Women in the Workplace: Busting Gender Bias and More

Two women drink coffee while seated at a meeting on gender bias and ways to support women in the workplace

Thinking about gender equity beyond International Women’s Day 

International Women’s Day was last week, and while there is cause for appreciation and awe for working women everywhere, many are not so satisfied. The team at the Founders’ Fund highlighted on Instagram some of the ways women in Canada in particular have shouldered more struggles and faced more gender bias than ever, especially exacerbated by the pandemic. On Twitter, a bot account that calculated and posted ongoing gendered pay gaps in companies “celebrating” equality on the 8th made the rounds and pointed out ongoing issues with equal pay in the workforce. 

The “she-cession” has seen hundreds of thousands of women in Canada (and across the world) laid off, with recovery still a ways off. In the spirit of the PayGapApp’s header image slogan, “Deeds not words”, we are highlighting ways that organizations and businesses can better support women and restructure their workplaces to create real change. 

Close that gender pay equity gap! 

This one should be fairly obvious, considering our opener this week. Look at the average median pay rate of your employees, broken down by gender. Are equal responsibilities and performance being recognized with equal pay? 

Something to consider as well is your org’s performance review rubric, and how it may be stacked against non-men. Many traits seen as leadership strengths in North American corporate work culture favour masculinity and whiteness, and such gender biases can impact women’s — especially Black women’s — ability to advance or receive merit increases. Consider using a tool like this series of implicit bias tests to increase awareness of biases. Building this awareness is a great first step towards making informed decisions on making meaningful changes. We also recommend looking at the Government of Canada’s 50-30 Challenge for further information on increasing diversity in meaningful, non-harmful ways. 

Office Comforts 

Especially if your organization is planning to “return to the office” as the COVID vaccination rates grow and infection rates diminish, consider basic care and comforts you can bring with you! Basic things like budgeting to have free menstrual products in bathrooms, and bumping up the meeting room thermostats are physical demonstrations of valuing women’s comfort at work. 

Mentoring and development 

Internalized misogyny occurs every day: because of the way that people are socialized to consider men to be more “natural” leaders and women to be the exception, sometimes something called “the queen bee effect” can occur. Crucial to counteracting this phenomenon is to provide opportunities for women to support other women. Don’t just promote your female employees and teammates to higher positions: set up juniors for success and support as well through mentoring opportunities. 

Breaking the Gender Bias by Shifting Assumptions About Childcare

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: women need more support when it comes to child care. Advocacy to make childcare affordable continues to be a big topic; smaller, seemingly innocuous mistakes also stand to be corrected when it comes to parenting. 

This year on IWD, a thread on Twitter went viral with the hashtag #BreakTheBias, posted by a UK judge describing an incident where she was called by her child’s school despite her husband being listed as the primary contact in the student’s records. Replies with similar examples from other women and men, describe this gender bias as a common practice when it comes to childcare. In your workplace, make sure that equal opportunities to participate in child care are available between parents of all genders, not just mothers. 

Changes, big and small, help to continue advancing women in the workplace. What will you start with from this list? Tell us below. 

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