Imagine this. You are a competent, highly skilled woman. You work hard and expect that opportunities for advancement will present themselves. But, they don’t. You’re puzzled. You’re doing everything you’ve been told to get ahead and it’s not working.

What’s going on? A recent study done at Yale offers one possible explanation. Bias still exists for women especially in science, math and other technical industries. Are you surprised?

In this study, male and female professors of biology, chemistry, and physics at six major research universities were asked to evaluate applications for a lab manager position. All the professors were given the same information regarding qualifications of the applicants. The only difference was one was labeled “John” and the other, “Jennifer”.

Even though the applications were identical in regards to background, qualifications etc., John received higher competence scores and compensation than Jennifer. John was offered a starting salary considerably higher than Jennifer’s.

The study confirms what many women experience in the workplace every day: gender bias. Is it possible that we are blindsided by this gender bias?

When I entered the workforce in the mid 1980’s, I expected gender discrimination and, in fact, found it in almost every company where I worked. Now women have the expectation that the landscape has changed and the path for career advancement has been cleared of this bias. Perhaps it’s more difficult to deal with in today’s workplace because it’s more subtle than it was a couple of generations ago.

Here’s the lesson: Don’t be in career denial! Take the time to understand the political landscape in your organization. Seek out the power players and build the relationships that can positively impact your career growth. One thing is obvious from this study, the professors were simply evaluating applications and never had face to face meetings with the fictitious men and women.

Building relationships with the influencers and decision makers in your company is your best option for overcoming gender bias.  As you develop and strengthen these relationships, you become more than a female employee. These relationships and your ability to communicate your accomplishments help you to stand out and get on the radar screen for advancement.