With tomorrow being International Women’s Day, we thought it was timely to delve into a topic about women in the workplace and more specifically unconscious bias.
Whether we like to admit it or not, everyone has conscious and unconscious bias which plays a role in who we hire, promote or socialise with. In the last few years many discussions—particularly on unconscious bias and much research into the subject has been done—like this one by the Melbourne Business School’s Gender Equality Project.
So, it’s no surprise that Sandberg’s book ‘Lean In’ came in at No. 2 on the best-selling book of the year on Amazon and spent 12 weeks at the top of the New York Times nonfiction best-seller list in 2013. In it, Sandberg shares real-life experiences—names, positions, achievements and accolades—as well as hard data to reveal candidly how gender disparity in the workplace is real and also provides some useful tools we can use to overcome inherent patterns of behaviour.
Five tips to overcoming unconscious bias—drawn from Sandberg’s ‘Lean In’:
1. Seek out all opinions, not just ones that agree with ours.
We tend to be attracted to those who look, sound and behave like us—making us less inclined to seek out the opinion of those that seem different. As men dominate boardrooms, they tend to generally look to the opinions of other men. Everyone comes with their own set of experiences and getting a fresh perspective can shed light on things that you might have missed.
2. Keep your hand up!
Sandberg admits even she’s not immune to being blindsided by gender bias. In her book, she reveals that she too while giving a talk to employees (funnily about gender issues), became blindsided herself. As Sandberg was wrapping up the event many hands were up in the air waiting their turn with questions for her. After taking a few questions, Sandberg let everyone know she’d only take two more questions. It was at this point the women in the audience put their hands down. But several men kept their hands up—and since they were still waving their hands in the air Sandberg took the men’s questions. After the meeting a woman from the audience came to see Sandberg to let her know the one valuable thing she learnt didn’t come from Sandberg’s words, it was to keep her hand up to get her voice heard!
3. Everyone feels like a fraud sometimes.
You haven’t gotten where you are without having some successes. Unsurprisingly, multiple studies have shown that women underestimate themselves and men tend to overestimate themselves, although both sexes can fall victim to the impostor syndrome and feel like a fraud . Women tend to play out their perceived failures or negative aspects of situations over and over instead of accepting that although things don’t always go well, there are a lot of positive experiences to focus on. Sandberg writes about feeling like a fraud in her uni days and remembers that there were times when faking it till you make it— although a cliché—is useful. ‘Like so many other things, a lack of self-confidence can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.’ Remind yourself of all your successes and achievements.
4. Be open to feedback.
Feedback can help us grow. If we’re willing to take responsibility for mistakes and learn from the constructive criticism of others, feedback can become something we seek out to help us develop. Armed with the knowledge of what others perceive about us feedback can build strong relationships built on trust. Sandberg and Zuckerberg actively reach out for feedback from each other and build this feedback culture into their workplace. After your next meeting or presentation—regardless of how well it goes—ask a trusted peer what could you have done better to improve the outcome. The results could surprise you.
5. Shift your mindset to ‘I’ll learn by doing’.
Many women fear that they’re not ready to take on more challenges and stretch themselves, thinking they don’t have all the skills. According to a Hewlett-Packard study Sandberg refers to, women only apply for job advertisements if they think they meet 100 per cent of the criteria listed. Conversely, men apply if they think they meet 60 per cent of the requirements. Either way, it’s useful for managers to encourage talented women to move up through training and development plans, as well as women to remind themselves to seek out opportunities and learn by doing.
Also, we thought we’d share a video Marie Claire released about standing up for women’s rights and celebrating women who inspire us. First spotted on Gabrielle Dolan’s newsletter about IWD this week.
Cheers, Atika & the c word crew