November 2020


  1. In some professions, women have become well represented, yet gender bias persists—Perpetuated by those who thin
  2. COVID-19 has increased gender inequalities in the media, IFJ survey finds
  3. Is gender still on the agenda in Japan?
  4. How can gender transformative programmes with men advance women’s health and empowerment?
  5. Crisis is gendered. Women in the times of pandemic

In some professions, women have become well represented, yet gender bias persists—Perpetuated by those who thin



In efforts to promote equality and combat gender bias, traditionally male-occupied professions are investing resources into hiring more women. Looking forward, if women do become well represented in a profession, does this mean equality has been achieved? Are issues of bias resolved? Two studies including a randomized double-blind experiment demonstrate that biases persist even when women become well represented (evinced in veterinary medicine). Evidence included managers evaluating an employee randomly assigned a male (versus female) name as more competent and advising a $3475.00 higher salary, equating to an 8% pay gap. Importantly, those who thought bias was not happening in their field were the key drivers of it—a “high risk” group (including men and women) that, as shown, can be readily identified/assessed. Thus, as other professions make gains in women’s representation, it is vital to recognize that discrimination can persist—perpetuated by those who think it is not happening.



Women remain underrepresented in a number of professions, including certain fields of science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and medicine (STEMM) (1–3). Evidence also indicates that women who work in these male-dominated fields are prone to experiencing bias and discrimination. This bias can be expressed by both men and women and can have multiple adverse implications (e.g., for women’s pay and promotion, performance evaluations, and treatment among colleagues) (4–13).

However, efforts are underway in many of these fields to increase the representation of women (14–16). In part, this has meant working to address the so-called pipeline problem—the idea that in some professions, one of the obstacles to gender equality is a lack of women pursuing degrees and ultimately careers in them. Such efforts to increase women’s representation may be motivated partly by a belief that once enough women enter the profession, broader issues of bias and inequality will subside (e.g., because having more women in the profession “will naturally lead to a more inclusive culture”) (17). Following from this, if someone sees women become well represented in a profession (e.g., biological sciences and veterinary medicine), they may infer that the profession has indeed become more equitable—that the biases and differential treatment that once disadvantaged women are no longer an issue.

In the current research, we examine the veracity of this idea. We test whether gender bias (differential evaluations and treatment of women relative to men) is now absent or remains evident in a profession once dominated by men but now with a substantial representation of women. While existing evidence suggests that gender bias persists in professions still comprised mostly of men (4, 7), there is very little evidence—and none to our knowledge that comes from randomized double-blind experimental data coupled with large-scale, highly ecologically valid field survey data—indicating whether gender bias continues to be an issue in professions where women’s representation has now substantially increased. Thus, it remains unclear whether addressing the issue of women’s underrepresentation in a profession is a reliable indicator that issues of gender bias and differential treatment are now resolved.

Moreover, and quite critically, we examine whether any persisting gender bias is broadly evident, or whether it is perpetuated by a particular subset of individuals. Specifically, we test whether those who believe that women in their field no longer face bias are, perhaps ironically, the most likely to convey biased perceptions and evaluations. While such a belief may seem reasonable to adopt, especially upon seeing women’s representation in the field grow (a very real and notable stride toward gender equality), it may actually make one more susceptible to conveying bias.

We examine these processes in a profession once heavily male-dominated but now with a substantial representation of women, veterinary medicine. Following a preliminary field survey, we conducted a randomized double-blind experiment using a sample of business owners, employers, and managers in the profession—individuals who are in real positions of power to evaluate and shape the experiences and careers of women and men in their field.


Is gender bias still a problem after women become well represented?

With an increase in women’s representation, it is possible that issues of gender bias will dissipate. This may occur through change in professional culture, including shifts in the perceptions of women’s abilities [e.g., others may not so readily assume (consciously or otherwise) that women in that field are less capable than men nor struggle to recognize women’s skills and achievements] (18). Consistent with this perspective, evidence shows that in professions where women are well represented, there is very little bias in how male versus female employees are evaluated (4). However, this evidence comes from professions where women’s representation has been relatively stable over time (e.g., nursing and social work), so it does not evince whether such bias will exist in professions where the gender composition has substantially changed. Nevertheless, it provides some indication that when women’s representation in a field is relatively high, gender bias may not be an issue.

On the other hand, it is possible that despite women becoming well represented, gender biases will persist. This may be because there are commonly held assumptions in many cultures that men are more capable than women (19), which can give way to biases that disadvantage women [or advantage men (20)] (21). Importantly, everyone is susceptible to internalizing these stereotypical perceptions, including women and men and those who reject overtly sexist attitudes (19, 22, 23). Moreover, regarding perceptions of women in scientific fields, evidence shows that even when the proportion of women working in those fields is relatively high, gender stereotypes that favor men (as being more suitable or fitting to the field) can persist (24, 25). Thus, given that certain gender stereotypes may remain unchanged by the proportion of women working in that field, overt expressions of gender bias and discrimination might also persist. Consistent with this perspective, albeit from an educational context rather than the workplace [see also (26)], there is evidence of bias in competence evaluations of female (versus male) undergraduates in biology (27). Given that women now earn undergraduate degrees in biology at rates equal to or greater than men (28, 29), this suggests that biased evaluations of women can persist even when women’s representation in that context has grown.


A paradox: Those who think bias is no longer a problem may be most likely to express it

Once women become well represented in a profession, gender bias may also remain evident because that very shift in gender composition, that growth in the number of women, may lead people to more readily infer (perhaps erroneously) that discrimination is now a thing of the past [for a related perspective, see (30)]. This idea aligns with previous work suggesting that individuals who hold this type of belief—that women no longer face discrimination in society more generally—tend to lack awareness of the ways in which discrimination toward women can manifest contemporarily, and often subtly (31, 32). It follows that if individuals are unaware of the subtle manifestations of gender bias, they would also be less likely to recognize circumstances in which biases might be guiding their own perceptions and evaluations of an individual. In this way, if individuals infer that a robust representation of women means that gender bias is no longer an issue in their profession, they may inadvertently increase their susceptibility of expressing gender bias—a seeming paradox that arises from perceiving progress on gender equality within one’s profession, or, more precisely, one that arises from misperceiving the true level of progress that has been reached on gender equality (i.e., overestimating the progress that has been made).

This process may be particularly evident in fields of science and medicine, where objectivity is highly valued and routinely practiced as the basis for making observations and evaluations. This is because individuals who feel confident in their capacity to be objective can be especially prone to expressing bias (33, 34). Thus, this process—whereby gender bias is driven by those who think bias is no longer an issue—may be particularly evident in professions where objectivity is routinely practiced and thus readily assumed to underlie one’s perceptions and evaluations. Overall, this perspective aligns with research demonstrating that academics in science disciplines who think discrimination against women is no longer an issue in society are especially prone to displaying gender bias—evaluating a female undergraduate as less competent than an equally qualified male student (5). This similarly aligns with research showing that when scientific evaluation committees believe discrimination against women in science is no longer an issue (and hold implicit gender biases), they demonstrate greater gender bias—promoting fewer women to elite research positions (35).

The current research builds on this previous body of work in several innovative ways. In part, it examines a profession where women are now well represented rather than a mixture of fields where gender representation varies (e.g., physics and biology). Therefore, it is poised to determine whether increasing women’s representation in a field does represent a robust strategy for eliminating gender bias. It also more precisely examines individuals’ beliefs about whether gender bias is an issue within their own field [rather than in society more generally or across an array of scientific disciplines (focused on those where women remain underrepresented)].

To find evidence of gender bias under these conditions would reveal several unique insights. First, it would show that establishing a strong representation of women does not equate to resolving issues of gender inequality in a profession. This would seem particularly important to consider, given that concerted efforts are underway in a number of fields to increase women’s representation (14, 36). Second, quite critically, it would demonstrate that believing gender equality has been achieved within one’s own field may be a key risk factor for expressing gender bias—a risk factor that can be easily measured and can be readily acknowledged and discussed with those who hold such a belief. Therein, as a practical implication, such insights could aid in the development of targeted bias interventions designed to maximize effectiveness among those who are most likely to demonstrate gender bias.


