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Leadership & Communication

Organisations ‘must tackle unconscious gender bias’

27 Aug 2013, by Informa Insights

Leadership for Women training courseWomen’s leadership skills are being unfairly judged due to unconscious bias in many businesses.

This is according to research by Catalyst Europe, a non-profit organisation for expanding corporate opportunities for women, which showed hidden prejudices can significantly affect the way in which an enterprise manages its talent pipeline.

Writing for UK paper The Guardian, director of Catalyst Europe Sandra Ondraschek-Norris said it is important to tackle these issues when they arise.

“We use stereotypes as shorthand to make generalisations about people rather than having to interpret each interaction from scratch. Some are conscious and some are not,” she explained.

“It’s not gender specific – both men and women are guilty – and the challenge is recognising bias when it happens, particularly in the workplace.”

Ms Ondraschek-Norris quoted a study by her organisation that showed senior managers considered leadership skills shown by women to be less valuable than more ‘male’ characteristics.

She encouraged businesses to stamp out “lazy stereotyping” and instead focus on interactions that do not rely on unfounded generalisations.

This is slowly beginning to happen, the director acknowledged, adding that smarter businesses are recognising that greater equality better represents their customers.

Organisations need to begin redefining their entrenched opinions of what leadership means, Ms Ondraschek-Norris continued, so that women in the workplace can achieve their full potential.

“If an organisation’s performance management systems were stereotype-free; if they reflected attributes, characteristics, and behaviours of all talent – women and men– then the workplace would truly be inclusive,” she stated.

Last year, Catalyst research found women have unequal access to the high-visibility projects and mission-critical roles that lead to career advancement.

This is despite 62 per cent of employees claiming it is these ‘hot jobs’ that have the biggest impact on their career, while ten per cent claimed leadership training was the largest influence.


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