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NEW SPHINXX SURVEY REVEALS DANGEROUS LEVELS OF UNCONCIOUS GENDER BIAS IN THE WORKPLACE

MEDIA RELEASE: sphinxx (www.sphinxx.com.au), the network for senior women in business recently polled 264 women in mid to senior positions who attended the sphinxx Ascend events for women in leadership in order to determine the development needs and experiences of women in senior positions.   68 per cent of those women said they had observed or experienced unconscious gender bias in their workplace, though 33 per cent would have reservations about raising this with their employers.

Of the attendees/respondents 63 per cent were in middle to top management, and 12 per cent were CEO/MD level.

Jen Dalitz, founder and SheEO  of sphinxx, the network for senior women in business said: “In this survey we were trying to understand the amount of gender bias that actually goes on in business and the attitudes and likelihood of women to “blow the whistle” on gender discriminatory workplaces and work practices in order for us to hone the content of the Ascend development days to benefit women as much as possible”.

The survey revealed a number of key findings regarding the attitude of employers towards women in middle to senior level roles, the two most worrying and hard to manage being the unconscious gender bias in the workplace and women’s reluctance to raise concerns about gender equity in the workplace.

UNCONCIOUS BIAS IS MOST DANGEROUS AND HARD TO MANAGE

“Conscious or deliberate  bias, actions or attitudes towards women in the workplace is fairly easy to deal with but the unconscious bias against women is hard to pin-point, to put your finger on”, says Dalitz, “and therefore the behaviour is hard to manage and eliminate in the workplace. Yet it is often the most damaging”.

“Unconscious bias can include seeing women as a riskier appointment (particularly women of child bearing years); seeing women as being less mobile or less resilient than male peers and allowing members of teams to mock women who participate in ‘secret women’s business’ – programs that support and develop women, such as networking events and mentoring programs”, she said.

Unconcious behaviour can even include examples like women being left out the usual activities and day to day goings on such as sharing of jokes, the beers after work. While women are not actively excluded, they are not included either.

CULTURAL CHANGE IS KEY

Organisations need to focus on changing the culture and being very proactive in creating opportunities for senior women to progress, says Dalitz.

This can be done by implementing visible programs (putting more women onto candidate panels, creating women’s forums and programs, mentoring programs) and by removing the invisible barriers (unconscious bias, stereotypes, attitudes towards riskiness of promoting women).

What also needs to be addressed in this cultural shift is women’s confidence to address bias issues without fear of negative repercussions, as the survey revealed that 33% would have reservations about raising bias issues with their employers.

WOMEN NEED TO HAVE THE CONFIDENCE TO BLOW THE WHISTLE

“The reservation of women to blow the whistle is most likely because of the perceptions of being a whinger or trouble maker or wanting special treatment.  So of course many women put up, until they get so tired of pushing uphill that they end up packing up and leaving the organisation”, says Dalitz.

This is supported by the following results of the sphinxx survey:

–          22% believe that raising concerns about gender equity in their workplace would have a negative impact on promotional prospects,
–          16% believe that raising concerns about gender equity in their workplace would have a negative impact on remuneration/bonus,
–          33% believe that raising concerns about gender equity in their workplace would have a negative impact on your reputation,
–          28% believe that if they raised concerns about gender equity in their workplace they would be supported by other women in their workplace,
–          only 1% felt they’d be supported by men in their workplace.

A THIRD OF WOMEN DO NOT RATE THEIR PROSPECTS OF PROMOTION

62 per cent of the respondents aspired to a top level management or CEO Role, although 33 per cent did not believe their promotional prospects with their current employer were good.
–          28% said they thought they’d been overlooked for a promotion because of their gender
–          69% support the use of targets or quotas or both as a means of improving gender diversity on boards and in executive roles
–          39% believe there are barriers to advancement for women in their current organisation

Given the findings of this survey sphinxx will also be facilitating a series of think tanks – “Women in Leadership Employer Think Tanks”, which aim to table best practice employer techniques. The think tanks will include around 12-15 key employer representatives in Adelaide, Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney.

The next round of sphinxx Ascend events for women in leadership, themed ‘Rethink Your Approach’ take place on the following dates: Adelaide 12 May ⋅ Sydney 14 May ⋅ Brisbane 18 May ⋅ Melbourne 28 May.  For more info go to the events page at www.sphinxx.com.au

ENDS

For Further Media Information, interviews with or comment from Jen Dalitz, please contact Jen on 0414 647 382 or email jen@sphinxx.com.au or Sophie Cross at PR Chicks on 0421 996810, sophie@prchicks.com.au

Kirsten-Lee Elcoate commented on 18-May-2010 12:42 PM
Isn’t it sad that only 28% of the women surveyed believed that they would be supported by other women within their workplace!!
As women we really need to get behind each-other and support each-other, not sabotage each-other’s growth within the workplace!
It is sad that only 1% of women believed that they would be supported by the men in their workplacen also, however I am more concerned that women aren’t supporting each-other!!!
I think it’s time us women did some team-building exercises and learned to let go of the jealousy and support each-other’s efforts! Together is the only way we can change the gender bias issues we are all currently facing!!

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