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Why is it so Hard for Companies to Eliminate Gender Bias?

Most companies have made significant investments in Diversity, Equality and Inclusion (DEI). They are recruiting more women and also looking at other areas of diversity. We know this as most companies report on DEI in their annual reports and in the media.  They are also spending millions trying to eliminate biases at the workplace.

So, what’s the ground reality? There are pockets of successes, however, a number of women still feel like outsiders who need to prove themselves every day. The biases are so imperceptible that men don’t even seem to realize it.

11% women in India reported not being invited to traditionally male dominated activities
18% reported being excluded from informal interactions/conversations
26% were interrupted/talked over in meetings
16% were given fewer opportunities to speak up in meetings compared to men

Data from recent reports including the Deloitte India Women at Work Report (2023), McKinsey Women in the Workplace 2023, Harvard Business Review, and The Economic Times.

Companies continue to pour money bringing in programs, training, events and policies. They continue to hire more women. And yet, most women are trying to answer the big questions i.e. how do I navigate gender biases such as boy’s club mentality, glass ceilings, office politics, and create some work-life balance as well.

Women at mid to senior levels tend to build a fortress of self-preservation to these biases. They may become deeply careful of how they speak, dress, and communicate. Some women conscious of not treading on anyone’s toes and downplaying their authority and accomplishments.

While a lot of the work needs to be done by the organizations to ensure that women feel safe, valued, and can speak their minds, women can also do some changes in how they manage the stress induced by gender bias.

Firstly, you need to realize men are equally afraid of what they say and how they say it and if they are being perceived as biased. THE DEI programs have explained to them that they need to be more proactive in supporting women. But the programs may not have addressed what they should do. This is an area that we can directly influence in our immediate sphere.

What else can you do?

  1. Help people understand what would be supportive and what is not. Don’t assume that they comprehend what you are feeling

  2. Work with your company’s HR team, managers and informal women’s groups at work. We can’t sit back and wait for someone to take the lead. If there are significant issues, then you can take the lead to create Company-driven ‘Let’s Talk About’ sensitivity drives

  3. Find mentors, men, or women, who can help you navigate your career and ascend the corporate ladder



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