“Bias” refers to the favorable treatment of an individual or group of people, usually in a way that is unfair or harmful to others. We live in a biased world and are raised with and around biases for the entirety of our lives. As we grow, it is our job to identify and uproot biases from our viewpoints.
Unfortunately, these biases can take hold at high levels and infiltrate spaces that should remain impartial, such as the workplace. Gender bias is one of the most prevalent prejudices within the workforce. This begs a few questions—what is gender bias, how can we identify it, and how can we prevent it from infiltrating the workplace?
Before we can continue, it is important to recognize the difference between sex and gender. Sex refers to biological attributes, while gender refers to social constructs and behaviors that surround identities. In this article, “gender” will refer to these social constructs and is not limited to transgender or gender-non-conforming people. When we mention men and women, we refer to cisgender and transgender people.
Gender bias refers to the preferential treatment of one gender over another. It is possible for any gender to receive preferential treatment, but it is an indisputable fact that most people in power in the United States are cisgender men, which establishes this gender as the “norm.” It is more likely for a man to receive preferential treatment on an institutional level than a cisgender or trans woman. The farther a person strays from the gender binary, the more likely they are to receive unfair treatment.
We must also take misgendering into account. For example, you may identify as a man, but others may misgender you, see you as a woman, and treat you differently because of their perception.
Now that you know what gender bias is, you might wonder how to identify it in the workplace. Unfortunately, a person can be unfairly treated based on their gender in many ways. Instead of looking at specific instances and details, taking a step back and looking at the bigger picture can be much more effective.
First, observe the leadership around you, who’s being hired, who’s being promoted, and who’s being criticized most often. How many of them identify as men, women, non-binary, or another gender identity? Hiring, firing, and promotion practices often include unconscious gender bias.
You may notice that cisgender men are in more positions of power. This is because men are taught that social currency within the workplace is less important, while women are often taught that social currency is everything. In an effort to retain social status, people who do not fall within the cisgender male identity may actively not seek positions of power for fear of social rejection.
It is more common for employers to judge men by their potential. Conversely, they may judge women for their mistakes, intention to marry and have children, or how kind they are rather than the quality of their work.
If you believe you’ve been a victim of gender bias, intentional or unconscious, contact the Law Firm of Tamara N. Holder today. Our gender discrimination attorneys are dedicated to uprooting gender bias and making the workplace equal and equitable.