The current studies

In the current studies, we use a preliminary field survey (study 1) and preregistered randomized double-blind experiment (study 2) to test whether gender biases are evident in a profession once male-dominated but now with a substantial representation of women. We also test whether those who believe discrimination against women in their field is no longer an issue are the most likely to express gender bias (study 2). We test these questions using samples of women and men working in the field of veterinary medicine (U.K.-based). In 1960, only 5% of U.K. vets were women; by 2017, it was more than 50% (paralleling trends in the United States) (2, 37, 38). This professional context offers a rather conservative test of whether gender biases will still be evident. This is, in part, because women have been well represented among vets for some time (representing 50%+ of vets for more than a decade) (39), and so, in this time, more traditional, biased perceptions and assumptions of women’s abilities in the field (e.g., lacking competence) may have faded. Thus, given this passage of time, it would seem particularly unlikely that gender biases would be evident, compared to fields where women have only more recently reached greater representation. Moreover, in fields where the gender composition is only now shifting, individuals may feel more imminent threat and thus express more overt hostility or negative reactance toward women (40). Yet, in veterinary medicine, this type of perceived threat would seem less likely given that women’s sizable representation has been established for more than a decade. This enables a relatively clean test of extant subtle biases, distinct from discriminatory evaluations rooted in overt hostility (see also the “Study 2 supplemental analyses” section in the Supplementary Materials).

Study 1. In study 1, we tested for preliminary evidence of extant biases toward women in the profession. We analyzed data from a field survey of professionals in veterinary medicine (N = 1147; 66% female). Individuals were asked (i) how often they experience gender discrimination at work (e.g., are treated according to stereotypes) and (ii) the extent to which they feel their overall competence and value is recognized by colleagues (e.g., being admired and highly regarded among colleagues). We predicted that women would experience greater discrimination and less value/admiration among colleagues compared to men statistically matched on various characteristics.

Study 2. Given that study 1 relied on self-reported experiences, in study 2, we aimed to provide confirmatory evidence by using a controlled experimental design. To test whether male and female vets would be evaluated differently based solely on their gender, we showed managers in the profession a performance review of a vet, randomly assigned a male or female name (“Mark” or “Elizabeth”). Everything about this vet—qualifications, experience, past performance, and merits—were identical, aside from the vet’s purported gender. The review described a vet whose performance reflected a mix of positive qualities and drawbacks, thereby creating some ambiguity about the vet’s overall competence [consistent with previous research (5); see also (41)]. To ensure the performance review was realistic, it was developed collaboratively with the British Veterinary Association (BVA).

To assess whether any potential bias would be driven by those who think bias is not an issue anymore, managers reported whether they believe women in their field still face bias [endorsement of the statements, “Discrimination against women in the veterinary profession is no longer a problem”; “In this profession, the careers of female vets are still impacted by biases and discrimination toward women” (reverse-scored)]. To minimize potential influence of this measure on evaluations of the target vet, it was administered after managers provided their evaluations. Administering this measure beforehand would have posed a risk to the ecological validity of the results (e.g., by priming managers, in an unrealistic way, to actively consider the possibility of extant gender biases in their profession; this could induce self-monitoring and yield less natural evaluations). Note that managers randomly assigned to the male versus female target conditions did not differ in their endorsement of this belief, t252 = 0.81, P = 0.42 (for more details, see Materials and Methods). This suggests that having managers first evaluate the target did not systematically alter their endorsement of this belief.

To maximize external validity, we recruited managers, employers, business owners, and others in the profession with managerial experience (N = 254, 122/132 assigned to male/female target conditions), 92% of whom were actively involved in conducting or overseeing performance reviews. This sample of (volunteer) managers is valuable for several reasons. First, these individuals are in real positions of power, making evaluations of others in their field. This yields high external validity. Therefore, findings provide meaningful, real-world implications. Second, individuals who have actual experience with workplace evaluations tend to show less bias compared to more convenient samples (e.g., undergraduate students) (4), which means that this sample provides a particularly conservative test of predictions. Third, this sample provides insight into the range of real-world beliefs that managers have about whether women in their field still face bias, thus providing real insight into the scope of the potential issue (i.e., the proportion of managers who hold beliefs that put them at higher risk for exhibiting gender bias).

To help maximize interest and engagement in the study, managers were contacted directly by the BVA. They were told that the BVA was a collaborative partner and that the “survey” aimed to understand their experiences with “managing others in the veterinary profession...[and] to gain insights about how with other vets to develop successful and thriving practices” (for more details, see the “Study 2 data collection procedures and participant information” section in the Supplementary Materials). While it was imperative to provide managers with a fictitious performance review, so to isolate employee gender as the only experimental factor, managers were told that the performance review was real, was recently completed, and was provided by a BVA-affiliated clinic (upon completion of the study, managers were fully debriefed). Thus, we took several steps to ensure that the study and its stimuli were realistic and engaging. For more details on the applicability of these experimental data to current issues in the profession (e.g., an extant pay gap), see Discussion.



Study 1: Preliminary self-reported evidence of gender bias

We analyzed study 1 data using a multivariate analysis of covariance, comparing the experiences of women and men in the profession while controlling for relevant factors (e.g., role in the profession and hours worked per week). Results demonstrated that women’s experiences differed from those of their male counterparts overall, F2,1141 = 29.25, P < 0.001, d = 0.45. Specifically, women (M = 2.08, SD = 1.09) were more likely than men (M = 1.58, SD = 0.78) to experience discrimination, F1,1142 = 54.83, P < 0.001, d = 0.44. Women (M = 4.50, SD = 1.22) were also less likely than men (M = 5.03, SD = 1.12) to experience recognition among colleagues for their value and worth, F1,1142 = 8.25, P = 0.004, d = 0.17. Thus, results provided initial evidence that despite notable gains in women’s representation in this field, experiences of gender bias may persist.

Study 1 provided direct insight into how women’s experiences working in this field differ from those of their male counterparts. However, the self-reported nature of these data made it vital to test for corroborating experimental evidence—specifically testing whether gender bias remained evident when examining others’ evaluations of an individual (versus an individual’s self-reports) and when comparing evaluations of two individuals who are truly identical in every way, aside from their gender. Study 2 did exactly that in a randomized double-blind experiment.


Study 2: Corroborating experimental evidence of gender bias

We analyzed study 2 data using PROCESS (42), controlling for managers’ differing characteristics. Experimental condition (target gender; X) was coded 0 (female/“Elizabeth”) and 1 (male/“Mark”), and managers’ beliefs about ongoing gender discrimination in their field (M) were examined at ±1 SD (mean-centered; so to examine θX?Y | M). The distribution of these beliefs yielded values at ±1 SD of approximately 2.55/5.59 (M = 4.07; 1 to 7 scale; for descriptive clarity, values here are not mean-centered). This corresponded to a general rejection versus endorsement of the idea that women in their profession no longer face discrimination. Thus, these values are meaningful not only because they reflect true values in the population but also because they represent categorically distinct beliefs about the existence of gender discrimination in the field.

Prevalence of beliefs about gender bias in the profession. Initial descriptive analyses revealed that a plurality of managers believed that gender discrimination was no longer an issue in their profession [scoring above the scale’s midpoint (neither agree nor disagree)]. Specifically, 44.5% of managers believed this, of whom 61.1% were men. Another 40.6% of managers rejected this belief (scoring below the midpoint), of whom 23.3% were men. Another 15.0% were neutral/uncertain (scoring at the midpoint), of whom 42.1% were men. Further analyses showed that while both men and women endorsed this belief (and rejected it), men were significantly more likely to endorse it (and women more likely to reject it), χ2 (1) = 31.34, P < 0.001. Similarly, examining endorsement on a continuum (versus categorically) showed that men’s endorsement of this belief (M = 4.75, SD = 1.33) was significantly greater than women’s (M = 3.56, SD = 1.45), t252 = 6.72, P < 0.001, d = 0.85.

Note that in analyses testing whether male versus female managers differed in their tendency to show biased evaluations of the target vet (testing managers’ gender as a moderator; analyses otherwise paralleled primary analyses described below), we found no evidence of differences between male and female managers (for more details, see the “Study 2 supplemental analyses” section in the Supplementary Materials). Rather, as described below, managers’ biased evaluations of the target vet were squarely rooted in their belief that women in the profession no longer face discrimination.

Evaluations of competence. Paralleling previous work (5), the performance review was designed to create ambiguity about the target employee’s competence, and so, primary analyses tested whether managers’ competence evaluations differed as a function of the target’s purported gender and whether such a difference was evident squarely among those who believe gender bias is no longer an issue in the profession. Predictions were tested in PROCESS model 1 with 5000 resamples (95% confidence intervals in brackets).

