How do biases blind us

No picking up the kids.

How our biases blind us

I recently heard a highly successful regional entrepreneur expound about his own work ethic and his expectations of staff. If I work 12 hours, he remarked, I expect them to work 12 hours as well. On the surface, fair enough: He’s a hard-working man, known for his stamina and financial savvy, not to mention his money-making ability. What’s wrong with expecting staff to stand beside him? But he went on: "It would kill and frustrate me," he added, "if an employee said they had to go and pick up the kids at 4:30."

On International Women’s Day (IWD) 2022, as we cross our arms in an "x", united in "Breaking the Bias" against women, we’re beginning to understand that the workplace’s Great Reshuffle is a playing field leveler.

The Great Reshuffle, touted by a LinkedIn CEO who happens to be male, is a reconceptualization of work models and company values. It’s happening whether we like it or not. It acknowledges that the vast majority of employees took something positive from COVID-19: We like remote work and want more of it, at least some of the time.

What does flexibility to pick up the kids mean for a working mother or father? Ask around. How many women have put their careers on hold because they couldn’t juggle the demands of child care and a job? What would it have meant to them if Mr. 12-Hours had waved them out the door, content in the knowledge that they were only a Zoom call away? Or that they’d power up their laptop as soon as the kids had been fed?

Prime employers of women, like John Deere, the tractor maker, and DHL, the logistics company, are vying for female talent, in part, through executive leadership’s commitment to gender equality.

Diageo, the multinational alcohol company, studies its own gender pay gap. It reported this year that the disparity between men’s and women’s pay in its Great Britain and Scotland offices had fallen to 1.3%. We can only eliminate inequities if we’re measuring them in the first place. Diageo also aspires to have women fill half of its leadership roles by 2030.

I’m a fan of talent. The best and brightest are welcome at Republic Bank every day. But how do we attract them? For many women and men, the answer is work flexibility. How many of us open our eyes in the morning and turn to our phones looking for overnight communication from colleagues? That’s work, and it should be counted as such. Though the Great Reshuffle might advocate sending those emails during working hours, sitting in line waiting on the kids while planning the agenda for a marketing meeting? Also on the clock.

Over the years, RBL Guyana has supported over 600 female entrepreneurs with skills training and motivational courses through the Venture Out! Programme with our partner, UN-affiliated EMPRETEC. Our partnership with Women Across Differences has also helped hundreds of teen mothers get back to school and work. We’ve sponsored women’s cricket and partnered with the Canadian High Commissioner on the International Women’s Day Fair.

At RBL Guyana, 17 out of 30 managers are women. We are intent on keeping the hiring pipeline moving so that even more women continue into senior executive positions.

Globally, business leaders are acknowledging the bias before we can break it. The best employers of women now incentivize their leaders to make progress on diversity of all sorts. Next to a sales target, possibly having a diversity hiring target, or a goal for elevating female managers.

Cross your arms today. It may seem phony at first, but it might also start a conversation, or even a conversion to a more equitable and inclusive workplace.

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