By Petra Higgins, Senior Technical Support Engineer and ZWomen Lead for Europe
As Women’s History Month is upon us, we are reminded to think about the ways we can empower and support women to thrive in an equal workplace. This International Women’s day, leaders from our executive team sat down to discuss and share their insights on how we can Choose to Challenge the status quo and forge a gender equal world. In a discussion led by Senior Sales Engineer and ZWomen lead Allyson Tessmann, our panel tackled three core topics: Recognizing Bias around Us, Interrupting Bias when we do Recognize it, and How we can Support those who Challenge.
Recognise Bias around You
Panel facilitator, Chief Revenue Officer and ally, Robbie Traube correctly called out that in many cases bias can be difficult to identify due to its often unintentional nature. So what exactly is bias and how can we be aware of it in order to reduce our own personal prejudice and help create a more diverse and inclusive workforce?
The truth is, bias is all around us – “If you have a brain you have biases” says Valerie Jackson, Chief Diversity Officer. Whether conscious or unconscious we all have personalities and experiences that influence our decisions and our thought processes – good, bad or otherwise. It is very easy and to hire someone exactly like yourself, or exactly like the person who was last in the role – but by doing this, what ideas are we missing out on? Whose voices are we not hearing?
The issue with unconscious bias is that if we always think like ourselves, we run the risk of a one way approach and underrepresentation. We all need to make sure we do the work to recognise bias and become aware of personal affinities. We need to ask ourselves how we can represent those who aren’t currently in the room. Tools like the Harvard Implicit Association Test are a fantastic way to help us become aware of and uncover our unconscious biases. Once we are able to recognise bias around us – it’s up to us to do something about it.
Interrupt Bias when you Recognise It
There are many ways of interrupting bias that surrounds us – from reviewing hiring processes, providing development opportunities, to sharing diversity information and working towards a more equally represented workplace. While focusing on results and data are very important, Valerie explains we have to focus equally on our culture and our practices. “Inclusion is what we need to drive success in building a diverse workforce,” she says, and for this everyone has a role to play. We need systematic and strategic efforts across all teams and functions so that we can all contribute as our highest and best selves. As Daisy Hernandez, SVP, Strategy & Operations echoed, “change starts with ourselves.”
Other ways to interrupt bias is to ask open and curious questions about our practices and our processes. Jennifer Pileggi, SVP, General Counsel & Secretary, rightly points out “if we don’t question why things are a certain way, how things are done, and what our assumptions are, nothing will ever change.” Don’t be afraid to ask your manager why things are done a certain way, offer fresh ideas and encourage your peers to do the same.
Support those who Challenge
Finally, we must find support and provide it to those in and across your organization to challenge bias and inequality. Everyone, including male allies, can advocate for others and champion people’s progress. Laura Robblee, Chief Human Resources Officer believes, “we all have what it takes inside to be courageous, to stand up and do something hard. It’s about stretching, expanding and exploring.” So what are some steps you can take whether you’re seeking the support or providing it? Daisy breaks down three ways:
1. Find or be an influential sponsor and get to know each other well enough to advocate for success, champion progress, and open doors.
2. Find or be a mentor who can help envision your next position, navigate through challenges at work, and serve as a sounding board.
3. Find yourself. Self reflect, seek feedback to get perspectives, and believe in yourself. Don’t let negative inner thoughts discourage and weigh you down. It can affect how you show up. If you find yourself doing that, talk to your mentor or supportive confidants.
We all have the ability to Choose to Challenge the status quo and forge a gender equal world by raising awareness against bias, taking action for equality and not just supporting but also celebrating women’s achievements.