Analyses of the first competence indicator (overall competence) evinced differences in the perceived competence of the male versus female employee but only among those who believed gender bias was no longer an issue: condition*bias-belief, B = 0.20 [0.05, 0.35], SE = 0.08, P = 0.01, ΔR2 = 0.03 (F1,227 = 6.58), f 2 = 0.03 (main effects: condition, B = 0.17 [−0.06, 0.41], SE = 0.12, P = 0.14; bias-belief, B = −0.08 [−0.16, 0.00], SE = 0.04, P = 0.06). Managers who rejected this belief did not differ in their competence evaluations of the male and female target employee (θX?Y = −0.13 [−0.46, 0.20], SE = 0.17, P = 0.44). By comparison, managers who endorsed it—those who believed women in their profession no longer experience bias—demonstrated a systematic bias, evaluating the male employee as significantly more competent than the otherwise identical female employee (θX?Y = 0.48 [0.15, 0.80], SE = 0.17, P = 0.004, Figure 2) 

As another indicator of the perceived competence and worth of this employee, managers indicated the extent to which they anticipated this employee was valued, admired, and looked up to among colleagues (paralleling the measure of perceived value/worth among colleagues from study 1). Mirroring the effect described above, results evinced differences in how the male versus female employee was evaluated, specifically among managers who believed gender bias was no longer an issue: condition*bias-belief, B = 0.27 [0.11, 0.44], SE = 0.08, P = 0.001, ΔR2 = 0.04 (F1,236 = 10.84), f 2 = 0.05 (main effects: condition, B = 0.09 [−0.16, 0.34], SE = 0.13, P = 0.47; bias-belief, B = 0.02 [−0.07, 0.11], SE = 0.05, P = 0.62). Again, while those who rejected this belief did not differ in their evaluations of the male and female target (θX?Y = −0.33 [−0.68, 0.03], SE = 0.18, P = 0.07), managers who believed gender bias is no longer a problem evaluated the male employee as having greater value and worth than the otherwise identical female employee (θX?Y = 0.51 [0.16, 0.86], SE = 0.18, P = 0.005).

As a monetary indicator of perceived competence and worth (paralleling previous work) (5), managers indicated the salary they would advise for this employee if s/he was in their own practice. Managers also reported the typical salary for employees in their practice with similar levels of experience as the target, and this was subtracted from the advised salary. Thus, analyses accounted for differences in base salary rates by examining respondent-specific deviations in advised salary (the same pattern of results emerged when analyzing raw advised salaries with typical salary used as a covariate; see the “Study 2 supplemental analyses” section in the Supplementary Materials). Mirroring the effects described above, results evinced bias in advised salaries, specifically among managers who believed gender bias was no longer an issue: condition*bias-belief, B = £934.98 [£183.01, £1686.95], SE = £381.55, P = 0.02, ΔR2 = 0.03 (F1,220 = 6.00), f 2 = 0.03 (main effects: condition, B = £1130.58 [−£19.61, £2280.77], SE = £583.61, P = 0.05; bias-belief, B = £56.89 [−£357.81, £471.58], SE = £210.42, P = 0.79). Thus, while those who rejected this belief did not differ in advised salaries (θX?Y = −£303.07 [−£1942.79, £1336.65], SE = £832.00, P = 0.72), managers who endorsed it advised paying the male employee ~£2564 or $3475 more than the otherwise identical female employee (θX?Y = £2564.23 [£946.78, £4181.69], SE = £820.71, P = 0.002; Fig. 3). This equated to a gender pay gap of approximately 8% or, more formally, unequal pay of 8% (for equally qualified workers). As a more direct translation, this equated to paying the male employee ~$1.75 more than the female employee every hour for the next 2000 consecutive hours or one full year of work. A second measure of perceived financial worth (willingness to offer the employee a raise) showed the same pattern of results: condition*bias-belief, B = 0.35 [0.07, 0.63], SE = 0.14, P = 0.01, ΔR2 = 0.02 (F1,235 = 6.02), f 2 = 0.02 (main effects: condition, B = −0.02 [−0.45, 0.41], SE = 0.22, P = 0.93; bias-belief, B = −0.12 [−0.27, 0.04], SE = 0.08, P = 0.13), although the difference in offered pay raise by target gender was not significant among those who rejected (θX?Y = −0.55 [−1.16, 0.06], SE = 0.31, P = 0.08) or endorsed (θX?Y = 0.52 [−0.09, 1.12], SE = 0.31, P = 0.09) beliefs about women still facing bias in the field.

Last, to produce a more robust indicator of competence and worth, as in previous work (5), the four aforementioned competence indicators were standardized and averaged to form a composite. Consistent with results for each individual measure, this composite measure evinced differences in competence evaluations among those who believed gender discrimination was no longer an issue: condition*bias-belief, B = 0.22 [0.11, 0.33], SE = 0.06, P < 0.001, ΔR2 = 0.06 (F1,213 = 15.10), f 2 = 0.07 (main effects: condition, B = 0.12 [−0.05, 0.30], SE = 0.09, P = 0.16; bias-belief, B = −0.04 [−0.10, 0.03], SE = 0.03, P = 0.27). Again, while those who rejected this belief did not differ in their evaluations of the male and female employee (θX?Y = −0.22 [−0.47, 0.03], SE = 0.13, P = 0.08), managers who endorsed it evaluated the male employee as more competent than the otherwise identical female employee (θX?Y = 0.47 [0.22, 0.71], SE = 0.12, P < 0.001).

Competence evaluations predict treatment of the employee. With evidence that managers’ own beliefs about extant gender biases undergird their likelihood of expressing gender-biased evaluations, further analyses tested whether managers’ biased competence evaluations translated into biased treatment of the employee (if s/he was in their own practice; e.g., whether they would let her/him take on more supervisory responsibilities). Specifically, moderated mediation (model 7, using competence composite measure) tested for an indirect effect of employee gender on managers’ intended treatment of the employee, via perceived competence—an effect expected to be evident among those who thought gender discrimination was no longer an issue in their field.

Results demonstrated just that. While managers’ competence evaluations were critical to predicting how they would treat the employee overall (B = 0.77 [0.56, 0.98], SE = 0.11, P < 0.001), these competence evaluations were themselves systematically biased among those who thought gender bias was no longer an issue (condition*bias-belief, B = 0.22 [0.11, 0.33], SE = 0.06, P < 0.001), which translated into biased treatment. In other words, there was a significant indirect effect of target gender on treatment (direct effect: B = −0.17 [−0.45, 0.11], SE = 0.14, P = 0.24) but only among those who believed gender bias was no longer an issue: indirect effect = 0.36 [0.16, 0.62]. Among those who rejected this belief, the employee’s gender had no significant bearing on how s/he would be treated (indirect effect = −0.17 [−0.38, 0.01]; Fig. 4).

As a second indicator of how managers would treat this employee, they were asked to indicate what advice they would give if the employee expressed interest in pursuing a key promotion in the near future. Specifically, they were asked how readily they would encourage her/him to seek this promotion (to the position of principal vet; response options ranged from advising s/he pursue the position within the next year, to advising that s/he would not be ready to take on this position anytime in the next 6 years). Results mirrored those described above. The employee’s gender had a significant indirect effect (direct effect: B = −0.20 [−0.49, 0.08], SE= 0.14, P = 0.16) on the advice managers would give, favoring the male employee, but only among those who believed gender bias was no longer an issue: indirect effect = 0.27 [0.10, 0.49]. Among managers who rejected this belief, the employee’s gender had no significant bearing on the advice s/he would be given (indirect effect = −0.13 [−0.30, 0.00]).



The current studies provide evidence that gender biases can persist even in a field where women have made substantial gains in their representation. This evidence comes from ecologically valid field survey data combined with controlled experimental data, which also uses ecologically valid respondents—managers and others who are in actual positions of power to evaluate and shape the careers of women and men in their field. Moreover, and quite critically, this research demonstrates that managers who think bias is no longer an issue in their profession are, perhaps ironically, the key drivers of bias.

Together, our research provides several unique insights. In part, it demonstrates that when women’s representation in a field substantially increases, it cannot be taken to indicate that issues of gender bias have been resolved. This may be particularly important to consider as we see concerted efforts underway in a number of STEMM fields to increase women’s representation (14, 36). While gender biases may be even more pervasive when women are highly underrepresented, and so increasing women’s representation in these fields may be beneficial in some respects, the current studies indicate that making progress on “the numbers” should not be considered a robust or adequate solution to issues of gender inequality. In fact, the current evidence indicates that when a field (or particular organization in it) makes gains in women’s representation, they may need to take additional precautions to ensure that this does not get interpreted to mean that gender bias is no longer a problem. While this may seem like a reasonable inference to make, our results show that to make such an inference actually puts an individual at higher risk for demonstrating gender bias.

