Friday, March 25, 2011

Subtle Gender Bias Has Big Impact

It has been demonstrated that subtle gender bias is often manifested in classrooms.  For example, males may dominate discussions, interrupt females, ignore women’s contributions or attribute a woman’s idea to a male (See  As these behaviors build up they have a major impact on lowering women’s self confidence in their abilities.  Most experts agree that self-confidence is a foundation for leadership.
Is there similar gender bias evident in professional organizations? 
Last Fall I attended a national association meeting whose 60,000 professional members are predominately female (90%).  Before a crowd of approximately 3000 people the subtle gender bias manifested itself during the awards ceremony.  Five of the award recipients held a PhD.  One was a male and the other four were female.  Only the male was accorded the title of “Doctor”  during the introductions for award presentation.   What was so remarkable was that not only were the awards announced and presented by a female but the audience of 3,000, (composed of almost all females) was non-pulsed by the subtle bias and was consciously unaware that it had even occurred.   This is a profession that has been struggling with recognition problems for almost 70 years and has had tremendous difficulty in finding “its seat at the table.” 
Like charity, recognition, acknowledgement, respect, and appreciation must first begin at home.   If women are to progress and advance in self-confidence and leadership it is incumbent upon all of us to raise our consciousness about subtle gender bias and, when observed, to do something about it. 
Has subtle gender bias played a role in your professional organization?  Share your thoughts and remedies.