Changing the Story of Women in the Workplace
By Kelly McGrail
Can ignoring gender bias make it go away? Of course not.
But I do wonder whether the specter of gender bias is creating self-limiting stories for a generation of women entering the workforce. This question was inspired by a recent visit to the campus of one of our nation’s most respected universities. While there, I had a chance to meet with about a dozen young graduate and undergraduate women. Their CVs were incredibly impressive. But when talking about their plans to join the workforce, rather than expressing excitement about future possibilities their questions were overwhelmingly weighted toward managing gender bias. Admittedly, this was a women-only discussion, and maybe it felt like a safer space to air their concerns versus similar discussions they had with businessmen. Regardless, it was clear the stories they had internalized led them to expect gender discrimination in the workplace.
It is good that we’re more transparent about gender bias in the workplace; it’s a critical step toward eradicating it. But an unintended consequence of this new level of openness and discussion may be that some young women are entering the workforce with fear and trepidation – instead of with gusto and optimism.
Ignoring gender bias in the workplace isn’t the answer. When we find it, we must confront it. But how do we take away its power to intimidate before it even manifests? Young women should enter their careers with the full expectation of gender parity and equality. We want them to be confident they’ll be heard, counted and valued. We want them to see differences in the workplace — any difference, gender or otherwise — as an asset, not a burden to bear.
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