An important skill to dissect the concept of gender is analyzing one's own doing of gender.
- Do you treat boys and girls the same way?
- Do you have the same expectations of them?
- Do you have the same expectations of women in your environment as you do of men?
END OR MEANS?
GENDER BIAS IN THE WORKPLACE
Harvard Business Review published a study showing that evaluations of performance are influenced by bias, even when companies open the evaluation process to the public.
In general, people tend to evaluate others based on stereotypes related to gender and ethnicity, rather than assessing individuals meritocratically.
“Study finds women who wear this are looked at as more trustworthy and deserve more money”.
Since March 2020, working from home has become the norm in many companies following the covid-19 outbreak. A study by the Pontifical Catholic University in Parana, Brazil, shows that working from home makes women perceive their mornings as less complicated, because they no longer feel like they have to get ready and put on makeup.
When women in the study used cosmetics for online meetings ("visual manipulation" as described in the study), the perception of attractiveness increased. In addition, the women with makeup were also considered more trustworthy than the women without make up.
"Make-up might not only generate intrapersonal benefits, such as an increase in self-confidence, but it might also increase efficiency in interpersonal interactions that require cooperation, coordination, and trust."
Women are rewarded based on superficial external characteristics rather than merit or performance, but to a limited extent. Another study shows that when women use makeup too much, they are perceived as less trustworthy. When women use their physical appearance to gain advantages, they are described as dishonest and manipulative by other women.
It is important to approach studies like this with a critical eye. Criticizing women in the workplace based on external features encourages the objectification of women. Traits such as trustworthiness should be based on the manner of communication and previous performances, not on the physical appearance of individuals.
Are men judged the same way as women based on appearance? What does that say about the perception of women? Why is external appearance so important in times when the labor market needs new competences and skills?
Strategies to minimize the double bind
- What does it mean to be a leader? We need to redefine the answer to this question to remove invisible barriers for women in the workplace and in everyday life.
- Interrupt prejudice or bias: Be vigilant for the language used by colleagues that reinforce gender stereotypes and address the speaker in question about it. Phrases like "she is so emotional," "she talks too much," "she is too loud," etc. can undermine the competences and ability of women in leadership roles.
- "For example, if your male boss calls you "edgy" and you work in finance with a bunch of aggressive (and edgy) men, you can politely ask, "Edgy compared to whom?" and open up the conversation."
- Use the same norms for women and men when formally evaluating employees. Challenge your thinking by reversing the gender of the person you are evaluating to see if this makes a difference in your language and assessment.
- Make women leaders visible. Promote the achievements of women and actively advocate for their development and advancement. Be a role model for others to do the same.