The theme of International Women’s Day (IWD) on 8th March is “break the bias” and at eg.1, we decided to use this moment for reflection.
As specialists in helping organisations improve their diversity and inclusion (D&I) practices, we also know the importance of holding the mirror up. That’s why for this IWD, we’ve approached three of our talented consultants to get their views on how to “break the bias”. From asking what an unbiased world would look like, to understanding how they themselves are challenging the status quo. We want to understand their perspective on bias, discrimination, and stereotyping.
Question one: What would an ideal world without bias look like?
Qing Mak, Head of Market Intelligence and Diversity & Inclusion at eg.1, answered: “An ideal world without bias, is where people are able to understand others without judgement or preconceived stereotypes. Some employees may also think that ‘banter’ is harmless, but it can be quite the opposite.”
Anna Gildenberg, Senior Associate at eg.1, commented: “For me, it is one where people acknowledge, understand, and celebrate our differences as individuals, rather than pretending that everyone’s life and experiences are uniform. This takes tremendous social, cultural, and personal effort and understanding – a world without bias is not about treating everyone the same, but about opening our hearts and minds to others to ensure all voices are heard and appreciated equally.”
Lisa Tomlinson, Engagement Manager at eg.1, adds: “An unbiased working world is one that is wholly based on meritocracy. Where everyone is valued and respected, assumptions are dismantled and there are no restrictive social constructs. Marginalisation – such as those based on race, religion, age, gender, social class, ability, or sexual orientation – wouldn’t exist.
Question two: What is the one thing that you, personally, are doing today to “break the bias”?
Gildenberg comments: “I’m being curious and asking questions. I’m also encouraging my colleagues to challenge established ways of thinking and working – as those are often reflective of just one viewpoint or lifestyle. At the same time, I’m trying to be more open with speaking about my own experience and – although it is a cliché! – bringing my authentic self to all aspects of my life.”
Tomlinson responded: “It’s impossible to pick just one! But I’m being empathetic, championing other women, really listening to colleagues and clients, avoiding categorisation, and embracing cognitive diversity (understanding that people think, act, and feel differently to me). All the while being authentic, unapologetic, celebrating my own successes and trying to embody change.”
Mak adds: “I’m taking the time to really get to know my colleagues (their families, background, interests etc), particularly those from different backgrounds than me. It helps me to get a better understanding of my colleague’s personal situations, rather than allowing potentially incorrect assumptions to infiltrate my thinking.”
Question three: What can leaders in professional services do?
Tomlinson says: “Champion inclusion, mentor, challenge negative stereotypes and put character at the forefront of performance. Women shouldn’t have to compete to secure or maintain just ‘one seat’ at the table. All should be supported. Also empower everyone’s voice. The quietest person, might just have the best idea.”
Mak answered: “Leaders should go out of their way to promote the achievements of others, where possible. Showcasing diversity in success, from a range of employees. Representation is crucial to the diversity agenda and leaders can support this by celebrating the success of others more.”
Gildenberg concludes: “In recent years, we have seen professional services firms become more aware of the importance of diversity and inclusion, however, there is more to be done. Their leadership needs to welcome not only ‘visible’ diversity such as gender, but diversity of thoughts and backgrounds. Different cultural and family experiences, education, career paths. As one of our candidates put it, ‘most organisations are now happy with me not looking and sounding like their leadership, but they are still wrapping their heads around me not thinking like them’”.