You might be more biased than you think…

At Columbus, we’re actively pursuing a culture of diversity, not only across gender but background, age and thought. We support various initiatives in the industry that help to educate our team on the issues as well as ways to help tackle them head on.

When Google announced the launch of their She Leads program, we knew we had to be involved. Focusing on gender equality in the work place, the unconscious bias’s we have and how we can bring change, our very own Naomi Buell attended the workshop and shares what she took from the day.

If you are asking “is there really still gender inequality?” you are not alone. This has been a point of contention for some time but still we’re not talking about it enough to incite change.

This workshop was important because it brought to light the conscious bias that exists – people not getting jobs because they are mothers or women – as well as the unconscious bias – male applicants tending to be seen in a more favourable light. It is our job, as women and men to have more discussions about it. The topic isn’t taboo, it’s not complicated, it’s simple – women deserve to earn the same salary for doing the same job and to be better represented at the senior level.

Despite the fact that we should be treated equally in pay and promotions, we also need to recognise that men and women are inherently different. We do not act, think or work the same. We often use different language, have different skills sets and make decisions differently. This means we need to create an environment that is supportive and rewarding for both genders. One of the attendees at the event pointed out that having job descriptions written by older men was not the best way to attract new younger female talent. After a few adjustments that put less emphasis on traditionally male qualities, they were able to attract more female applicants.

According to AdNews – “Women in advertising and media still earn 23% less than men”, proving we still have a long way to go. So what can we do? The first step is to have a discussion and raise awareness. At Columbus, we initiated a program called Women at Columbus to provide a forum for open and honest discussion about issues facing women in the workplace.

Many companies are implementing an equal pay strategy and some have transparency around the average male and female pay for certain positions.  One agency noted at the event that they will even have a walk out by its employees on Equal Pay Day this month (this is a real day that most of us didn’t even know about).  All employees will walk out at 3:24pm after working 80 % of the day to show that if women earn 80% of their male counterpart’s salary, then they should only work 80% of the day.

There were various safeguards discussed at the event including the removal of candidates’ names off resumes and having a diversity committee that address these and other issues. The Dentsu Aegis Network has a Diversity and Inclusion Committee and our General Manager, Mitchell McBeath, sits on this to help drive initiatives that support diversity through our network.

You might be thinking, “Well I don’t have a bias, neither conscious nor unconscious”, you could be right, but you probably aren’t. All attendees of She Leads were asked to complete an Implicit Association Test prior to the event.  The results showed that most of us had an unconscious bias associating women with family and men with work. Did I mention that we were all women? I suppose this should be of no real surprise.

Many of us have been hardwired to make gender based connections. At a young age we give girls dolls, dolls that they can take care of in a maternal manner; dolls that need feeding or changing. While boys might not get a mini suit and tie (although many do), their toys are certainly not focused on the paternal side of things. The stereotype continues by longer maternity leave periods for women as opposed to paternity leave for men.

As a society, we’re on our way to tackling gender discrimination but we’re not there yet. I encourage you to have more conversations with your managers, your teams, your friends and family to instigate change. Attending an event like She Says opened my eyes to the unconscious bias that the majority of us don’t know exists.

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