We all have our biases
She’s an avid promoter of women at work – and is herself a female leader, as vice president of human resources on the Roche Groupe executive committee. And yet, on one crucial day, Kristen Pressner realized she had a bias against women in positions of power. Even though it was Pressner’s job to be unbiased.
Pressner found she reacted differently to requests for a salary increase presented on the same day, based on the gender of the applicants. She agreed to look into the request made by a male team member but reacted dubiously when a female team member asked for the same thing on the same day.
It was the simultaneous timing of the requests and the difference in her reflexive reactions that made Pressner question herself and want to examine her unconscious biases. To her great surprise, she realized that unconsciously she had a bias against women leaders – and so, by extension, against herself.
Pressner realized she equated men with “providers,” who therefore had more of a need for a higher salary, but saw women as “caretakers,” despite the fact that she herself was the sole provider for her family of six and her husband was a stay-at-home dad.
Don’t wait – as Pressner did – for two irrational decisions to occur at once before opening your eyes to your biases and stereotypes. Doublecheck your prejudices: “Flip it to test it,” as Pressener puts it. Do you easily see men as being leaders, providers, assertive, strong, driven? What about women with the same characteristics? What about men who are sensitive and fragile? If attributing stereotypical gender characteristics to the opposite sex seems strange, then you have discovered your unconscious bias. Test yourself whenever you interact with someone and disarm your short-circuits.
By Kristen Pressner (TEDX Talks, August 2016).
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