11 Mar Break the Bias in Business: Pay attention to your inner voice and check your initial judgements ￼
“You even know how to use that thing [grenade launcher]?” A male soldier, who had just arrived in Iraq, asked a female gunner who had been in combat for nine months.”
Tuesday, March 8th, was International Women’s Day and this year’s theme is “Break the Bias.” This theme resonates with me on so many levels. I have always positioned myself in more male-dominated roles as a physical education teacher, a military police officer, and a school administrator. My life’s underlying mission is to thrive in every capacity, regardless of my gender. I have had to prove myself time and time again and sometimes work harder than my male counterparts to achieve the same level of respect and understanding. Through it all, I’ve dealt with countless biases, microaggressions, and harassment. This article includes a few of the many times I’ve observed biases.
“Did you serve in a women’s war?” A question I was asked when I told someone that I was a veteran, which was soon followed by, “did you carry a gun?”
Business leadership is still vastly lopsided, with many more male than female leaders. We have a lot of work to do to close the gender divide. Until then, we need to do our best to break through our own biases and create an environment where everyone feels valued and respected. There are many systemic changes that need to occur such as eliminating the “good-old-boys” clubs, better maternity leave, a deeper understanding of the constraints of nursing moms, and more family-oriented business models, to name a few.
“Wow, you’re young for a principal.” A comment often made even though my same-age male counterparts never received this comment.
Until then, here are a few immediate steps to break the bias in business:
- Eliminate the use of “you guys” – There are so many other terms of inclusion that one can use: Team, everyone, you all or y’all, folks, friends, etc.
- Eliminate calling women “girls” – If we don’t call men “boys,” why do we call women “girls?” This affects everyone on a subconscious level by labeling women as children instead of adults.
- Eliminate the term “bossy” – Assertive women are not bossy. They are leaders. If their leadership style is not desirable, talk to them as an individual, not as a woman who comes across too strong. Additionally, ask yourself if this behavior would be noteworthy if a man exhibited the same assertiveness. Chances are, we wouldn’t think twice about the assertiveness of a man.
- Most importantly, pay attention to your inner voice, your initial judgment, and check what your subconscious may be trying to tell you. I have been guilty of pre-judging women or assuming a man holds the leadership position over a woman. It’s in our nature. If we are aware of our actions and work to change our inner dialogue, it will impact how we think. As the famous saying goes, “our thoughts become our actions.”
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Sirens: How to Pee Standing Up – An alarming memoir of combat and coming back home. This book depicts the time of war and its aftermath. It seamlessly bridges the civilian and military divide and offers clarity to moral injury and post-traumatic stress.
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