Gender Bias and the Search for Female Leadership to Propel Growth


Numerous studies show evidence of increased performance and success in companies with a greater presence of female leadership. However, unconscious biases prevent us from realizing these gains.

Did you know…

  • Rwanda is the only country in the world to have a majority-led female congress?
  • In Hollywood movies, females are represented in lead roles only 10-15% of the time?
  • When blind auditions were instituted for orchestra seats, female placements rose by 50%?

DSC_9401It was quite the learning experience at this month’s CEO Club of Marin breakfast thanks to Janet Crawford’s insights into the realm of unconscious biases and their consequent effects on gender diversity in top leadership. Ever wonder why less than 20% of the tech workforce is female? Why less than 3% of venture funding goes to female-led firms?  Janet knows why… and now we do too.

In 1981 females surpassed males in obtaining college degrees for the first time in this country in popular majors, including computer sciences. Fast-forward 30 years and still we see a lack of representation of women in senior executive positions and we are back down to around 15% for female CS graduates. Exploring this disparity uncovers a world of unconscious biases and outdated norms. These biases create a culture that is at times disadvantageous, if not inhibitive, to females and minorities.  The goals and aspirations of future female business leaders will continue to be lost along the way unless we change these unconscious biases.

What can you do to overcome these biases in your organization? Janet has some suggestions:

  1. Male participation is critical in fostering inclusivity and promoting diversity.
    • Be open about these issues with your teammates and take conscious action to offset inequalities within the organization. Communicate your goals and challenges and motivate your female staff.
  2. Pay attention to the stock photos on your website and published work.
    • Comment on biases of others. Avoid male-dominant décor in the workplace, promote offsite activities that build team collaboration.
  3. Seek out speakers and experts to come speak to your employees.
    • Facilitate activities that bring awareness around challenges in diversity. Encourage your peers to talk openly about the issues they are facing and seek ways to support them.
  4. Start fostering notions of equality and empowerment in children from a young age.
    • Girls are treated and encouraged differently than boys. Pay attention to the messages you’re unconsciously creating in your home and your child’s environment.
  5. Finally, remember: Legislation doesn’t change culture; People do.
    • Our worldviews and behaviors need to change at an individual level. Embody the change you want to see and spread the goodwill to those around you.

Many CEO CLUB members stayed afterwards to continue the dialogue for quite a while. Thank you, Janet, for your informative and inspiring presentation!

DSC_9390NOTE:  Per Janet’s recommendation, here’s another great source to explore:

UC DAVIS STUDY OF CALIFORNIA WOMEN BUSINESS LEADERS: A Census of Women Directors and Highest-Paid Executives



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