I conducted a gender awareness workshop for a bunch of very senior academic blokes and one (their only) female peer, last week.
I included a few scenarios depicting common examples of bias that resulted in women being overburdened with corporate or HR responsibilities, student or staff welfare, additional teaching or administrative loads – all of which interferes with their ability to do research.
Most of the Deans were adamant that such practices didn’t happen in their Colleges. One in particular, was outraged. ‘I find that intolerable’, he said. ‘That would never happen around here! It’s manipulation at the very least and surely, pure discrimination!’
‘That happens to me and my women colleagues on a regular basis,’ their female peer replied.
This was pretty much the theme for the workshop. One particular, well intentioned, conscientious fellow expressed frequent disbelief. He had never seen or heard the differences in communication style, the unfortunate discriminatory practices that meant the women in his institution were typically evaluated more harshly, assumed less competent and often rendered invisible.
None of it happened in his College, or, indeed, in his time at this institution.
Fortunately, the woman in our midst was happy (indeed, relieved) to share her experiences and by the end of our workshop, everyone was reflective and thoughtful.
Two disbelievers left considerably abashed and both said they’d learned more than they thought they would.
Creating the forum to tell your story then finding the courage to speak up is the first step in creating awareness of the unintentional, often unconscious bias that women face daily in the workplace. The next step is encouraging the guys in power to do something about it.