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Confronting Gender Bias at Work

Women have come a long way toward equality in the workplace, but haven't reached the finish line yet. Harassment still exists, as does unfair pay, and the "old boys network" that shuts women out of important decisions made at male only golf and tennis outings.

But, with the right set of skills, women can confront gender bias by holding their co-workers accountable to standards of respect and proper workplace etiquette.

That's the opinion of Kerry Patterson, co-author of "Crucial Confrontations"(Paperback $16.95). He also believes  organizations should foster a culture of "accountability" to ensure that every employee, male and female, may have a fulfilling career and feel respected and valued, regardless of gender.
 
Following are ways Patterson believes women can confront gender bias in the workplace:

1.    Silence isn't golden, it's collusion. Cultural norms are maintained only when everyone holds everyone accountable. So when discrimination ensues, witnesses and victims alike must speak up and confront the behavior in a frank and respectful way. Silence signals approval.
 
2.    Assume no evil intent. Often seemingly discriminatory behaviors aren't motivated by any bad intent. So first approach the issue as a "coaching moment" and explain to the perpetrator the behavior and the consequences you've observed.
 
3.    Focus on the pattern, not just the incident. Discrimination usually involves patterns of problems that build up over time. The mistake women often make is to "overreact" to the singular incident when it's the pattern of bad behavior that's their true concern.
 
4.    Start with facts, not conclusions. Don't begin with the conclusions that someone is prejudiced or a bigot. Begin with your perception of the facts. Stick to specific observations and encourage others to share his or her perceptions of the same situation.
 
5.    Dialogue, not monologue. Don't approach the conversation as if it were a monologue. When your goal is dialogue rather than monologue, your crucial conversations tend to lead to mutual learning rather than dueling defenses.

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