• FWX Mar qtr 2024  78.3
  • FWX yr-o-yr  3.66
  • FWX qtr-o-qtr  2
  • ASX 200 Boards years to equality  5.6
  • Underemployment years to equality  19.9
  • Superannuation years to equality  17.7
  • Gender pay gap years to equality  23.3
  • Employment years to equality  25.6
  • Unpaid work years to equality  45.5
  • Education years to equality  389

6 types of unconscious bias to watch out for

Dr Lili Sussman Chief Strategy Officer at Wisr says we all need to face up to the cold hard truth of unconscious bias.
Lili Sussman
March 8, 2023

How timely that the FWX 2022 in review arrived for International Women’s Day (IWD).

It’s time to reflect, celebrate women worldwide, and get fired up again.

We all love data that tells a story but are we surprised that the index shows a decline in the growth of monthly hours worked among women?

Yet, women’s unemployment and underemployment grew during COVID?

The cold, hard truth is that it’s harder for a woman in the workforce to fight on both fronts, at home and work, when we still carry unconscious bias that’s hard to see.

Apathy and confusion about how to help are the top reasons contributing to why we don’t all drive faster change.

In the largest market in the world, corporate America, Lean In and McKinsey ran a large-scale survey.

They showed women are still dramatically and persistently underrepresented in leadership, with only 1 out of 4 C-Suite executives being women and only 1 out of 20 being women of colour.

This isn’t because women don’t want to lean in.

Women face unconscious bias, making it harder for them to advance at work and more likely to have higher, more unmanageable workloads.

If your company is struggling to retain the relatively few women in your leadership pipeline or team, do you know why?

Workplace microaggressions is another term for unconscious bias expressed, which is well-documented yet incredibly difficult for most of us to notice.

In a study of performance reviews, for example, what % of women do you think received negative feedback on their style, such as “You can sometimes be abrasive”? And what % of men would you guess received that same type of feedback? The answer: 66% of women v. 1% of men.

Surprised? I recently learned of 6 types of common unconscious biases to watch out for, and I know I carry some of them!

1. Likeability bias – we expect men to be more assertive, so it feels natural when they lead. We expect women to be kind and communal, so we might like them less when they lead.

2. Performance bias – it’s easy to overestimate men’s performance and underestimate women’s.

3. Maternal bias – we might assume mothers are less committed to their careers.

4. Attribution bias – we often give women less credit for accomplishments and blame them more for mistakes.

5. Affinity bias – we gravitate towards people who are similar to us and are mistrustful of less similar people.

6. Intersectionality – women can also experience biases due to race, disability, sexual orientation, or other aspects of identity.

The next time we think, this doesn’t happen on my team or at my workplace, we should check ourselves.

It’s happening – even if we aren’t noticing it. And it directly contributes to women’s experiences and why they are leaving, are not promoted, or are not moving up at the same speed or even paid the same rate.

How do we be more courageous and challenge ourselves to acknowledge that we hold unconscious bias and that we aren’t moving the status quo forward by staying silent and complicit?

Wisr has closed our gender pay gap. We’re planning our activities involving everyone (not just women) for the week of IWD to keep pushing the conversation and the envelope at work, creating psychological safety for everyone to talk about it – well beyond into the rest of the year.

Together, let’s translate data into action, pay attention and notice bias in meeting rooms and conversations about talent and performance reviews, and have more brave discussions and sharing of lived experiences.

Equality is what’s best for business and societal outcomes and what’s right for us all. Happy IWD!


Financy is a fearless believer in equality and using data insights to accelerate organisational progress in diversity, equity & inclusion.

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Lili Sussman
March 8, 2023
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