Friday, July 22, 2022

Gender equality: A built-in bias

 

     Within the U.S. and in many countries of the world, women make less money than men for the same work, have less mobility, and less chance of advancement. At the same time, they often have to work harder and do a better job in order to be perceived as doing as well as men. Many, probably most, agree that this situation is not a fair one nor is it a productive one. Yet, except for a couple of valiant countries which have made the situation a top issue, little progress is made from year to year.

     I believe that this is all part of traditional, and expected, gender roles. It is generally understood that most families can no longer financially support themselves on one paycheck -- yet the woman's paycheck, and career, is often the one sacrificed for children, family, and emergency needs. Managers expect that, within a couple, the woman will be the one who will have to push aside work in order to take care of children or handle other family requirements. Currently, although often true, it is not always the case. Yet, the expectation continues to exist. This carries over to evaluations. If I have the expectation that one person is not going to be always accessible and always able to perform their work duties and I have the expectation that another person IS going to be always accessible and able to perform -- then who will get the most visible assignments? Who will be considered for promotions first?

     Note that this perception is often not true (but IS true more often than might be desired) -- but the bias remains and affects evaluation, mobility, and treatment. So, even before possible work disruption actually happen, the perception is already working against the woman.

     Changes to society take a while and perception changes even more slowly than statistics. But a good approach to reducing, and someday eliminating, the perceptional bias is to take up the reins for full support of the family.

     Current medicine leaves no choice but for a child to be borne by a woman. But, beyond that, there are many things that can be done to even the responsibilities and perceived responsibilities. Parental care -- to be able to be taken by women AND men -- is an important item. Safe, affordable, affirming childcare needs to be generally available. Flexible hours, and necessary sick and emergency time, needs to be available for all.

     Changing the laws and benefits are not sufficient, of course. If parental leave is available for both parents and only women use it -- it will NOT improve perception (in fact, it validates it). If flexible hours and necessary sick and emergency time is available to all but only the women use it, or use it much more often than men, it will NOT improve perception.

     In order to reduce gender bias, laws and benefits must be in place for all employees. With that as a foundation, society then must make active use of such so that all can be perceived with the same needs and reliabilities. The existence of the support must be present and then women AND men must make use of them in order for biases and assumptions to slowly disappear.

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Gender equality: A built-in bias

       Within the U.S. and in many countries of the world, women make less money than men for the same work, have less mobility, and less ch...