It was the middle of a sunny afternoon and my ten-year-old daughter and I were walking across a parking lot headed into the grocery store. I noticed a woman sitting in a car we were about to pass, her eyes wide as she looked at us and quickly reached across the passenger seat, locking the door. By the time we passed in front of her car she was sitting bolt upright, staring ahead. It was quite a few years ago, but I think I actually stood and glared at her for a moment. (At least, I wanted to. And probably would today!)Bias is alive and well and living in our world, which is not earth-shattering news to those who experience it every day.If people don’t lock their car doors when you pass (for example) or you think it doesn’t affect you think about these:
- Who has made your heart beat a little faster when you noticed them approaching your car, or walking down the street toward you?
- Who caused you to lock your car door or slide your phone onto your lap, holding it in one hand with your thumb on the emergency button?
- Who has made you think, “Oh, I better be friendly because I don’t want them to think I’m prejudiced.”?
- In conversation, when have you informed someone, “I have a really good friend who is (black, gay, Muslim, fill in the blank).”
- Who have you responded positively to simply because they reminded you of somebody you liked, or vice versa?
When we encounter another person we immediately notice three aspects of that person. Most people think it’s their:
- Smile or expression
- Tone of voice
- Manner of walking
- Eye contact or
- Apparent social status
The first things you notice are their (1) gender, (2) race and (3) age. And, if you’re like the rest of us, you react to that person based on those three characteristics.
A gut reaction, positively or negatively projecting attributes on someone without knowing anything else about them, represents a personal bias. The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines bias as “a personal and sometimes unreasoned judgment.”
NEWSFLASH #1: We all have biases.
NEWSFLASH #2: Biases aren’t good or bad.
They just are; they are a reflection of how we see the world. With no other information they cause us to view some things negatively and some things positively – like interviewing a job applicant JUST because she was from a little town in Canada across the river from where I grew up. (Yes, I really did that!)
It’s how we choose to act on those biases that can be good or bad, especially if we violate laws designed to keep us from discriminating against people. Or, when we unfairly attribute positive (or negative) traits to someone based on our personal bias, and then make decisions based on that. (For the record, the applicant from Canada did not get the job.)
Studies abound showing racial and gender bias in hiring and career progression. These are proven biases against people with “ethnic” (as opposed to “white”) sounding names and women: Same resume, different name, different outcome. A study cited in the American Economic Review found that resumes with “white” sounding names were 50% more likely to be called for an interview than those with “African-American” sounding names. (So glad my 17-year-old nephew, DJ, is changing his name from Desquan Jalil to David Joseph.)
Bias isn’t just about race or gender. It’s about age, beliefs, disabilities, education, habits (like smoking), language, money, nationality, physical appearance, politics, religion, salaries, sexual orientation, the neighborhood you came from, weight and anything else that is important to you or is part of your core – usually unconscious – value system.
FACT: less than 15% of American men are over six feet tall, yet almost 60% of male CEOs in the US are over six feet tall. Do you think those hiring managers consciously considered that? Hardly.
Unconscious – or conscious – biases result in unfounded conclusions which can have detrimental effects, especially in hiring when we overlook a potentially excellent candidate because of a personal bias, or when we quickly move a candidate through to hire just because she reminds us of our favorite aunt, Amelia.
Check out our nine tips to avoid being swayed by a bias!
If you wonder why the woman in the car was so quick to lock her door as my daughter and I were about to walk by – I am white. My daughter is black. It was not the first, the only, or the last time we have had, or will have, a similar experience.
Bias is alive and well and living in our world. Whether you recognize it or not.
To get an entirely UNbiased view of your job applicants and employees use a validated, reliable and objective assessment! Contact us for a free trial!
“What we’re really looking for is a nice looking female to sell for us.”
Didn’t that kind of hiring go out with the collapse of Pan Am?
Apparently not – since a business owner just said that to me.
“Sex and the working girl” was cited in a recent synergize! survey as one of several challenges that women in the workforce face that men do not face. Others high on the list included work / life balance (number one at 34% of respondents), being taken seriously, pay inequities and gender stereotypes.
synergize! is excited to launch The Women’s Center to help women in the workforce deal with these unique challenges. (I mean, c’mon … can you imagine somebody saying, “What we’re really looking for is a nice looking guy who can sell for us.”)
