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Gender Bias

What are Gender Norms?

Gender norms are the popular and conventional ideas most people have about what it means to "act like" a man or a woman.  We tend to learn them from our experiences in family, peer groups, places of worship, schools, movies, magazines, and the internet, for example.  With persistent use, they come to be taken for granted or thought of as "natural" and "just the way things are."

Gender norms tend to be narrow and significantly limit the range of possibilities for gender expression. *

What is Implicit Bias?

Implicit bias refers to the attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner.  Implicit biases may be activated based on any number of identities we perceive in others, such as gender, age, or race, and they tend to favor our own group, creating "us" and "them" divisions.  Implicit biases encompass both attitudes and stereotypes we may unconsciously hold regarding groups in our society.* 

How does this affect women?

Gender bias, either conscious or unconscious, is the unequal treatment of people based on the categories of woman and man, reinforced by gender norms and social expectations.  This can happen anywhere from school, to the workplace, to athletics, to family life.  Gender bias can prevent women from succeeding in life.  

"For example, for over a 1000 years we have identified males with the words: leader, provider, and driven. We like and respect men when they demonstrate these qualities. Women have been identified with: emotional, supportive, and caring. We find women “likable” when they exhibit these qualities. But, when a woman is seen as a leader and driven, we are unaccepting or judgmental because it goes against our brain’s categorization of what a woman is supposed to be."**

So what can you do about it?  Notice the absence of women in positions of power.  Talk to men in leadership roles about the importance of having educated women leaders.  And most importantly, pay attention to any biased thoughts or actions that you may have.  The first step to making change, is doing it within yourself.  

*Source: The Women's Fund of Central Ohio, #genderbyus

**Source: Unconscious Gender Bias: Everyone’s Issue

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