Following from this, the current research illustrates that an individual’s beliefs about gender equality in their field may be a notable, and readily measurable, risk factor. Those who believe gender bias is no longer an issue in their profession, or who generally underestimate its pervasiveness, may be at highest risk for exhibiting such bias. This is a key insight, with practical implications. For example, this may be important for understanding and precisely identifying who in the profession is perpetuating the ongoing gender pay gap (43). It is also notable that the actual pay gap in veterinary medicine (approximately 8% for junior full-time vets) closely mirrors the one found in the current research. This high degree of consistency, between the magnitude of the real-world issue and the current findings, also suggests that while managers in this study were not evaluating a real employee (with real implications for themselves or the employee), their evaluations may nevertheless mirror real-world evaluations and treatment of their employees [e.g., managers’ actual perceptions of employees’ competence and the salaries they advise for (prospective) employees]. The gender-biased evaluations shown in the current experiment also generally map onto women’s lived experiences of discrimination in the profession, as evinced in study 1. Thus, together, this suggests that both the results and particular insights of the current research—including that those who believe gender bias is no longer an issue in their profession are at highest risk for perpetuating it—will be vital to understanding, and ultimately addressing, extant issues of gender bias in the profession.

There are both men and women who believe that discrimination against women is no longer an issue in their profession (in the current research, 45% of managers held this belief, 66% of whom were men), and it is the belief itself, not one’s gender, that predicts who is most likely to demonstrate gender bias (see also the “Study 2 supplemental analyses” section in the Supplementary Materials). Although it will be important to further probe the nature of this gender bias effect in future research {e.g., for whom it is explained by a genuine naiveté of extant forms of gender discrimination versus a more explicit motivation to deny that gender discrimination still exists [in line with ideas put forth in literature on system justification (44, 45) and modern sexism (31, 32)]}, it is critically informative that simply holding this belief that gender discrimination is no longer an issue in one’s own field reveals a pattern of robustly biased evaluations of women. When considering how to develop targeted gender bias interventions, it seems particularly useful to have identified this risk factor—a belief that is explicit, is easily measured, is profession specific (and thus likely to be relevant to individuals), and can be readily acknowledged and discussed with those who hold it.

In addition, the current research shows that biased competence evaluations can translate into differential treatment of an employee. It is also informative that managers in the current research did not directly indicate differential treatment of an employee based on gender but instead indicated that they would treat an employee based on his or her perceived competence. Critically, however, these competence evaluations were themselves systematically biased (among those who thought gender bias was no longer an issue). This suggests that managers may overtly value the notion that employees should be treated based on their competencies and merits. However, despite seeming like a fair standard to maintain, it can be an insidious one. This is because the very foundation of that standard—perceptions of an employee’s competence—can be fundamentally biased.

Last, it is important to note that while there is a considerable amount of research, and debate, around whether gender bias plays a role in explaining women’s underrepresentation in certain fields (46), the current research focally speaks to a different question. Rather than focusing on the antecedents of women’s representation in a profession, this research examines whether gender bias plays a role even after issues of women’s representation have largely been resolved. In this way, it helps address a distinct and more forward-looking question: When a traditionally male-dominated field ultimately establishes a strong representation of women, will those women—having already surpassed any potential barriers to entering the field—finally be on an equal footing with their male colleagues? Will they have the same opportunities to thrive and face the same challenges to advancement? Overall, the current research indicates that this is not the case. Even when well represented, women can continue to face unique challenges in how they are perceived, evaluated, and treated because of their gender.

Going forward, it will be important to examine how and why individuals come to believe that gender bias is no longer an issue in their field. While the current studies demonstrate clear consequences of holding this belief, it does not examine its antecedents. Given the context in which these consequences are demonstrated—a field where women’s representation has grown—and given that several professions are now making efforts to increase women’s representation, it may be particularly valuable to assess whether individuals seeing the number of women in their field grow (i.e., subjectively perceiving growth) is partly what gives rise to this belief. Finding that this belief becomes more likely or prominent when women’s representation perceptibly grows would illustrate how gains in women’s representation—a very real and notable stride toward equality—can also give way to an insidious belief that undermines equality. Future study of this and other related processes would ultimately benefit from a mixed methodological approach, including additional experimental work (e.g., manipulating the perceived representation of women in a profession and manipulating individuals’ belief that gender bias is still an issue), and from studying other relevant professions (e.g., biological sciences and medical fields where women’s representation has grown).

Similarly, it will be important to consider for whom an increase in women’s representation yields a belief that gender bias is no longer an issue and, by comparison, for whom this belief will exist irrespective of women’s representation. In line with past theorizing (32), some individuals may genuinely, though perhaps naïvely, infer from seeing a growth in women’s representation that gender bias is no longer an issue. Thus, for these “naïve deniers” of extant bias, seeing women’s representation increase would be key to producing the belief. However, these individuals can also have a genuine motivation to promote gender equality (32). This is important because it suggests that awareness raising interventions may be effective in changing their beliefs and ultimately the discrimination that, as shown, can accompany this belief (i.e., for naïve deniers, effective interventions may include increasing awareness of extant forms of gender bias, and awareness that thinking bias does not exist makes them more likely to express it). By comparison, other individuals may not be naïve deniers so much as “motivated deniers” of extant bias. Such individuals may strategically use information, including about women’s representation but also other selective information or ideas, to justify what is more fundamentally a sexist, anti-egalitarian attitude [in line with theorizing around modern sexism (31, 32) and system justification] (44). For motivated deniers of extant bias, women’s representation in a field is less central to determining whether they hold the belief (though a growth in women’s representation could certainly strengthen it) because, even in the absence of women being well represented, motivated deniers will perform the mental gymnastics necessary to sustain the belief [using requisite rationalizations; e.g., cognitively emphasizing that gender (or sex) discrimination is, by law, illegal and so conclude that it is unlikely to be happening in the workplace]. This ultimately suggests that for those who are motivated, whether consciously or not, to deny that gender discrimination is still an issue in their profession, awareness raising interventions may be relatively ineffective. For motivated deniers, other interventions may be necessary to mitigate their potential expressions of bias (e.g., implementing systems and protocols that minimize space for subjectivity in employee evaluations).


Together, the current research illustrates that even when issues of women’s representation in a field have largely been resolved—even when there is a wealth of women who have made it into the field’s “pipeline,” with careers fully underway—gender biases can thrive. Yet, this research also provides nuance to that point. Yes, it appears that gender bias is still a problem, but not everyone is contributing to it equally. There is instead a focal group of individuals who are perpetuating this bias, and it is perhaps ironically those who think it is not happening. Ultimately, this highlights an insidious paradox that can arise when individuals misperceive the level of progress made on gender equality in their profession such that those who mistakenly think gender bias is no longer an issue become the highest risk for perpetuating it. Thus, as other STEMM professions strive to establish greater representations of women, it will be important that they carefully consider what any change in representation signifies in terms of progress for their field, what it does not signify, and what new barriers to gender equality might surface in its wake.



Study 1 design

Individuals in the field of veterinary medicine completed a semiannual survey organized and distributed by the BVA. The survey was designed for the BVA’s own internal purposes but also included study 1 questions. Individuals were asked how often they experience gender discrimination at work [three items, adapted from (47): treated according to stereotypes based on your gender, deprived of opportunities available to others because of your gender, and viewed negatively because of your gender; 1 (Never) to 5 (Very often); α = 0.88] and the extent to which they feel their overall value and worth is recognized by colleagues [four items, adapted from (48): extent to which they dis/agree that they are, among colleagues: held in high regard, seen as a role model for others, looked up to, and admired; 1 (Strongly disagree) to 7 (Strongly agree) scale; α = 0.93].

Study 1 aimed to examine the experiences of individuals currently working in the profession, so individuals not working were omitted. The sample for analyses (N = 1170, n = 1147 for main analysis, as some did not respond to all questions) was 66.8% female, 87.4% working in clinical practices, and 83.8% working full-time (35+ hours per week; Mage = 42.57, SD = 11.91). On average, individuals had graduated from veterinary school 16.87 years ago (SD = 12.65). Roles in the sample, following a coding scheme from the BVA, reflected employees (62.4%), managers of other vets (5.5%), and self-employed/business owners/partners (32.1%). All respondents indicated that they work alongside other employees and thus had a basis for answering questions about their experiences among colleagues (responding “yes” to, “In your current role do you work alongside colleagues or other employees?”). While sample size was determined/managed by the BVA, sensitivity analyses indicated the study was powered to detect effects within the range of those found (e.g., d ≥ 0.17 in analysis of variance with covariates; α = 0.05, 1 − β = 0.80).


