Career Development

The Five Ways Work Isn’t a Level Playing Field

Life ain’t fair, and neither is business. In spite of everyone’s efforts to create fair and equal work environments, bias continues to exist in business. The least we can do is try to be aware of these biases in order to mitigate their impact. So in an article for strategy+business, Lisa Unwin (See? An inability to win is in her last name!) and Deborah Khan highlight five ways that work is not fair as it pertains to gender:

  • The rules aren’t the same.
  • Scoring points can be harder for women.
  • The referee is sometimes biased.
  • Men and women don’t always have access to the same trainers.
  • People cheat and get away with it.

A Tilted Floor

“The rules aren’t the same,” can mean a lot of things, but the authors cite a specific example: salary for parents. Men with children often wind up getting a “fatherhood bonus” to salary, whereas women with children often suffer a “motherhood penalty.” Basically, the underlying bias is dads who work are great guys, and mothers who work are unreliable because they are busy taking care of kids. This segues into the next idea about “scoring points”: Men can reliably stick to a career path, steadily rising up through the ranks and reaching a senior position in their late 30s or early 40s. But women, because of taking career breaks to raise children, often climb the ranks slower. A relative tardiness climbing the corporate ladder (compared to the speed at which men climb) can make women seem less motivated or less competent for no good reason.

Another thing that can get in the way of career advancement for women is the fact that a majority of people with career-advancing power are men. Why is that bad? Because people (either gender) are inherently inclined to like people more who remind them of themselves, and it is a very difficult and subtle bias to deprogram in oneself. A similar problem plays out in training/mentorship opportunities: Men attract the help of other men, and men in turn have wider networks with which to locate help. The authors add this:

What if there were a specific effort to assign mentors to women who both have potential and made the decision to take a step back while they brought up a young family or took on another caring role? Women have a big part to play here in helping to ensure their assigned mentor is a good fit, using them strategically, and taking a long-term view about the position they want to play. And companies must also back this process or risk losing out on talented returning women.

Lastly, the authors say how some people “cheat” in business, but honestly, their examples do not actually describe cheating in any way. They mostly describe more matters of inconvenience or casual unfairness that plague women, which is not the same thing as someone twirling a wicked moustache to destroy anyone’s life. But sure, cheating happens sometimes—no need to argue that point.

For additional thoughts, you can view the original article here:

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