Updated: Jan 15
The fight for gender equality has stretched for millenia. Modern efforts like the #MeToo movement and Women’s March have helped spur change in societal views and laws. In 2019, Congress passed the BE HEARD Act that prevents discrimination and harassment in the workplace, and in 2018, they passed legislation to eliminate the three-month waiting period to report assault. We have gone a considerable step forward from the past, and today’s society seems to be increasingly diverse and inclusive. However, gender bias and sexism still run rampant in our daily lives--close to 90% of men and women globally hold bias against women, according to a report this year from the United Nations Development Programme. These prejudices are more often than not due to our innate unconscious biases, which in modern society cause more harm than good. An important step in achieving gender equality is to recognize these unconscious biases along and continue to raise awareness and educate ourselves.
Like the name suggests, we often don’t realize our unconscious biases. We may not realize that we favor cerulean blue over shamrock green or that we favor tall people over short people until someone calls it out. Likewise, we may not realize that we favor males over females or females over males in certain situations. I found myself playing into these unconscious biases at school; when getting my class schedules, I would often assume that my female teachers were going to be easier than my male teachers solely because of the girls-are-nicer stereotype I had grown up with. Undoubtedly, unconscious biases influence our interactions with each other and with making important decisions. A 2012 Yale study found that when presented with a female candidate and a male candidate, each with identical qualifications, college faculty favored the male candidate because they viewed him as more competent. Like the study suggests, women in the workplace face much harder, unrealistic expectations. Gender roles deprecate their abilities to lead and perform, and likewise, suppress men from expressing care or grief and anything considered “unmanly.” We have all grown up surrounded by these obstructive views, and that environment has led us to form automatic preferences, a perk of our very strange brain. Fortunately, we can combat and determine unconscious biases by paying close attention to our behavior and logic or by taking tests like Harvard’s Implicit Association Test.
We must strive to improve ourselves both individually and systematically. Amending systems that facilitate gender stereotypes will help alert others about inequality issues and place us closer to our goal of equality. Stereotypes prevent us from connecting with one another and from acknowledging individual people for who they really are, instead causing us to form incorrect and potentially harmful views. Everyone deserves to be treated fairly and accepted for who they are, and we must all empathize and work with each other to achieve this simple yet daunting goal.
By Kaylee Wei
“Almost 90% of Men/Women Globally Are Biased Against Women.” UNDP, UNDP, 4 Mar. 2020, www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/news-centre/news/2020/Gender_Social_Norms_Index_2020.html.
“How to Reduce Unconscious Bias at Work.” Lattice, 26 Oct. 2019, lattice.com/library/how-to-reduce-unconscious-bias-at-work.
Locke, Connson. “Why Gender Bias Still Occurs And What We Can Do About It.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 5 July 2019, www.forbes.com/sites/londonschoolofeconomics/2019/07/05/why-gender-bias-still-occurs-and-what-we-can-do-about-it/#6e8e2d9d5228.
North, Anna. “7 Positive Changes That Have Come from the #MeToo Movement.” Vox, Vox, 4 Oct. 2019, www.vox.com/identities/2019/10/4/20852639/me-too-movement-sexual-harassment-law-2019.