Study 1 statistical analyses

We compared the experiences of women and men in the profession using a multivariate analysis of covariance (covariates: role/position in the profession, hours worked per week, and years since graduating from vet school). We used an α level of 0.05 (two-tailed) for analyses (no data transformations). Effect sizes computed in SPSS were converted using established equations (49).


Study 2 design

Using a randomized double-blind experimental design, managers and others with managerial experience (e.g., business owners and employers) in veterinary medicine were shown a performance review of a vet—randomly assigned a male or female name (with corresponding male or female pronouns used). The review described a junior vet whose past performance reflected a mix of qualities and drawbacks, thus creating ambiguity about the vet’s overall competence. Figures S1 and S2 show the performance review (male version) and cover story that preceded it. Everything about this vet was identical aside from their gender. Thus, any differences in managers’ evaluations of the vet’s competence could be attributed to the vet’s gender.

After omitting respondents who did not match inclusion criteria [e.g., those without managerial experience, n = 12; those who failed manipulation checks (the correct name/gender of the target employee they evaluated; n = 15 assigned to the male target condition, n = 18 assigned to female target condition)], there were 254 respondents (57.1% female; 89.4% in clinical practice; Mage = 45.78, SD = 10.93). On average, respondents entered the veterinary profession (graduated from vet school) 23 years ago (SD = 11.21). When asked about years of managerial experience in the profession, 46% reported having more than 10 years of experience. Another 12, 10, 13, 5, and 9% reported having 7 to 10, 5 to 7, 3 to 5, 2 to 3, and 1 to 2 years of managerial experience. The remaining 6% had less than 1 year of experience. Asked about their current involvement conducting and/or overseeing performance reviews, 79% reported being “very” or “quite involved.” Another 13% reported being “somewhat” or “a little involved.” Only 8% reported no current involvement. When comparing managers randomly assigned to the two experimental conditions on these demographic variables, they did not differ in any way (all Ps > 0.10). See the “Study 2 data collection procedures and participant information” section in the Supplementary Materials for more information on recruitment, power, and methodology.


Study 2 measures

To reinforce the target employee’s gender, questions about the employee regularly used his/her name and corresponding gender pronouns. Questions are described here using the male version. The female versions were identical except for the name (Elizabeth) and/or gender pronouns used. For more information, see the “Study 2 experimental materials and supplemental measures” section in the Supplementary Materials.

Consistent with previous research (5), multiple measures were used to discern managers’ evaluation of the employee’s competence, value, and worth: (i) general [Generally speaking, how competent does Mark seem to be?; 1 (Not at all competent) to 7 (Very competent)], (ii) colleague-based [adapted from (48): Within Mark’s practice, among colleagues do you imagine he is: looked up to? admired? held in high regard? seen as a role model for others in the practice?; 1 (No, definitely not) to 7 (Yes, definitely); α = .92], (iii) advised salary [Considering Mark’s past performance, future potential, etc., if he was employed in your practice, what salary do you think would be fitting for him? Suggested salary: £ (open-ended numeric response); managers also reported the typical salary in their practice for employees with similar experience as Mark, and the typical salary was subtracted from the advised salary; thus, any differences in base salary rates (which can be substantial across different regions of the United Kingdom) were accounted for by analyzing respondent-specific deviations in advised salary; typical salary was assessed with: In your practice, what is the typical salary for vets who are relatively new to the profession (e.g., graduated 1 to 2 years ago)? Typical salary: £ (open-ended numeric response)], and (iv) pay raise {Some vets in Mark’s practice, though certainly not all, get a 2% pay rise each year. If you were Mark’s employer and he came to you and asked for a pay rise, based on his performance, would you give him one? If so, what percentage would you give him?; 1 [No pay rise at this time (0%)] to 7 (3.0%+)}. Higher values on each measure indicated greater perceived competence/worth.

In addition to examining each measure independently, as in previous research (5), these measures were standardized and averaged to form a more robust composite measure of competence, which was used in subsequent analyses testing whether biased competence evaluations translated into differential treatment (for analyses using the general competence measure alone, see the “Study 2 supplemental analyses” in the Supplementary Materials). Specifically, managers indicated their likelihood of treating the vet (if s/he was in their own practice) in ways that emerge from, and functionally convey, recognition of an individual’s distinct level of value and worth. This included expressions of distinctive treatment [If Mark was employed in your practice, along with several other vets, would you: let him start taking on more supervisory/managerial responsibilities in the practice? encourage Mark to take on tasks/responsibilities typically reserved for vets at a slightly higher grade than his? let Mark represent the practice at outside (industry/professional) events? advise other vets in the practice to look to Mark as a valuable source of knowledge and guidance? let him serve as a PDP mentor for more junior colleagues (i.e., RCVS Professional Development Phase mentor)? give him the opportunity to become more involved in managing the business/financial side of the practice?; 1 (No, definitely not) to 7 (Yes, definitely); α = .78] and encouragement to pursue a valuable promotion in the near future {In the next few months, if Mark expressed interest in becoming a principal, when would you advise that he seek such a promotion? In other words, how soon do you think Mark could be ready to take on this type of position?; 1 (I think he could be ready to take on a principal position within the next year) to 6 [I do not think he would be ready to take on a principal position anytime in the foreseeable future (anytime in the next 6 years)], reverse-scored}. Higher values on each measure indicated greater willingness to treat the vet in distinctly positive ways.

Managers also indicated their endorsement of the belief that discrimination against women in the profession is no longer an issue [adapted from (31): “Discrimination against women in the veterinary profession is no longer a problem.” “In this profession, the careers of female vets are still impacted by biases and discrimination toward women” (reverse-scored); 1 (Strongly disagree) to 7 (Strongly agree); r = 0.63, α = 0.77]. Higher scores indicated a stronger belief that discrimination against women is no longer an issue. Managers randomly assigned to the male (M = 4.15, SD = 1.58) versus female (M = 3.99, SD = 1.46) target condition did not differ in their endorsement of this belief, t252 = 0.81, P = 0.42.


Study 2 statistical analyses

We used an α level of 0.05 (two-tailed) for all statistical tests (no data transformations; aside from mean centering). For preliminary analyses (e.g., comparing managers by condition on demographic variables), we used independent-samples t tests and chi-square tests as required. Results expressed for descriptive purposes in United States Dollar (USD) were based on the British Pound Sterling (GBP) conversion rate on 13 May 2018 (1.355), the median date of data collection within the sample. Results expressed in terms of a pay gap (also for descriptive purposes) were calculated following guidelines parallel to those for official reporting of gender pay gaps in the United Kingdom (50) (mean gender difference in pay [mean advised salary for male target − female target]/mean pay for men [advised salary for male target] ×100). For primary analyses, we used PROCESS (42) in SPSS to test moderation (model 1) and moderated mediation (model 7), bootstrapped with mean centering (covariates included managers’ age, gender, years of managerial experience, years since graduating from vet school, and current level of involvement in performance reviews; follow-up analyses without covariates evinced virtually identical results). Effect sizes computed in PROCESS were converted using established equations (49). For additional information, see the “Study 2 supplemental analyses” section in the Supplementary Materials.



Supplementary material for this article is available at



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By                         :                        C. T. Begeny , M. K. Ryan, C. A. Moss-Racusin, and G. Ravetz

Date                     :                         26 June 2020

Science Advances  26 Jun 2020:

Vol. 6, no. 26, eaba7814

DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aba7814


Source                 :                         Science Advances 

To read the complete article, please visit 

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COVID-19 has increased gender inequalities in the media, IFJ survey finds


More than half of women journalists have experienced increased gender inequalities due to COVID-19, according to a new survey conducted by International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) among more than 500 women journalists in 52 countries, published on 23 July.

The world's largest organisation of professional journalists and its Gender Council call on media organisations and trade unions to make gender equality a priority in their response to the pandemic and demand concrete steps to provide their female colleagues with decent working conditions.

The IFJ  survey on the effects of Covid-19 on women journalists was conducted between 19 -30 June. 

More than half of the respondents acknowledged an increase in gender inequalities in the industry, with devastating consequences on their conciliation of work and private life (62%), work responsibilities (46%) and salaries (27%).

