Why do gender biases prevail even in female-dominated industries?

Gender biases are related to the conceptualization that all people have about women, men, and gender relations.

6 de marzo de 2022
Foto: Shutterstock
Foto: Shutterstock

MEXICO CITY. Gender biases prevail even in industries that are gender-balanced or dominated by women, a study by the Harvard Business Review reveals. Gender biases are unconscious and automatic evaluations or judgments about people, situations, or things. That is, he says, "they happen without us noticing."

These are prejudices. As a result, a series of characteristics or attributes are assigned to those people or situations, which produces a partial, deviated, or even misleading view of them. Gender biases are related to the conceptualization or assignment of stereotypes that all people to a greater or lesser extent do about women, men, and gender relations.

“Clearly, having a balanced or an even higher number of women in an organization is not, by itself, changing women's experiences of bias. The bias is built into the system and continues to work even if more women than men are present,” the Harvard Business Review document says.

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To carry out the research, they interviewed 1,606 women leaders from four women-dominated-sectors: law, where women represent 53.5% of the workforce; higher education, where they represent 55.3%; non-profit religious organizations, where they represent 63.8%, and health care, where they make up 77.6%.

The results show that women experience that other women should be more aware when expressing authority, or should minimize achievements; that there is a lack of recognition of their contributions; that they are interrupted by men, and that a ‘boys' club' mentality prevails, with decisions made primarily by men.

“Even though women are the majority in these industries, we found that they still experience many prejudices. One example is restricted communication, where women have to be mindful of expressing authority and minimizing their achievements. [Participants] reported a lack of recognition for their contributions and being interrupted by men while speaking,” the report states.

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A study published in 2020 by the UN revealed that almost 90% of the world's population, regardless of gender, is prejudiced against women. The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) studied a total of 75 countries, representing 80% of the global population, and found that nine out of 10 people, including women, have a gender bias.

Those views include that men make better politicians and business leaders; that going to college is more important for men; and that men should have preferential treatment in competitive job markets. The report even showed that 28% of people think it's okay for a man to beat his wife.

Among the Latin American countries included in the UN report, the population with sexist prejudices is particularly high: Ecuador (93.34%), Colombia (91.4%), Brazil (89.5%), Peru (87.96%), and Mexico (87.7%).

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The Harvard Business Review document exposed that other difficulties faced by women in these industries are that they are considered responsible for problems beyond their control, they lack mentorship, and they have difficulty combining personal life with work.

In the case of law, a greater exclusion of women was found at high levels, as well as greater harassment and inequalities due to the high demand for working hours. Additionally, women in higher education have fewer challenges, although they do exist, such as limited communication, salary inequality, and harassment.

Regarding women in health care, it was found that they are required to spend more time with patients and provide more emotional support than their male counterparts, in addition to the forms of evaluation, job assignment, and rewards that increase inequality. While in the case of religious organizations, pay inequality, harassment, and unusual salary structures where couples are hired as an individual stand out.

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Recommendations to end inequalities

The study states the following:

  1. Replacing competition with cooperation, substituting the idea that progress can be made at the expense of subordinates
  2. Measuring success by goals and not by time spent
  3. Implementing equitable reward structures
  4. Providing remote and flexible jobs with autonomy
  5. Increasing transparency in decision making

Also read: How to identify and overcome your prejudices as a leader

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