Gender bias is often much more subtle today than the blatant bias we used to hear and see in the workplace 20 years ago. Yet, what we find is that bias is still there, it is just not as overt as it once was. It is unconscious. It is thought, not shared. We are likely not even aware of our biases. This makes it harder to detect. To understand it better, it helps to break down conscious vs. unconscious bias.
It looks something like this:
- “I do not like to work with women.”
- “Women are not fit to do this job.”
- “That is a woman’s job, men do not do that.”
- “She does not want to be promoted, she just had a child.”
- “We have to watch her travel schedule, she can’t travel that much.”
- “We’re going golfing, she would not be interested.”
What is interesting is when I share the conscious bias statements, most agree that they are clearly wrong. The bias is clear. Yet, with the second set of statements, women and men alike struggle to see the bias. Often, we have thought these things ourselves. I know as a strong supporter of women in leadership, I have thought these statements myself. It is unconscious because of the assumptions in your thought process. Often our assumptions are false, but our brains love to make these assumptions.