It’s Time to Defy Gender Inequality in Your Career

Pink female sex icon and blue male sex icon“Bad work culture is everyone’s problem, for men just as much as for women…. According to a continuing study by the Families and Work Institute, only one-third (33%) of employed millennial men think that couples should take on traditional gender roles.” ~ Anne-Marie Slaughter in the New York Times article, “A Toxic Work World.”

It’s safe and maybe obvious to assume that what a man thinks about gender roles and how he acts in relationship with women in his personal life can have a significant impact on what he assumes and thinks is appropriate behavior in relationship with women in the workplace. And, the same goes for women.

Unfortunately, talking about gender-influenced behaviors and gender inequality in the workplace triggers discomfort in a lot of people, including me.

Are you like me? Did you want to and believe that you could mostly ignore gender in your career and the 21st century workplace?

Becoming Aware of Second-Generation Gender Bias

“I’m very comfortable with uncomfortable situations, and I think that can seem odd to people, that I like the thrill of discomfort.” ~Stephen Colbert

I like to think that Colbert’s thrill about discomfort points to the fact that positive growth and improvements are possible when we work through uneasy situations and conversations. And, countless stories shared by other professional women, my own work experiences, and study after study about women in the workplace scream out the fact that some uncomfortable reflections and conversations need to be had about gender biases.

The great news is that we’ve agreed that intentional acts of bias against women in the workplace and in life in general are unacceptable. But, the uncomfortable news is that there’s a more subtle foe to deal with: “second-generation gender bias.”

Woman looking through binocularIn the article, “The Invisible Barrier: Second Generation Gender Discrimination: The New Face of Gender Bias and How We Can Stop It,” Sherrie Bourg Carter Psy.D. writes that “According to researchers at the Center for Gender in Organizations (CGO), second generation gender biases are “work cultures and practices that appear neutral and natural on their face,” yet they reflect masculine values and life situations of men who have been dominant in the development of traditional work settings.1 These deeply entrenched gender-biased dynamics exist in our culture, norms, and organizational practices and directly impact hiring decisions, promotion, and salaries.”

And in the Harvard Business Review article, “Educate Everyone about Second-Generation Gender Bias,” authors Herminia Ibarra, Robin J. Ely, and Deborah Kolb write that “Second-generation bias is embedded in stereotypes and organizational practices that can be hard to detect, but when people are made aware of it, they see possibilities for change.”

Giving a Needed Boost to Gender Equality in the Workplace

When I was shocked out of my complacency about gender-related issues in the workplace, I searched the Internet for a way to understand and explain what I had observed and experienced. I encountered a whole new and fascinating world of workplace gender-related terms such as “second-generation gender bias,” “office housework,” “mansplaining,” and “bropropriating.”

After learning about these terms, a part of you may get angry, feel a bit defensive, or want to take the comfortable route of blaming men or blaming women for gender inequality in the workplace.
But, please don’t take the comfortable route!

Professional women and men with stack handsI heard the following truth spoken at a recent event by an amazing young woman and world champion rock climber, Sasha DiGiulian: “Gender equality is reached at the cross-gender borderline!”

At this same event entitled, “Women Driving the Economy,” sponsored by Virginia Congressperson Don Beyer, I learned about multiple initiatives where men and women are collaborating to advance women’s economic equality in service of better economic security for everyone.

So, I want us to focus our minds and actions on creating “small wins” for gender equality, as suggested by the authors of the “Educate Everyone about Second-Generation Gender Bias” article. I have great hope that professional Millennial men and women will have a positive and permanent impact on moving gender equality forward in the workplace.

Whether you’re a professional man or a professional woman, spend some time answering the following question: “What are ways I can contribute to small wins for gender equality in my career and workplace?”

And, here are some suggested ways you can defy gender inequality in your career:

1) Educate yourself and become more aware of how gender issues are at play in your life and workplace
Here are some additional articles to read:
Women Rising: The Unseen Barriers
What Do Men Want?

2) Participate in ending “office housework” gender bias
More women than men are asked and are somehow expected to perform “office housework” — administrative tasks (e.g., taking notes at meetings or planning office parties) that help, but are undervalued. Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, set an example by taking notes during the entire meeting of 30 chief executives.

3) Start or participate in conversations about gender equality and ways to improve it in your workplace

Women indicating enough with her hand4) Be brave and speak up about gender equality, especially if you’re leader within an organization
Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook Chief Operating Officer and author of the book, Lean In and Adam Grant, a professor at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, have shown that voicing disapproval of bias seems most effective in eliminating it and that communication about inappropriate gender biased behaviors need to begin at the top of organizations, be expressed by men and women, and be emphasized at all levels of an organization.

5) Become a part of the larger movement of advancing gender equality in the workplace
Support, praise, and recognize organizations and political and business leaders who are taking action to change structures, policies, and legislation that is paving the way for more gender equality and better work environments for us and future generations.

Would love to read and respond to your comments!

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Images courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net: digitalart (gender icons) and imagerymajestic (women looking through binoculars and woman says enough), and franky242 (teamwork – stack of hands)

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