Unconscious or implicit bias is defined as unknowingly developed associations between various qualities and social categories such as race, gender, or disability, as well as judgements made without conscious awareness. The way a person thinks, acts and behaves is impacted by their personal experiences, and they may have inaccurate or unjust beliefs and perspectives about other people.


It includes a person believing they are either better than or less than another individual because they believe they are comparable -for example, they might be of a different race, religion or age. This means they could draw a conclusion based on flawed assumptions or beliefs, which could have drastic consequences in the work environment. Working as a team is what many companies are all about, so feeling either superior or inferior to somebody would damage the dynamic of the company a great deal.


There are many different types of unconscious bias, however in this specific article, we will attempt to explore gender bias in greater depth. Unconscious bias, regarding gender, is when there is a preference towards one gender over another which often comes from deep-rooted beliefs about gender roles and stereotypes- it can be internalised or learnt directly, both would affect that gender a huge amount.


In the UK, over 8.2 million employees believe they have been discriminated against because of their gender. For example, a survey revealed that 87% of the 108 economic sectors studied were biased toward males. Furthermore, 40% of both men and women noticed discrimination against female candidates. Harassment against male employees is also an issue that is frequently overlooked. According to one analysis, despite the fact that much of the discourse centres around women, men are more likely than women to feel discriminated against because of their gender.


They discovered that women were more likely than men to believe they were not taken seriously at work because of their gender, while men were more likely to believe that those of the opposite gender get away with more at work. However, in order to eliminate workplace bias, we should concentrate on how organisations and entities can address the issue as a whole, rather than tackling each issue individually.

Unconscious Gender Bias Photo by Christina on Unsplash

Types of Unconscious Gender Bias


Performance Support Bias:

When employers, supervisors, and co-workers devote more resources and opportunities to one gender (usually males), performance support bias comes into play. According to one report, women are unfairly assigned substandard accounts compared to males among sales personnel who are paid based on performance and commission, despite the fact that women have shown to achieve the same performance when given equal sales opportunities.


Performance Reward Bias:

This occurs when an employee of one gender is rewarded differently to one of another gender. Promotions, bonuses, and other merit-based benefits are examples of possible rewards. While it may appear that praising people for their achievements will help remove gender prejudice, this is not the reality. Women and minorities earn smaller pay rises than white males when they receive the same definitive performance assessment score for the same job and work unit, according to one research.


Glass Ceiling:

These biases have played a significant role in the establishment of the ‘glass ceiling’. The glass ceiling is a metaphor for the apparent but invisible hierarchical barrier that hinders minorities and women from reaching higher levels of professional achievement. Women and minorities face a barrier that restricts them from attaining upper-level positions due to various contributing factors.

Photo by Sebastian Herrmann on Unsplash

A Few Ways Unconscious Bias is Exhibited


  1. Job DescriptionsResearch has shown that words such as confident, decisive, powerful, and outspoken have been shown to attract male applicants but deter female candidates, especially when a particular language has gendered connotations.


  1. Interview Questions – Certain questions in non-standardised interviews may be based on the candidate’s gender, experience, and personality. According to a study, hiring managers request male candidates to do more math-based interview assessments and female candidates to take more verbal tests, this is a clear example of discrimination in the work place.


  1. Recruiting Strategies –Hiring supervisors, both male and female, are more inclined to recruit males than women. They may select male candidates over female candidates based on their names, or they may post available positions on sites with a disproportionately male candidate pool.


  1. Managerial AppointingOne study found that hiring managers tend to ask more targeted questions about a female candidate’s leadership abilities and unconsciously sought for more masculine leadership styles.


  1. Professional/Career Development – In the context of the ‘glass ceiling,’ hierarchical hindrance prevents women from attaining greater levels of success in the workplace. According to a study, 60% of male supervisors felt uncomfortable mentoring, conversing with, or working with female workers one-on-one.


  1. Mentoring OpportunitiesOnly 54% of women consider becoming mentors for younger generations. Three out of four women are reluctant to mentor a younger colleague because they do not feel they have subject-specific competence, this could be down to the fear of failing due to their male counterparts or it could genuinely be a lack of experience.
Gender Bias in the Workplace Photo by Mapbox on Unsplash

Avoiding Unconscious Gender Bias at Work


It’s critical to take a holistic approach to cultivate a comprehensive and long-term talent pipeline. This entails the creation of a number of supportive and inclusive methods that reach out to female and minority ethnic employees across the board (flexible working, making career paths transparent, reviewing recruitment and selection processes, analysing your people data). Finally, we must identify and address the organisational culture, policies, and procedures that are impeding gender equality from progressing at the needed rate.


  • Collect and analyse employee and recruitment data (look at disparities between men and women by department, seniority and retention. Try to also identify biased language in job descriptions) Use this data to improve the work place, going forward.


  • Review existing bias policies (provide employees with information and resources on anti-discrimination)


  • Carry out employee engagement surveys and experiments (in order to identify issues and trends, but try and keep it anonymous so that employees submit authentic responses). This will not only keep employees happy but make the workplace a better and more professional environment.


  • Implement regular gender bias training (informing your team of the different types of unconscious bias and then look for diversity and inclusion professionals or unconscious bias programs). This will aid managers in educating their staff.


  • Give everyone a seat at the table. One study found that gender-diverse teams are 73% better at decision making than teams that are all men.


We need to make the unconscious, conscious.


By raising awareness of these issues and addressing them head-on, we are able to then empower many individuals. This may involve having some uncomfortable conversations, but this is crucial in order to create a comfortable environment for all workers. A fair workplace will then lead to a successful organisation. Companies should work harder to embrace diversity and inclusion for all groups of people.