The 2022 theme for International Women’s Day is #BreakTheBias.
The International Women’s Day website encourages us to:
Imagine a gender equal world.
A world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination.
A world that is diverse, equitable, and inclusive.
A world where difference is valued and celebrated.
Together we can forge women’s equality.
Collectively we can all #BreakTheBias.
We all have biases. Because our brains are constantly taking information, we rely on mental shortcuts to keep up so we make up assumptions and stereotypes about people’s race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, appearance and other traits. A lot of the time, we jump to conclusions that we might not even be aware that we are making.
Sometimes making assumptions are good, especially if you are in real danger. For example, if a car is coming towards you at high speed whilst you are crossing the road, you don’t wait to see what’s going to happen, you just make a snap judgement about what to do.
However, making assumptions about people can be harmful.
It’s hard to admit our biases, we don’t want to fall into these traps, but we all suffer from making assumptions. This means we all have work to do.
As women, the common biases we face are:
- Likeability bias
- Performance bias
- Maternal bias
- Attribution bias
- Affinity bias
However, knowing about these biases aren’t enough. Gender bias can be really harmful and we need to learn how to counteract them.
Here are 7 ways we can #BreakTheBias:
- Be Informed
Have you ever had the feeling of been ripped off by your mechanic? If you answered yes, you are not alone. Research shows that mechanics altered their prices on purpose depending on how informed callers appear to be about prices.
When callers had no idea about the cost of a repair, women were quoted a higher price than men. But these gender differences disappeared when there was a benchmark price.
- Show Up
Most biases still exist because people don’t understand how harmful they can be. Women role-models in male-dominated spaces help raise awareness. They play a vital role in promoting gender equality and fighting gender bias. (e.g. Billie Jean King in sport, Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In initiative and the #banbossy campaign).
Speaking up allows you and other women to move confidently in male-dominated spaces. Representation matters.
- Knowing How to Respond
It is a sad fact that as a woman, you may still have respond to inappropriate or discriminating comments. For example, when Lauren Conrad was asked on radio “What is your favourite position?”, she came back with a quick-witted this reply: “CEO”.
Although questions and comments like this may have been tolerated in the past, we need to make sure they aren’t anymore. And those perpetuating these gender stereotypes should be held accountable for their behaviour like when Martin Solveig apologised for making a sexist comment during the Ballon d’Or ceremony.
- Check Your Own Bias
We all carry our own gender bias. Throughout our lives we have constantly received messages about what is expected of males and females. These biases become ingrained in us. But, when we are aware of our biases, we can counteract them.
Take a hard look at how biases might be affecting your attitudes or actions. Be aware that the relationships, language, and behaviours that come naturally to you may express bias. Think about what conclusions you jump to about what boys or girls should dress like, act like, think about and feel.
You can counteract these stereotypes by finding images that contradict them. Looking at images that do not fit traditional gender stereotypes e.g. women doing construction work or men in care-taking roles, can actually reduce our implicit, unconscious biases.
Put these images in a place where you can see them often e.g. save them to your phone or use them as your screensaver.
- Watch Your Language
The language we use can send messages about our assumptions based on gender. For example, saying how “pretty girls look” or how “strong boys are”.
Try using gender-neutral words like “they” or say “she or he” when talking about people in the abstract. Say “firefighter” instead of “fireman” and “police officer” instead of “policeman.” Be aware of statements that start with “all girls” or “all boys.”
- Be Held Accountable
We all are blind to some of our biases, we need feedback. Talk to friends and family members you trust about your own gender biases and ask them whether you are expressing gender biases that you might not be aware of.
Modelling this kind of openness and willingness to admit your bias to your loved ones, allows them to also be aware of their own biases and how they can counteract them.
It can be very challenging to receive feedback from your loved ones, but it’s a key part of being accountable and eliminating gender bias.
- Expand Your Horizons
Educate yourself with books, games, TV shows, movies, art, etc. that show people from diverse racial and cultural backgrounds demonstrating non-traditional gender roles, images that you do not often see in mainstream media.
Step outside your comfort zone and try a variety of activities, especially the ones you assume should be for men.
By choosing to #BreakTheBias, you are choosing to be better for yourself, other women and future generations. You are leading by example. Change happens when you step outside of your comfort zone, raise your standards and require others to do the same.
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