top of page

Bias that Women Face in the Workplace

On March, 8th, 2022, I was asked by Small Business BC to moderate a panel for International Women's Day. I got to choose 3 women in the workplace who came from different industries, careers and backgrounds to be on a panel to discuss bias that women face in the workplace.

Before the panel, I was asking by CTV Morning Live to be a guest to share more about the event I would be leading and explaining a bit more into how women faces bias in the workplace and what we can do to be aware of them and change our workplaces for the better for women.

Below is a breakdown of the questions I was asked and the answers I shared during the live interview.

You are moderating a panel discussion today focusing on breaking down biases and accelerating equality for women in the workplace – tell us about it.

This year’s International Women’s Day panel discussion focuses on the ways we can work to #BreakTheBias in the workplace and create a level playing field for women. We’ll discuss ways to create a workplace free of bias, stereotypes and discrimination; work cultures that are diverse, equitable and inclusive, and ones where differences are valued and celebrated.

Joining me on the panel are powerful women who are making a difference and setting new standards in the workplace. Including:

  • Anna Chan, Founder of MyMomentum

  • Natasha Jeshani, President & CEO of Career Contacts

  • Michelle Kwok, Co-Founder and CEO of FLIK

The panel webinar is hosted by Small Business BC and will take place virtually online in Zoom today (March 8, 2022) between 1:00 pm to 2:30 pm. To participate you will need to register at the Small Business BC website, Register with coupon code IWD2022 for complimentary registration.

What kinds of biases do women face in the workplace?

Whether deliberate or unconscious, bias makes it difficult for women to move ahead.

There are 6 bias, they are:

Likability bias

Likability bias is rooted in age-old expectations. We expect men to be assertive, so when they lead, it feels natural. We expect women to be kind and communal, so when they assert themselves, we like them less

Performance bias

Performance bias is based on deep-rooted—and incorrect—assumptions about women’s and men’s abilities. We tend to underestimate women’s performance and overestimate men’s.

Maternal bias

Motherhood triggers false assumptions that women are less committed to their careers—and even less competent.

Attribution bias

Attribution bias is closely linked to performance bias. Because we see women as less competent than men, we tend to give them less credit for accomplishments and blame them more for mistakes.

Affinity bias

Affinity bias is what it sounds like: we gravitate toward people like ourselves in appearance, beliefs, and background. And we may avoid or even dislike people who are different from us.


Bias isn’t limited to gender. Women can also experience biases due to their race, sexual orientation, a disability, or other aspects of their identity.

Women also deal with micro-aggression in the workplace. Micro-aggressions are comments and actions that demean or dismiss someone based on their gender, race, or other aspects of their identity.

Some groups of women experience them even more often:

  • Black women are nearly 2.5x more likely than white women to hear someone at work express surprise about their language skills or other abilities

  • Lesbian and bisexual women and women with disabilities are far more likely than other women to hear demeaning remarks about themselves or others like them

Micro-aggression examples/Disrespectful treatment:

  • Being interrupted or spoken over more than others

  • Having your judgment questioned in your area of expertise

  • Having others comment on your emotional state

  • Hearing people express surprise at your skills and other abilities

  • Hearing or overhearing insults about your culture or people like you

  • Being confused with someone else of the same age/race/ethnicity

  • Feeling like you are expected to speak on behalf of all people with the same identity

  • Having others comment on your hair or appearance in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable

Knowing that bias exists isn’t enough, action is needed to level the playing field.

How do these biases / discrimination impact career growth and potential?

73% of women experience bias at work—yet less than a third of employees are able to recognize bias when they see it. Whether deliberate or unconscious, bias makes it harder for women to get hired and promoted and negatively impacts their day-to-day work experiences.

This hurts women and makes it difficult for companies to level the playing field. Knowing that bias exists isn’t enough.

How does it impact?

  • Despite important gains, women are still underrepresented

  • Women’s representation has increased across the pipeline since 2016. However, women—especially women of colour—remain significantly underrepresented in leadership.

  • Women of colour lose ground at every step in the pipeline

  • Representation of women of colour falls off relative to white employees and men of colour at every level of the corporate pipeline—leaving women of colour severely underrepresented at the top.

