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"Gender bias is not always obvious. As a woman of color with an accent and a "funny-sounding" name, it can be difficult to separate out what is gender bias and what is prejudice based on race and ethnicity. It can be as subtle as being ignored or talked over by people that discount your opinion based on your gender; the handyman that doesn't call you back, the hiring manager that passes over your resume, or the car salesman who addresses only your husband.
One of the most blatant experiences I've had with gender bias was as an engineer, while managing a project at a factory. A factory foreman disagreed with my decisions and challenged me, asking, "Sujata, what the hell do you know about this job? You've been here a year, you're a woman, what do you know about doing this work?" Even though I had previous experience and all the requisite education, he still questioned my ability to make decisions and manage the project.”
-K. Sujata, President and CEO, Chicago Foundation for Women
“One thing that strikes me about being a female journalist is how often my appearance is brought up, in both friendly and unfriendly ways. My male colleagues don’t experience this. My job doesn’t require me to look a certain way—I’m not a model; I’m not selling beauty products—but readers frequently comment on my looks. When people don’t like my work, they almost always mention how ugly I am. (“You look like a dude,” one guy emailed me recently.) Even when people like my work, they’ll often say things like, “I love your column! My friends and I think you should grow your hair longer.” (One woman emailed to tell me she and her neighbors give me permission to shoot my hairdresser.) I was grocery shopping recently with my kids when a woman recognized me from my column photo and she said, “You’re so much prettier in person! You should get a new photo.” To praise me, people bring up my looks. To criticize me, people bring up my looks. I think it’s odd that we assume women strive to be perceived, above all else, as beautiful. In reality, I strive to be worth reading.”
-Heidi Stevens, Columnist, Chicago Tribune
“In one of my first jobs, I was called into my boss’s office. He told me, “The guys think you are too confident.” Years later, we had lunch and he agreed with what I had come to conclude: my male colleagues were uncomfortable with me being a confident woman who was not deferential enough to them. And he apologized for not calling them out.”-
Allison Clark, Associate Director, Impact Investments at the MacArthur Foundation
“As a young woman prosecutor of color, I was a rarity in court. When people initially saw me in a courtroom, “prosecuting attorney” was not the first thought that apparently leapt to mind. More than once on arrival in court I was thought to be the interpreter or a member of the defendant’s family. People eventually learned my name and my job, but the sting of having to repeatedly overcome the bias about my role is still remembered.”
-Andrea Zopp, Deputy Mayor and Chief Neighborhood Development Officer, City of Chicago
‘Gender bias is not just a women’s issue; it is everyone’s issue. As men we need not be threatened by the conversation, but rather step up and start the conversation, and make sure that it is being addressed so that we are more inclusive in decision making, better understanding of our world, and more engaging of our workforce, clients, and partners. Thus we become better stewards and leaders.’
-Juan Carlos Avila, Managing Partner, TOROSO Investments
Chicago Foundation Women’s initiative, “Talk it Out”, is a region-wide, week-long series of conversations designed to spark conversations about gender bias during the week of March 26-April 1, 2017. For more information, visit cfw.org/talkitout.