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Stereotyping Good, Gender Bias Bad

26 Jun

Let me start with an important distinction between “sex” and “gender.”

Haven’t we all heard the rebuke “You shouldn’t stereotype!”?  Well actually it’s not such a bad thing.  What is not a good thing is gender bias … and we all exhibit it.  Seriously, “it’s in our genes.”  What is key though, is to be aware that we have it and then to make choices about what to do with it.

Sex is a biological difference.  It is:

  • Determined by nature
  • Universal
  • Not easily changeable

Gender is socially and culturally constructed:

  • Grounded in traditional male and female roles and responsibilities
  • Changes over time
  • Varies between communities

Males and females are treated differently from birth not only because of their physical differences (with unique challenges at different life-stages) … but also because of the different socio-cultural values associated with gender.  With that in mind, let’s take a look at stereotyping and gender bias.

Stereotyping is “A widely held but firmly fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing” (Oxford Dictionaries).  It’s based on both:

  • Physical attributes (e.g., age, sex, race)
  • Intangible aspects (e.g., religion, culture)

And actually, it’s critical to our evolutionary survival.  It:

  • Helps us sort and categorize people, places and things
  • Is often evaluated based on “additional associations” (usually negative)
  • Defines social interactions and permeates learning and decision-making processes

The problem occurs when stereotypes introduce Bias.  Bias is when we start viewing the stereotype as true and definitive, without pausing to consider whether we are making a fair judgment.  Gender bias is persistently found in global cultures, including Western countries.  It challenges gender equality and women’s empowerment by systematically excluding and discriminating against women and girls simply for being born female.

So, look again at the spa picture at the top of the article.  Why did it look “odd”?  Was it Stereotype … or Bias? And what does it reveal about your underlying beliefs and thoughts? 

Something worth thinking about.  Isn’t it time to start recognizing and talking about it?  Curious to know what you think …

Anna Minto

Founder & CEO, Transformational Change

AMinto@trchange.com

LinkedIn.com/in/annaminto

http://www.annaminto.com

Investment Banking Riddle

19 Jun

As I said last week, I’m going out on a limb on some sensitive topics in the next couple of weekly posts, and I don’t want to offend anyone in any way.  My intent here is to share some observations and ideas and spark some collaboration and discussion, rather than make statements about any gender identity, race, social class, sexual orientation, age, physical attributes, political belief, national origin, religious or other groups.  There’s the caveat, and please read along with an open mind.

First, stop.  Let me implore you to check out “Can You Solve the Riddle?” – a great short-clip on YouTube, created by Mindspace – Investment Banking Riddle.  (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4kFC7669quE if my newly found blogging skills don’t translate).  It’s worth the 3 minutes if you haven’t seen it before … and “then we shall proceed” (Did your parents ever say “Are you sitting comfortably?  Then we shall proceed” before reading stories to you?  Anyway, I digress). 

… … … … … … … … … … …

Go to the link … it’s only 3 minutes … it’s worth it.  Really!  “Just Do It” as Nike would say.

… … … … … … … … … … …

“And NOW we shall proceed.”  

We all have hidden biases.  OK, I’ll own up to it.  I didn’t figure out the answer to that enlightening Mindspace video immediately.  Actually, I crafted a convoluted wrong answer.  And my Mum was a high-powered executive in the business world … and I know a few female CEOs … and I too consider myself a smart, senior leader.  Who happens to be female.  Who blogs about gender issues.  But I fell for it. So did my girlfriends.  Hidden bias.  It’s real.

Gender bias occurs when views and attitudes assign a greater importance to one (gender) over the other.   Here are a few snippets from studies in the world of recruiting, development and retention:

  • A resume with a female-associated name is perceived as “less competent” than a male-associated one (and in the US, a “foreign” name has similar perception differences as “American” one)
  • Recruiters view men who have only part-time work experience as less hirable than women with the same part-time work experience
  • Managers are more hesitant to overtly criticize women, even when needed
  • Men are more cautious about being seen to be “unsupportive” of female employees (especially in today’s environment)
  • Managers couch written criticism more vaguely than they do for males with the same quantitative performance ratings
  • Managers often couch development areas for women with light praise (to “soften the blow”), but then go on to give the same women lower ratings that don’t correspond with the remarks on the evaluation
  • Supervisors do notice when women behave in ways that conform to gender conventions (e.g., being “likable” and demonstrating “communal” behavior), but those characteristics do not meaningfully contribute to career advancement
  • Relative to men, feedback for women has a higher judgement-to-fact ratio, which makes it more subjective (based on or influenced by personal feelings, tastes, or opinions)
  • Women are more likely than men to under-emphasize their own strengths and over-emphasize their skill-gaps in self-evaluations
  •  And … as we’ve just seen, we can believe that men are more likely than women to be the CEO of an Investment bank.

