Marked annually on March 8th for over a century, International Women’s Day (IWD) is a global day of recognizing the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. International Women’s Day is not just a celebration – it’s a call to action to accelerate gender equity.
Difference Between Equity and Equality
While the difference between ‘equity’ and ‘equality’ might seem like a semantic technicality, it’s essential to the spirit of International Women’s Day. Equality means that each person or group receives the same resources or opportunities. Equity, on the other hand, recognizes that each person or group has specific needs and allocates resources and opportunities to meet those needs and achieve an equal outcome. IWD provides an opportunity for organizations and companies to reflect on what women need to achieve outcomes equal to men, and to take measures to make those outcomes a reality.
2022 Theme: #BreaktheBias
A major obstacle toward the achievement of gender equity in the workplace is bias. According to the IWD Foundation and LeanIn.org, 73% of women experience bias at work—yet less than a third of employees can recognize bias when they see it. Even if it is unintentional, bias makes it harder
for women not only to get hired and advance in their careers, but it negatively impacts their day-to-day work experiences. So how can a company break the bias and create a level playing field for all genders? A good first step is to acknowledge that some degree of bias – defined as a personal aversion toward a group of people – is unavoidable, and that nearly everyone falls into bias traps from time to time. When it comes to acknowledging bias against women at work and committing to act against bias, it’s helpful to define six common types of bias against women in the workplace:
- Likeability bias: When women exhibit leadership skills, they are often perceived as being ‘bossy’, ‘aggressive’ or ‘unlikeable.’
- Performance bias: Women are often perceived as being less capable than men at certain tasks, and their performance tends to be underestimated while men’s performance tends to be overestimated.
- Maternal bias: Motherhood may trigger a false assumption that a woman is not as committed to her career, or that she is less competent.
- Attribution bias: Since women are often seen as less competent as men, they tend to receive less credit for accomplishments and more blame for errors.
- Affinity bias: People tend to gravitate toward people like themselves in appearance, beliefs, and background, and may avoid people they perceive as too different.
- Intersectionality: Women can experience bias not just because of their gender, but because of their race, age, disability, sexual orientation, or other aspects of their identity.
If the first step toward breaking the bias is acknowledging its existence and raising awareness, the next step is taking measures to actively eliminate bias. Here are some actions employees and companies can take:
- Stand up to bias: Whether it’s a seemingly innocent joke or an offhand remark, bias must be called out when it occurs. While this might feel awkward, it can be an opportunity to create a friendlier and more inclusive workplace.
- Standardize pay structures: Women tend to be paid less than men for doing the same work. In 2020, women still made 81 cents for every dollar a man made. Companies can evaluate their pay structure and find ways to qualifications, experience, and merit metrics that could eliminate the gender pay gap.
- Standardize performance reviews: Studies of performance reviews show that women often receive negative feedback on their personal styles, whereas men do not. For example, a study showed that women are 66 times as likely as men to receive negative feedback for being ‘abrasive.’ Standardizing performance reviews could help reduce the effect of socially conditioned preconceptions regarding gender-biased behavioral characteristics.
- Offer flexible work options: Options for remote work can help reduce gender bias, by allowing men and women to optimize their working hours from the location of their choice and during the time that works with their other responsibilities. Studies have shown that flexible work options improve employee satisfaction for women and help them retain jobs and advance in their careers.
- Establish mentoring programs: Research shows that mentoring programs within a company help women climb the professional ladder by building their networks, skills, and organizational knowledge. Senior colleagues who mentor women can also highlight steps needed to get the next promotion and to ensure that women feel they fit within the company’s culture.
How Management Solutions and Project Controls Solutions #BreaktheBias
As a woman-owned small business with women in top leadership positions, Management Solutions ‘walks the walk’ of gender equity in the workplace. Both MSLLC and PCS offer standardized pay and performance reviews as well as flexible work options and a mentoring program.
MSLLC founder Misty Mayes has been a long-standing advocate for creating greater opportunities for women. At the time she attended the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s (UTK) Tickle College of Engineering, she was one of seven female students. She joined the college’s board of advisors in 2018, became the first female chair of the Board and co-chaired a program that works to recruit and retain more female faculty and students. She works with programs that bring awareness to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) programming for middle and high school students.
“I used to say that women need a seat at the table, and now I’m like, you know what, one seat at the table is not enough,” she said. “It’s important for us as women to turn around and always have those women behind us that we’re bringing along to have that extra seat.”