How Leaders Can Help Tear Down the Gender Bias in STEM

How Leaders Can Help Tear Down the Gender Bias in STEM

National Women’s Equality Day is right around the corner, and we compiled tips for STEM leaders on how to create an inclusive workplace.

According to the National Science Foundation, 29% of the STEM workforce is made up of women and 50% of those women have reported they have experienced gender discrimination at work.

Here are some actions you can take to help eliminate gender bias in your organization and foster a welcoming workplace for all employees.

Listen to Female Workers

 The first thing you can do to support female workers is to listen to them about the struggles they are facing and ask them for input on how you can improve as a leader and change the workplace culture.

In a survey from Catalyst, it is reported that 45% of women business leaders feel that it is hard for them to speak up and contribute to conversations in meetings at work.

Having an open line of communication for all workers, no matter their gender, can allow for productive conversations, personal connections and feelings of respect.

Additionally, consider having an open mind with ideas and suggestions from your team. Not one person will be able to have all the answers, but when you are open to new ideas, you can grow and change your work environment for the better when you welcome fresh perspectives and are open to listening to the struggles your workers are facing.

Educate Employees

Education about women’s struggles could help stop discrimination at the source.

There are patriarchal ideals that men at work may unknowingly follow due to social norms. Some men may not realize that they are being discriminatory to their female colleagues with the word they choose or actions they take.

A good way to start working toward gender equity in the workplace is by educating everyone – men, women and non-binary individuals about gender equity, discrimination and inclusivity at work. This education can be done during lunch and learns, yearly reviews, hosting keynote speakers and having companywide meetings on these topics.

These trainings can also provide education about the struggles that many people of color face in the workplace. According to McKinsey & Company, black woman are four times more likely to hear people express surprise at their language and technical skills in the workplace.

Rethink Recruiting Practices

 Consider taking a zoomed-out look at the way that your company attracts, hires and on-boards employees. Make sure that language you are utilizing is inclusive to all genders and that you are providing complete transparency on your company culture. Consider highlighting your organization’s current demographic numbers and share your organization’s diversity goals for the future.

Also, consider the diversity of your leadership teams. According to a report from Credit Suisse, only 3% of CEOs in the STEM field are female. If your higher-level executives are all of one race or gender, this could be a deterring factor for women and people of color that are applying to your company, leading your organization to potentially miss out on high-caliber talent. Having diverse leadership is not just about perception, studies have shown that diverse teams are more innovative and more profitable.

Using third party staffing firms can also allow non-discriminatory screening when trying to find candidates for roles. For example, Hunter International is completely non-biased when screening for candidates and is certified as a women’s business enterprise by the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC).

Create Resource Groups

A great initiative that many companies have started to implement is creating employee resource groups (ERGs) for their employees. ERGs are groups of people within an organization that join together based on shared characteristics or interests.

These groups allow for an open space where employees can feel welcomed and understood in the workplace. ERGs can also help new employees to make connections with like-minded coworkers, allowing them to feel more welcomed when they enter a new company. SHRM found that 90% of companies that offered ERGs responded that the groups helped new employees get more comfortable during the onboarding processes, especially for underrepresented groups.

Some examples of employee resource groups are Women in STEM, LGBTQ+ in STEM, Veterans in the Workplace and Disability Groups.

Offer Proper Maternity Leave

One of the many struggles that women face in STEM industries is not having proper maternity leave. It is reported that nearly half of female scientists leave full-time work after having their first child according to a study done by the University of Michigan.

The reasons for departing the field can include having a short amount of leave, not getting leadership positions due to an upcoming pregnancy and feeling unheard from male coworkers. All these factors can lead to pregnancy troubles, financial worry and women leaving the workforce completely due to lack of childcare and time off.

Consider looking at your current maternity leave practices and adjusting, if possible, to a more comprehensive package. Additionally, educate leaders to prevent pregnancy-related discrimination in your workplace.

Have a No-Tolerance Policy

According to Pew Research, almost half of women working in STEM have said that their gender has made it harder for them to advance in their career. Discrimination can cause physical and mental unrest, which will greatly affect work performance and can lead to eventual departure from the company.

Many cases of discrimination in the workplace center around the idea that women are unable to hold leadership positions due to unfair preconceived notions about emotions and lack of authority.

Create a culture where employees are comfortable to speak up if they witness discrimination. If there is an instance where discrimination is reported in your company immediately take discipline against responsible parties.

Gender discrimination is illegal under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 so it is important to take every report of discrimination seriously and act accordingly.

Provide a welcoming work environment and make a difference in your company by considering these tips.

Looking for quality talent? Check out Hunter International’s top-class recruiting offerings.