Wednesday, 4 September 2013

5 things we could do today to reduce our bias.

Unconscious bias is alive and well.  We all have it so there's no point in denying it.  However we can make changes through self awareness and noticing our behaviour. 

We as a species, in the 21st century, have unconscious bias towards women as leaders.  It's true talking about it highlights this issue.  The only way of tackling it is by noticing it.  Therefore we can't eliminate it until we deal with it.  There aren't enough people yet aware of how it affects behaviour in the home and at work.  

I know I'm an optimist however realistically with the right momentum and interest I believe we can reach that tipping point sooner if we all take action.  

So how do we do it?

1. Get Assertive at home.  We need to identify our biases at home with our partners to create equality in the household and in parenting.  

2. Have awareness at work.  We may not be able to change other people's behaviour but we can change our own.  If we notice behaviour as bias, we stop blaming ourselves for not being heard and build positive beliefs.  Desire overcomes fear.  Once we increase our awareness about bias it helps us choose our reactions and our belief systems more wisely. This is not an excuse for a blame cycle but with acknowledgement we can then influence more effectively. 

3. Watch your language.  Aim to address your own biases about other women and other people who go against the norm.  Notice what you are saying to yourself and challenge it.  Be positive about other women. Remember the Madeleine Albright quote "There's a special place in hell for women who don't help other women".  Don't be that woman! 

4. Be a sponsor and advocate.  In the pub, in a meeting and at home, listen to women, don't shrug them off.  Also support and praise women rather than say negative comments about them.  

5. Develop friendships with people who are different.  Most of us have friends that compliment and are different from us.  Have a look at your circle of friends - is there anyone you don't include because they're different?  Be brave and find people who look different to you and have different views.  

There are so many proactive things we can do to bring diversity into our lives and develop awareness in our beliefs and language patterns.  What one thing could you do differently in the next week?

HBR overview about Women in Leadership

I joined in a Google Hangout with Harvard Business Review.  Sarah Green interviewed Amy Bernstein both from HBR.  It was my first hangout and a great discussion.

Here’s what was said:

This is a topic that makes people role their eyes and most of HBR’s readership is men.  So they wanted to create a story that would interest all the readership.  They came up with the front cover you see above.

The cover was used because women in leadership are criticized as being too emotional, too bossy or too nice and these are words used for women not men in leadership

Amy said the article was  important to women she talked to because it helped put words to the action.  Women saw it, noticed it but hadn’t named it.

A watcher asked  “by having a cover about women as leaders  [is this] not extending the bias – we wouldn’t have a cover about men as leaders.”  Amy responded by explaining that bias is there and we wont change it unless we talk about it. Also any article about women in leadership is also about men in leadership.  It’s about any group of people who are not in power ie anyone who is not a middle class white male.

There is a bias towards people that aren’t like you.  We need to create companies that help us understand all differences.

We stop looking at this concept when we have no problem. She doesn’t think it’s any time soon.


Sarah mentioned that it could take 300 years until women are equal to men. Amy argued that it is most likely to be a sensational statistic because there is probably going to be a tipping point.

We’ve come a long way in many businesses.  Business are increasingly looking at ability not how people look and where they went to college.


Amy discussed how you can’t lure young people with money the way you could lure other generations

You need to have structures and rewards that helps the next generation unleash their talents and love what they do.. There has to be hand in hand progress with women fixing themselves and businesses fixing themselves.  You have to have them in both, which is where the tipping point comes in. Once we start to react to women as leaders and reward them for it, we will start seeing change.  


Are some companies doing this better than others? Those companies that help women develop and in the process help all people in the process

There has been lots of research into team work and its conclusions are: A diverse response is a better response.  You have to watch your echo chamber ie who you listen to.  You need to make sure you have more diverse feedback  as this will help you make a better decision  

This is part of the business case for diversity.