Last Updated: December 21, 2017, 3:57 pm

Upward: Teamwork needed to end gender bias in the workplace


My idea of a perfect world is one where both men and women are able to thrive in their chosen fields without being threatened by each other, and I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

I always wanted to be part of the “boys’ club.” Since I could walk, I tagged along with my older brother and his friends whether they liked it or not. Being told I shouldn’t participate in activities like playing video games, trespassing into Mr. Steven’s orchard, and watching MTV because I was a girl became a frequent part of my childhood dialogue.

After years of being told what I couldn’t do, whether it was from neighborhood boys, school teachers or the media, I started believing it. Middle school began and I gave up on being myself. I did my best to blend in. On a personal level, I believe a lot of things have changed since then. However, a lot of progress still needs to be made in our society.

It’s no secret that having diversity in the workplace benefits everyone. A study called “The value of diversity” by Grant Thornton revealed a strong link between diversity in decision making and business growth prospects. In the study it was shown that companies with at least one female executive board member outperformed those with male-only boards. McKinsey Global Institute reported that helping women reach their full economic potential could add $12 trillion to global gross domestic product by 2025 through advancing women’s equality

Despite these findings, there is still a gaping disconnect between the facts and the sentiment of certain leaders and organizations today.

Gender bias is something that’s happened to me, over and over again.

I was painfully reminded that gender bias still exists in the workplace two summers ago while working at a car dealership. I should have walked away during the initial interview when the hiring manager clearly stated it wasn’t important for me to make a fair hourly wage because my then-husband “already had a job.” After being hired, the same manager reminded me multiple times a month that my main responsibility was to “smile and look pretty.”

I’m ashamed to admit that despite these infuriating remarks, I didn’t speak up. I wish I had.

When the opportunity arose, I promptly left that job, and am happy to say that I now work in an office surrounded by people who treat me as an equal, regardless of my sex, relationship status or job title.

Interesting findings were published in an article called “Women in tech: What’s the real status?” by Inc. Magazine auditing the status of gender equality in the tech industry. Of 41 Fortune 500 companies in the technology sector, only five have a female CEO. Although women make up 59 percent of the total workforce, they average just 30 percent of the workforce across major tech companies. At the Best Buy vendor summit held in October, I was a disappointingly underrepresented group as a woman.  

I understand this is quite a large issue for an undergrad to tackle, and I know I can’t do it on my own.

I’ll be the absolute best version of myself. When the next opportunity arises, a decision will hopefully be made based on my merits instead of my sex. After doing my absolute best, I’ll know if a negative decision was made because I’m a woman, it will be completely their loss. If I’m ever marginalized again, like I was at that job two summers ago, I’ll promptly correct the individual.

Even after that I still don’t think it will be enough. We need the guys backing us up. Some of my fiercest supporters are men. I’ve grown intellectually from being challenged by my male counterparts. The outdated idea that gender equality somehow threatens men needs to go. Guys, you have an equally important role to play. If you witness a co-worker or friend being diminished because of her gender, not credited for a project she worked on, or being disrespected, speak up. Defend her. Advocate her.

We have some progress to make, and it’s all of our responsibility.