Motivating Action to Address Gender Bias in the Workplace
Jessica Cundiff, Associate Professor, Missouri University of Science and Technology
Two years ago, we wrote about a classroom activity we developed that leverages experiential learning to teach about gender bias (Cundiff & Warner, 2021). The Workshop Activity for Gender Equity Simulation-Classroom (WAGES-Classroom) is a board game and facilitated discussion adapted from prior work (Shields et al., 2011) that demonstrates how gender biases accumulate over time to negatively impact women in the workplace.
The goal of WAGES-Classroom is to introduce students to core constructs regarding unconscious bias, social disparities, and intersectionality in a non-threatening way and to motivate action to address gender bias in their everyday lives and workplaces. Because game content is drawn directly from empirical research studies, the game also introduces students to scientific approaches to understanding bias and illustrates how psychological science can be applied to real-world problems. Central to WAGES-Classroom is that students not only increase knowledge of gender inequity, but also increase their commitment to and strategies for addressing gender bias. Thus, the discussion concludes by reviewing and practicing empirically informed bias-reduction strategies, and students are challenged with an assignment to address gender inequity in their current or future workplace.
Since our last writing, we conducted randomized controlled laboratory studies to evaluate the activity’s effectiveness. In comparison to a control condition where participants completed the outcome measures only, participants who played WAGES-Classroom demonstrated greater knowledge of gender inequity and gender bias concepts. Additionally, in the long term, WAGES facilitated behaviors to address gender bias more so than control conditions. Overall, our results suggest that WAGES is an effective and engaging way to teach about gender bias and motivate action.
We used the results and feedback from our efficacy study to update and finalize WAGES-Classroom and accompanying teaching materials, which are available for free download (see below). To maximize effectiveness, the final version includes a PowerPoint slide deck to accompany the discussion and concludes with an “Addressing Gender Bias” assignment. The Instructor’s Guide provides suggestions for game variations depending on course goals and time availability. A single class session includes gameplay and facilitated discussion on the five key take-home messages. For two class sessions, instructors can dive into more detail about gender bias terms and research findings with additional discussion questions, PowerPoint slides, and classroom activities provided in the Instructor’s Guide. Regardless of game variation, it is essential that implementation of WAGES-Classroom includes discussion of bias-reduction strategies to address feelings of helplessness, defensiveness, and to motivate action. The Instructor’s Guide includes a list of bias-reduction strategies, an activity to problem-solve game card scenarios, and role-plays for addressing bias in everyday life. We also include a reference list of research evidence for each game card with explanations; the list can be sorted by type of gender bias and/or intersectional identity position for easy reference.
WAGES-Classroom is available for free download by emailing Jessica Cundiff at firstname.lastname@example.org. Professionally printed versions are available for purchase. If you have downloaded a previous version of WAGES-Classroom, please contact Dr. Cundiff to download updated materials and/or to join an email list for future updates. Development of WAGES-Classroom was supported with funding provided by SPSSI, APS, Missouri S&T, and Ramapo College of New Jersey.
Cundiff, J. L., & Warner, L. (Winter, 2021). Leveraging experiential learning to teach about gender bias. Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues: Forward Newsletter. https://www.spssi.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=page.viewPage&pageID=2650&nodeID=1