Break the Bias: How to create a Gender Neutral Workplace?

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Create Gender Neutral Workplace

You should speak and sit gracefully- like a woman,

Learn to compromise.

How will you manage work and your child together?

Are your in-laws okay with you working in shifts?

You know too much technical stuff for a woman!

Get married now, or you won’t find a good man

You must focus on the visual appeal of PPT while I take care of the analytics.

Sounds like something you have heard, said, or been told?  Welcome to the world of women— full of stereotypes, sexism, and gender bias. It’s so deeply ingrained in society that no matter at which stage of life women are in, knowingly or unknowingly, they encounter it throughout— at their homes, schools, and even workplaces.

It’s quite unfortunate to note that after all the progress the work culture has made, women still continue to experience inequality at different touchpoints of their entire employee lifecycle— right from the time they are interviewed.

While we have great examples of women challenging the stigmas and privileged social work culture, there are still many who seldom get to taste independence in the true sense—without being labeled, judged, or discredited for their accomplishments.

The world is the same for educated women; if not for this, we would have never had Pratibha Patil, Kiran Bedi, Indira Nooyi, and Falguni Nayar. Then what really makes the difference?

Maybe, how they choose to react—tolerate,  rebel, or do as they are told- ‘endure.’

“Women experience inequalities in the workplace, and 1 in 3 women (34%) feel this is holding them back from fully accessing their opportunities, promotions, and pay.”- LinkedIn Opportunity Index 2021

This International Women’s Month, let’s do our best to make workplaces better for women professionals.  Let’s begin to acknowledge, challenge, and take responsibility for our actions and expressions.

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In this blog, we will share how employers and employees can be better allies in breaking gender bias and creating a more sustainable tomorrow for women at work.
  • Challenges for Women at Gender Biased Workplace
    • Skewed Interview ProcessPartial Onboarding Process
    • Biased Salary StructureImbalanced Decision-Making Processes
    • Subjective Performance Review Process        
  • Start Slow but Move in Forward Direction

Challenges for Women at Gender Biased Workplace

We’ll highlight the important processes where women are still waiting for employers to become gender-neutral and focus on their capabilities.

Challenges For Women At Gender Biased Workplace
Break the Bias: How to create a Gender Neutral Workplace? 1

1. Skewed Interview Process: Gender-Specific Questions

Interview process is indispensable in recruiting candidates. In this process, screened candidates have face-to-face interactions with HRs, managers, and other key personnel of organizations, and candidates who cater to the demand of open positions are selected.

After going through many questionnaires and videos of interview processes, we noticed that women are asked questions based on preconceived social stereotypes, prejudices, and gender-specific notions during their interview process.

40% of men and women notice double standards against female candidates.”

Women candidates are selected based on their marital status, childcare responsibilities, in-laws’ background, and other similar ones, along with their skills and experience. Their work experience, qualifications, certificates, and other personality traits are weighed less in the interview process. Most of the women end up justifying how they can easily manage their home and work together, when they are deciding to plan a family, how much their spouse supports, etc., to get that particular opportunity or crack the interview finally.

Richa Sharma Quote On Gender Disparity 1
Break the Bias: How to create a Gender Neutral Workplace? 2

2. Partial Onboarding Process: Minimal Choices for Women

After crossing the barriers of the recruitment process and getting the offer letter, candidates onboard in an organization. No matter males or females, every candidate goes through induction programs, training sessions, team lunches and receives welcome kits in their onboarding process.

We interviewed a few new joiners (men and women) of the reputed organizations and found that their onboarding processes were certainly different from each other. The inbuilt notions of gender biasness among their experiences were not at all difficult to spot.

Female employees are taken for granted when it comes to selecting their hardware devices, while on the other hand, male employees are given a choice to select the components of their desktop, choose the brand of their headphones, and much more during the onboarding process. Additionally, women are pre-judged based on ‘how does she look’ rather than ‘how brainy she is’, and gender-specific language is used with her at the onboarding time.

Let’s Define Gender Neutral Workplace

  • Implement AI or digital platforms like HR software for intelligent selection based on the abilities and experiences of candidates rather than on their gender. The right platform, skills, and perspective can drive real change and redefine gender-inclusive workplaces.
  • Diversify the interview panel by proportionate the representation of both males and females. This gender-neutral panel will help get different perspectives and balance gender biasness in the interview process. Additionally, questionnaires and vocabulary can be prepared beforehand to test the candidate’s skills during the interview process.

3. Biased Salary Structure: Unequal Pay for Same Role

Employee handbook strictly adhere to discuss the salary structure at the workplace. It’s difficult to know who is getting how much salary to fulfill their roles and responsibilities in an organization. However, plenty of surveys and reports are projecting the light on issues related to unequal pay, gender-specific pay gap, and pay disparities.

The current gender pay gap in India stood at 19 percent (in favor of male employees) across many vital industries, including IT/ITES.- Monster Salary Index (MSI),

Indian women faces social stigma, paid less due to employer’s preconceived notion that females are less focussed and dedicate less time at work and more in managing household responsibilities, faces a massive gap in adjusted and unadjusted salary due to limited mentorship and maternity break, late promotions and appraisals due to limited informal conversations with male HRs, managers and other men employees and even paid less for similar role and responsibilities as that of men irrespective of the size of the organization.