The survey of 558 women journalists, among whom 66% were union members, also revealed that as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic:


  • Over ¾ of respondents saw their level of stress increase, half of them pointing at multiple tasking as the main cause;
  • More than half of the respondents said their health had been affected which resulted for almost ¾ of them in sleeping problems;
  • Only 4 in 10 women journalists claimed they received protective equipment from their employers;
  • More than half of the respondents claim unions have not developed any specific strategies to tackle gender inequalities during the pandemic;
  • 60% said their industry had provided some form of protocol for teleworking;
  • More than ¾ of respondents said the level of harassment (including online) and bullying have not increased during the crisis;
  • A third of respondents claimed they worked “mainly from home” and another third  has worked mainly in the office. 15% worked mostly in the field;

Respondents listed diverse reasons as causes of stress including working in isolation, bullying from bosses, family caring and home schooling, domestic tensions, increased workload and the usual tight deadlines, long working hours, psychological impact of COVID coverage, fear of job loss.

A journalist from Indonesia said: “I fear losing work. Some media have closed or cut their contributors and decreased their middle-top level salaries. I am afraid my office will close too. I am also stressed with internet connection and strong attention in front of the laptop all day/night.”

“In every heterosexual couple I know the woman has borne the brunt of the situation", a journalist from Spain said. "Women are working from home, juggling childcare and educating children alongside their job. Some have taken reduced hours to cope with this, others have had to risk their vulnerable parents' health for childcare instead of the father taking on anywhere near half of these duties. “

Respondents made concrete recommendations for improving teleworking protocols such as the need for employers to provide adequate working equipment including adequate bandwidth, define working hours and breaks, and understand the reality of working from home while caring for children.

Over 2/3 of respondents pointed at the negative impact of media funding cuts on the industry’s gender strategies. Respondents denounced the focus on profit and competition which would exclude work on gender and change media priorities and the most precarious situation of women which make them most affected by social plans and paid less.

Overall, most respondents agreed that the best strategies to achieve a gender equal new normal were economic in nature: more funding, better salaries, more opportunities for career advancements.

 “Striving for gender equality must be tackled as a priority. Balance between private and working hours should be clearly stated. Wage-equality is to be considered the new ' normal',” a photographer from Switzerland said.

IFJ Gender Council Chair Maria Angeles Samperio said: "Media and unions  must do much more to tackle gender inequalities and take into account the conciliation of work and private life in these turbulent times.  They must hear the calls from women who have been deeply affected by stress during COVID-19 and respond to it. It is time to set up proper teleworking policies, ensure support is provided to women as family careers and provide decent work and equal pay."

IFJ General Secretary Anthony Bellanger said: “We call on our affiliates to put gender equality at the top of their agenda  and reflect on how best they can support their female affiliates. Such support includes providing data on women in the profession, mainstreaming gender in all activities, offering training, putting women in leading roles in unions’ own structures, setting up women committees and gender policies and negotiating better deals for women with media managers. It is urgent to change the narrative for a strong gender new normal.”


*558 journalists took part in the survey from 52 countries - Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bahrain, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Cameroon, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Finland, France, Gambia, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Guinea, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, Myanmar, Namibia, Pakistan, Palestine, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Russia, Slovenia, Somalia, Spain, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, Uganda, United Kingdom, Uruguay, United States.


Date                 :               July 23, 2020

Source              :              International Federation of Journalists        

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Is gender still on the agenda in Japan?


Former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe’s ‘womenomics’ initiatives mainstreamed the concept of gender diversity in the workforce. Abe’s government made measurable advances for women such as expanding parental leave and increasing Japan’s female labour force participation by more than 3 million from 2012 to 2018. But these increases were largely in precarious part-time roles that were the first to disappear when COVID-19 struck.

Over 1 million women left Japan’s labour market between December 2019 and April 2020, with Japanese women more likely to take voluntary reductions in hours due to guilt over childcare commitments during the pandemic.

Womenomics has not improved Japan’s global ranking for narrowing the gender gap either. The number of women in leadership positions and within politics in Japan remains one of the lowest in the developed world. The initial womenomics target of 30 per cent women in leadership by 2020 was quickly downgraded and pushed back by 10 years just before the end of Abe’s premiership. Gender equality is a long way off in Japan, a country that still features on the Human Rights watch list for violation of women’s rights. Recent labour force surveys show that up to 40 per cent of women have been subject to sexual harassment in the workplace.

So why has progress been so slow?

Kathy Matsui from Goldman Sachs, who was integral to the implementation of womenomics, stated that ‘Abe mainstreamed the whole concept of gender diversity, shifting the context from human rights to economic growth’. Here lies one of the possible explanations for the slow progress. Anchoring gender diversity to economic growth without addressing the culturally ingrained barriers that lock women into gender-restricted roles and behaviour is not enough. Societal pressures place female labour at the whims of economic needs, as a non-sustainable and disposable resource that holds them back from reaching leadership roles.

Although women heeded the call of womenomics to get back into the workforce for mostly economic reasons, the gendered human resource management systems of promotion and discriminative work-based practices mean that very few women got through the pipeline to positions of leadership. Changing the ingrained cultural norms around gender would hopefully lead to more women in positions of leadership and more sustainable gender equality within society as a whole.

So will the new Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga enact any real changes to enable gender diversity? First impressions do not bode well. Upon his selection as prime minister, Suga vowed to continue to empower women and raise their share of leadership roles. But instead of leading by example and complying with non-binding legislation that was passed in the Diet in 2018 to equalise female representation among national lawmakers, he continued to uphold the status quo of the male-dominated factions within Japanese politics by selecting a cabinet consisting of less than 10 per cent women.

Suga is also a conservative politician from a generation who believe that traditional gender roles should stay intact. He was widely criticised in 2015 for saying that women should give birth to many babies to ‘contribute to the nation’. The reality for many women who want to break out of these traditional roles is that they are fighting against a patriarchal system that discriminates against them. The Tokyo Medical University scandal revealed just how ingrained these beliefs are and how they stop women from exerting influence within important areas of life that directly impact upon them.

Where will impetus for change come from? Many Japanese companies are global organisations. Japan needs to attract more foreign direct investment and will need to properly integrate more global talent to off-set its demographic challenges and comply with global corporate governance best-practice, especially when foreign asset managers are starting to vote against Japanese companies with no gender diversity on their boards.

Acceptance of diversity and addressing the root of corporate gender discrimination as a reflection of the gender roles within society must be a part of this change, allowing women to be free from harassment and have equal participation within leadership and governance. Many hoped that womenomics would have been a real impetus for such a change, but it didn’t lead to any long-term cultural shift in the ingrained gendered norms in society and gendered division of labour.

Japan would do well to look at what is happening in Singapore, where the government is reviewing gender equality within the context of retuning the gendered roles from a young age within education. Although doing this through the lens of a deeply patriarchal Japanese system may prove difficult, there is no doubt that gender still needs to be on the agenda for Japan.


Sarah Parsons is Managing Director at East West Interface, an associate lecturer at the University of Sheffield and a senior teaching fellow at SOAS University of London.


By                        :              Sarah Parsons

Date                    :               November 11, 2020

Source                :                East Asia Forum

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How can gender transformative programmes with men advance women’s health and empowerment?


Without a gender transformative approach, male engagement interventions risk reinforcing existing gender inequalities, write Shari L Dworkin and colleagues

The 1994 International Conference on Population and Development recognised that women’s lack of empowerment had a negative impact on health outcomes. Due to patriarchal systems, “men exercise preponderant power in nearly every sphere of life, ranging from personal decisions regarding the size of families to the policy and programme decisions taken at all levels of government.”1 With the Beijing Platform for Action on Women (1995), and more recently the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), increased attention has been paid to engaging men in programmes to advance gender equality and women’s health.

