What is Gender Bias?

n. unequal treatment in employment opportunity (such as promotion, pay, benefits and privileges) and expectations due to attitudes based on the sex of an employee or group of employees. Gender bias can be a legitimate basis for a lawsuit under anti-discrimination statutes.

From The Legal Dictionary, Copyright © 1981-2005 by Gerald N. Hill and Kathleen T. Hill.

Those “expectations” cover a lot of territory, in the arts and in the world at large. Sometimes they are truly subconscious and unintentional—and that makes gender bias all the more insidious. If we don’t see gender bias in our attitudes and actions, we can’t counteract it.

(add here a graphic depicting a powerful statistic, such as: “In animated films, only 17% of the people shown in crowd scenes are women.”)

Sometimes, however, those differing expectations are clear and conscious. For example, some women have reported that they cannot audition for opera roles unless they have long hair and wear high heels. Some orchestras now hold ‘blind’ auditions so the judges cannot determine if the musicians are men or women, precisely to reduce the impact of gender bias on hiring decisions.

Awareness of Gender Bias in the Arts (AGBA) was founded to help those in the arts understand the extent of gender bias; learn to recognize it in themselves and others; and provide a forum for discussions and projects to help eliminate these biases.