Breaking the Bias in the Workplace [Women’s Equality]
Theme for International Women’s Day 2022 is #BreaktheBias
March 8, 2022
What would a bias free world look like? Swae is on a mission to break the bias… every day.
2022 theme for International Women’s Day:
Imagine a gender equal world.
A world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination.
A world that is diverse, equitable, and inclusive.
A world where difference is valued and celebrated.
Together we can forge women’s equality.
Collectively we can all #BreakTheBias.
It’s hard to imagine a world that’s free of bias, especially when it comes to the most basic of basic things like gender.
Yet, in the same breath, it also seems virtually impossible that gender inequality is still a thing in 2022, doesn’t it? Centuries and centuries of women revolting around the globe trying to break down or out of the already many broken systems, yet here we are.
As an example, the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution granted American women the right to vote, a right known as women’s suffrage, and was ratified on August 18, 1920, which had ended almost a century of protest. So, how is that OVER a century later after this event, we are still having to talk about this? More so, we have to dedicate a special day to bring awareness that the female gender still doesn’t have the exact same access, equality, etc. as the male gender.
We here at Swae envision a world where bias becomes less and less of a thing, and eventually has no impact. We see a world where everyone understands their value, and where everyone can feel included and has a voice. Call us crazy, but we’re a bunch of passionate visionaries and big thinkers so we’ll take it!
RESEARCH SHOWS BIAS IN THE WORKPLACE IS DANGEROUS
Bias has a huge impact in the workplace, and it’s not just about gender bias.
So, it’s not just one bias that causes issues, but rather many that can derail businesses from finding great ideas and making great decisions every single day.
RESEARCH RECAP #1
An article on McKinsey & Company called How biases, politics and egos trump good strategy (you can find that here), stated that cognitive bias eats away at the positivity within a company’s culture. Here are some of the most dangerous:
- Overconfidence: this type of bias leads people to ignore contradictory information. They don’t hear anything other than their “own voice” and creates unequal conversations.
- Confirmation Bias: The human tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms or supports one’s prior beliefs or valuesOne study found, for instance, that 80% of executives believe that their product stands out against the competition—but only 8% of customers agree.
- Survival Bias: A cognitive shortcut that occurs when a visible successful subgroup is mistaken as an entire group, due to the failure that a subgroup is not visible.
- Attribution Bias: the tendency to explain a person’s behavior by referring to their character rather than any situational factor. In essence, it leads us to overestimate the weight of someone’s personality traits, and underestimate the influence of their individual circumstances.
We can add in one last one that has a massive impact and a focus for the day today, International Women’s Day:
Gender Bias: The tendency to prefer one gender over another. It is a form of unconscious bias (though I think many women reading this have seen it firsthand, like me, where it quite often is not UNconscious, but rather 100% intentional).
All of this bias in a workplace means people can’t think clearly, they’re not listening to other people’s point of view, and they’re unconsciously (or totally consciously) choosing to not see a person’s innate and true value regardless of who they are.
RESEARCH RECAP #2
Another study shows that it’s not just male-dominated companies where gender bias takes place either. Harvard Business Review: Research: How Bias Against Women Persists in Female-Dominated Workplaces
Simply adding women into a workplace does not change the organizational structures and systems that benefit men more than women.
“Replace competition with cooperation.
Eight studies with 147,000 people show that dominant, competitive leadership has the unintended consequence of zero-sum thinking — the belief that progress can be made only at the expense of others — among subordinates. Such environments disincentivize workers from helping or supporting their colleagues.”
The good news is that leaders can use these findings to create gender-equitable practices and environments which reduce bias.
WHY THIS MATTERS
Neutralizing bias in the workplace should be at the top of every leaders to-do list.
Due to biases, gender inequality, racial inequality (and the list goes on and on), workplaces often cannot develop cultures where people thrive. Instead, cultures are created where people stop caring, they don’t offer up their ideas anymore, people close themselves off, and people shut down.
This is what leads people to stick their heads in the sand, or what we call the “ostrich effect” where no one is looking at what’s really going on in an organization. It’s the FOFO (Fear of Finding Out) Syndrome (you can read more on that here).
Rigid hierarchies and closed cultures where bias infects the entire organization prevents good ideas and solutions from surfacing easily. This creates a culture where true, deep collaboration and connection cannot take place.
An important part of Swae’s purpose is to take the bias out of the workplace so this is something that we strive for every day.
(If you haven’t seen the How Swae Works video, now is a good time to check it out as it explains more you can do so here).
Swae works to stop bias from seeping into the ideation and decision-making processes. A few examples of how we do this is below, and leaders can follow suit by finding a system that can allow for more voices to be heard and finding ways to neutralize the possibility of bias to get in the way.
- Offer anonymity. Swae allows users to stay anonymous on the platform so that when people come up with new proposals for their ideas to find a solution, or propose a new way of doing something (driving innovation), they don’t have to say who they are. This type of “anonymous” process can be done outside of Swae, but it’s an important one as it makes people feel more psychologically safe. It also allows leaders to see the idea, not the person (taking bias out, especially that of gender bias!).
- Create a more even playing field. Sometimes the fear of putting a new idea out there is scary for a person because they’ve been dismissed before based on some kind of bias or some other “office politics” factor. Swae offers proposal generation guidance to ensure that everyone’s proposal looks relatively the same. This could be done in other ways. The importance of this is to allow people to feel like they can create a professional proposal on the platform like anyone else can. So, the one with the the killer graphic design skills doesn’t “win” every time.
- Crowdsourcing and allowing more people to be included. When more people can feel like they have a voice, everyone wins. (Read our recent research recap about this topic here). This is the basis of inclusive cultures. Breaking the silos in a workplace is one of the best ways to disrupt and crack open creativity and connection. Just because a person works in marketing shouldn’t mean that they can’t propose an amazing idea for the operations team. By allowing more people to be included (one of the easiest things that Swae offers) this can create a more open culture allowing people to build deeper connections and to collaborate better.
Something for you to chew on…
If more voices were heard, if gender bias and all of the other biases were taken out of the equation when it comes to coming up with new ideas or coming up with out-of-the-box innovative solutions, how much more awesome could your company’s culture become?
Let’s all do our part EVERY DAY to make this world a more EQUITABLE place for all…
“I am a woman / Phenomenally / Phenomenal woman / That’s me.”
Maya Angelou American author, poet and civil rights activist
Swae is helping organizations across the world to solve today’s problems and generate tomorrow’s strategy. Our clients are finding that their greatest resource is their people, and Swae is proven to help get the best from the untapped potential within their workforce. We’d love the chance to show you how Swae can ‘pay off’ for you…
Ready to learn how Swae can help your organization?
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