Ummmm … I don’t think so.
The Women’s Center consists of programs designed for women to help them develop their potential, deal with their unique challenges and enjoy the support of other women in the process. On August 23rd we will introduce the following programs and services:
- Peer Accountability Groups
- Individual one-on-one coaching
- The Kee to Your Future Mentor Program (a partnership with the Lancaster Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which will be officially launched at the October 6, 2011, Professional Women’s Forum)
- Our four steps to success process to develop stellar employees
Please be our guest for lunch on the 23rd to learn more about these exciting programs. Or, if you’re not close enough to come for lunch, I hope you’ll contact us to learn how The Women’s Center can be a resource for you or for the women on your team.
- August 23, 2011
- 11:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
- FREE lunch
- The Hampton Inn, Greenfield Road, Lancaster, PA
The event is free but you must register to attend. Just contact us and we’ll add you to the list!
Meanwhile … I think I’ll go look for a nice looking guy to sell for me ...
There it was. Right on the side of the road, right by a bus stop.
A big yellow sign from Lamar Advertising with a checkered flag that said, “Gentleman, start your business.”
Gentleman, start your business??
I know this is from the “Gentlemen, start your engines” days when race car drivers were all men. But where has Lamar advertising been?
Looking at the most recent facts from 2009:
- Female-owned businesses have grown at a higher rate than male-owned businesses for the last ten years
- 30% of US businesses – that would be 10.1 million – are owned by women
- Women-owned businesses employ 13 million workers
- 20% of firms with revenue over $1 million are owned by women
- Women are responsible for over 80% of US spending
I’ll bet if they tried, Lamar Advertising could have come up with an equally creative slogan that didn’t overlook the group of business owners that is responsible for $1.9 trillion of revenue in the US annually.
This advertisement may be a perfect example of the Good Old Boy‘s mentality that women in business come up against frequently, which goes hand-in-hand with being taken seriously, cited in a recent survey as the second greatest challenge women face in the workplace that men do not. (The greatest challenge? Work-life balance.)
Women’s reality is that we’ll never be able to get past some of that “Gentleman, start your business” mind-set, which is certainly not to say all men are like that. (And, for the record, my best mentors and best bosses have been men.) The men who do not share that way of thinking should believe us when we say that there really are still some chauvinists out there.
Women in business who have experienced the GOB‘s should understand that in spite of how limiting their viewpoint is, the only limits we really have on our personal success are the ones we place on ourselves. (And that, of course, is true for women or men.) Whether our boss takes us seriously or not we’re the ones responsible for our careers.
Because of the unique challenges women face in the workforce synergize! is developing some new programs for women in business.
- Starting in the fall we will offer two women’s accountability groups – one for women who are new to the workforce and one for business owners. We hope to expand this to other groups in the spring.
- synergize! will partner with the Lancaster Chamber of Commerce to provide the Kee to Your Future mentor program for women over the age of 30. This will be introduced at the Professional Women’s Forum in October.
Women face unique challenges in the workforce. Not worse than those that men face, just different. Women have a long way to go when it comes to pay equity or a voice in upper management. There is more pressure on women to maintain the home front as well as the office. Perhaps those are reasons why so many women are starting businesses today? As a business owner my only ceiling is self-imposed and I set my own schedule.
So, go ahead, women … start your businesses.
And Contact us to learn more about the upcoming women’s programs at synergize!
That is the question.
It is generally a good idea to be a truth teller. But this question refers to whether – and when – to disclose information regarding a disability to an employer.
Workforce Week posed the question in an article last week, specifically related to what they called “invisible disabilities.” Those that are not immediately obvious to the casual observer – learning disabilities, depression or other mental illness, diabetes, cancer or any other health condition that may present challenges to employment but do not necessarily prevent success.
Although there are no legal mandates to make this disclosure should individuals disclose the information? And when? As more organizations truly embrace diversity more individuals with disabilities will work side-by-side with employees without disabilities. How much do they need to know?
What experiences do you have working with or hiring individuals with disabilities?
Please share your thoughts!