By Jung-Kyu McCann, General Counsel at Druva
Unconscious bias is still a real thing in the workplace and it will likely be present for years to come.
Having spent decades working at a number of different companies across Silicon Valley, including some very well known brands, I’ve witnessed first hand the challenges associated with the everyday workplace environment. For example, meetings or group collaboration can be daunting for many women, especially if unconscious bias is prevalent in the workplace. It can become toxic and impair the growth of a successful and healthy work culture.
The good news is I believe the workplace has evolved from a state of conscious bias. Most people now recognise that the workplace should be an equal and safe place for all. But we all have unconscious biases. For women, we are still faced with daily minor instances that can hinder our ability to develop upward career paths. Businesses need to play their part, of course, but I’m going to focus on some techniques I’ve learned along the way to help women feel empowered and take control when they notice unconscious bias.
First and foremost is to be your own champion. No one will advocate you as strongly as you should advocate for yourself. The more enticing work opportunities, which offer visibility and leadership, are often given to the first person to raise their hand. You should feel confident in your skills and capabilities, and in your ability to deliver outstanding final projects. You have to feel comfortable outside of your comfort zone. Good leaders will help you succeed, so I encourage you to raise your hand – do not sit idly by while others take advantage of your opportunities. As the saying goes, you miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.
Next, it’s important to make sure you take a seat at the table, both physically and psychologically. Settling for a seat at the back of the room or against the wall can make you invisible to those at the table and removes you from the intellectual challenge and visibility of the conversation. Arrive early, take a seat at the table and feel confident that you’ve earned that seat to participate in the conversation. Every person brings a unique perspective to a conversation, and it’s the collection of these ideas that make a company, project or campaign truly stand out.
If you feel nervous about taking the seat and contributing to the conversation, I assure you this is totally normal. I conquered this nervousness by memorialising my thoughts in writing and bringing my written notes to meetings. I found these notes gave me enough confidence to add my perspective to the conversation and have a great impact in the room. Often, if we’ve practiced what we want to say, it can seem less intimidating to raise our points in meetings that might be dominated by bold personalities.
Studies regularly highlight that men are more likely to apply for a job, even when only meeting 60 percent of the required criteria. Conversely, women are far less likely to apply for a job unless they feel they meet 100 percent of the required criteria. Let these stats act as a reminder this International Women’s Day that we should not only be celebrating our successes in the technology industry – but also recognising the work yet to be done. Unconscious bias is something that we will likely be battling for years to come, but the growth of our collective confidence, combined with the growing commitment of leaders and companies, will ensure we continue to close the gap.
Here’s to celebrating the women that have inspired us all along the way and the many more to come.