6 Best Practices To Avoid Unconscious Bias Against Women Colleagues

As a society, we have so much internalised misogyny, that while some bias against women might be deliberate, a lot is unconscious.

I feel that women, when they reach the upper echelons of their career, are battle hardened and know how to take on almost anything that comes at them. Sexism, gender bias, micro aggressions, people talking over them, people talking down to them and the list goes on.

While I’m fortunate that I work with a progressive organisation, where there is utmost respect for all colleagues regardless of gender or sexual orientation, these are a few observations that I’ve made during my career of over 25 years, which I want to list down, just to drive greater awareness of unconscious bias against women –

Email etiquette

So many people mark ‘To’ in an email to male colleagues, and mark ‘cc’ to female colleagues often at the same level. The message that you are sending out is that your opinion doesn’t matter, the only opinion the person wants to take on board, is the opinion of the men marked on copy.

Everybody’s opinion is important as is their time

Talking over people, cutting conversations and hurrying people along – you are communicating that only your time is important and the other person’s time isn’t.

Give credit where due, amplify others’ ideas

Wen paraphrasing, taking someone else’s idea or point and making it your own, it should always be prefixed with, “As XY was saying…” so that you give credit where credit is due.

Would you ask a male employee to do this? Then why a woman employee?

A friend, who used to program manage huge transitions was invariably asked to book cabs and meeting rooms, or worse still, complained to if something in someone’s hotel room wasn’t working properly. She wasn’t a travel coordinator, she had a huge portfolio and was a senior colleague, sometimes I wonder if she would have been asked to do these things, if she were a man.

A man is ambitious but a woman is pushy. Really?

Having different adjectives for women compared to men, to describe exactly the same attributes (ambitious versus pushy, empathetic versus emotional, decisive versus shrill, passionate versus hormonal), the list goes on.

And no, hiring and promotions of women isn’t because of a ‘diversity agenda’

Attributing promotions of female colleagues due to the company’s ‘diversity agenda’. Gender and merit are not interchangeable. Don’t undermine women by saying it was just their gender which got them where it did.

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What can you do as a woman facing these things?

What can one do as a woman if you feel any of the above or others; call it out for one – it’s called ‘unconscious’ for a reason.

Don’t be intimidated or feel you have to behave in a specific manner.

If someone is talking over you, say “may I please finish”?

Don’t start sentences with, “ I’m sorry, but…” – I’ve never seen men apologising for expressing an opinion. Standing up for yourself is not being pushy, it’s being strong.

Image source: by Jacob Lund Free for Canva Pro

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