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Break the Bias: 20 Strategies to Turn the Table on Biases

By Regina Cabal - Momlancers


By Regina Cabal | co-founder & director - Wed, 03/23/2022 - 13:00

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#BreakTheBias. This is the International Women's Day (IWD) 2022 campaign theme. But how can we eliminate them if biases are usually unconscious? How can we achieve it if our brain generates bias naturally? How can I achieve it if I barely have enough time to do my job?

With these questions in mind, Momlancers launched the #BreaktheBias Summit

from March 2-3.

We all have biases; they are mental shortcuts to simplify the world around us. The problem comes when these biases, which are often unconscious, cloud our vision and prevent us from treating the people around us as human beings.

In general terms, the meaning of bias is partiality, failing to see the big picture. It distances us from reality. We assume people are a certain way by stereotyping them. Biases separate us. Biases lead us to commit injustices.

20 Ways to Break Bias

1. Learn to name them

To manage our emotions, we need to know their names: sadness, anger, disappointment ... the same has to be done to eliminate biases; we need to know their names. Several authors have studied them (Daniel Kahneman, Pragya Agarwal, Sheryl Sandberg). For example: Performance bias. Likeability bias. Confirmation bias. Affinity bias. Maternity bias. This is the first step to detect them.

Norma provides an example regarding Likeability Bias: "Likeability and success are negatively co-related for women and positively for men. If a man is assertive, he is decisive, he has grit. If a woman is assertive, decisive, she is immediately labeled with other words: she is bossy, she is a braggart, she is pretentious... ."

2. Embrace discomfort. Ask questions that shake

Talking about biases is uncomfortable. Let's lose the fear of these conversations and accept that they're going to be difficult. Discuss it at home. Talk to your children.

Ask others questions. Ask yourself questions. Would I think the same if she were a man? Am I giving this person the job because he/she comes from the same school as me? Why is there only one woman on his team? Would I be OK if my son married a trans woman?

3. Connect with personal purpose

Living in a better world is a good excuse to break down biases. To get our employees to be part of D&I initiatives, the key is to turn something that is "a gender initiative of the company" into a transversal cause that can interest men, women, and anyone else. For example: "I'm interested because I want to leave a better world for my daughters."

"To do what is good for me, what is good for others, what is good for my company, what is good for the planet." Ivan Babic.

4. Focus on value generation

When it comes to recruitment and promotions, always ask yourself: what value do we want to generate? Before defining a gender in the job description: "We need a new CFO (male)," establish what you want this talent to contribute. Go beyond whether it's a man or a woman. "Without companies there is no work, and it doesn't matter if they are men or if they are women, the issue is how we generate value within companies, inward and outward," said Claudia Corona.

And beyond reflecting on the value of the company, let's also think about what we could do for the country: "I have thought that if all that talent was producing, our country would be different, our GDP would be double, or more." Cecilia Riviello.

We also invite you to learn to value talent beyond a condition; for example, a woman who becomes a mother acquires skills that also serve in the professional field: crisis management, resilience, purpose. These are skills that any leader would like to have.

5. Make it part of the system

With the affinity groups that exist in companies, people almost always work in a "volunteer" capacity. It's all overtime. Extra effort. What if we made it part of the performance evaluation? Part of the job description? What if we allocated time for these efforts?

6. Invite men directly

We already know that for initiatives to move forward we need to team up with men. However, we don't always make them feel welcome. Eugenio shares: "Sometimes it is a little intimidating for men to enter these groups. You don't know if you have to get involved or if you are just in the way. There might be some who are interested in participating in these topics, but they just need you to open the door a little more."  Make the gender discussion attractive to them as well.

7. Do empathy exercises

Many years ago, when I worked at Redbox and we were talking about creative skills, we used to do a perspective-shifting exercise that I loved. It involved describing a forest, but each participant was assigned a character: "Describe a forest from the perspective of a bear, a lumberjack, an ecologist, an ant." The result was wonderful. Just by putting yourself in the other person's shoes, the picture opened up. 

According to Ivan Babic, "Biases are cured by using the other's perspective." We need to talk with others, discuss with others, put ourselves in someone else’s shoes. "And you know the beauty of putting yourself in someone else's shoes? You have to take off your own shoes to put yourself in the other's shoes." Ivan Babic.

We have to practice feeling at ease with people who are totally different from us. It really opens our minds.

8. Point and mirror

No matter how trained you are in biases, it is easy to fall into them. Generate discussion circles to talk about them. Talk more about it. Something may be invisible to you and someone else can help you detect it. Invite people to point out the bias when they see them in you. If you walk out of a meeting and see a woman "go small," tell her about it. If a man interrupts a woman in a meeting, help him notice it because he may not have noticed it.

9. Raise your hand. And invite others to do so

Contribute to eliminating modesty bias. How many times after complimenting a woman on her work have we received a response like, "It wasn't me, it was my team.” We need to be able to talk openly about our achievements and be proud of them.

Natalia shares with us how in some of her recruitment interviews, the candidate starts to justify herself: "I have a son, but my mom is going to help me take care of him, but ... and I told her, relax, you don't have to justify that to me, and when you go talk to the client company in the next phase, you don't have to say that. Talk about your achievements."

Let's raise our hands when we hear things like, "I want a financial manager, but I don't want a woman." Let's question: Why? What skills are you looking for? Look for the talent.

Cecilia also shared with us an anecdote from a client, the owner of a family business who talked so much about his son's succession process that she even thought he was an only child. She later discovered that he also had two daughters who had not been mentioned or considered for the position. Did they not want to raise their hands? Had anyone else done it for them?

