Can Gender Bias Be Instinctive?

By: Valerie Gloth, HBA Europe volunteer

Quite a few of us have grown up with brothers and realized very early on that girls can understand and explain complex matters to boys, can lead a group and influence senior partners of the family pretty well.

Don't get me wrong, boys can do that too. We are all human and have our fair share of strengths and weaknesses. And still, I remember being mesmerized as I once noticed that one of my brothers, who treated me as his equal, would consider "girls" differently. I could blame my parents; maybe they treated us differently without noticing, but I know this isn't true. On that one, it's not their fault. It’s interesting that I noticed that same change also with my husband. He and I were always partners, equal partners. Then I gave birth and suddenly he felt responsible for me. He felt he had to protect me and he would take decisions for me. 

Suddenly I wasn't a partner anymore, but the mother of his child. 

I could take the easy way out and blame his parents, but then again, I know it's not their fault. He is a very analytical person, so I could ask him: Why? But he didn't know and couldn't really explain it; it was more like an instinct.

So maybe, it isn't all about education and society, may be a part of it is instinct. But that isn't a reason good enough either to accept it.

Our civilization isn't built on instinct; we have put in place processes such that most of us don't need to slap people, even when annoyed. Because of those processes, most of us don't even have that instinct anymore. Not all processes are written by law, with punishment attached. If at the supermarket I am annoyed, I would deeply breathe, observe, try to understand, take clever action to solve the issue. This is a process. I trust that you can think of other processes in place such that an instinct, which we didn't want to have as the norm to handle a situation, would not be needed anymore.

This is why companies need a process to ensure their instinctive bias towards the promotion of women as leaders, up to the c-suite, isn't their norm.

The Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association has as its purpose to accelerate the careers of women in the healthcare industry. Identifying, sharing and amplifying such processes that can outsmart gender biases is one of the ways we work towards this mission.

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