Change is happening. The ratio of female vs. male university graduates has reversed since the 1970’s: 59% of all Canadian and 55% of all US university graduates are women; and women continue to outpace men in university enrolment. The percentage of women as primary income earners has increased 31% since the era of the ‘Happy Housewife’ and 42% of dual-earning households had a woman as the primary breadwinner. And, these statistics are on the rise. We need to ensure that we are all looking through modern lenses to avoid having gender bias affect whether a woman will be considered for a promotion, a new role, more responsibility, or a relocation. If Alice* is being considered for an opportunity; or, if she has been unconsciously dismissed, check for bias by asking the following questions.
- Does Alice have young children?
- Is Alice responsible for primary care of her children?
- Would Alice’s husband accommodate a change?
- Are Alice’s children older now?
- Does Alice regularly attend to the needs of her children?
The response to each of these questions is: it doesn’t matter.
Today’s technology permits any parent, whether male or female, to address family needs and still deliver timely results at work. The lines of parental responsibility are blurred since households vary between dual-income, single-family, and blended family. Flexible work environments support work-life balance for both fathers and mothers, both parents often share primary care responsibility, and spouses tend to support each other’s careers. If a woman is appealing for an opportunity now that her children are grown, then it is assured that unconscious bias had existed previously. And, I have yet to meet a man at any level who didn’t respond promptly if his wife or children wanted his attention. These questions rarely arise automatically when considering men for opportunities, and they certainly no longer apply to women. Hopefully that antique looking glass has already been replaced with some seriously trendy specs! If not, new lenses may be in order.
*Alice is an arbitrary woman; any association to a real woman is purely coincidence.