The theme for International Women’s Day last year was ‘Choose to Challenge.’ In an article I posted on LinkedIn to celebrate the movement and the moment, I chose to challenge inaction. The exercise of researching and writing the story caused me to question my own responsibility and whether I was doing enough personally to improve women’s equality and equity.
The more I thought about it over the past year during my second maternity leave, the more I realized the answer was, no, not really. I felt compelled to do more and decided to apply to and accept a new role at Hitachi Vantara as the company’s first Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer. While the focus of this role is to promote inclusion for all, I’d like to spend a moment to raise awareness of the challenges facing women, as we are in the midst of International Women’s Day (IWD), and month.
This year’s theme for IWD is ‘Break the Bias.’ For anyone thinking bias doesn’t really exist, I’d recommend ‘Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men’ by Caroline Criado Perez. The plentiful examples of bias in every walk of life including healthcare, parenting, disaster relief, jobs, transport, policy-setting and politics are revealing of a global society with a long way to go toward equality and equity.
Bias is prevalent everywhere. In the course of my professional life, I’ve never experienced visible bias from anyone; quite often, it’s the invisible, unintentional biases that can be the most damaging. These are decisions made subconsciously or with a lack of awareness of the impact on others. Whether by business leaders or data scientists writing algorithms, unintentional biases can creep into decisions, be they man made or artificial.
One way through this fog is through storytelling and the proactive sharing of experiences across all levels of companies. Do this, and you can raise common levels of understanding and empathy, fostering an environment in which greater representation can flourish.
I’m an optimist and believe the majority of people want to do good, leave a positive legacy and support others. In the spirit of this year’s focus on bias, I encourage all to find safe spaces to share stories, both positive and challenging. Let’s listen with open hearts to the experiences of others and learn from their stories. And let’s all make sure we ask ourselves, ‘Have I considered every angle with this decision, or could a bias have crept in?’
In my new role, I am committed to reviewing our policies and processes to remove bias wherever possible and finding ways for us to share our stories as part of our everyday working lives. We also want to share stories on specific days like International Women’s Day. For example, I’m delighted that Jessica Cox will speak to our employees this week to share her story of determination to become the world’s first armless pilot.
With more human-centered leadership, our people will feel more valued, our decision-making will improve from diverse perspectives, and ultimately our businesses will perform better.
What will you do to Break the Bias?