This two-part event started with a session on Unconscious Bias presented by the Yarbrough Group. Mother/daughter business consultant partners Elaine Yarbough and Lindsay Burr Singla shared their multigenerational perspective on the unconscious bias within us all, ways to identify them in the moment and tips for mitigating unconscious bias (specifically towards women) in the workplace.
The duo explained several examples of common unconscious biases (automatic perceptions and judgments) that are present in everyday atmospheres, which was evident in many “quick judgment” activities we all took part in. The adjectives used to describe someone based on their gender (all other things equal) are an example common in our society. Men of power/experience are often described as leaders, assertive, successful, whereas their female counterparts may be perceived as bossy, pushy, selfish, etc.
In order to mitigate these biases, we were advised to use our own leadership and be responsive whenever we see a false judgment portrayed. One must verbally reframe the negative adjective (pushy) into the positive opposite adjective (persuasive) IN A PUBLIC SETTING (speak up in a meeting). Then we must ask for feedback from a trusted ally on why someone perceives the subject with the negative trait IN PRIVATE.
Yarbough and Singla also expressed the importance of Polarity Thinking – the concept of having a healthy balance of two paired values/characteristics, rather than “having too much of your strength, which leads to becoming your weakness.” (ex. Expert/Learner, Directive/Collaborative, Confidence/Humility, Individual/Team). Women are socially expected to be on one side of these polarities, and it is our job as leaders to change that vision.
The second half of this event consisted of a panel of four incredible women from Atlantic Broadband, Comcast, ESPN and NESN along with moderator Alison Martin-Books, founder of Pass the Torch for Women Foundation. In an open Q&A forum, they discussed the importance of mentoring and establishing allies with other women in the workplace, sharing their perspectives and experiences along the way.
Mentorships are more of a teacher/student relationship, whereas allies are peer/peer relationships. Mentorships should not be forced or manufactured, but rather natural and preferably “works with you in the moment.”
An ally is someone who is quick to back you up, states the positives of one’s performance, and compliments when others are shooting you down. Especially in our industry, women often think of other women as their toughest competitors – instead, we need to be others’ cheerleaders and support system. Allies help each other with the same problems, so it is important to be willing to share that we all have the same struggles and vulnerability instead of always trying to shoot each other down in fear of competition.
The panel left us with another important message: There are an abundance of opportunities, more than ever before. Your time for advancement and promotion will come.