Last week’s post discussed ways to show women the respect they deserve at work. One of the recommendations was believing women when they bring gender bias and discrimination to management’s attention.

When the issues are not blatant, it can be difficult to determine if a problem really exists … and more difficult to know what to do about it.

Inevitably, the woman is going to say something happened — but the man is going to say there is no issue and it is all in the other woman’s mind. That pesky discrimination dogwhistle is going to continue to blow — and your workplace will suffer and be at risk.

Count on it.

How do you get to the truth?

Look for patterns

Review communications for tone and timing. Also look at audience and escalation. If there is bias, you will find the messages have a negative, condescending and/or demanding tone. You will also find copying of unnecessary other people on messages and/or escalating issues to the woman’s supervisor which should be resolved a peer level … Compare these patterns to the handling of communications with male co-workers in similar positions and see if the same thing is happening. If not, gender bias is likely at play and it should be addressed.

Listen for buzzwords

Pay attention to how women are described. Girls, gals and females are words that can chip away at respect for women in the workplace. Some other buzzwords are dramatic, emotional, nagging, whiny, bossy and pushy.  Even worse are words like pussy and bitch … When traits associated with women or being a woman are used as negative adjectives to describe anyone in your workplace, it is wrong — and gender bias is likely at play and it should be addressed.

Learn from witnesses

Your employees are smart and they see what’s going on. Many are eager to share their observations and feedback. Utilize witnesses to gain insight into the issues. Ask what they have seen occur between the parties involved and what their own observations and experiences have been … See if they say the treatment for all is the same. If not, gender bias is likely at play and it should be addressed.

Gender bias is happening. Now what???

Gender bias in your workplace doesn’t mean firing all the men and replacing them with women. The goal should always be to maintain diversity, inclusion and fairness.

What it does mean sharing the feedback and taking corrective action with the men who show gender bias behaviors.  It means declaring what is unacceptable. It means outlining what is appropriate. It means providing one or both parties with training to improve communication and inclusion skills. It means not allowing these kinds of behaviors to continue.

That means following up with both individuals routinely to assess progress. It means resetting expectations. It means defining timelines and deadlines for improvement. It means checking in periodically to ensure sustained effort.

Because eliminating bias in our workplaces isn’t just a one-and-done kind of thing. It takes continuous, concentrated and committed effort. It is nothing to play with.

Don’t start the work if you don’t intend to finish it.