Gender bias is unacceptable. It’s emotionally exhausting to deal with bias in all forms. While there are certainly tactics women can take on as individuals, if you are a leader (male or female) I recommend you step up as a champion to improve the culture within your company or team.
Culture enhancement has much broader benefits and implications beyond individual interactions, and may even extend to address other forms of bias if executed correctly. In particular, I am a big fan of an approach coined by La’Wana Harris called “inclusion coaching”. She’s written a book called “Diversity Beyond Lip Service”, and a brief overview is included in this Forbes article. Her comments about this approach specifically applied to the pharmaceutical industry are captured here.
La’Wana calls inclusion coaching an “inside-out” approach, where people are asked to reflect on their own personal “core values, beliefs and motivators” to become a more effective and empathetic leader. She also recommends hosting “inclusion circles” or safe-spaces where team members can discuss challenges, needs, interactions and how experiences have impacted them personally. This enables the team to develop new ways of working together that are more favorable for all parties.
In order for these efforts to be effective, they must be prioritized by leadership, information shared must be personal (not generic), and there must be accountability within the organization to embrace this culture shift. Importantly, it’s been widely accepted based on many studies that organizations that have adopted an inclusive culture benefit greatly - from recruiting, to retention, to performance and business success. So, rather than placing the onus on women individually to combat gender bias, I believe it’s important for corporate leaders to step up and build the culture of inclusion that will benefit their entire organization.
This article has been edited for length and clarity. The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the view of their employer or the American Chemical Society.
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