Sheryl Sandberg and Wharton Professor Adam Grant recently authored an article about unconscious gender bias in the workplace. The article describes numerous research studies showing that unconscious bias exists, but unlike the typical article on the subject they actually suggest that awareness of our biases isn’t enough. Moreover, they point out that sometimes creating awareness actually cements our stereotypes, making them even more stubborn. So what do we do about the biases we don’t even realize we have?
Professor Grant did something simple: he told his MBA students he never wanted to see such low female leadership numbers in his own classes again. Sandberg and Grant write:
When we communicate that a vast majority of people hold some biases, we need to make sure that we’re not legitimating prejudice. By reinforcing the idea that people want to conquer their biases and that there are benefits to doing so, we send a more effective message: Most people don’t want to discriminate, and you shouldn’t either.
In other words, you have to actually to do something as simple as giving people an explicit order. Its the parenting equivalent of it not being enough to tell a child that X behavior is naughty….you actually have to tell them explicitly, “Don’t do it!”
One of Fairygodboss‘ goals is to summarize for companies how their female talent views them. Many women are happy with their companies and how they are treated, but for those corporate cultures that don’t do a good job of this, we will consider taking the next step: telling companies explicitly “You can and need to change.”