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Time to end implicit bias towards gender equality at the workplace

A team of three businesspeople working together on a project. [Courtesy]

As the world marked International Women’s Day on March 8, which by extension is a month-long celebration, patterns of gender inequality and bias are still deeply ingrained in society. This year’s theme, #BreakTheBias, calls for action to address how bias has the potential to hold women back.

There is no question that our society has made strides towards levelling the playing field for women. And yet, even as we recognise women’s achievements, it is impossible to ignore the fact that women continue to face discrimination at the workplace – whether this is deliberately or subliminally propagated. Gender bias is prevalent in today’s workplace. It is something we need to be aware of as a society if ever we are going to break its hold on our progress. In order to truly break the bias, there needs to be a shift in mindset and a culture change throughout all levels of society.

That change must start with business leaders and other opinion leaders who can help break down long-held beliefs about what it means to be a leader. In order to do this effectively and create a lasting impact on the industry, we must learn more about the differences between men and women that influence how we perceive their abilities to lead.

By highlighting bias at work and providing education on gender equality throughout all levels of society, we can begin to create a lasting shift towards gender parity in leadership roles. Only then can we achieve true gender equality where men and women are given equal opportunities.

It is easy to think that implicit bias is no longer an issue when we see so many women succeeding in their careers and taking on leadership positions previously held by men. But the numbers tell a different story. For instance, just eight per cent of Fortune 500 CEOs are women. And while women have made significant gains in educational attainment at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, they still lag behind men on almost every single indicator of social and professional success.

Leadership roles

This goes to show that gender equity has stalled out, and that we must do more to address how bias can hold women back from achieving their full potential as leaders and decision makers.

As a matter of fact, despite the gains made on education of women, progress has slowed or even reversed course when it comes to leadership roles in government or corporate boardrooms or senior management positions across industries and sectors. That is why addressing unconscious bias is so important – because it persists today even though most people believe they are not biased themselves.

While we must proudly extol the progress we have made so far towards increasing gender equity in the workplace and at home, it is important at the same time to acknowledge that we are still far from achieving true equality. It is for this reason that I am proud to lead a team of brilliant women and men at KenGen PLC where we have been leading in building an inclusive workplace where all employees have an equal opportunity to reach their full potential. We strive to be at the forefront of gender equality and have been working diligently to increase diverse representation and gender balance across our organisation.

At KenGen, we realise that breaking the bias is about more than just achieving gender balance. It is about changing the rules of the game to ensure that women have an equal opportunity to succeed and be recognised for their contributions.

To this end, KenGen has made deliberate efforts to meet the legal two thirds gender requirement by increasing the share of women to 25 per cent from as low as 12 per cent only a few years ago and in top leadership, it stands at 27 per cent. Even so, there is more that can be done, but we are committed to continuing this momentum, so that the next generation of KenGen employees can all aspire to be their best selves, regardless of gender.

Likewise, KenGen also has a platform aimed at empowering female employees dubbed Pink Energy. Established in 2016, the programme has achieved several milestones, including creation of a conducive work environment for women, raising gender awareness, and helping institute gender mainstreaming across the company.

Equal opportunities

By providing equal opportunities for advancement and working every day to build a more inclusive and diverse workforce, we at KenGen demonstrate that breaking gender bias is not just the right thing to do; it is also good for business.

Nonetheless, the fight for gender equity has only begun to bear fruit. As the world becomes more diverse, we must ensure that women have a place at the table and are given an opportunity to succeed. By so doing, we can break biases and create a more diverse and dynamic workforce.