If you are like most people, you will tend to think of yourself as fair, logical, and unbiased.  And on the conscious level, you may be right!  However, scientific studies show that our conscious mind is responsible for only 5% of our decisions.  This means that 95% of the decisions we make are driven by our unconscious beliefs and biases.  What often comes as a shock is that our unconscious beliefs (shaped by our cultures/families/conditioning) can sometimes stand in stark contradiction to even our most cherished conscious principles. Delving into the unconscious part of ourselves is a life-long journey which takes great courage and humility.  It is a crucial part of self-growth and improvement. 

So, what does this have to do with workplace inclusivity?  Well thankfully, in recent decades we have largely eradicated overt and structural gender bias in the workplace.  But because so much of our behavior and decisions are driven by our unconscious minds, gender bias is still a reality in our workplace – though it is more subtle, and harder to spot.  Studies show that women do indeed have different experiences in the workplace.  Citing examples from a variety of sources and studies, here are some of the ways unconscious gender bias can manifest in the workplace:

  • Women tend to be interrupted, or spoken over, in meetings more often than men.
  • Women tend to operate under a higher-resolution microscope than their male counterparts do.  Their mistakes and failures are scrutinized more carefully and punished more severely. 
  • Women tend to get less frequent and lower-quality performance feedback than men.
  • Compared to male peers, women are more often excluded from meetings or collaborations which they should logically be a part of based on their roles.
  • Women tend to be less embedded in networks that offer opportunities to gather vital information and garner support.
  • Women are 24% less likely to be offered advice from a senior leader than men.
  • Women are 25-46% more likely to be hired with blind applications or auditions.
  • Men apply for a job when they meet only 60% of the qualifications, but women apply only if they meet 100% of them.
  • Women who self-promote can face backlash since it can be viewed as violating the norm of female passiveness and being humble. Whereas male self-promotion is an accepted norm. *

Unconscious biases have a high impact to the environment of the workplace, and it has become important for everyone to consciously choose to become aware of their thoughts and behaviours, and then act accordingly.

The key for us to continue making progress and here are some ways that can help identify unconscious biases:

Accept that unconscious bias is real – and everyone has it 

This is often the most difficult step.  Having unconscious biases does not make you a bad person, it just means you are human!  And since corporate work cultures represent the collective consciousnesses of it employees, there will be some level of unconscious bias in any workplace (in spite of our best intentions). 

  • Awareness the way to empower yourself

Once you can accept that unconscious bias is real, you can start getting curious about how it may be manifesting. Read up on the subject, attend Diversity and Inclusion training sessions, think about some of the examples above and become more observant. During the decision-making process, document your thoughts, and see if a pattern emerges and if there is an influence of a preconceived notion.   

  • How to break this reflex action and empower yourself

Applying Cook Ross’ P.A.U.S.E (a five-step framework) that helps identify and disrupt unconscious biases while making decisions.  Take a moment, or many moments to practice the PAUSE today and you’ll find yourself making better decisions every day.

Ultimately, the way to combat unconscious bias is to become more conscious of it.  And our goal at Societe Generale goes beyond this – we not only want to shift away from unconscious bias, we want to move toward unconscious inclusivity.  It is an ambitious goal for sure, but since ‘Diversity and Inclusion at Societe Generale is beyond a legal obligation and is an integral part of our strategy. Earlier this year, Societe Generale reinforced its action in favour of gender diversity and the visibility of women by signing the #JamaisSansElles charter. You can also read more about our diversity initiatives at Societe Generale Global Solution India.

*Some recommended reading:

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