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Research shows bias against women in Utah workplaces

By Genelle Pugmire - Daily Herald | Jun 8, 2023

Ted S. Warren, Associated Press

In this Jan. 11, 2019, photo, members of the The Riveter, a women-focused shared workspace facility, work in Seattle. The Riveter, which is also open to men and currently has four other locations in the Seattle area and in Los Angeles, is among a growing number of women-only and women-focused workspaces cropping up around the country, tapping into a desire among many women to build a community and supportive environment at work that's different from a stereotypical corporate workplace culture.

Utah has one of the highest economic growth rates in the U.S. and attracting women will be critical for future growth and success, according to the Utah Women & Leadership Project. However, Utah ranks as one of the worst states for women’s equality.

On Wednesday, the Utah Women & Leadership Project released a research and policy brief on perceptions of gender bias in the Utah workplace by evaluating wages, education, health and political empowerment.

“Biases may be rooted in expectations around gender roles–what behaviors are considered appropriate for men and women in different settings–that developed through societal conditioning. Unconscious gender bias can be especially difficult to identify, as it is frequently part of organizational systems and processes that developed over time (e.g., performance evaluations that reward stereotypically male criteria),” the report reads.

According to the brief, Utah ranks 46th out of 50 states due to the disparity between the percentage of full-time working women who hold executive positions and the percentage of full-time working men who hold executive positions.

“In actual numbers, 4,500 more men in Utah hold executive positions than women,” the brief reads. “It is critical to understand what obstacles stand in the way of closing gender gaps such as this so that Utah’s workforce and economy can thrive and meet its potential.”

Participants in an online survey administered between October and November 2022 were recruited through a variety of ways, with efforts made to collect responses from individuals with diverse views about gender equality.

Individuals were contacted by consultants who reached out through their networks, and the survey link was distributed through Utah Women & Leadership Project networks.

Depending on participants’ response to the question of their gender, participants were then asked to complete the original Gender Bias Scale developed for women or a modified GBS adapted for men.

The study findings confirm that women and men in Utah’s workplaces perceive gender bias differently — women perceive it to a larger degree.

“This gap in perception is troubling since men make up a large proportion of Utah leadership and thus have significant influence over workplace experiences, systems, processes, and culture,” the report reads. “Male privilege was the gender bias factor with the largest differences in perception between men and women, consistent with literature reporting that male privilege may be invisible to those who benefit from it.”

Male privilege is defined as a culture controlled by men that reinforces the male hierarchy and subordinates the female voice.

Although male leaders should work to shift attitudes, data consistently shows men lack awareness of their privilege. Researchers have also noted that, in some cases where men recognize their privileged position, they use discourse to justify and reframe this privilege.

The data also showed where organizations could provide more assistance for women, such as providing more opportunities for mentorship and sponsorship, addressing gender pay gaps and ensuring that women are being offered developmental opportunities.

“Utah companies should implement policies and approaches that improve diversity, equity, and inclusion and institutionalize gender equity practices,” the research concludes. “Other forms of bias must also be prioritized in change efforts. For instance, future research should consider how men and women perceive racial or age bias and how each interacts with perceptions of gender bias.”

The author of the policy brief is Helen Knaggs, vice president of research and development for Nu Skin Enterprises and a research fellow with the Utah Women & Leadership Project.


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