Lesson 1 - Uncovering Biases
A Thought Experiment
As Denise explains, attitudes around gender in the workplace are often unreflective—men and women regularly make instantaneous and even unconscious judgments about one another. Here, she illustrates the point through a simple exercise in word association.
Through this thought exercise, she shows that women are often thought of as “organizers” or “good multitaskers,” while men come across as “assertive” and “decisive,” even when men and women exhibit the same behavior and management styles. If we do not take the time and effort to examine these stereotypes critically, they can manifest in malfunctioning workplaces, where men and women fail to understand one another and, as a result, struggle to thrive as God intended.
As we set out on this course, take a moment to consider your own workplace:
What is the relationship between the men and women in your workplace like?
Let’s broaden the frame a bit. Think about your industry. What is the perception of men in your field? What is the perception of women?
Men, Women, and Work Culture
“Man is unsettled by woman and woman by man,” the Swiss theologian Karl Barth once wrote. Part of this uneasiness between men and women is that they know—at some deep level—that they are made for one another (and that they cannot thrive without one another), but they also find each other so strange, so utterly different.
The origins of this tension can be traced all the way back in Genesis 3, where sin enters the world and sows suspicion between man and woman. And it’s no coincidence, argues Timothy Keller in Every Good Endeavor, that both the relationship between men and women and the nature of work in the fallen world can be “excruciatingly hard.” This also means that dysfunctional relationships between men and women can create toxic work environments.
And yet we know that our workplaces should ideally be a place where both men and women can contribute and prosper, but we sometimes have a difficult time creating work cultures where this actually happens.
How have you seen gender stereotyping or implicit biases at play in your workplace or your industry?
How have you been impacted (positively and negatively) by these unreflective judgments based on your gender? What has been your experience?
In your own view, what obstacles stand in the way of creating workplace cultures where men and women can collaborate, enjoy equal access to opportunity, and flourish?
What’s at Stake?
In this section, Denise sketches the framework around which this course is organized. Three main questions will guide us as we think together about this topic:
Why should we care about gender at work?
What challenges are unique to women in the workplace?
What can individuals, organizations, and churches do?
Before embarking on the next section of the course, take a moment to note your own starting point by answering each of these questions briefly.