How Counteracting Gender Bias Benefits FM Teams

Many women are now part of facilities management, but their number in upper management positions is overall very small. Making sure gender bias is not driving women away should be part of a critical arsenal of FM strategies, especially as the industry contends with an ongoing wave of retirements and is looking to attract and retain quality employees — not to mention the inherent strengths conferred to a company from having a diverse team.

A recent study in the Harvard Business Review found that women and men don't behave differently in the workplace, but they are treated differently. Since hard data, the researchers say, is the only solution to overcoming bias, the study did not rely on anecdotal data. Rather, researchers outfitted 100 employees in a large multinational company with "sociometric badges" and gathered data on them for four months. The badges measured things like where the people went, who talked to whom, and the tone and volume of speech. The researchers also gathered information on email communications and meeting schedules.

After the data was anonymized and analyzed, the researchers were expecting to find some difference in behavior between the men and women which would explain why women in the company were not attaining the highest seniority levels at the same rate as men, even though they made up 40 percent of the entry-level workforce. Perhaps the women weren’t “leaning in” enough, for example.

However, researchers found no significant difference between the way the two genders behaved in the workplace. Zero. Women had the same kind of access to senior leadership. They used their time similarly, from time spent online to face-to-face conversations. And their performance evaluations were statistically identical to men. The only thing explaining the difference in attainment, say the researchers, is gender bias.

To tackle the effects of gender bias head on, researchers say upper management should ask questions like, “What about our company has limited women’s growth?”

Do you see achieving gender parity in all levels of your facility management organization as an important strategy in attracting and retaining a great team? Yes or no, I’d love to hear your thoughts. 

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