Bias is everywhere.
We’re surrounded by it.
And it’s natural. We are alive today as a species because of biases. But it has a tangible impact on our personal and professional lives. Biases shape us and our experience.
As primary caregivers, women have felt the impact of biases and expectations more keenly during the pandemic. Last year women in my network felt like they were being expected to do everything at home and at work. This year, I’m hearing more and more stories of managers acknowledging that it’s tough, but not making any allowances. As we talk about bias and explore this topic for International Women’s Day – think about how you, as a manager or a colleague, made allowances and space for your team.
What’s the impact?
Do not underestimate how exhausting biases are. All of us have dragged themselves through the pandemic through sheer will power. Leaders need to think about how they are energizing their female talent with opportunities for progression, new skills and collaboration across the business. Empowered by the great resignation, people are reassessing their options. We are in a war for talent and how biases show up in your work culture have the power to determine which companies retain and attract the best employees.
There has been discussion about the future of work, but over the last two years we’ve all placed much more emphasis on, and realized the importance of, community. For me the future of work and the future of community are inextricably linked. Employees want to work where they identify with the purpose and mission of the company, and yes, they also want more flexibility. And who can blame them? The financial odds are stacked against them and so they’ve turned to their community and sought comfort from them. In turn the value they place on purpose has increased. We cannot recreate or enhance these feelings of connection by bringing people into a nondescript building every day. What we can do is showcase our sense of community, camaraderie and purpose that reminds people why this company is where they want to grow their career.
What can business leaders do?
There are no quick fixes to #BreakingTheBias. We should not simplify the amount of work involved. Addressing biases is difficult work and it is a personal choice to put in the time and effort. People want to grow and evolve and know that removing bias is an important part of being their best selves. . But joining in the journey can be emotional and pit you against societal norms – it is not a comfortable place to be. To be successful, we have to provide education and support for everyone.
The first thing we can all do is not be resistant to change. That’s not an easy ask, because the brain’s immediate reaction to change is to resist it. The brain is like a rubber band. In its steady state it’s relaxed, but information that challenges what we know or believe pushes to where it is uncomfortable. Embrace the stretch, get comfortable with being uncomfortable, know that it’s OK and push past to embrace the learning.
The second is to listen to what your co-workers and colleagues are saying. Focus on creating a working environment that meets the needs of employees, regardless of the person’s physical location. To my point above, work is now fused with community, the future of each is intertwined.
The role of data
Seeking to #BreakTheBias, starts by adopting a data driven approach. It sets the foundation for setting clear, measurable goals that can be incorporated into long term planning. With the right data across the employee lifecycle, businesses can better understand what processes need to be reengineered.
The good news is that for every part of the employee lifecycle, companies have data. It’s everywhere and it’s in a lot of different places, which can make collating and disaggregating it a significant undertaking. But it is a necessary and valuable one because once you have done so you’ll be able to generate the insights needed to drive and sustain change at a company level.
At Cloudera we are, like many companies, at the beginning of this journey. We have invested in DE&I data scientists to help us better understand our employees’ experience and interactions with bias so that we can develop programmes that drive real change. For us our bias busters training has had phenomenal success. It’s not mandatory but has been undertaken by 86% of our managers with an over 75% NPS score.
We are also delighted today to have been recognized today by Great Places to Work (GPTW) as a 2022 Best Workplace for Women in Ireland. GPTW felt that we had strong proportionate representation of women already in management and senior management positions as well as excellent focus in our Culture Audit submission, on removing gender bias from all forms of decision making.
I’m proud that Clouderan’s are embracing a learning mindset and that we’re seeing the results of that work. I know that as individuals and as collective we’re committing ourselves to #BreakTheBias.
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