woman in a black blazer sitting on a chair, bias, #breakthebias

The theme for International Women’s Day 2022 is #BreakTheBias, encouraging everyone across the globe to call out injustices and commit to actions to remove bias from communities, schools, universities and workplaces.

In the workplace specifically, there is still much employers need to do to really #BreakTheBias. Within this article experts have shared five different ways employers can tackle workplace bias head on and forge a culture that creates an equal platform for women.

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Adapt how you assess performance

High performance looks different for everyone, regardless of gender, how and where they work. Teresa Boughey, CEO of Jungle HR and founder of Inclusion 247, emphasises the importance of considering this when assessing performance.

“Leaders need to establish what the success criteria looks and feels like for the role or task and work collaboratively with the employee to agree milestones and performance outputs”, she explains. “This co-creation enables ownership and limits bias creeping when it comes to determining the how of productivity”.

Hybrid working is now much more commonplace. People are choosing a flexible balance to personal and professional responsibilities. Teresa states that in hybrid working, businesses must make a conscious effort to combat ‘proximity bias’, the act of favouring those in the workplace.

“Through the lens of proximity bias, it is believed that managers are likely to end up favouring those that they see and connect with on a regular basis, while those who continue to work remotely might fall behind”, says Teresa.

“This could lead to women being overlooked if they spend more time working remotely”.

 

“Breaking the bias at work means usurping presenteeism as a measure of role success, as well as re-evaluate the idea that those that attend a physical place of work perform better. Co-created, transparent success indicators are essential in helping employees prevail on a level playing field”.

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Tackle unconscious bias

Despite research showing that gender diverse companies frequently outperform their non-diverse competitors, women in the workplace are often held back by decisions that people are unaware they’re making. This is called unconscious bias and it refers to the implicit belief systems we all have. Unfortunately unconscious bias can – and does – lead to discrimination in the workplace, and it’s a key area to overcome to truly #breakthebias this International Women’s Day.

“The way to overcome unconscious bias is to consciously acknowledge there’s a problem and unpick damaging belief systems,”  says Janthana Kaenprakhamroy, Founder and CEO of award-winning Insurtech, Tapoly.

But what practical steps can businesses take? Janthana has a few suggestions: “At a strategic level, a company could include diversity in their mission statement so it’s always top of mind. At an operational level, making diversity and inclusion a KPI to form part of the company’s recruitment and retention policy is a powerful way to consciously challenge any outdated beliefs.

Embedding diversity within the culture of the organisation is a good starting point for creating a better working environment to attract and retain talented women in the workplace.”

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Empower women to challenge discrimination

Too often women who experience workplace discrimination, be it outwardly or unconsciously, continue to deal with it privately or lean into their personal resilience to get them through. To really #breakthebias organisations and mentors need to empower women to speak up and use their voice as powerful change makers, notes Carmel Moore, Director of the One Moment Company.

“I recall being told I would have been a great speaker at an event, but lacked the ‘beer and cigar gravitas’ that the conference needed. Rather than challenging this at the time, I leant into myself. But it is never too late to create change,” says Carmel.

Carmel now coaches women leaders to find and use their unique voices and implores organisations to do the very same to break the bias, particularly in traditionally male-dominated areas.

“We all have a duty to smooth the path for the women who follow us.” 

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Actively support women’s health

Awareness and acceptance is growing around the additional performance challenges created by the menopause, however this is not always translating into tangible policy changes, notes Lesley Cooper, management consultant and Founder of WorkingWell. There are many steps leaders can take to foster a proactive wellbeing strategy to support those going through the menopause.

Workplaces should help those going through this to understand the symptoms and self-help strategies, as well as de-mystifying the HRT/Non-HRT routes. There is still a lot of confusion and urban myths about how HRT works and the risks (or otherwise) and this means that many women are unsure what help might be safely and practically available,” says Lesley.

Lesley also stresses the importance of educating the whole workforce. “Raising the level of awareness and empathy (not sympathy) in relation to the diverse and complex range of symptoms and effects will clearly demonstrate to team members how they obscure and complicate wellbeing and performance for the women concerned,” she says.

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Support them through imposter syndrome

Imposter syndrome stops many from moving on from their roles and or going for that promotion. We are all likely to feel this at some point in our careers, but with the whole host of barriers they continue to experience at work, it’s not surprising women are particularly susceptible to this.

“Whilst companies are waking up to it, many organisations still do not realise just how much female talent is going to waste because they are not investing in a culture that bolsters their female employees’ skills and self-confidence, this culture would in turn actively encourage female employees to proactively and confidently apply for that promotion.

Or leaders do not understand the career aspirations of their female staff; allowing Imposter Syndrome to soak into their female employees mindset.

 

This results in a mindset that doesn’t allow individuals to think bigger or share their career aspirations with management. Sitting within the organisation is untapped talent that if released will support business success,” says Margo Manning, Founder of The Bute Group.

Through reflection and action, this can be overcome. Margo advises organisations to facilitate dedicated time with female employees to support them in finding their strengths, this can be carried out by understanding why they were hired and their successes to date, as well as delving into their career ambitions to provide the support and development to realise this. This way, they are empowered with the value they bring and will feel confident in taking the step with support, and this will support the organisation’s success.

WeAreBreakingTheBias

Meet our 100 incredible leaders breaking the bias & calling for societal change this International Women’s Day

As part of our #WeAreBreakingTheBias campaign, we will be sharing the thoughts of over 100 leaders who are calling for societal change for women. We hope you will join us so we can amplify why we should all #BreakTheBias for gender equity.

About the author

Alison is the Digital Content Editor for WeAreTheCity. She has a BA Honours degree in Journalism and History from the University of Portsmouth. She has previously worked in the marketing sector and in a copywriting role. Alison’s other passions and hobbies include writing, blogging and travelling.

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