798. Expert Interview: What Can Women Do in a Gender-Biased Workplace?
Andie Kramer and Al Harris
Andrea S. Kramer (Andie) and Alton B. Harris (Al) are distinguished attorneys, married to each other, and nationally recognized for their work in helping women advance in their careers. They are the authors of “Breaking Through Bias: Communication Techniques for Women to Succeed at Work” (2016), and “It’s Not You, It’s the Workplace: Women’s Conflict at Work and the Bias that Built It” (2019). They speak frequently about promoting gender diversity, inclusion, and overcoming stereotypes and biases. Andie and Al have appeared in The New York Times, Harvard Business Review, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, The Huffington Post, The Chicago Tribune, Fast Company, Crain’s, and many other publications.
What Can Women Do in a Gender-Biased Workplace?
“When I got out of law school and started practicing law, I was at a tiny little law firm where they could not have cared if you wore purple polka dotted dresses. But when I joined a big firm where people don’t know you and they rely on the stereotypes that they have about people and the biases that flow from them, I found that women were at a significant disadvantage. And when I was on my firm’s management committee and then compensation committee, what I found was that the women, when writing their self-evaluations, would talk about their teams and basically would deflect ownership of their successes. It became clear that men did not do that, and women were obviously being evaluated as if they were less valuable. That was really what got me started on the issue of overcoming gender bias in the workplace.”
Why Is This Important?
“Keep in mind that for the last several years we are graduating from law school almost an equal number of women as men. So we’ve got a pretty even pipeline coming into the profession. The problem really is one of preparing people coming out of law school for what they’re going to be up against and how to deal with it, but also educating the law firms regarding how they are evaluating, promoting and training the women and the men who join their firms because we’re watching women fall off the advancement ladder in the legal profession at a steady clip.”
What Are the Key Lessons Learned Here?
There are three tracks that need to be worked on simultaneously:
- Women can do a great deal on their own. They can learn how to manage the impressions that they’re making in order to avoid or overcome biases.
- Organizations can change the way in which they are doing evaluations. They can change the way that they are making assignments. They can in effect strip as much subjectivity out of their processes as possible.
- But the third train is what men can do. And that’s unfortunately the trickiest because it turns out that convincing men that their organizations or they themselves are not absolutely biased-free is very difficult.
If you do surveys as to whether men think that it is harder for women to advance in business, in the professions or in academia, about 30% of men will say yes, but 70% of men will say no—it’s just as easy for women to advance as it is for men. If you ask women that same question, over 80% of women will say that it’s harder for them to advance than it is for men. And so there’s a real disconnect between the genders as to a recognition of the seriousness of this problem.
So when we focus on men, our first job is a real salesmanship job. We need to convince the male leaders of our businesses, of our professions that, in fact, there is a problem and that they need to be part of the solution.
Books on The Topic
It’s Not You It’s the Workplace: Women’s Conflict at Work and the Bias that Built It, by Andrea S. Kramer and Alton B. Harris
Breaking Through Bias: Communication Techniques for Women to Succeed at Work, by Andrea S. Kramer and Alton B. Harris
Connecting With Andie Kramer and Al Harris
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