Fewer women at the top

by Marcia Schofield

A slender pay disparity based on gender can lead to a lack of representation in the boardroom, a study finds 

Location: UK
Published: Thursday 16 February 2023
doctor with stammer on phone

We all talk about bias at work – how poisonous it is, and how it holds back capable women and people of colour. 

Acknowledging bias and recognising it is a start, but unconscious-bias training usually fails to address the root causes of bias, or to create meaningful change. Wouldn’t it be nice if there were evidence-based approaches which were proven to address the root causes and to prevent the insidious, negative effects of bias in the workplace?

Luckily, there are. In her award-winning book, The End of Bias, Jessica Nordell collates a number of successful, evidence-based approaches to achieving real change in the workplace. She also demonstrates the pervasive effect of bias by running a simulation of an imaginary company called Normcorp for 10 years of staff promotions. 

Jessica and her colleagues introduce a prospective 3% bias on the basis of sex. It has a rapid effect on the performance and promotion prospects of women in the simulation – even in the first two years of the 10-year simulation, it is clear the proportion of women in the higher echelons of the company disappear.

The cumulative effect can be enormous. As Jessica says: ‘Laws are designed to address either rare events that can be attributed to a single person or “pattern and practice” problems. Our model shows that huge gender disparities in organisations can emerge from very small, even unintentional amounts of gender bias, when those are applied frequently.’

To hear more, the BMA women in academic medicine group is very excited to present a webinar with Jessica on 1 March, as part of our celebration of International Women’s Day. Register to join the webinar

To help make the most of this webinar, here’s a discussion guide (PDF)

And Jessica's book can be purchased at jessicanordell.com


Marcia Schofield is deputy chair of the BMA medical academic staff committee and co-chair of the women in academic medicine group