Unconscious Bias at Play

All those unconscious biases that govern our behaviour, our thoughts and words. The ones that can so easily hold us back…

We all harbour unconscious biases. Thoughts, words, actions, values and beliefs we learned on our mother’s knees and now so much a part of our day-to-day, that we don’t even know they are there.

I often hear women leaders complain about the unconscious bias that exists in the workplace. This is usually directed towards men, towards the entrenched patterns of behaviour, criteria used to judge performance, progress, etc. Or to the systems, the culture of the organisation.

What we fail to realise is that we women have many of the same unconscious biases. They just show up differently.

We’ve all grown up in a society that is institutionally misogynistic, racist, ageist, religious, even right handed.  And we learned at a very early age, what to think, how to act, what to believe, and value, so that we can get on, and get ahead in this world of ours.

Men and women; white and coloured; Christian, Muslim, jew, all have different shaming and taming. All of it geared to maintain the status quo, the beliefs, the behaviours, the institutions that serve those few in power.  And of course, that’s what maintains the social order.

That order is now breaking down, in large part due to the efforts and campaigning of many women, people of colour, indeed every and all those brave souls who have challenged the established order.  Whilst much progress has been made, there are still many hurdles to overcome.

I encourage my clients to look within for their own unconscious biases before challenging those they see in others around them.  Often, it is the same taming — simply seen through a different lens.  As women, we need to be aware that we are not only subject to the taming we’ve received as children, but likely passing much of that on to our children.

Take the ambitious woman who complains about how the unconscious bias of her male colleagues is holding her back, yet drops her son off at nursery with an admonition:

“Don’t cry! You’re not a girl”

This is unconscious bias at play, taming the next generation. And it is something we women and men need to unlearn. That can only come when we first are aware of those unconscious biases, and then get curious about them. About the gift that each of them has to give us, if only we stop long enough to listen, to learn, unlearn and relearn.

If you’re curious and would like to explore some of the unconscious biases that may be holding you back, book a no obligation call today. Let’s take the next step towards you being a more conscious and authentic leader.

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