Addressing Bias and Building a Better Future
March is Women’s History Month, celebrated in the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom. A celebration of women's contributions to history, culture and society, this month-long event is complemented and reinforced by the celebration of International Women’s Day (IWD) on March 8.
The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day is Break the Bias, with a focus on raising awareness about the most common biases women experience and encouraging constructive dialogue around this topic. So, as we take this month to celebrate all that women have achieved, Break the Bias provides a focal point for the important work that must still be done to raise awareness of and eliminate gender bias globally.
Bias exists in many different forms and people of all genders can consciously or unconsciously make biased comments or behave in other ways that disadvantage women. As a professional woman, I’ve experienced bias over my 30+ year career — whether it was maternal bias, performance bias or attribution bias. It’s frustrating and often infuriating. But it’s how we choose to respond to or overcome that bias that is most important.
We have to start by assuming good intent and that most of the time, bias is not malicious. We must also be confident in ourselves and our abilities and be comfortable with what we bring to the table. We must raise awareness of the bias because it’s only through awareness that people can learn and understand their bias(es) and take steps to reverse it. Sometimes, we are in a position to respond directly and appropriately when the bias occurs with the intent to educate others on the impact. Other times, taking the conversation offline may be most appropriate. You can also find an ally and be an ally.
In leadership, we have a responsibility and obligation to address bias when we see it — through 1-1 coaching, balancing airtime, and being fair in how we treat and credit people. For example, in a meeting, revisiting a dismissed idea or giving credit to the original idea sharer if someone else is taking credit for an idea shared. We must use our influence to raise awareness of the biases that exist, advocate for change and work alongside our teammates to eliminate bias.
I’m personally thrilled, as the Executive Champion of Conduent’s Women’s Impact Network, to take part in the many conversations and activities we have planned in honor of IWD and Women’s History Month this year. Throughout the month, we’ll celebrate Conduent women and their accomplishments while also sharing their perspectives on the challenges and biases they’ve faced along the way. (Look for their stories our social media channels!)
In addition, we’ll continue to advance our organization-wide commitment to an inclusive workplace through various discussions that will help us recognize and celebrate the differences that make us stronger. I’m particularly excited to participate on an internal panel discussion on Understanding Biases and How to Break Them, which will be open to all of our associates around the globe.
I hope that all of our associates, partners, clients and colleagues will join us during this month-long celebration of all that women have achieved, while also reflecting on the biases that sometimes hold us back, and helping to break down the barriers for ourselves, our colleagues and future generations to come.