“She is quiet; she has probably nothing interesting to say”
“Investment bankers are all extroverts and make a lot of money”
“Oh you are Indian; you must have grown up in a caste system.”
“She is successful and has come up the ranks on the fast path. She must have achieved this because she is a flirt and has used her influence”
“A leader is one who manages team and is part of senior management”
→What do these statements sound like to you?←
Asian/American, Male/Female, Extroverts/introverts, rich/poor, aggressive/meek is the common single story we hear or are categorized into.
You are categorized, stereotyped and generalized and not seen for your uniqueness, for your passions, your interests. Nor do you see others.
Bias creeps in our day-to-day life, and communication. This comes from our culture, our exposure or non-exposure, and our experiences.
♣But the real question is do we get so taken in by others beliefs and by our limited experience that we fail to see the uniqueness of the person in front of us♣
♣Do we fail to see that one person or a group of people don’t represent an entire country or gender?♣
Can Bias be fixed?
“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” ~Mother Teresa
There are people around you, in history, famous and not so quite famous who are changing bias and proving it by way of their actions. Some examples of people who fought bias…
Gender Bias – one of the most common biases that exists even in this day and age.
After graduation, Sudha Murthy became the first female engineer hired at India’s largest auto manufacturer TATA Engineering and Locomotive Company or TELCO. Murthy had written a postcard to the company’s Chairman complaining of the “men only” gender bias at TELCO. As a result, she was granted a special interview and hired immediately.
Disability bias – Man who lost his legs as a child scales 19,000ft-high Kilimanjaro by crawling on his HANDS for seven days.
There are many other stories of women and men who have not taken bias in their stride because they chose not to.
Eight Ways as Leaders to Overcome bias
- Is the issue with the person and how they behave or someone they remind you of?
- Does that person remind you of your fears or insecurities which triggers a bias ?
- Does this person behave or act in a manner that resembles that of a group that you know?
- Does any of the above impact you, your team or their work ?
-> Whenever you are in a moment when you think you will give in to generalizations, pause and reflect
- Have I been a victim of bias? What was the experience like?
- Would I like to be stereotyped?
- What if my creativity and who I am is not given recognition to?
- For every wrongful act done by someone from my gender or my country, or my industry would I like to be blamed?
- Your mental models frame your thoughts and your thoughts in turn dictate your words. By reframing you create the environment and EI to respond to realities and communicate effectively.
- Make a choice to step back and not allow spontaneity and your closed mind to create your bias.
- Take responsibility to look around you, to observe the difference and to recognize that each individual is different in their own way.
As leaders, discover, become aware and deactivate your inappropriate biases. Isn’t leadership about your ability to connect, empathize, communicate and influence those around you by your words and actions ?
Reflective Questions for the Road to Identify and Introspect
As leaders, are you showing the character, the courage and the ability to do the right thing?
Are you happy to maintain your status quo and not challenge the accepted practices and stereotyping?
How are you growing and inculcating the change that you wish to see?
♦What would you like to add to this discussion?♦