It’s Not Just Unconscious Bias: Women in Technology versus the Malevolent Professional – The Malevolent Professional: Part 2

Early Socialization and Schooling

Problems for women in the technology and hard sciences space begin in the formative years and later manifest as a pay gap directly proportional to the STEM gender gap. I volunteer each year for the local high school’s STEM Summit and Junior Achievement days. And each year, I meet at least two or three female students telling me they are not good at
math before they even know the rules of the competition. The math challenge in fact consists of simple calculations and tasks that must be completed in 3 minutes. The tasks themselves are basic math; the challenge is the time limitation. Once I explain how to manage time while undertaking the challenge, they do very well! I have started sharing my notes with each new group that comes in so as to instill self-confidence in them. The belief that women are naturally less competent in STEM than men continues making an adverse impact in post-secondary education choices, driving women to choose college majors that lead to lower paying careers. The chart below represents a STEM gap study published by Harvard Business Review; it shows the distribution of male and female college students across majors in [2017].

Our parents and society a large do not help this perception; we swaddle girls in pink and give them the “feminine” and “domestic”-oriented toys we believe they enjoy, instead of nurturing their own inclinations.

Talent Acquisition & Development

Numerous studies and article have discussed how stereotypes and biases often lead employers to select
male candidates regardless of qualifications. An example of this type of bias was illustrated by ABC News
in a study conducted in 2013 by Yale University in a hiring experiment. Surprisingly, this interview/study showed gender
bias equally distributed between men and women. The main culprit here is perception. This video
supports the conclusion that people such as hiring managers or even co-workers May not necessarily be
manifesting anti-woman bias on purpose.

Research Funding & Investing

A 2019 Harvard Business Review study reports on experiments conducted in various organizations showing that self-promotion is viewed more positively in men than women. This in turn leads to men having greater chances of getting hired or promoted and negotiating better compensation. A similar study in 2019 focused on language used in publications authored by men versus those authored by women, and on which received the most attention in their field/industry. The study found that men mostly described their research with words indicative of superior efforts and results such as “novel,” “unique,” or “unprecedented.” This gained their papers more attention. Women, by contrast, stuck to the facts and figures of the topic being researched without a focus on dressing it up in self aggrandizing language. Another HBR study of gender bias reported that only 3% of venture capital in the U.S went to companies with a female CEO. This small percentage is due to the Pitch process. Male and female CEO’s were asked two different types of questions by investors. Men were asked questions that allowed them to highlight upside and potential gains. Whereas women, were asked questions allowing them to highlight potential losses and risk mitigation. Positive outcome for positive discussion was in favor of men.

The Pay Gap

According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, for full-time wage and salary workers, women’s’ earnings as a percentage of men’s’ grew from 63% to 82%. between 1979 and 2018. This represents an improvement of 19% over a period of almost forty years. What is causing the persistence of the gender gap in every sector? Clearly, as I can testify from my own experience with high-school girls, the persistence of gender bias in parenting and schooling is a major culprit to the point of almost paralyzing efforts to close this gap. But I want to argue that Malevolent Professionals are the “X Factor” in retarding the closure of the gap despite the best efforts of women in STEM occupations and their male allies in organizations.

Perception and Behavior

Clearly, the game is set up unfairly to begin with. The impact of (mostly unconscious) gender bias on women’s progress in STEM is already severe and hard to overcome. On top of that, MPS manipulatively exploit conscious and unconscious bias, often in powerful ways. When challenged, they can easily claim that false perceptions of unconscious bias are driving women co-workers or subordinates to paranoia—or simply to using it as an excuse for inferior performance.

Perception is the ability to become aware of something through information from our senses. Perceptions are highly influenced by three factors: biology, culture, and status. Our biological composition allows us to assess behavior by observing and reflecting the impact of what we sense on ourselves and others. We naturally want to feel good, to please our nurturers, caregivers, and peers or near-peers, and to inflict no pain or suffering on self or others. As small children we develop what cognitive psychology calls a “theory of mind,” an understanding that the thoughts and emotions of others are essentially like our own but also distinct from them. From this understanding grows both communicative ability and empathy, the capacity to sense and resonate with other people’s feelings.

Our upbringing is highly influenced by the culture we inhabit. Our parents’ beliefs, our family traditions, and culturally available knowledge directly impact our ability to develop independent thinking and to both conceive and pursue our dreams. Our opportunities are based on our status in the community relative to wealth, connections, and societal norms.
(Factors like race and ethnicity also play major roles in determining our opportunities.) If we consciously understand the key factors influencing the perception formation process, however, we can defeat bias. Schematically, this process can be understood as follows:

Sensing/Selecting + Organizing = Interpretation

Biology, culture, and status are the guiding lights to sensing, selecting and cognitive/conceptual organizing that lead to the final interpretation of what we perceive

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