“But I have seen so many incompetent women get hired because the organisation wanted diversity, therefore men who could actually do the job missed out.”
If I am running training in a majority male environment – this comment or a version of it is guaranteed to be shared (the interesting thing is it’s not always the men that raise it). Following this comment someone in the group always has a story to share that describes a specific woman who was hired under a diversity mandate and was so terrible at the job she got fired.
Early attempts at gender equality in the 90’s and 2000’s are continuing to hamper current day efforts. Many women appear to have been hired and basically set up to fail either because of discrimination, inequality or a lack of innovative thinking.
One training participant told me a story about two women being employed in his team back in the early 2000’s. They were unable to lift a ladder onto the roof of the truck, which reduced the efficiency of his team. He didn’t describe any attempts to overcome this problem but did say he had them fired because they couldn’t complete an inherent part of the role. Incidents like this get shared amongst people to reinforce the idea that a focus on diversity negatively impacts performance and keeps skilled people out of jobs. We know the opposite is true.
Beliefs are a funny thing though, they are hard to shift and a one off conversation will not do it, particularly when we know the influence of confirmation bias.
“I’ve only had trouble from female employees so I will not take that risk again”
Yes, in 2022 a manager said that in a training session. When I asked him to describe the trouble he told one story that had occurred 20 years prior. The woman he hired didn’t reveal she was pregnant until after her employment commenced. There seemed to be no empathy for the position the woman must have been in, the barriers to employment for pregnant people, the circumstances of the pregnancy – in his mind she had tricked him and therefore he didn’t trust women in the workplace. That’s how confirmation bias works, he had other stories that confirmed his opinion, it was hard to listen to.
The bias and discrimination is deeply entrenched in so many working Australians that it’s incredible we are making any progress at all. A big contributor to the progress that is being made in certain industries is the introduction of targets. Set a goal and make leaders accountable for achieving it. I know it’s not ideal. I would love to exist in a world where biases based on gender and other attributes no longer influenced career opportunities – but that is a long, long way away. Right now a leader’s performance measure drives change.
It doesn’t matter how much awareness training we do, things won’t change at the rate they need to. We still need to educate but we can’t expect it to create the change we need, it’s the support act.
What creates change is system reorganisation, diverse leadership teams, and targets.
I recognise that many women and people from marginalised communities don’t want to be the token hire – but some are going to be. We have to take on those roles to be part of the change as frustrating as it is. But there are some points that are very important to remember:
The reality is biases and stereotypes have meant that for too long men have been getting jobs because they are men. Yes it’s time to level the playing field.
Interested in learning more and implementing this knowledge into your DEI initiatives? Book a call with Bree today.
13 March 2022
19 December 2022
01 March 2021