This Week's Herman Trend Alert

Leadership in Normal 2.0

  The Herman Trend Alert

November 16, 2016

Gender Bias is Alive and Well

"There is no creation without risk." This Herman Trend Alert is a combination of research and opinion, and as such, it is a risk. I trust you will take it in the spirit in which it is written---to provide a thought-provoking look into "what is" (as we see it) as well as "what will be".

An op-ed that raised controversy
The radio personality and consultant Bob Pritchard wrote about the op-ed piece penned by John Greathouse, a partner at Rincon Venture Partners, and published in the Wall Street Journal. According to Pritchard, the opinion piece written by Greathouse, "a prominent venture capitalist", suggested that women in technology would advance their careers by hiding their identities as women. Moreover, they would be more advantaged, if only they weren't women at all. More specifically, he recommended that women use their initials, not their full names and remove their photos from their LinkedIn and Twitter accounts---thus pretending to be men. In other words, women in Tech should conceal their genders in any online presence.

The unfortunate truth
The sad reality is that gender bias is alive and well in many aspects of our society. Recently, we wrote about software that performed better at being gender neutral than interviewers who were certain that there was no gender bias in their hiring. Blind auditions produce more gender balanced orchestras. And finally, we cannot overlook the abundance of research detailing that men---and many women---will trust the work of a man, before that of a woman. As a result, women in many fields are grossly underpaid and under-appreciated compared with their male counterparts.

The Twitterverse exploded
Many were outraged at Greathouse's comments and suggestions; we were not among them. In the current gender biased environment, for some, that advice may make a lot of sense. Asking women to sacrifice their careers to "advance the cause" also makes little sense. Gender bias attitudes are ingrained and though no one would dispute the unfairness of the situation, to ignore "what is" is illogical. The real question is "How do we eliminate this bias?"

A very public double standard case study in the US
For 18 months, here in the United States, we watched the gender bias double standard play out on a very public stage. The two presidential candidates, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump were clearly held to different standards*. But the US is not alone.

A worldwide issue
Though women have risen to positions of power in many countries across the globe, gender bias is alive and well in business from Australia to Asia and the Middle East, as well as South America. Women are regularly passed over in favor of the male candidates; they are denied privileges of citizenship, and in some countries, even sold into slavery.

Not a pretty picture moving forward
The best companies are the ones that promote women into leadership, because as we have detailed, in study after study, women are rated as better leaders than men. Yet, as we look into future, we do not see gender bias going away anytime soon. What we do see is that more women are graduating from colleges and universities than men and there are more women than men in graduate schools. Regrettably, relatively few organizations are valuing the contributions of women equally to their male counterparts. Eventually, perhaps in 20 years, organizations will wake up and realize the tremendous asset women can be. Until then, women will continue to struggle.

* Gender bias was not the only reason Trump won, but it certainly contributed to his success.

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