Masculine norms that legitimise both men’s domination over women and the power of some men over other men, not only harm gender equality, but women’s and men’s health outcomes.2-4 Increasingly, “gender transformative” interventions are being implemented to challenge such harmful gender norms and power structures.5-8

Where health interventions with men are explicitly gender transformative, they can contribute to modifying inequitable gender attitudes, such as a woman must submit to sex whenever a male partner decides. They can also promote sexual and reproductive health, including reducing sexually transmitted infections and risks of HIV and contribute to preventing violence against women. The largest number of gender transformative interventions are implemented in this area.5-7

The body of evidence making the case for engaging men shows it is important to do so with the explicit intention of promoting gender equality. Key components of gender transformative interventions with men include examining the role of power relations in negatively shaping health, identifying attitudes and practices among men that harm both women’s and men’s health, and viewing men as active agents of change in advancing gender equality.3,5 However, most male engagement interventions do not address these components and are not intentionally gender transformative.7

Health interventions may be designed to “engage men” but it does not mean they seek to challenge harmful gender norms or unequal power structures. Without a gender transformative approach, male engagement interventions may risk undermining women’s autonomy and reinforce existing gender inequalities. For example, interventions to engage men as allies to improve women’s access to healthcare appear to be positive. However, such programmes should include components to foster shared decision making, otherwise they may reinforce cultural norms that women need to seek permission from men before accessing care.7

As we mark 25 years of the Beijing Platform with a vision of “Generation Equality: Realizing Women’s Rights for an Equal Future,” we must consider next steps for gender transformative programming with men. First, working with males in a gender transformative way is an important complement to women’s health and empowerment interventions, such as to improve women’s property rights and control over resources.9,10 Such interventions must be underpinned by a supportive policy and institutional environment for gender equality.

Interventions to engage males with the objective of improving women’s health must not be unintentionally harmful to women’s rights, autonomy, safety, and wellbeing. In addition to clarifying the content of gender transformative programming, how to engage males in a gender transformative way must also be considered.3,5 This includes engaging men in ways that do not alienate or ignore their needs, especially to overcome potential male resistance to gender equality.3,5

More rigorous evaluations of gender transformative programming with men to improve women’s health are needed to advance and scale up promising interventions. We know much more about interventions for preventing violence against women. We would benefit from more evidence for other women’s health outcomes, including obesity, heart disease, cancer, mental health, birth outcomes, and trauma among others.

Lastly, there is a growing knowledge base showing that health systems are gendered in ways that reinforce inequalities.11,12 The covid-19 pandemic brings this issue into sharper focus. The global frontline health and social care workforce is predominantly female; however, males occupy the majority of leadership positions.

Special attention should be given to how the work environment may expose women to higher risk of infection as well as to their psychosocial needs. As a result of the pandemic, women are also facing a double burden of longer hours at work and additional care work at home, particularly in households marked by unequal gender relations and for women in single headed households.

Beyond covid-19, research shows that health institutions are organized in ways that reproduce harmful gender norms and impede both women’s and men’s access to and experience of quality care.13 Gender transformative interventions in health systems to improve both women’s and men’s health are rarely designed or implemented. This is an important area of future research.

Moving forward, health interventions engaging males must explicitly seek to counter unequal gender power structures and harmful gender norms. This will not only contribute to improving the health and wellbeing of women and girls and men and boys but will ensure women’s empowerment and autonomy are at the center of such efforts.


Shari L Dworkin, dean and professor, UW Bothell School of Nursing and Health Studies, USA.

Magaly Marques, global SRHR coordinator, MenEngage Alliance, USA.

Oswaldo Montoya, networks associate, MenEngage Alliance Global Secretariat, USA.

Anthony Keedi, program manager and gender specialist, ABAAD Middle East North Africa, Lebanon.

Avni Amin, Department of Reproductive Health and Research, World Health Organization, Switzerland.



  1. International Conference on Population and Development. Cairo, Egypt, 1994.
  2. Barker G, Contreras JM, Heilman B, et al. Evolving Men. Initial Results from the International Men and Gender Equality Survey (IMAGES): ICRW 2011.
  3. Dworkin SL, Fleming PJ, Colvin CJ. The promises and limitations of gender-transformative health programming with men: critical reflections from the field. Culture, health & sexuality 2015;17(sup2):128-43.
  4. Peacock D, Barker G. Working with men and boys to prevent gender-based violence: Principles, lessons learned, and ways forward. Men and masculinities 2014;17(5):578-99.
  5. Casey E, Carlson J, Two Bulls S, et al. Gender transformative approaches to engaging men in gender-based violence prevention: A review and conceptual model. Trauma, Violence, & Abuse 2018;19(2):231-46.
  6. Dworkin SL, Treves-Kagan S, Lippman SA. Gender-transformative interventions to reduce HIV risks and violence with heterosexually-active men: a review of the global evidence. AIDS and Behavior 2013;17(9):2845-63.
  7. Ruane-McAteer E, Amin A, Hanratty J, et al. Interventions addressing men, masculinities and gender equality in sexual and reproductive health and rights: an evidence and gap map and systematic review of reviews. BMJ global health 2019;4(5):e001634.
  8. Barker G, Ricardo C, Nascimento M, et al. Engaging men and boys in changing gender-based inequity in health: Evidence from programme interventions: World Health Organization 2007.
  9. Selin A. The impact of a Conditional Cash Transfer study (HPTN 068) and a Community Mobilization intervention on experiences of Intimate Partner Violence: Findings from rural Mpumalanga, South Africa. SVRI Sexual Violence Research Initiative Conference Presentation, 2015.
  10. Heise L. What works to prevent partner violence? An evidence overview. 2011
  11. Morgan R, Mangwi Ayiasi, R Barman D, et al. Gendered health systems: Evidence from low-and middle-income countries. BMC 2018;16(58): 1-12.
  12. Hay K, McDougal L, Percival V et al. Disrupting gender norms in health systems: Making the case. Lancet 2019; 393(10190):2535-2549.
  13. Dovel K, Dworkin SL, Cornell M, et al. Gendered health institutions: Examining the organization of health services and men’s use of HIV testing in Malawi. Journal of the International AIDS Society 2020; 23(S2):e25517


Date                 :               August 19, 2020

Source             :               The BMJ Opinion

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Crisis is gendered. Women in the times of pandemic


Analysis The crisis associated with the Covid19 pandemic has a gender, and clearly shows social inequalities of all kinds. It particularly affects women, as well as disadvantaged and variously marginalised groups. There are also attempts to exploit the pandemic for short-term political goals directly targeting women's rights.

The crisis can be compared to a magnifying glass: it clearly shows the inequalities and ruts that entire social groups sometimes get caught in: women, people with disabilities, employees working on short-term contracts or the grey market, refugees. Today it is still difficult to assess what the long-term effects of the Covid19 pandemic will be, but preliminary data show that although anyone can get sick, it is by no means the “great leveller”, and the costs are already mainly being borne by the disadvantaged and the marginalised. Based on information about those infected in New York, American epidemiologist Justin Feldman shows that hospital admission rates are higher in poorer districts than in white middle-class districts. He points to two main reasons for this: the crowded apartments and poorer general health of these districts’ residents, and above all the greater numbers of people suffering from diabetes or cardiovascular disease.

One important determinant of differences in the impact of a pandemic is gender. Simply put, crises have a gender, both those caused by natural disasters and those resulting from human disregard or pursuit of profit. Robert Blanton, Shannon Blanton and Dursun Peksen have studied how various types of financial crises (in banking, or those associated with runaway inflation or debt) in 1980–2010 affected the situation of women in 68 countries around the world. Based on the available data, they analysed issues of health and education as well as women's participation in politics and the labour market. Their study, published in 2019 by Cambridge University Press, shows that women bear the costs of crises to a greater extent than men in terms of political participation, level of employment, educational achievement and health, and this effect outlasts the crisis by up to seven years. Similar effects are to be expected for Covid19: men are more likely to be hospitalised, and die more often from the disease, while women are burdened with more of the pandemic’s economic, social and political consequences. The fact that the effects of the pandemic are unevenly distributed among various social groups is recognised both by international organisations (e.g. the UN) and by the scientific community, but thus far the responses by governments have been minor. It is therefore all the more important to publicise the problem.



Women are losing out as employees in the pandemic, and both cultural and structural factors are contributing to this. The studies by Blanton, Blanton and Peksen (2019) confirm the otherwise well-known principle that in times of crisis women are the first to be dismissed and the last to be hired: many employers believe that women's earnings merely supplement the household budget, the bulk of which is for the man to bring home, while they are also considered a vital part of the social safety net in the private sphere, so all the better that they stay at home and care for the children and the sick. This is reflected in women’s participation in the labour market: in Poland, fewer than half of women are professionally active, i.e. working or seeking employment, and among the most frequently mentioned reasons is the need to care for dependents.

