athena centerfeminismwomenworkplace Athena Center for Leadership Studies Distinguished Fellow Carol EvansWhen Carol Evans, Athena Center for Leadership Studies Distinguished Fellow, helped launch the groundbreaking magazine Working Mother 40 years ago, mothers in the paid labor force were fighting for protections and rights. They still are. Then and now, working mothers have sought advice and support: In which companies are women of color represented in upper management positions? What do you do if your workplace doesn’t offer paid maternity leave? What are your rights if you adopt a child?
Working Mother, which Evans grew from a single magazine into an iconic brand with a news site, research institute, companion associations, and events producer, has been an important resource and, for many years, the only one of its kind. Its annual listing, “Working Mother 100 Best Companies,” is still avidly anticipated each fall. Evans became CEO and president of Working Mother Media, which she sold in 2008, and is the author of This Is How We Do It: The Working Mother’s Manifesto and CEO of her own consulting firm.
To mark Equal Pay Day, and in advance of her PowerTalk next week at the Athena Center for Leadership Studies, moderated by Provost Linda Bell, we present this Break This Down interview. (Equal Pay Day calls attention to the fact that women must work more than 15 months to make what a man does in 12 months—so that a woman has to work until mid-April to earn what a man earned by the end of 2017. Among women, there is a wage gap with black, Latina, and Native American women earning less than Asian and white women.)
You have spoken about “unconscious bias” as a key determinant in gendered workplace discrimination. Could you explain what unconscious bias is and what we can do about it?
Overt and conscious bias—people being treated differently because they are trans or black or a woman—is obvious. We can all see that kind of bias, and many of us are aware of it. But unconscious bias is bias that we harbor in our psyche that we are not aware we are harboring. This bias moves us to act in discriminatory ways the same way that conscious bias does. I may not feel consciously biased against a person from a particular background and yet unconsciously I may feel that that person is not capable because of their identity.
One example that illustrates unconscious bias is when you look at the average American CEO. He is a white man, which is not surprising, and he is 2-3 inches taller than the average American man, which is surprising. Women CEOs—though there aren’t that many—are also taller than the average woman. Why are all these CEOs so tall? Because we have an unconscious bias that says that tall people, particularly tall men, are better able to help manage and lead a company. We see this dynamic get played out with race and gender. It is a piece of the puzzle that explains why people of color and women