Institutional Biases Against Women

Institutional Biases Against Women

Women have it tough in business; there’s no sugar-coating it. Especially in the higher echelons of business, there are far more successful men than women. There’s been plenty of hand-waving to dismiss this; women are more likely to work part-time, or take lower stress positions for less pay. Some folks still believe that women are simply not cut out for high-level careers as VPs and CEOs; the folks who believe this are not studying the systemic injustices that hold women back in business. These injustices can be shattered; knowledge of them will give you power.

The glass cliff is a tongue-in-cheek allusion to the glass ceiling, a concept you’ve probably heard of; don’t let the name fool you into thinking the problem is a joke. The glass cliff is the name for a tendency of companies that are failing to hire women or people of colour as CEOs, perhaps in order to bolster their image. These companies are already failing, so when they continue to fail, they’ll fire their newly-appointed CEO in favour of a white man; this gives the appearance that the company was failing because their newly appointed CEO was inadequate, and not because there was already systemic flaws in the company’s operations that no CEO could turn around in the short amount of time they are usually appointed for. This gives the illusion that women can’t be competent CEOs; “just look how many companies appointed a woman and failed”, some might say. Be sure to look beyond the surface.

The way men and women deal with stress is another illusory dichotomy. Women will work part-time and take maternity leave, employers will say,  while men will stay and work hard no matter what their family stresses are. The truth, however, is a little less black and white; men simply tend not to use the same systems to alleviate their stress. They may go on sabbatical, leave the office early or ask their colleagues to cover for them; by not using paternity leave or moving to part-time in an official capacity, men are lauded for dealing with their stress because their coping mechanisms aren’t recorded.

The cultures surrounding men and women are different as well. When we think of men as CEOs, we think of assertive individuals with gravitas and dignity; we might think of women as dependable and emotionally supportive compromise makers, qualities we don’t find as appealing in our still-masculine conceptualization of the leader role. When women assert themselves, they may be called bossy, even bitchy in whispers around the office; men are seen instead as courageous go-getters. So long as these stereotypes permeate our culture, it will remain a feat anytime a woman becomes a CEO.

We at Talent Bureau believe in equality; in an effort to help correct the egregious systemic faults that affect women, we have women in business speakers who have made it. They’ll inspire a new understanding of women as leaders in your organization, and might help propel some women into their own leadership roles. Everytime a woman finds themselves performing successfully in a leadership role, we slowly shift the archetype of leader into something more equitable.