Wake up daily to our latest coverage of business done better, directly in your inbox.


Get your weekly dose of analysis on rising corporate activism.


The best of solutions journalism in the sustainability space, published monthly.

Select Newsletter

By signing up you agree to our privacy policy. You can opt out anytime.

4 Leadership Strategies to Keep Fighting Gender Bias

By 3p Contributor

Drew Himel

Although women now fill 53 percent of entry-level positions, only 28 percent of vice presidents and senior managers are women. In terms of salary, women in the U.S. were paid just 79 percent of what men received in 2014.

At a recent entrepreneurial event, I spoke with several female founders who expressed how they’ve had to “be one of the guys” to fit in as entrepreneurs. Gender bias isn’t as outright offensive as being called a name. It’s perpetuated through subtleties that people -- who aren’t necessarily aware that they’re doing anything wrong -- continue to enact.

Unfortunately, these subtleties include how much women are paid, what considerations companies take when hiring them, how they’re managed and their ability to climb the corporate ladder. My company consists primarily of women, but even I’ve made the mistake of assuming a team member couldn’t handle my criticism because of such biases.

Every company is going to have missteps with gender bias. But at the very least, even small businesses can establish a culture within their management teams that demonstrates they’re ready to help, implement strategies to address this bias and cultivate growth and empowerment for all employees. Here are four tools we’ve applied to our organization -- after a lot of trial and error -- to help:

1. Actively recognize gender bias

The first step toward empowering your team is to have an open discussion about diversity. Leaders often avoid talking candidly about bias for fear that acknowledging it will make it real, but the only way to evolve beyond bias is to identify it.

To communicate about diversity, you need a deliberate, focused approach. In Mexico, a gender equity model has been successful in fostering gender equality. Steps within this model include doing a self-assessment of the bias within each participating company, creating action plans to address existing issues and auditing each step in the action plan. The model has led to improved communication between management and workers, increasing the number of women in managerial positions and reducing the salary gap between men and women.

We promote team discussions about diversity, producing an environment where no one is penalized for his or her honesty. We discuss gender bias both where it concerns our internal practices and where our clients come into play -- breaking down any barriers between employees and customers.

2. Establish candor between male managers and female employees

Some managers are afraid to give bad reviews to their female employees because they’re worried about the kind of environment harsh criticism creates. But radical candor drives out uncertainty in the workplace, which brings with it stress, fear and a lack of control.

Drive out that gender bias by creating expectations and goals for both your managers and your employees. Within every new employee’s first week, we sit down with her to map out what she wants to accomplish in her first year at OpenNest. Then, her direct manager can objectively and candidly readdress any hiccups in her goals during check-ins.

Don’t just focus on your team’s goals, either. As a leader, write down your personal goals to break down the gap within your company. Do you want to see a particular amount of diversity? Do you want a certain satisfaction rating from the women in your organization? Turn those expectations into yearly, monthly and weekly goals.

3. Promote confidence and autonomy

In my experience, women suffer the most from overbearing supervision. Help your female employees grow in confidence by replacing micromanaging with a compensation framework and active communication. Your employees will strive without being pressured, and they’ll understand their mistakes rather than feel ashamed of them.

Employees who have experienced micromanaging in previous jobs may arrive at your company with a lack of confidence -- women especially. When women are thought of as “assertive,” their perceived competency drops by 35 percent.

Provide certainty and security to your employees by allowing them the autonomy to make their own decisions and assert their personalities and visions. They will repay you with ambition and productivity. Having the resolve to stick to this belief in both good times and bad can test your resolve as a leader.

One of my employees made a costly mistake with a client’s communication that had a direct negative impact on the client’s business. It would have been easy to call the employee and let her know how much she cost the client and our agency. When I spoke with her, she was already distraught and upset about the incident, so we talked through what happened, why it had happened and how we could prevent similar mistakes from occurring in the future.

We provide an environment where mistakes can be made and learned from. Watching how engaged my employee has become because she knows that I have confidence in her and her development has been amazing.

4. Manage based on personalities

An empowering manager is one who considers individual personalities, strengths, weaknesses, work styles and backgrounds. We use the Craft Personality Questionnaire, which tests eight personality traits and combines the scores to create a profile for each participant.

Personality-based management cultivates social confidence in the workplace because it engenders empowerment and autonomy. Good managers (i.e., those who foster individual engagement and productivity) can significantly affect employee participation in the workplace.

These strategies promote trust and good communication, which will be your tools for bridging that gender divide. Higher employee satisfaction is bound to follow because people will feel more in control and vocal within the company. And client satisfaction isn’t far behind when employees are invested and engaged.

When every member of your team has the room he or she needs to grow, your company will grow, too. And it will be healthy, organic and passion-led growth rather than an expansion that leaves your female employees feeling left out.

Image credit: Pexels

Drew Himel is the founder and CEO of OpenNest, a digital marketing and strategy agency that helps brands make digital experiences more human. He has helped clients implement successful digital marketing campaigns by utilizing their internal data assets to find strategic growth opportunities for more than eight years. Drew’s expertise has led to him speaking at several national conferences such as HubSpot’s INBOUND, WSI’s Excellence and Innovation Conference and Social Media Summit.

TriplePundit has published articles from over 1000 contributors. If you'd like to be a guest author, please get in touch!

Read more stories by 3p Contributor