Breaking through Bias.png

This was an interesting session at Novi and I do recommend reading the above book. This is a brief synopsis of Chapter 1 of the book through my lens.

None of us have a bias, right? Wrong, it exists in all of us to some degree! Typically bias is around gender, age, and race. To understand bias we need to understand stereotype.

We unconsciously classify people through certain characteristics that are not necessarily valid, For example, all volleyball players are tall.  Yorkshire people have short arms, deep pockets, (parsimonious). These classifications are then prescriptive of how we behave and relate to those “stereotypes”.

A bias is when we subconsciously rate one stereotype higher or more desirable than another. This manifests itself though inequalities, for example, in opportunities, advancement or resource allocation.

With gender equality it should be unquestionable that women and men start their careers on a level playing field. If that is true, why do the majority of women finish careers earlier, with less status, and less satisfaction than their male counterpart? Why do women earn 70 cents on the dollar compared to a man? Bias perhaps?

On the face of it, we aim to embrace differences in the interest of diversity; leveraging different ideas and experiences to create unique solutions for problems. Yet, consider the first way in which we sort people, by sex, male (agentic –stereotypical male traits assertive, competitive, strong, loud, unemotional, risk taker) or female (communal stereotypical female traits, nurturing, kind, sympathetic, concerned, caring and warm). As these gender stereotypes persist and result in biases, they become scripts for discriminatory behavior and serve as obstacles to true career advancement for women.

Andie and Al say discriminatory behavior can manifest itself as hostile and negative.

These characteristics are required for this role and women do not have them. Women are not suitable for competitive leadership tasks or a high pressure environment.

This leads to lower expectations and limits opportunities that women are offered.  Or benevolent and kindly discrimination.

This manifests as extra assistance and direction, an overprotection of women by minimizing stressful competitive demanding assignments in the work place under the guise of concern for their well-being. Giving women easier low value work limits skill acquisition and potential for advancement. Being challenged and developing broad career relevant skills facilitates career progression.

Women pursuing careers in predominantly male environments are very susceptible to implicit bias. For example, pursuing a role as an airline pilot, surgeon investment banker or engineer over being a teacher, caregiver or nurse.

Women displaying more of the agentic characteristics can distort perception of the career gatekeepers. His persuasive skills are her being pushy. Her being bossy is his leadership. He is a go getter, she is rude!

Before we move on – figure out your own bias by taking the IAT at Harvard’s University web page and learn the extent of your masculine and feminine traits.