How can increased resilience help us to overcome bias?

I contributed to a few different initiatives for International Women’s Day and as I’ve shared my perspective on the theme of #breakthebias I’ve consistently found the same message coming through.

It all starts with education.
That education begins by sharing how we all work and that as humans we are naturally wired for bias:
  • We seek out people who are like us so that we fit in and feel safe and secure.
  • We find it easier to connect with people who have similar experiences to us because it gives us common ground to start from.
  • We use our past experiences to filter and interpret the world, which reinforces stereotypes without us realising it.

As individuals, this helps us to find other people who most easily understand us and our needs, and can help us survive in the wild, but when we’re in survival mode it also means that we tend to exclude people that we don’t connect with or who we feel are different.

While this approach might help us to survive in the short term, in the long term it’s not so effective.
Being surrounded by people who think in a similar way to you means that there is less space for new perspectives. Opening up to see the world differently creates space for new ideas and innovation – helping us to overcome the bigger challenges.
As our challenges become bigger and more global – saving our planet from environmental disasters, fighting pandemics and dealing with a potential world war – now, more than ever, we need the voices contributing to bring diverse perspectives and we need to be willing to listen to everyone to discover potential solutions.
How do we create a space so that we can be open to listen?
  • first we need to recognise that we all have this inherent bias, and understand that this is nothing to be ashamed of
  • as we discover our own biases, we need to give ourselves the space to get curious about it. It can feel scary to discover that there’s a completely different way of seeing things in the world, but it’s only through asking the “stupid questions” that we get to explore and understand the different perspectives.
  • as we discover these new worlds we need to stay open to hear about and honour other people’s experiences, beliefs and ideas without feeling threatened by them.
As we start to understand and uncover our own biases we can help guide others to discover their own.
One of the biggest things that gets missed in this discussion is recognising just how scary it can be to realise your own bias, and to open yourself up to discover someone else’s world.
As people discover ideas that question who they are and the way they live, they can feel extremely insecure – which may result in them resisting the new ideas, and the more entrenched the bias, the more difficult this can be.
This is where it helps to have a grounding of resilience. When you have a stable foundation and know that your identity and the truth of who you are goes beyond your experiences, it is easier to be open and listen. When you know that you are ok in each moment, discovering new worlds that may have consequences for your future becomes less scary.
By facing your own biases and understanding how scary it can be, and seeing how resilient you are you will be in a better position to help others (with potentially greater biases) to face it for themselves.
Where might you have unconscious bias?
  • Is there a group of people that you dismiss or feel uncomfortable with who see the world differently to you?
  • What could you do to find out a bit more about their world and why they believe what they do?
  • How could you start a conversation?

The first step is to start recognising and noticing where your bias exists, and being brave enough to admit it.

If you’d like to continue this discussion around confidence and resilience and how it can help you show up more authentically, come over and join the discussions in Emma’s free Authentic Visibility For Women in Tech Facebook group.

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