Spotting Bias In Its Tracks: A Live Commentary
I recently read an op-ed about a successful woman who climbed to the top of her field. The op-ed extracts four lessons from this woman’s story on how she broke the glass ceiling. The amount of gender bias embedded in those four lessons astonished me, so I want to highlight those biases for you to see them first-hand.
Why am I doing this? Because we need to learn to spot the everyday inequities that keep us from unlocking gender equity’s $3.1 trillion economic upside.
PS: I anonymized the personal data in this story because my intention is to reveal hidden biases, not criticize the author or publisher.
Here’s The Anonymized Story With My Commentary In Red.
Four lessons about how Ms. Jones broke through successive glass ceilings to rise to the top of her field:
1) Do your homework
Because the gender qualification gap is real. Women earn the same as or less than men with lower educational qualifications at all but one level. That means a man with an associate degree will earn the same as a woman with a bachelor’s.
Drilled by her mother as a child not only to get her homework done, but to get it done right every night, Ms. Jones rarely enters a meeting less prepared than anyone else in the room. Despite the extra prep, Ms. Jones is still at a disadvantage to men because our system discounts women’s potential. Although women are 7.3% more likely than men to receive high performance ratings, their potential ratings are 5.8% lower than men’s.
2) Choose supportive partners
Can we please stop telling women this? Ms. Jones has had a lifelong partnership with her husband, Mr. Jones, an award-winning business man. From the beginning, he insisted that her career was as important as his, and that he take on duties in the household such as picking up their son from school as a boy. Yes, her male partner is 50% of the conversation—why wouldn’t we expect him to pitch in? It should be standard that men participate equitably in unpaid labor, not the exception. Doing so benefits the entire household because when household labor is allocated in a gender-neutral way, output per hour increases by 5.4%.
3) Lean in … when it counts
Ms. Jones pounded the table in debates, but only when she believed she had a point grounded in fact that had to be heard. Even so, it’s possible her data-driven point that “had to be heard” was, in fact, not heard. A meta-analysis of 43 studies confirms what many of us already know: that men interrupt more than women.
In less intense moments, her colleagues describe her as easygoing and sociable, happy to belt down a cocktail after a hard day of work. If Ms. Jones didn’t come off as agreeable and nonchalant, she’d be penalized for appearing too dominant and aggressive.
4) Have a purpose
And make sure the purpose is philanthropy. Because we expect women to be more altruistic than men. Ms. and Mr. Jones likened their careers to that of lighthouse keepers in the movie, “Big Joys, Small Sorrows,” by Japanese filmmaker Keisuke Kinoshita. Their daily work, family life and friendships were all built around a cause larger than themselves. For Ms. Jones’ family, her career field was their way of protecting their shores.
My Final Thoughts
Cultural inequities have roots—sturdy, unyielding, and oftentimes hidden, roots. My hope is that you use this live-commentary to attune yourself to the gender biases you may experience or witness in your day-to-day.
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