Second Generation Bias – A Subtle but Powerful Presence
Deeply embedded and frequently unconscious cultural and organizational biases can be challenged both through small “wins” and by establishing policies that take a whole organization rather than a women-only approach.
- Take active steps to do something that provides confidence in order to build up one’s ability to succeed based on past successes.
- Surround oneself with people who provide positive feedback. “We need to hear we’re good,” Dr. Buse noted. “I was on a panel about STEM careers, and one woman said every time she wasn’t believing in herself, she remembered words from someone who propelled her to move to the next step.”
- Seek out role models.
- Deal with the physical aspect of lacking confidence or having anxiety by doing activities that make one feel more confident. In many cases, that may mean doing yoga, meditation, cardio, or other exercise.
“Universities teach skills to solve problems of a technical nature,” Dr. Buse said. “When someone graduates in engineering or with a STEM degree, we’re not giving them the skills they need to be successful in an organization. This Leadership Lab bridges the gap.”
- Educate women that it’s not their fault; don’t point an accusing finger. “A lot of times, because it’s subtle, women think it’s them and their own individual choices,” Dr. Ibarra said. “It is helping people understand what this is about as a prelude to working together to change it.”
- Create psychological safety in programs such as mentoring opportunities or women’s development seminars. “It’s not easy for people to talk about these things,” Dr. Ibarra said. “They feel they’ll be told, ‘You’re prejudiced or you’re just being a victim.’ We’ve found that it’s really important for women to share their experiences with others who’ve had similar experiences so they know they’re not crazy, and they can get ideas on how to handle (tough) situations.”
- Never lose track of the goal of helping women become better leaders.
This content originally appeared in SWE’s Spring 2014 publication. Edited by Anisa Samarxhiu, Digital Project Manager, CFE Media, asamarxhiu(at)cfemedia.com.