The structure of employment also determines that women are more likely to end up unemployed: women represent a huge majority in the industries hardest hit by the pandemic. According to 2017 data from Statistics Poland, those working in the accommodation and catering industry, i.e. hotels, restaurants and bars, comprised nearly 70% women, and similarly in the broader services industry, while in culture, entertainment and recreation women accounted for around 60% of all employees. There are also specific professions in which women make up almost 100%, such as beauticians or seamstresses. Data collected by the Clean Clothes Campaign indicate that in countries where millions of women are employed in sewing rooms there have already been massive layoffs: in Bangladesh, as many as six million people may have lost their jobs in the clothing industry. Most are not protected by labour laws because of the prevalence of short-term contracts (in Poland) or work without a contract (especially in Bangladesh or Cambodia). Preliminary analyses by the campaign show that seamstresses in Poland are also being affected by the crisis and many had problems exacting payments for March.

The situation can only be expected to worsen with time. Employees who keep their jobs can often be overworked, and for little money. Women today are on the front line of the fight against Covid19 – in healthcare and social assistance over 80% of employees are women, as in education. It is no accident that media reports from nursing homes where exhausted staff are trying to ensure continuity of care, despite a lack of protective measures and help, usually show women. Virtually everywhere in the world, occupations involved in caring for the sick, the elderly or children are poorly paid, low-prestige and dominated by women. This is no coincidence. Rather, we have a vicious circle: women are considered “naturally predestined” to care for others, so they are often encouraged to assume such jobs. At the same time, care is valued far less than the work of architects or IT specialists. Nurses and carers are poorly paid, while it is often said that they should mainly be motivated by the desire to help the needy: it is no coincidence that female medical staff were until recently called “sister”, and today in discussing the insufficient number of nurses in hospitals, politicians are eager to emphasise that this profession is a vocation and a service.

From an international perspective, you can see that the worst situation today is that of female migrants, especially those working in care professions or factories, without health insurance and unable to return to their countries of origin. According to Dr Wen Liu, a researcher at State University in New York, Taiwan today has about 50,000 such workers from Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam who are invisible to the system and vulnerable to exploitation and violence. Many Ukrainian women are in a similar situation in Poland, working illegally as domestic help, round-the-clock nurses or childminders. Although data from the Office for Foreigners show that 125,000 people from Ukraine submitted residence applications in 2017, the real figure is known to be much larger.



The long-term effects of a pandemic, in particular the effects of shutting entire families at home for a prolonged period, can only be evaluated using data covering several months. However, we are already seeing that the pandemic is resulting in an increase in cases of violence against women and children, and probably also against the elderly. Speaking to Gazeta Wyborcza, a representative of the women's rights centre Centrum Praw Kobiet, Joanna Gzyra-Iskandar, estimated that since the beginning of the epidemic, the foundation’s employees had received fifty percent more reports of violence than usual. Of a similar opinion is psychologist Ewa Foks, coordinator of the Blue Line telephone clinic of the Institute of Health Psychology (Instytut Psychologii Zdrowia), who is receiving calls from double the usual number of people, and many are also calling in the night or early morning, suggesting that some may not be able to contact support organisations.

Data on reported cases of violence in other countries are also showing a clear upward trend. In epidemic-hit parts of China, the increase was of as much as 300%, while in Spain there were 20% more reports to the police, and in Italy the organisation D.i.RE recorded an increase of 74%. In the UK, meanwhile, between March 26 and April 1, Women’s Aid saw an increase of over 40% over the previous week in the number of people using the Live Chat service for victims of violence. The pandemic, and particularly the efforts by governments to reduce infections, translates into victims being isolated from those who could help them, condemning them to “house arrest” in the company of their torturers. This applies primarily to women and children, although in some cases men also need help; nor do we have data on the situation of the elderly, who are further cut off from their surroundings by a lack of access to the Internet and by poor health.


Healthcare and reproductive health

Pandemics, like other crises, negatively affect women's health for several reasons. First, the economic crisis is resulting in cuts to healthcare spending in those areas not directly related to the fight against the coronavirus. Secondly, as Blanton, Blanton and Peksen (2019) indicate, in hard times, families too have a tendency to “save” on women's needs, such as gynaecological care, which is taken to be non-essential. Thirdly, ultra-conservative groups are trying to reduce the availability of services they consider “immoral”, such as abortion or contraception.

Representatives of ultra-conservative organisations and religious fundamentalists view the pandemic as a great opportunity to fight women's rights and equality. Some, like Archbishop Stanis?aw Depo, would persuade Polish women and men that “coronavirus is just one of the threats, and not the most important, alongside wars and gender ideology”. Others are focusing on trying to change the law. Following the outbreak of the pandemic in the US, republican governors in Indiana, Iowa, Mississippi, Ohio, Oklahoma and Texas introduced drastic restrictions on access to abortion under the pretence that it would allow for a more effective fight against the virus. Despite protests, abortion was determined to be – like plastic surgery – a “non-essential medical procedure” that can be dropped in order to save resources needed during the health crisis.

In Poland, two important civic projects came to the attention of the Sejm: one – “Stop abortion” – would result in a further drastic tightening of the ban on abortion, de-legalising the termination of a pregnancy in cases where the foetus is seriously and permanently damaged. The second project – “Stop paedophilia” – would in practice ban sex education in schools and educational establishments, on pain of three months to five years in prison. Neither law was rejected, although none of these ideas have public support in Poland: in successive surveys, a few to a dozen or so percent of those polled support the tightening of existing abortion regulations, and the vast majority would like sex education in schools. Both were sent to committees for further work and may return to parliament in the near future.


The political representation of women and civil society

One might think that the crisis should open up new opportunities for women in politics. The vision of women as caring and empathic could lead voters to trust them over men, who are often perceived in politics as aggressive and career-focused. However, the available data do not support this thesis. There are countries where the crisis of 2008–09 brought women to power (e.g. Lithuania), but they are more the exception than the rule. The need for security and the conviction that hard times call for a decisive “tough” leader favour men. This conclusion is confirmed by an analysis of the political situation in 68 countries around the world: it turns out that the crisis is negatively affecting the number of women in parliament, which the authors explain both by lower numbers of women running in elections and reduced demand for female leadership in difficult times (Blanton, Blanton and Dursun Peksen 2019). This means that during a pandemic, women in politics have less to say and are little able to fight for the state to focus on combating gender inequalities.

The problem is also shrinking the field of operations for non-governmental organisations and social movements, except for those focusing on support activities: collecting money for protection measures, buying medical equipment or supporting the healthcare system. Firstly, the public debate is limited to virus-related issues, which are drawing the focus of both the media and the public. Secondly, many organisations, especially smaller ones that face staffing and financial deficits on a daily basis, are being forced to suspend their activities because they are unable to ensure continuity of operation without state support. Thirdly, the potential for protest and joint grassroots action is being drastically limited. One example is the protests against the aforementioned abortion and sex education bills. Polish Women's Strike (Ogólnopolski Strajk Kobiet) in cooperation with organisations such as Democracy Action (Akcja Demokracja) and the Federation for Women and Family Planning (Federacja na Rzecz Kobiet i Planowania Rodziny) mobilised millions of Poles to take action. Car protests were held in Warsaw and other cities, hundreds of people stood in queues in front of shops carrying slogans and symbols of protest, e.g. black umbrellas, and nearly 3,000,000 sent letters to members of parliament through Democracy Action. However, in many places queue and car protests were made difficult or impossible by the police, and many participants were fined. Although no state of emergency has been introduced in Poland, the level of surveillance of citizens and the scale of police intervention have clearly increased – although these phenomena are being explained by the need to fight the virus, in practice civil rights are being limited and, moreover, in an uncontrolled manner and for an unlimited period. As indicated by Panoptykon Foundation president Katarzyna Szymielewicz, we are threatened today by both unrestricted state power and the monopoly of global corporations such as Facebook, which are becoming the main platform for communication and social mobilisation. It may turn out that the worst impact on society will be not so much the virus itself as actions theoretically intended to fight it.



Blanton, Robert, Shannon Blanton, and Dursun Peksen. 2019. “The Gendered Consequences of Financial Crises: A Cross-National Analysis.” Politics & Gender 15 (4): 941–70.

Wenham, Clare, Julia Smith, and Rosemary Morgan. 2020. “COVID-19: The Gendered Impacts of the Outbreak.” The Lancet 395 (10227): 846–48.

“COVID-19: Stopping the Rise in Domestic Violence during Lockdown | News | European Parliament.” 2020.  


The views and conclusions contained in the text express the author's opinions and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the Heinrich Böll Foundation.


By                             :                             El?bieta Korolczuk 

Date                         :                             May 4, 2020

Source                     :                              Henrich Boll Stiftung

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