Día de la Mujer 2020: Luchando contra los sesgos

Women’s International Day 2020: The fight against biases

07.3.2020

We all condemn the shockingly common discriminatory behaviors and violence towards women. Some discrimination is obvious, but some remains hidden in the unknown. Today I would like to discuss the more insidious issue of bias, both conscious and unconscious. Bias and stereotypes trigger toxic discriminatory behaviors, many of which are so ingrained that we may not realize that they stem from a gendered stereotype perspective.

One example could be the gender effect on CVs. Several studies have shown that in a fictitious CV application for a job, when the CV is presented with a woman’s name, she is less likely to be considered for hiring than when the same CV has a man’s name. The hundreds of competent evaluators who participated in this study did not purposefully favor the CV with the man’s name. It was unconscious.

Another example is when a woman in a team makes a suggestion and very few team members consider it a good idea. If several minutes later a man in the team makes the same suggestion, the team jumps on his idea . This has been referred to as “Bropropriating”, “Mansplaining” or “the Matilda effect” and was embodied in the famous cartoon representing “Miss Triggs suggestion” published in 1988 by Riana Duncan in Punch magazine.

Why do women systematically request lower salaries than men?

Why are women in leadership often more harshly criticized for mistakes than are men? Why are women promoted less frequently than men? Women ourselves harbor differing degrees of unconscious bias and self-stereotyping. Why do women feel we need to fulfill 100% of the criteria for a job before considering applying, when men will apply with much fewer required competencies? Why do women systematically request lower salaries than men?

While we should work to reduce unconscious and conscious gendered bias, we should also work on reviewing society’s model for success which has largely been designed by men.

In the publicized resignation of an Uber board member in 2017, Arianna Huffington (also on the Uber board of directors) said: “There’s a lot of data that shows when there’s one woman on the board, it’s more likely that there will be a second woman on the board.” The male board member who subsequently resigned replied: “ Actually what it shows is, it’s more likely there'll be more talking .”

There are numerous studies showing improved creativity, efficiency and productivity in collectives where decision-making bodies include women.

While this was a very derogatory remark, I think there is something to it. There are numerous studies showing improved creativity, efficiency and productivity in collectives where decision-making bodies include women. So yes, communicative and collaborative leadership, often preferred by women, needs to be valued as not just “more talking”.

Maybe we are at a moment in history where women have a chance to review and update the model. Women work very hard at conforming to the competitive general-gives-order-to-soldier leadership model that has pervaded our society. Maybe the time has come for men to do a little conforming to a collaborative-promote-and-develop-our-team leadership model. Better yet, we should meet half way.