Eliminate gender bias in the workplace

Staff Editorial: The opinion of the El Vaquero staff members



A father and a son are involved in a car accident that kills the dad. The son is rushed to the hospital, but just as he’s about to go under the knife, the surgeon says, “I can’t operate—that boy is my son!” Explain how this is possible. 

If you answered that the surgeon is the boy’s mother, you’re part of a surprising minority, according to a Boston University study. Today, society perpetuates a cycle that penalizes and further discourages women who are assertive, pursue their own ambitions and are not afraid to break traditional stereotypes. According to Forbes, women tend to outperform men in various aspects including education, emotional intelligence and social skills, yet men outnumber women 17 to 1 at the chief executive officer level. Individuals may be preaching female empowerment, but the systems they actively support reflect an outdated mindset which affects attitudes towards women. 

 Significant acts towards equality have been made, such as the narrowing of the wage gap, the more widespread recognition of female accomplishments and the attention given to sexual assault against women through the #MeToo movement. However, the process is slow and often holds women to unreasonably higher standards than their male counterparts. A study reported by Harvard Business Review on performance evaluations found women more likely to receive negative comments and also more likely to be criticized for exhibiting behaviors that men are actively encouraged to cultivate. Women are taught from a young age to ask for permission, leading to self-doubt, while men by contrast grow up automatically assuming their ideas have merit and deserve the space they take up. In order to attain the same level of recognition as their male counterparts, women are required to work twice as hard and accomplish twice as much. 

Even when they’re not in the spotlight, women face additional expectations they must conform to in order to be accepted, though these expectations often come in the form of contradictions that limit the roles women can play in society. Phys.org, an online science, research and technology news organization, reported women on average are 30 percent less likely to be called for a job interview than men with the same qualifications. Similarly, women with children suffer from increased discrimination as they face a double penalty: womanhood plus motherhood; mothers on average are 35.9 percent less likely to be called for a job interview compared to fathers. It is a societal expectation that women place bread-baking before breadwinning, having duties they are expected to fulfill whilst pursuing a career. Men are never, and will never, have their abilities questioned on the basis of trying to balance a family and a career.

Society actively discourages women from pursuing careers not traditionally associated with women by establishing cognitive preconceptions—called schemas—wherein roles like “nurse” are naturally associated with women while “surgeons” are associated with men. This was demonstrated through the previously-mentioned study at Boston University, in which only a small minority of participants—less than 15 percent—suggested that the surgeon could be the boy’s mother. Women have a desire to break these stereotypes, yet are continuously discouraged from speaking up for fear of ridicule or unjust disciplinary action. They are forced to strike a balance between being vocal but not opinionated, confident but not cocky, and assertive but not bossy: standards forced upon women to navigate if they want to survive in society.   

Overall, we are still seeing progress, most of which continues to be positive, though it is important to remember that these small victories are not the whole battle. Even when the symptoms are resolved, the only way to create lasting equality is through a societal mindset shift where roles are no longer associated with a specific gender. Sincerely, El Vaquero’s all female staff.