working women

What We Can Do About the Unconscious

Countless studies show that unconscious bias affects our preferences, choices and decisions.  I’ve always been fascinated by this topic because people don’t generally think we make stupid mistakes — much less the same stupid mistakes — over and over.  From Nobel prize winner Daniel Kahneman’s best-selling “Thinking Fast and Slow” to the latest book I’m reading, Bridget Schulte’s “Overwhelmed: Work, Love and Play“, its clear we are not as rational as we think we are.  This NYTimes article shows that even when its about the weather (i.e. the gendered names of hurricanes), people have biases (these, with life-and-death consequences).

In the context of gender in the office, women often tell me things like: “Its unintentional”, and that people “mean well” but that unfair things happen even when the perpetrators are “nice people, and not someone I’d consider sexist”.  The academics and journalists who write about these topics are aware of the very same anecdotes and the fact that these biases pervade women as well as men.  So what can we do about it?  Does writing another blog post or tweeting about our flawed cognition really change anything?

One of my hopes for Fairygodboss is to create a lasting, living document of both conscious and unconscious company behavior.  With enough anecdotes, incidents and decisions, whether a policy or culture is “unintentional” stops mattering as much as the actual outcomes and facts.  If you’re a woman who is worried that you’re being unfair to an employer by discussing something that you think was not “intentional”, consider how many “well-meaning” incidents it takes to add up to an unacceptable situation.  Sometimes a truly well-meaning company may not even notice something is happening until the weight of evidence becomes apparent.  You truly might be in a isolated situation.  But it also might be a lot more pervasive than you think.  Sharing is one way to find out and we hope you share by joining us.

 

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One thought on “What We Can Do About the Unconscious

  1. Pingback: Ladies, We Need to Support Female Managers | Fairygodboss

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