10. Team up

Many times, women destroy each other. We leave the meeting and badmouth the person who just presented. We need to learn to make alliances with other women, to work as a team, and also with men.

Morganna pointed out: "We talk about how much productivity matters, being competitive, but where is the collaboration? Human evolution has to do with collaborating as a society.”

11. Distinguish between objectives, KPIs and communication

In many organizations, an objective is set and mistakenly translated into a communication message that generates discontent with another group. For example: "By 2025, 50 percent of our leaders will be women." This can generate discontent with other groups. "Will I be left out because of a quota?" Or imagine the case of a woman who has reached a leadership position with doubt: "Was I chosen for this position because of my talent or because of a quota?"

It is very important to have a compass, but an objective is not necessarily a quota or a communication message.

On the other hand, regarding quotas, Norma said, "If we let things evolve naturally, it will take us a long time. I don't think we have it. We need quotas as a shortcut, as a temporary solution."

Cecilia proposes a quota on recruitment. For all positions, you have to have 50 percent men and 50 percent women. Search for talent and take away the gender of the people you interview, since you have them there in the resumes, men and women, equal participation, so that the person interviewing does not have the bias of being a man or a woman, and measure by talent. That is one way to bring more women into the labor market.

12. Create processes. Institutionalize

As biases are mostly unconscious, we must have a little confidence in our own judgment. Eugenio shares with us: "The solution is clear, but it is difficult; we have to distrust ourselves, and we think we are very intelligent."

We should establish clear rules beforehand and trust them. It is not easy to develop a whole system that can evaluate the performance or suitability of a person in a position and so on, but it is worth it. Make the decision depending less on our own criteria and more on rules, groups, institutions or systems.

13. Have clear indicators.

To fulfill the previous point, we need to have very clear indicators when hiring or promoting a person. For example, if he/she has this, one point; if he/she has such and such experience and knowledge, another point.

14. Promote blind resumes

There are several pieces of information that are shared on resumes that can bias the decision to interview the person or not: gender, age, marital status. Eliminate information that does not speak about the talent. Avoid more people living through stories like the one that happened to Morganna: "I went to a job interview in a chain of SPAs. The human resources woman looked me over and said: you are fine, you are thin, you are tall, you are beautiful, you are dark, but the clients will forgive you for that. The good thing is that you are not overweight, because they would not forgive you for that." At what point would they have to "forgive" us for our condition?

Think also about the new generations. They are full of nonbinary people. Where is the work for those people if we qualify them by their gender?

15. Conduct structured interviews

Make sure that your interviews have the same questions for all candidates and in the same order. Know beforehand what answer means what, what score we are going to give them. Then decide on the one who has gained the most points. Let each of the interviewers have the opportunity to evaluate and draw their conclusions and then get together to define the results.

You can also ask for a work sample, a case, think about what does this position will do on a daily basis? To the people who sent their information and we don't know where they are from, what gender or age, we send them the exercise and see how they solve it; depending on how they solve it, we decide if we pass them on to an interview.

Eliminate all questions that do not generate value in the process: for example, do you plan to have children and when? Do you have a partner? Invite recruiters to reflect: Why is that question there?

Finally, avoid panel interviews. There is always one person who has a lot more influence and then everyone goes by how that person decides. It has been proven that panel interviews have no benefit; on the contrary, they are biased.

16. Create flexible schemes

To avoid the "talent drain" of women when they become mothers, it is essential to create flexible schemes that allow them to integrate their roles. "Flexibility doesn’t mean that we are going to work less. We need flexible hours to be able to attend our child who arrives at 3 o'clock, or to be able to go to the Mother's Day festival, but in no way does it mean that we are not going to do our job. We are going to do it and succeed," Sara commented.

17. Take it home

Let's get the message of inclusion across to our children as well; this is where we can generate real social change by educating the new generations. How do you address gender issue at home? What games do you encourage your sons and daughters to play? Do you assign colors by gender?

18. Vocabulary training

Vocabulary matters a lot so it is important to understand what might offend other people. Let's learn to speak without gender bias. Let us learn how to receive feedback so that we do not make mistakes.

19. Quantify and put money on it

Show your real intention with a budget. Seek to fund these initiatives not as a "nice-to-have," but as something that is part of the organization's core values. And if you have a hard time convincing internally, evaluate the loss: How much will your company lose if it is not diverse? How much talent will you lose? How much will it cost to replace the talent you lost because you didn't open a path for them?

20. Finally, get informed

Continue reading and learning. We invite you to be part of the discussion.

When we say we want to Break the Bias, what we want is to break limiting beliefs that lead to injustices, so that we can all enrich ourselves with other perspectives and evolve as a society.

Panelists participating in the #BreakTheBias Summit that inspired this article:

- Ivan Babic - Founder of Business as Unusual.

- Cecilia Riviello - CEO and Founder of Balanceship.

- Norma Cerros - Gender Equality Designer - Founder of Womerang and Creator of Equal Pay Day Mexico.

- Claudia Corona - Co-Leader of 30% Club Mexico and Founder of Impronta Verde.

- Eugenio Gomez Alatorre - Researcher of the study: Beyond Gender Equity.

- Sara Rosenthal - Founder of Naran Xadul.

- Natalia Godoy Dueñas - Leading Consultant in Talent Attraction and Selection.

- Morganna Love - Singer and Actress. Recognized by Forbes as one of the 100 most powerful women in Mexico. Activist for the United Nations.

To learn more visit: https://www.momlancers.com

Photo by:   Regina Cabal

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