Unconscious bias is all around us.
Did you know that tall, dark and handsome equates to about $US790 in your pocket each year for every inch over 5 foot 5? Have you heard that blondes have more funds? Because, they do: Earning approximately 7% more during their career than their brunette counterparts. Not to mention the studies confirming that women who wear makeup are perceived to be 10% more competent.
While the response to traditional sexism at work has opened up more opportunities for gender equality, the fact is that only 6% of S&P 500 CEO’s are women.
The companies that can overcome unconscious bias and embrace gender diversity realise the commercial value.
With the Australian Institute of Company Directors announcing that the number of women on boards of ASX 200 companies had hit 30 per cent for the first time at the end of last year, more companies are starting to reap the benefits of female representation.
Dr Farida Akhtar from Macquarie Business School, a senior lecturer in Actuarial Studies and Business Analytics and researcher on the success of large companies with female CEOs, highlights Shemara Wikramanayake of Macquarie Group, Mirvac’s Susan Lloyd-Hurwitz and Elizabeth Gaines from Fortescue Metals as examples of women at the top driving positive commercial outcomes.
While any event that brings awareness to gender inequality is always good, we wanted to take a deeper dive into this issue with a simple, actionable step we can all take to reduce unconscious gender bias – even when International Women’s Day is no longer in the news.
Let’s remember everyone’s vulnerable. So, whether an interaction happens between men and woman, men and men or women and women… unconscious bias is out there influencing decisions, judgements and actions everywhere, all the time.
Action step: It’s human behaviour to become complacent with what is familiar. Making a conscious effort to recognise and call out unconscious bias in the moment is the first step. Easier said than done? We suggest getting comfortable with uncomfortable moments by responding in a common, unemotional way by asking the person to #CheckYourBias.
ABDULLAH, S., ISMAIL, K., and NACHUM, L., (2016) Does having women on boards create value? The impact of societal perceptions and corporate governance in emerging markets Strategic Management Journal, Vol.37(3), pp.466-476
Boddy, N. (2020), ‘Do women make better CEOs?’ Australian Financial Review, 2 March. Available at: https://www.afr.com/work-and-careers/careers/do-women-make-better-ceos-20200211-p53znx
Catalyst, (2020, February 11), Women CEO’s of the S&P 500. https://www.catalyst.org
Etcoff, N., Stock, S., Haley, L., Vickery, S., & House D. (2011) Cosmetics as a Feature of the Extended Human Phenotype: Modulation of the Perception of Biologically Important Facial Signals. PLoS ONE 6(10).
Main, L., Clark, A. (2019), ‘ASX 200 cracks 30pc female directors target’, Australian Financial Review, 19 December. Available at: https://www.afr.com/work-and-careers/leaders/asx-200-cracks-30pc-female-directors-target-20191218-p53l09
Johnston D.W. (2010), Physical appearance and wages: Do blondes have more fun?. Economic Letters.
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March 9, 2020, mazz.napier