and will help you change your perception.


5. Combat the ‘motherhood penalty’


The motherhood penalty is a term coined by scientists who argue working mothers face several disadvantages in the workplace. Disadvantages include lower pay, perceived lack of commitment to the job, and less access to benefits.

Steps to combat the motherhood penalty include improving parental leave benefits, offering flexibility in working hours, and setting up pathways to leadership.


Related: What’s important to a young workforce?, Evaluate your hiring success: Metrics to measure, Six ways to boost employee engagement