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Gender biases in the workplace 

By MAIA MARQUEZ, The Philippine STAR Published Jan 28, 2022 5:00 am

When I was studying, I observed that what they said about my course was true: Communication is a “girly course.” Girly, in the sense that the program was mostly populated by female students.

I didn’t think much about why it was so, and my only conclusion at the time was that maybe girls were more inclined to creative industries. This didn’t bother me as this was really the field I wanted to be in, nor did I question the lack of males in the program, or why few men chose to be there.

However, today, I wonder if that was already telling of gender biases at play (my own clouded judgment included); that maybe, the underlying sense of misogyny—that, sadly, still exists—subconsciously affects one’s career decisions, and ultimately their progression and performance in the workplace.

It remains a pipe dream for society to move past gender biases.

In an ideal world, we can say that we’re moving past these biases, albeit slowly. And while we aren’t quite where we should be yet, as illustrated by some modern-day examples, some of these other stories show a spark of hope that we’re coming to understand what it means to provide equal opportunities for all.

The one with the ‘easier job’

Georgia was formerly in marketing, and said that “people would be quick to assume I was in this field because ‘I looked like it.’” This made her feel like she was never taken as seriously, despite representing herself well. She adds that she would often be told that her job was “easier and that it required less thought than more revenue-generating jobs.”

The ones with the assumptions

Martin, a former co-worker at a lifestyle and beauty company, shared that “it was common for partner merchants to think I was gay because of the nature of the brand I worked for.”

Peter, who preserves and promotes traditional Filipino jewelry, echoes similar sentiments as he’s often thought of as “the good boyfriend or the obedient son of the owner,” when in reality, he owns the brand and runs it.

The ones with stories of objectification

Maria, who worked in sales, recounts closing a big deal with a client who was infatuated with her, and how “it made me question whether or not I was really good at my job, or if it was just because I was a girl who he happened to have a crush on.”

Objectification is often normalized in office groups.

Additionally, Leana recounts a time she and another female co-worker had to undergo months-long training with around 20 other co-employees. During one of their sessions, they were assigned to a female trainer who was tall and attractive. The men couldn’t stop making innuendos, which made Leana and her co-worker uncomfortable.

When they reported the incident to human resources, her colleague shared that this wasn’t a first for her and that she “would hear our fellow male trainees talk about other women in objectifying ways.” When the HR team apologized to the group’s trainer, the trainer admitted that she was already used to these suggestive comments.

The one with the gender pay gap

DJ, an IT auditor, shares that at work, “the levels of expectation are different for females and males.” The former is expected to have better output; however, the latter receives higher pay despite coming from the same background, holding the same degree, and having the same work experience.

When I apologized to her about having to go through this and how oblivious I was to the matter, she was quick to say, “the Philippines is seventh on the list in the world for gender pay gap.”

The one with the boardroom filled with men

The male-dominated boardroom is still quite commonplace.

Jones, a creative producer, remembers being in a boardroom full of men for a client pitch. “One of them would question me, and while that shouldn’t be a problem, he kept interrupting and talking over me to the point where I couldn’t present properly anymore.”

The moment her director (who happened to be male) swooped in, their team’s pitch was smooth sailing from there.

The one who came full circle

When Charm was a little girl, she was asked at a family reunion what she wanted to be when she grew up. Enthusiastically she announced, “I want to be a doctor!” She was immediately told that it was a man’s job. “Receiving that comment gave me the mindset that I can’t be a doctor or shouldn’t get a ‘man’s’ job since I’m ‘just’ a woman,” she shares.

Is there such a thing as a man's job?

Fast forward, Charm is now a software engineer and one of the leads at Women Who Code. She’s fulfilled knowing that there are organizations that “empower women and young girls to get into the tech field,” and she believes that “little by little, change is happening.”

The ones who advocate for and are empowered by equal opportunities

Against his dad’s wishes for their family company, Enzo hired a woman for a technical role. She’s turning out to be excellent at her job, and Enzo shares that “the bias towards hiring a male for her role bothered me,” and that if he gave in, “it would’ve been a missed opportunity.”

Business school student Marika observes that “while there are tracks in my program that lean towards certain genders, my course shows an equal split between genders.” This alone gives her confidence in knowing “I can create value for whatever company I’ll work for in the future.”

Biases have to go for diversion and inclusion to truly happen in the workplace.

Viancci, who works in Human Resources, makes it her “personal advocacy to provide equal opportunities to all genders, no matter the field of occupation.” She encourages those in HR “to let go of all biases too, most especially in conducting interviews and screening talent.”

While we’ve come a long way from firmly holding on to these biases, there’s still work to be done so we can let go of them completely. We can start by simply encouraging the young to pursue their passions, whatever they may be.

“Gender should not determine what a person should or should not pursue,” shares Frankie, a business development officer. She claims “those who discriminate against gender are afraid and are simply hiding behind these antiquated biases.”

And once diversity and inclusion become integral parts of work and company culture, we can hope for a time where, when it comes to career options, progression, and performance, one’s gender will no longer be a limitation.