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Second-Generation Gender Bias and How to Confront It

Stefanie Wayco

Second-Generation Gender Bias and How to Confront It
bymuratdeniz via Getty Images

In a recent article for The Glass Hammer, Nancy Monson, a career and health coach, details ways to subvert what has been coined the “second-generation gender bias.”

Today women hold more managerial positions than ever before and have made serious headway in the gender-equality in the workplace movement. That being said, women have been unable to make significant headway in the higher echelons of major corporations. For example, only four percent of Fortune 1000 company CEOs are women, according to Catalyst, an organization devoted to career development, business, and diversity in the workplace.

Second-generation gender bias refers to hidden, subtle, and silent bias that persists where women have made career progress, but still lack in the higher ranks. It does not require any intent to exclude women from the higher ranks and there is not necessarily a specific, direct, or immediate harm from the bias. Instead, the author notes, citing to a recent Harvard Business Review blog, second generation bias creates a context—akin to ‘something in the water’—in which women fail to thrive or reach their full potential.”

The author notes various ways second generation bias can manifest, including a failure to consider women for higher ranking leadership roles and compensation disparity.

Strikingly, the author points out that many women may be unaware that they are subject to any second generation gender bias. Indeed, an August 2013 Gallup Poll of 1,000 men and women nationwide found that only 15 percent of women responded that they had experienced bias.

This said, the author contends that second-generation gender bias can be tackled. Specifically, Ms. Monson suggests four ways to subvert second-generation gender bias:

  • Recognize that hidden or stereotypical gender bias exists in the workplace;
  • Ask for more;
  • Give up the need to be liked rather than being professional; and
  • Champion other women.

The author explains that once women recognize that gender bias does exist in the workplace, women will be less willing to accept it and will feel empowered to push themselves. The author suggests that women should then ask for and negotiate raises and benefits like men or risk making up to $500,000 less than male counterparts over the course of their career. Along the same lines, the author also contends that women should nominate themselves for leadership opportunities, ask for more responsibility, and share their achievements and accolades. Finally, the author emphasizes that women should support other women, and find other women and men to support them, whether it be a colleague, mentor, or life coach.