Encouraging PhD Students To Ignore Industry Gender Bias

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It cannot be denied that there are biases in various industries concerning gender. While steps have been taken to ensure that more women have a voice in industry boardrooms, this is like turning an oil tanker that is still turning in the other direction; consider, also, that for all the efforts to provide hard-working, deserving women of their place on these boards, no-one has even opened the debate on those who describe themselves as gender-neutral or transgender yet.

Patience is a virtue

Campaigns to ensure gender does not become a factor in terms of career development, salary and so on can only go so far. This varies depending upon the industry, and indeed the company involved – some are simply more or less willing to address the issue than others. Those who appear more stubborn may create certain arguments to justify their position, some of which may even have a degree of merit, but in reality the business world is slowly changing to ensure gender becomes a non-issue.

That being said, problems still exist. As a white male from a fairly middle-class background, I can hardly claim to have suffered any kind of discrimination in the workplace. I have never had to deal with the kind of frustration around gender, class and ethnic background that others have. That being said, I do see things changing for the better, but it will take time. Industries are generally led by those of a different generation to my own (I’m 29) who have had different experiences now colouring their hiring and promotion decisions. To some, positions are not open to women simply because they have never been open to women – an archaic, outdated view at best, but one that will not change overnight. Pressure must be delivered to ensure change, and this is where you come in.

Ignore gender bias in industry

Gender bias in industry is, at times, almost like a self-fulfilling prophesy; STEM subjects, for example, have attracted greater attention in recent years as more boys than girls have generally studied these at university, and hence more enter industries such as engineering. This is in part because of the stereotype, born out of historical fact, that men have been involved in engineering and women have not – many female students, even before university, therefore assume that there is little point even trying to change this mindset. Why put yourself through that frustration? Yet it is only by ignoring this bias completely, by making female students aware of the fact that these careers are open to them, that the market can change. More applications by women to these industries will result in more roles being taken up. This goes all the way through from school to PhD – so tell anyone you know, gender doesn’t matter! Nothing will change otherwise.

Consider things from the flip-side – nursing, for example, is still generally perceived to be a female domain, something somehow ‘beneath’ men. Utter nonsense, of course – yet the stigma exists, pushing many boys away from a career as a nurse even though they would be perfect for the role. These gender biases – that certain roles are ‘above’ women, and certain roles are ‘below’ men – are absurd. Ignore them.

There may well be frustrations and doors shut in the face by those who still adhere to such gender bias views. But there will be no change if you don’t put your application in because you fear bias. Encourage others to ignore these biases as well – swamp the market and, providing the applications are good enough, eventually – eventually – mindsets will change.

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