Three people are seated around a table – a man in a suit, a man without a suit, and a woman. You’re told to hand your documents to the boss. Who do you pick?
Watch the video and see how you do:
Did you manage to guess right?
Only one of the six participants correctly identified the woman, Anna, as the boss. This video, created by Lifetime Asia for International Women’s Day, aims to highlight how prevalent stereotypes regarding women in power are.
The results are disheartening. We got tears in our eyes listening to Anna recount her experience of being picked over during the video. It was painful to hear her describe how she’d resigned herself to just accepting that people don’t look at her and acknowledge that she could be a boss.
“To me, subconsciously, I always think that the first image of a boss is always male,” one of the participants admitted.
And that’s the thing with stereotypes – they aren’t always intentional, but they hurt. The fact that they’re subconscious just shows how insidious and dangerous they really are. Because of that, they continue to perpetuate unchecked and uncorrected.
“When you think of a boss, most likely you will think of a male,” said another participant. And she’s not wrong. Statistically, that is. Stereotypes are sometimes backed up by data, such as is the case with the scarcity of high level female employees.
According to the Malaysian Department of Statistics’ 2015 Labour Force Survey Report, only 22% of managers are women. Male managers also outnumber female ones by more than 3 to 1. Grant Thornton’s annual Women in Business report also found that only 24% of senior business roles in Malaysia are held by women . That’s a terrible number, and we are outranked by nearly all our neighbouring countries.
But no matter what the statistics say, we must consciously fight the urge to stereotype. It’s lazy, close-minded, and harmful– especially if we are aware of it.
“The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.” ― Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Thank you for challenging our biases, Lifetime Asia. (Check out the comments on their Facebook post for more discussion!)
Fighting bias and breaking gender stereotypes take conscious effort. But the effort is well worth it. #BeBoldForChange
Check out our other International Women’s Day 2017 reads: