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Engineers are facing high level of biases at work in India, finds survey

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The Economic Times
08th January, 2019 07:22 IST

NEW DELHI: A survey has revealed that both men and women engineers working in India face high levels of bias at the workplace.

While women engineers are more likely to face gender bias, men engineers are more likely to face bias on the basis of language and region they come from, found the survey conducted by the Society of Women Engineers and the Center for WorkLife Law at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law (WLL).

“Biases lead to disengagement on the part of employees and are detrimental to workplace efficiency as people facing these biases feel excluded from work,” said Neeti Sanan, the India consultant of the Society of Women Engineers, who is a faculty member at the Indian Institute of Management, Udaipur. But why conduct a survey of bias focused on engineers alone? “There is a supply side constraint when it comes to women. For STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), these results are generalisable,” said Sanan.

The survey revealed four patterns of bias:

• Prove-it-again bias: 76% of engineers reported having to prove themselves over and over to get the same level of respect as their colleagues.

• Tightrope bias: 77% of engineers reported that they were confined to a narrower range of acceptable behaviours than their colleagues.

• Maternal wall bias: 40% of engineers in India reported bias against mothers in their workplaces.

• Tug of war bias: 45% of women reported that they had to compete with their female colleagues to get the one “woman’s spot” available.

Three-quarters of engineers reported bias in assignments, promotions, sponsorship opportunities and compensation while two-thirds of engineers reported bias in their performance evaluations. Almost 50% of the engineers reported bias in their companies’ hiring systems while 44% of men and 30% of women engineers reported bias against their native state or region. Among the respondents, 11% of women engineers and 6% of men engineers reported unwanted romantic or sexual attention or touching in the workplace.

Higher levels of bias were associated with feelings of exclusion, belonging and lower intent to stay with the employer, said Sanan. “Clearly, employers who want to retain the women they hire, and want to give them equal opportunity to advance, need to care about workplace bias,” she said. Tightrope bias had the most pervasive effect as it was strongly linked to every workplace process and outcome the survey studied, including hiring, performance evaluations, assignments and intent among employees to leave their current employer, the survey revealed.

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