Written by: Janet Zaretsky, Executive Contributor
Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.
Once a year in March, we celebrate International Women’s Day. One day to celebrate the incredible accomplishments of women of the world. On one hand, that is great — having the spotlight shone on women. On the other hand, ONE DAY?!?! Not nearly enough.
We are still in a world where bias against women accounts for the continuation of gender inequality and the impact on women. The pandemic has exacerbated the situation and women have left the workforce in large numbers, which has certainly had us lose ground toward equity.
Leanin.org has an informative set of short videos talking about all the ways women face bias and the impact on our careers and finances. I highly suggest you watch them and look for yourself at your own biases, as they happen for both men and women. As they say in the videos, noticing is not enough, you must take action to interrupt them.
The reality is that if each of us does not take action to interrupt our own and others’ biases, the workplace inequality will not shift. It is up to us to be vigilant and to allow ourselves to go through the discomfort of taking new actions if we want to change the landscape.
I am going to highlight a few biases, their impact and what to do about it:
Affinity bias: This is when you gravitate towards people that are like you. This is natural and is rooted in our human evolution. We instinctively feel that people that look and act like me are safe. They will understand, like, and protect me. However, even though it is evolutionary, at a brain pattern level, we need to see that when we act out of this biased pattern, we leave others out, and they experience being outside. They also are less likely to be seen as effective, less likely to be promoted, and more heavily criticized for mistakes. This is easy for us to evaluate by looking at who we gravitate towards and include and exclude, both
at work and in our day to day lives.
How to interrupt it: Make a conscious choice to reach out to someone who is not like you (different race, sex, sexual orientation, age range, religion, etc.). Get to know them, include them in activities at work. Ask their opinion and view on matters. Do this regularly. And when you see others doing it, say something and encourage them to also interrupt this tendency.
Attribution Bias: This is when you assign terms to women for behaviors that you don’t label the same for men. In a study, according to LeanIn Organization, 66% of women received negative feedback about some attribute like ‘bossy’, ‘aggressive’, or ‘pushy’ compared to 1% of men. This also comes into play when a woman is confident and shares her strengths but is labeled as bragging, vs a man who would simply be called confident. Allow yourself to notice what attributes you assign to men and women in leadership and see if you can identify your own biases. The reality is that we are in a male-dominated hierarchy in business, especially with the comparatively few women in senior leadership, and we have unconsciously assigned specific traits to men and women which tend to be positive for men and, at the same time, negative for women.
How to interrupt it: When you hear yourself saying something, stop and correct yourself. When you hear other people making remarks that demonstrate this bias, correct them. You can do this effectively when you start out by saying, “You may not be aware, but…” and even share your own biases and process of interrupting. Calling someone out on something is fine as long as you don’t make them out to be ‘bad’ for doing what they are doing. Be inclusive!
Some of the other things you might be doing that are feeding into bias and are also self-sabotaging are:
In a meeting, are you waiting to be 100% sure of yourself before you jumpin, afraid of backlash?
Do you let others take credit for your ideas?
Do you allow people to talk over you and interrupt you, or do you interrupt other women? (Research shows women are interrupted 3x more than men, both by men and women!)
Are you stepping up to take on roles, positions, and jobs that you are not 100% sure you can do? (Well-researched fact is that men will raise their hands when they are 60% sure compared to women who wait till they are 100% sure!)
When you speak, do you speak with authority, or do you have a raised voice lilt as if you are questioning what you are saying?
Do you worry or ruminate about what to say or what you said?
Are you ‘nice’, stepping over, or holding back in what there is to say for fear of not being liked… or worse, being called bossy or bitchy?
Are you asking for what you deserve financially?
Are you clear about your worth and the value of your contribution?
Although this is not a comprehensive list, it begins to point to behaviors we have that cause the continuation of gender inequality, both in pay and in influence.
How you change the world and change the landscape of gender inequality begins with you acknowledging your biases, acknowledging your own self-sabotaging behaviors, and intervening. Intervene for yourself and be an advocate so other men and women follow suit.
Becoming aware and then taking new actions will begin to close the gap. I know it is not comfortable to jump in, but I have found with numerous women, once you do it — you discover your confidence skyrockets. The first time is challenging, and then it gets easier. I invite you to take one new, unfamiliar, and scary action and be the one that helps close that gap and change the world.
Janet Zaretsky, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine
Janet Zaretsky is a master professional executive coach, Co-founder of Impact Speaking Lab, a corporate trainer, author, and speaker that helps people unleash their brilliance, confidence and visibility in the world. Janet has worked with over 32,000 people in the past 27 years.
Janet is a powerful advocate for ending the gender gap, both in pay and influence. Her work with women has led her to be a frequent contributor to Forbes and the author of the book, “Where’d My Confidence Go… and How Do I Get It Back?”. Known as The BS-to-Brilliance Master, Janet has a gift for having you unapologetically and confidently express yourself – and succeed! – as the unique and powerful professional you are.
Janet's passion for having people express themselves led her to cofound a training organization, Impact Speaking Lab, through which she and her co-founder, Andrew Poles, work with companies to train their employees to be reliably influential in presentations, meetings, sales, and internal and external communication using their neuroscience-based proprietary training methodology.
Additionally, Janet is a two-time TEDX and Keynote Speaker, a corporate trainer and expert in communication and leadership, an International Coach Federation member, Certified Conversational Intelligence Coach, Certified in Behavioral Style Instruments, a graduate of Coach U and Corporate Coach U, former senior program leader for Landmark Worldwide and Co-President of the Austin Chapter of Ellevate Network.