Skip to Content

Choose to Challenge Gender Bias at Work

At Crowley, women’s leadership is an essential component to the success of our organization. During Women’s History Month we celebrate their contributions and the perspectives provided through their own voices.


Being faced with challenges and overcoming them leads to innovation. We can all choose to challenge, call out gender bias and celebrate women’s achievements as part of creating a more inclusive workplace and world. This year we #ChooseToChallenge on social media and other platforms and listen and learn from women in our company about their experiences. 

What does “Choose to Challenge” mean to your career?

Glavan: It means not accepting the status quo when I think something can be done better. Speaking up as a woman in a male-dominated industry can feel daunting, but it’s important to drum up the courage to raise your voice and be heard.

Grantham: It’s a reminder that gender equality is possible. We need the willingness to challenge the inherent bias in roles historically dominated by one gender to eliminate gender inequality. With confidence in their own abilities and the courage to believe in themselves, women can face situations where they may be undervalued when compared to men and choose to stand up for their skills and passions. While it is Women’s History Month, men also face gender bias if they prefer to be a homemaker for example, and if they choose to stand up to the stereotypes they face, we may see them in more supporting roles within their families.

Being silent might be a more comfortable choice, but it will never foster growth or improvement.

Em Glavan

What gender-specific challenges, stereotypes or barriers have you had to overcome during your career?

Glavan: I’ve faced challenges as a woman in all my jobs. When meeting new people at work, they’re often surprised to learn that my alma matter is SUNY Maritime. Then, when I see a young man meet the same people there’s no surprise that he went to a maritime college. To overcome and challenge the assumptions that I don’t have any sailing or operational experience, I have asked to be included in operations-focused meetings that intersect with my role. Even if I wasn’t invited to the meeting, having a seat at the table gives my voice a chance to be heard.

Grantham: Early on in my career, I encountered barriers I had to overcome. When I was told no, I pressed on. I did not let a closed-door define my path. I maintained my focus and continued to work toward my goal even when I was passed up for a job. My resilience paid off, but I did not stop there. I continued to go above and beyond, proving that I could do the job as well as anyone and eventually had a team. I use the barriers I had to overcome in my past to challenge my future and encourage those around me to do the same.

What are ways to counteract the negative stereotypes about women at work? 

Glavan: I think the best way is to have more women in the workplace. The other half of this equation is company culture; stereotyped group members need to feel like they can open up and be themselves at work. I would love to see that voicing an idea for change at work is less of a challenge and more of an invitation. By fostering an inclusive culture, a company opens itself to more innovative thoughts and practices through its workforce diversity.

Grantham: I have found that an effective way to ignite a change is to have influential people champion that change. By changing a few critical perspectives, an organization can hit a tipping point and become a place where the unexpected becomes the expected.

Glavan: These concepts relate to unconscious/conscious bias. Suppose someone is carrying a bias toward their co-worker, who speaks up about a safety matter. In this scenario, there is a chance their concern won’t be taken as seriously as if it was coming from someone else. Being overlooked or unheard repeatedly could result in someone not speaking up in the future because they feel their input is not valued.

Grantham: I think bias and inequality in the workplace can distract from the focus of safety. When team members face perceived inequality while performing work duties, it is challenging to give undivided attention to the task at hand. By challenging and addressing bias and inequality early, this distraction will not be a consuming issue for the team.

“To me, “Choose to Challenge” it’s a reminder that gender equality is possible. We need the willingness to challenge the inherent bias in roles historically dominated by one gender to eliminate gender inequality.” 

Emily Grantham

What actions have you taken when choosing to challenge gender bias?

Glavan: For an interaction that is likely a result of unconscious bias, such as surprise at my attending a maritime college. I tend to look at the bright side because I know that I have challenged their stereotype by their surprised reaction. Another possible action for many situations is to make people aware that their behavior was inappropriate and to please not do it again in an open and honest conversation.

Grantham: I choose to view myself and all others as equals by focusing on inner value. At times, I find myself in situations where co-workers or customers do not consider me as capable as my male counterparts. In those situations, I let my work speak to my abilities. It may take time, but I am usually able to overcome the bias and prove myself. Regardless of people’s perception of my worth, I overcome obstacles by valuing myself.

What’s something that has made you feel inspired recently? 

Glavan: Amanda Gorman’s inaugural poem “The Hill We Climb.” After a year where so much injustice was brought to light, to see a young Black woman share her convictions and capture the attention of the nation made me feel hopeful. There is still a chance for a future where women and marginalized groups’ voices are present and broadcasted as leading and innovative. It reminded me that being silent might be a more comfortable choice, but it will never foster growth or improvement.

Grantham: The TedTalk “The Danger of a Single Story” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I’ve always said there is more than one side to a story, so it inspired me to continue looking at all perspectives. She took that concept to a new level by reminding us that the way we see a group of people should consider every story and not just what is depicted in the news or others’ opinions.

Disclaimer: This interview has been edited and condensed for brevity and clarity.

Crowley is a privately held family- and employee-owned company providing worldwide logistics, government, marine and energy solutions since 1892. We have over 6,000 high-performing team members in 35 countries and island territories, who are diverse, encouraged, and deliver on their commitments.