Sometimes, gender discrimination is fairly subtle. For example, take a company that has 50 percent men and 50 percent women in similar entry-level jobs. Yet the company promotes four men for every one woman. This kind of thing might not be easy to notice, especially when it happens gradually. Moreover, some companies might say, “We promoted Richard and not Jane because of X and Y.”
So, what are X and Y? What are some factors that companies, consciously or subconsciously, use to promote men but that work against women?
Promoting people who look like current management
Quite a few managers are white males, and people in leadership positions may be more likely to promote someone who looks and acts like them, however subconscious it is. People find security and comfort in what is familiar. The factors that white male managers prioritize often turn out to be what other white men prioritize and may not be what women value.
Favoring factors such as face time and aggressiveness
Speaking of priorities, some companies rank factors such as arriving early and staying late as a highly desirable trait in a future manager. Too, they may value assertiveness or aggressiveness. However, when a woman is as assertive or aggressive as a man, she is often seen in a negative light. Women also tend to shoulder the bulk of a family’s childcare and other needs, meaning that while they might get the job done as well as their male peers, they might not be able to put in extended hours in the office. Instead, they might work from home to finish up or manage their time more effectively.
Not following through on the value of diversity
Some companies may put a superficial value on diversity and even recognize its value. However, this may not have seeped into the work culture companywide. That means while entry-level candidates may be relatively diverse, the company forgets about diversity in higher levels or pays it little more than lip service.