Are you Guilty of Bias? Read this before you answer
We likely can all agree that it’s been an interesting six months since our lives were derailed by Covid-19. Besides everything else, all of us had to rethink how to do business in isolation and under social distancing rules.
Nevertheless, it is safe to assume that we are equally anxious to get back to “normal”. And while none of us really knows when that will be, we do know that, eventually, we will be back to meeting clients face to face – not just in virtual meeting rooms.
So, in preparation for that time – here’s a quick recap about working with women… check your gender biases at the door. But before you think, “I don’t have any gender biases” – consider the following story.
Do male traits make you better?
Recently during a small “porch-party” at home, the topic of the differences between male and female behaviors came up. After several examples were bandied about, one fellow said, “Well I must be a woman because I love to shop and I always ask lots of question.” This led to laughter and comments like, “I guess you’re a girl” and “you’re just a wuss.” In order to bring the conversation back, I said “it is normal for people to have a variety of different characteristics and, in fact, many women, myself included, exhibit more male characteristics”. What completely surprised me was that one guest said, “Do you think that makes you better?” – she assumed I was boasting.
Here was bias facing me head-on. Female characteristics, even in a social context, are interpreted as not as desirable as male characteristics.
Gauging your own gender bias
So, before bragging that you treat women the same as men, consider this – how do you behave socially when your guard is down? Have you used the term “retail therapy” when referring to a woman shopping? Have you ever told a woman “you should have married rich”? Have you ever said of your relationship “my partner is high maintenance”?
What about how you behave in a professional environment. While you may watch your “p’s” and “q’s” around clients – how often have you said to people you work with, “she’s pretty pushy” or “she’s aggressive” when talking about a woman who speaks her mind? What about using words like “shrill”, “emotional”, “bossy”? In a meeting, have you ever cut a woman off to make your point or disparaged what she had to contribute?
Remember it’s not always the big actions that matter most – it’s the small social and business interactions that speak loudest about you and how you think about women – the roll of an eye, or a sigh, a condescending pat on the back – that’s all it takes for women to brand you as “not so female-friendly”.
Letting women voice their POV makes you look good
What makes you, or anyone, stand out is your ability to actively listen and constructively make room in the conversation to understand someone else’s point of view – whether that view is similar or different to yours.
When a woman talks, listen to understand how she perceives the world or a business problem – be respectful even when her views conflict with your own – don’t make any gender assumptions, even socially.
Tall order for sure…but completely doable if you really care to project an image of someone who cares and has the strength of character to allow a woman to express herself.