  • The “broken rung” is still holding women back

  • Women continue to face a “broken rung” at the first step up to manager: for every 100 men promoted to manager, only 86 women are promoted. As a result, men significantly outnumber women at the manager level, which means there are far fewer women to promote to higher levels. The broken rung likely explains why representation of women at the senior manager, director, and VP levels has improved more slowly than the pipeline overall

  • Women are more burned out—and more so than men

  • Women are even more burned out than they were a year ago, and the gap in burnout between women and men has almost doubled. In the past year, 1 in 3 women has considered leaving the workforce or downshifting their careers—a significant increase from 1 in 4 in the first few months of the pandemic.

Some examples include:

  • Women are not promoted

  • Not paid as much

  • Not taken seriously

  • Not a part of key conversations and decisions

What kinds of work / education is being done to address and break these biases? What should be done in the future?

  • Participating in days that encourage conversations like IWD is a great start

  • In partnership with IWD Lean In has created an amazing program called “50 Ways to Break the Bias”to help empower colleagues to speak up and drive change. This program is designed to empower people to identify and challenge bias head-on.

  • When I spoke with friends and peers they shared with me that some of their companies were creating sessions where senior leaders who are female share their stories and experiences of how they got to where they are in a male dominant industry and share helpful resources (representation matters!)

  • There are more companies creating teams that are dedicated to inclusion, diversity, equality

  • The panel with Small Business BC is a great resource as well

  • I also host an influential women’s podcast called HYMHY Podcast where I interview different Canadian women in the workplace to shine a spotlight on their stories, lessons and experiences.

In the future, companies should look to:

  • Companies put more emphasis on reducing bias in hiring than performance reviews

  • Companies can do more to hold leaders accountable for progress on diversity

  • Companies are taking a wide range of steps to support employees

  • Employees are receiving more training— but there’s still room to improve

  • To avoid burnout: As companies embrace flexibility, they also need to set clear boundaries

  • Many companies have significantly increased support for employees in the past year—from expanding mental health supports, to adding support for parents, to increasing flexible work and paid leave options.

Some companies currently are:

  • Improving diversity and representation

  • Improving inclusion

  • Actively working to reduce burnout

What things can employers/colleagues make changes to create workplaces and work cultures that are equitable and inclusive?

Women have made important gains in representation in the last few years. But we’re still a long way from equality.

Employers need to act now to support, retain, and advance women. Combating the biases women face at work is critical to getting this right.

Research shows that bias contributes to women being passed over for jobs and promotions. Almost 60 per cent of women regularly experience micro-aggressions at work. And women of color, LGBTQ+ women, and women with disabilities face more acute biases. But fewer than half of employees say they've spoken out against biased behaviour at any point in their career.

What are some ways in which employers can help make these changes?

  • Open door policy with leadership and HR to discuss issues and come up with solutions

  • Having allies stand up for women when discussions and comments are made

  • More open conversations and workshops where bias are discussed where employees, peers and colleagues can be aware of how they might be spreading bias

When bias occurs, there are a number of ways to respond.

Some strategies include:

  • Speaking up for someone in the moment

  • Asking a probing question

  • Sticking to the facts

  • Explaining how bias is in play

  • Advocating for policy or process change

Personal Stories

  • Being treated like a secretary when actually the manager

  • Having a female lead company, difficult to be taken seriously and that it is more than a “hobby” or “side hustle”

  • Example of Water Conference Keynote Speaker comments from attendees

Some examples from women:

  • Being a doctor but patients think you are a nurse

  • clients/customers asking if you are pregnant at work

  • Not being considered for a promotion because you are going on maternity leave

  • Have the same job as a male but getting paid 30K less because you didn’t know to negotiate or you didn’t have an MBA

Mothers Experiences:

  • Feelings working flexible (judged, worried it will hurt career)

  • Working remotely more than others

  • Being viewed as less committed

  • Having to work harder to get noticed

IWD 2022 saw the word help #BreakTheBias

Imagine a gender equal world.

A world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination.

A world that is diverse, equitable, and inclusive.

A world where difference is valued and celebrated.

Together we can forge women's equality.

Collectively we can all #BreakTheBias.

You can see the full interview here:



bottom of page