International Women’s Day is just around the corner. This year’s theme #BreakTheBias is so close to our hearts and mission here at Girls of Impact. The theme imagines a gender-equal world free of bias, stereotypes and discrimination. A world that is diverse, equitable, and inclusive. A world where difference is valued and celebrated.
As we enter the third year of the pandemic, where many inequalities for women still exist, how can we collectively #BreakTheBias? How can we co-create a world where young girls and women can reach their full potential and choose careers they truly love? This blog will tackle this question with practical measures you can take every day.
Firstly, what is bias, and why does it exist?
We hear the word bias a lot, but what does it mean? According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, bias is a personal and sometimes unreasoned judgment known as prejudice. It doesn’t sound great. However, the reality is we all carry some form of bias.
Unconscious or implicit bias favours certain people or groups based on learned stereotypes. Unconscious bias is harder to overcome because, to some extent, it is hard-wired in humans. We tend to make quick decisions based on incomplete information, and over time, it becomes implicit biased information that reinforces stereotypes.
While implicit bias is hard-wired into our interactions with other people, it can lead to discrimination, lack of diversity, and fixed mindset thinking.
Breaking the bias is super crucial, especially when we add other layers ‚ like disability, sexuality, etc., in an attempt to unlearn biases by looking into the decisions our brains make in everyday situations.
Five everyday actions you can do to prevent implicit bias
The great news is implicit biases can be unlearned. In honour of IWD2022, here are four practical ways you can #BreakTheBias every day.
1. Diversify your friendship circles
We form unconscious biases based on someone’s ethnicity, gender identity, age, sexual orientation, marital status, education, and many other social categories. Because we also tend to socialise with people who are similar to us, it can often lead to forming bias about other groups.
We can break the bias by consciously interacting with people outside our usual friendship circles. That way, we learn so much about other people’s perspectives, enriching our lives because we will see the world differently.
2. Spread the good cheer and vibes
Research shows that implicit bias responds to the current input. In other words, new experiences can replace old narratives. But what about the amazing women in history — or should we say HER-story.
Some of the world’s most influential changemakers in STEM are women, including Marie Curie, Rosalind Franklin, Dorothy Hodgkin, Katherine Johnson and Elizabeth Blackwell. Other noteworthy women include Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Harriet Tubman, Emmeline Pankhurst, Rosa Parks, Frida Kahlo, Kamala Harris and Maya Angelou.
The next time you’re at a dinner party or family event, share stories of successful women you know. Celebrate them because one day, your name could be there too — or maybe it already is #DreamBig.
3. Change the way you see the world
Regardless of whether you hold specific stereotypes yourself, you can defeat negative biases by countering them head-on.
A big one we see in our world is the false narrative that women don’t belong in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) careers.
This stereotype is still prevalent today and stops girls and young women from even considering careers in STEM in the first place. According to an HBR article, many organisations attribute the lack of women in STEM to personal choices or lack of talent. However, it is actually gender bias, and an increasing amount of research supports that view.
4. Practice self-care
Bias is more likely to surface when mentally or physically exhausted or highly stressed. It’s because when emotionally drained, we’re less effective at processing things and rely more on unconscious habits.
How will you break the bias?
The four approaches above won’t help us eliminate our implicit bias entirely overnight. It takes self-awareness and also working together collectively with a commitment to breaking bias and smashing glass ceilings.
The more we chip at it, the more #BreakTheBias. Happy International Women’s Day everyone.