Take a look around in your industry or any industry for that matter, from technology to academia, medical to financial services, and you’ll see that the number of women leaders, at best, comes around 20 percent. And the majority of industries are far below that number like manufacturing, automobiles, etc. According to S&P 500, research shows 96% of companies are run by men and according to reports by the World Economic Forum, globally women are underrepresented in positions of power. Have you thought about why is there a wide gap in these numbers? Well, research from every think tank, academic institution, and policymakers globally agrees that unconscious bias accounts for that gap. This year the theme of IWD2022 was to “Break the Bias” – biases that not only others have around women in business but also women have within themselves which limit them to achieve their true potential.
These are unconscious biases that are present in all gender for that matter. And these biases create noise which hampers effective decision-making. Unconscious bias can be explained by the stereotypes or attitudes that affect our views, our actions, and our decision-making ability. The scientific research in this domain is certainly compelling and overwhelming. It exemplifies how unconscious bias is spontaneously activated and influence how one act or think.
Everyone – me, you, or people of any/all gender is biased, and the word bias immediately makes some people feel as though they’re being attacked. So, while I conduct any such initiative, I try to put the audience at ease while participating in these sessions, which helps in elevating the penetration of the event. I urge you to be open to new ideas, relax, take a deep breath, and really ponder about the bigger picture that fuels the success of any business.
With the help of mentors and strong leaders who welcome new ideas and encourage to create a culture of innovation, we are able to conduct an annual event on Women’s Day (also on Men’s Day) in R&S. #SheMotivates brings a platform for everyone in the company to gather and introspect on their journey sharing key takeaways that can help others to grow. Every year there is a new theme along with competitions that can display various different facets to women. We also conducted a Walk the Talk session where we discussed unconscious bias and ways to overcome it. What thrills me is to see the participation from all the colleagues and all genders which elevates the overall experience of the event. It was incredible to see how each woman in the company connected with the initiative, many contributed to the event making it spectacular along with a lot of wisdom shared by the keynote speakers. I would also like to share a few key takeaways from the session which might help you to enhance the quality of relationships amongst team members and harness better outputs for business.
Unconscious bias is something that we all need to be aware of because it affects us all. And today I hope to bring awareness to the topic of unconscious bias, and get you thinking about how it might affect you and how we might be affecting others. In this post, I am going to discuss how we made an impact on International Women’s Day. Embracing the current dynamics and hybrid work culture, we curated a completely virtual event that was engaging and effective in creating strong touchpoints with the employees. I love that you’re here and open to learning how initiatives like these can bring meaningful engagement in the workplace, elevate the overall experience of employees, and leave a message to ponder and improve. The primary objective of initiatives on International Women’s Day is to bring awareness to a subject that is misunderstood and, in some cases, unnecessarily overcomplicated. While the secondary objective was of course to applaud all women to embrace this dual responsibility of managing personal as well as professional life.
One of the most prevalent biases today is perception bias which could be defined as the tendency to form assumptions and stereotypes about certain groups that make it challenging to create an objective judgment about individual members or even the groups. According to research conducted by Moss-Racusin, and findings published in the National Academy of Sciences, there is an assumption that men are better suited to science and technology-related projects than women. So how does this impact women? As an example: when hiring for an Engineer, an SEO, or a data scientist, if seven out of 10 candidates are male, it’s definitely challenging to put aside the perception that men do these types of jobs, and hire a woman. Furthermore, our own experience has shown us that men work in these roles, not women, so we automatically gravitate toward the perception we’re used to.
However, on the contrary, there are many programs in place to increase the number of women in these fields, the disparity cannot be addressed until women are perceived as just as capable as men in traditionally male-dominated fields. The problem actually lies in the bias that makes those assumptions in the first place, and not as much in the hiring process. If the bias is based on a stereotype rather than fact, the act of overlooking underrepresented groups of people will continue.
Tackling the underlying unconscious bias can be achieved by acknowledging the problem exists, ensuring there is widespread awareness of it, resolving to do something about it, and becoming accountable for your actions.
Having said that what steps can you take today to change your perceptions?
The second bias that we discussed in the session was Confirmation bias. As per Harvard business review, when we are seeking out evidence that confirms our initial perceptions, ignoring contrary information well that is the practical implementation of Confirmation bias. You remember, how we used to compete in debate competitions. Each side prepares for their argument with facts, figures, and studies that will support their position. And disregarding the opposing viewpoint to win the debate. This my friend is Confirmation bias. We seek out information and evidence that justifies our position or makes us feel like we were right all along. In business, this bias can make a bad situation worse because we double down and dig in our heels! Hence, when we conduct campus to corporate initiatives, we encourage students to collaborate rather than debate.
In order to combat confirmation bias, we need to review the data, we have in our possession. All of it! Evaluate the pros and the cons to objectively make a decision based on both sides of the data. Analyze the data that stands on the contrary to your point and seek feedback from others to review your conclusions. If we can develop a system of evaluation for all new products or information that becomes our standard, we’ll be better positioned to make the right decision. If we remove the data and try to analyze the situation to the whims of our mood that day and our gut instinct about people, which, if you’ve been paying attention, is highly subjective and unconsciously influenced.
I hope by this point, you can gauge the thought-process behing any/all IWD celebrations and wouldnt discount it as a feminists activity. Perhaps, it is one of an important activity that ensures building strong employee connect, creating an atmosphere of psychological safety and equality. Understanding biases and how our instinctive approach may cripple us to harness true potential. Tackling unconscious bias and diversity doesn’t have to be difficult. And together I know we can impact and touch lives for the better.
Lastly, this women’s day and for all regular days, I thank all women who made a difference in my life by showing what to be and what not to be, who are my support system! Thank you for believing in me and helping me break the rules when needed. Having said that I would also thank the men who created a world with values, who break the patriarchy to create a safe world for all of us.