Shelly Mittal Quote On Gender Disparity
Break the Bias: How to create a Gender Neutral Workplace? 3

4. Imbalanced Decision-Making Processes: Gender Bias Stereotypes

For a streamlined workflow, every employer creates an organizational structure and pre-define the roles and responsibilities of each employee. Some roles demand that employees must do deep research of trends and competitors to create strategies for better ROI. During the process of decision-making, some employees take longer than others based on their personality traits, knowledge, and other skills.

After surveying the women leaders, managers, and workers in strategical roles, we noticed that females’ ability of decision is being criticized, or vague feedback is given to them whenever they take a little longer or a little shorter to make their decisions.

Double standards, sarcastic comments related to analysis paralysis, relative comparison with male employees, and ultimately reduction of opportunities to female employees- are a few of the behavioral practices followed in gender-biased workplaces. Even if females make quick decisions-it is considered ‘by chance’ or ‘maybe she didn’t study trends’; in short, doubts related to her capabilities are raised. And if she takes a little longer than comments like ‘she lacks statistical or technical knowledge’ or ‘she is just not suitable for leadership roles’ are faced by her. In both cases, employers negatively spin towards women employees at decision-making posts and respond with a conventional or gender bias mindset.

Karan Jain Quote On Gender Disparity
Break the Bias: How to create a Gender Neutral Workplace? 4

5. Subjective Performance Review Process: Destructive and Pull-Back Feedback

Performance review process can be quarterly, half-yearly or annually, depending upon the organization’s policies. Many parameters like lead generation rates, conversion rates, individual performance as per decided KRAs, collaborative approach, etc., are considered in the evaluation process.

After the evaluation process, we interviewed both male and female employees of various organizations and requested to share their experience, how the process went and what all they received in feedback. We found a huge difference in the process and comments employees receive in their review process.

‘Destructive feedback’ with gender bias tone and language, credit to longer work hours rather than capability, questions related to family planning, and comparisons with male employees are some of the elements present in the evaluation process of woman employees. Performance review directly impacts the promotion and appraisal, so it is not difficult to understand how critical subjective feedback hampers the confidence, opportunities, and ultimately growth of women in the workplace. And even if they somehow reach the leadership roles, they are being treated as scapegoats or glass cliffs in their performance reviews.

Let’s Define Gender Neutral Workplace

  • Invest in performance review systems offered by HRMS software that provide dashboards, metrics, statistics, and other data for better insights and create a level playing field during the review process.
  • Specify criteria, diversify review panels and develop the appraisal scale for a more accurate and gender-neutral evaluation process.
  • Work towards avoiding unconscious or implicit bias in the performance review systems by instructing reviewers to deliver feedback in gender-neutral language,  give constructive feedback and maintain self-control in their voice and tone.
  • Keep track of the review committee and review their process and feedback to find out if there is a smell of gender bias comments or not.

Start Slow but Move in Forward Direction

While reading the above pointers and processes, you might be thinking how unfair or unjust the world is! Or you might just think how difficult it is to make every workplace gender-neutral. So, my dear readers, start making minor changes at your workplace, whether you are an employer or employee. 

You can start with the simplest and easiest behavioral habits to make your female co-workers feel more confident and empowered.

    • Start noticing your voice, tone, and language while talking to females be at your home or workplace. Begin practicing the gender-neutral communication language.
    • Listen rather than hear about the woman’s perspective, alternatives and suggestions. Don’t outrightly reject her opinions if they don’t match yours, be empathetic.
    • Don’t hesitate to compliment, share credit, and appreciate your co-workers for their presentation skills, efficiency at work, innovative ideas, and other personality traits. Collaborate instead compare for gender inclusiveness
    • Inspire from policies, work culture, and employee programs offered in other organizations worldwide to make a gender-neutral workplace.
    • From employee recruitment to the exit of employees, ensure each process follows a protocol to drive gender inclusivity and gender unbiased conversations

Some tips for our female employees too..

  • Share your opinions, break the ice with your male colleagues, initiate conversations to make a truly feminist workplace
  • Don’t hesitate to work in late-night shifts but a request for safe transportation facilities and other arrangements for safer work and commuting environment
  • If you feel gender biases in any workplace processes, share with your managers, HRs, or other senior employees to resolve issues and formulate appropriate policies can be formulated
  • Be feminist and fight for gender equality instead of taking advantage of pseudo feminism, be at the workplace or home
  • Voice out your stand unconventional point of view and showcase your stand with your confident postures and gestures at the workplace

This International Women’s Day, lets all pledge to eliminate ‘stree-o-types’ and minimize gender disparity for our sustainable future where both men and women can enjoy equal opportunities to lead a successful life.

Join the HROne campaign on LinkedIn to start your journey and break bias at the workplace.

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Tarulika Jain

Hi.. I am Tarulika Jain. I work as a content writer in HROne. I am an Electrical Engineer by degree, and a pragmatic writer by profession. I bring you insights about Human Resource Management and how digitalisation can make your workplaces happier. When I’m not writing, researching and reading, I walk around the woods, sip my coffee and listen to Indie Music.

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