Our biases and gender expectations are rooted in evolutionary genetics and learned behaviors (as I discussed in a blog earlier this month “What We Can Learn From The Savanna”).  Our instincts take less than 1/20th of a second from stimulus-to-reaction, and we are often not even aware of them.   

So, what’s the problem with a bias driven by instinct?  The definition of “bias” sounds harmless enough (“prejudice in favor of or against one thing, person, or group compared with another”).  The problem is that word “prejudice”: “injury or damage resulting from some judgment or action of another in disregard of one’s rights.”  Hmm… not so good.

Are you brave enough to explore that you’re biased?  We all harbor gut-reaction instincts that are biased.  Isn’t it time to start recognizing, admitting, and talking about it?  Then we might be better able to do something about it.  

Curious to know what you think …

Anna Minto

Founder & CEO, Transformational Change

AMinto@trchange.com

www.LinkedIn.com/in/annaminto

www.annaminto.com

What we can Learn from the Savanna

4 Jun

Let’s go back over 2 million years of evolution to life on the Savanna – where humans were living on open grasslands in Africa, making stone tools and using them to butcher wild animals.  We lived in nomadic tribes of a few hundred members, with practically non-existent racial diversity, in a 100% natural environment.  

What was MOST important to our ancestors then?  Seriously, what’s your answer?  Think for a moment … …. … 

My answer was that we needed to hunt lions (men) and gather food (women).  It turns out though, that food was actually plentiful and that what we most needed was to avoid being eaten.

If we had to rely on original thinking for the complex mechanics of not being eaten, our brains would be totally overwhelmed.  Because our thinking (prefrontal) brain had an extremely limited capacity (and still has — estimated at less than 1% of our total brain capacity).   Instead, we evolved to rely on:

  • Instinctual behavior (encoded in our DNA); and
  • Learned behavior (acquired from a lifetime of experiences).

We also had to rely on each other to avoid being eaten, as isolation meant almost certain death.   So, our brain developed to attend to our social environment.  We became very socially aware:  

  • We rely on non-verbal body position and gestures – both at a macro-level (we all know about slouching and arm folding), and at a micro-level (body twitches, breathing patterns, eye flickers, skin color, etc.).
  • We migrate towards conformity to the behavioral standards of the group.  Need I say more than the 1970s trend for puke-green appliances, or the 1980s love of big hair?
  • We practice congruence (of body and mind).  Our bodies reflect our internal emotions and thoughts.  It’s hard to be convincing in sharing an inspiring story while curled up in a ball, and we are extremely good at detecting incongruence.
  • We mimic.  A lot. And with all our senses.  Neuroscience even recently discovered specialized neurons known as “mirror neurons.”
  • We adhere to status hierarchies.  All social animals do.
  • We value relatedness over difference.  More alike is more familiar, more known and more predictable.  It’s safer that way.
  • We react to stress.  Cortisol and adrenaline were designed to manage episodic and rapid physical threat.  And it was usually better to over-react than to under-react (and be eaten!).  But perhaps that’s not the kind of stress we encounter today.  Though we certainly experience (or imagine) a lot of stress today.

Although we like to think of ourselves as being rationally in “control,” we’re not.   We are pre-wired and diverted by these instinctual and learned behaviors.  Sometimes the way in which they were evolutionarily designed no longer serve us well.

Maybe it’s time to start paying more thoughtful attention to our innate and learned social awareness behaviors:  non-verbals, conformity, congruence, mimicking, status hierarchy, relatedness over difference and reaction to stress.  

How are you unconsciously living and leading your life?  

It’s worth some thought, and I’m curious to know…

Anna Minto

Founder & CEO, Transformational Change

AMinto@trchange.com

LinkedIn.com/in/annaminto

Zoom Zoops!

28 May

Zoom Zoops

Zoop.  The “oops” moment on Zoom.  When something you wish hadn’t happened, happened.  We’ve all become used to the everyone-on-video meetings during the pandemic, and now we’re adapting to the “hybrid zoom” meeting.  Here’s a quick checklist of almost 20 things for you to (re)consider about how you show up on Zoom.

  • You’ve got eyes.  Actually look at the camera.  It’s interpreted as paying attention.  Beware of the camera height:  too high, and we’ll think you’re looking to the skies; too low, and we get to see exactly what shade of eye make-up you wear.  And we can usually tell when you’re actually reading email.
  • Show your hands.  Especially if you’re a gesturer.  The “you” in real life encompasses more than just your chin to your hairline.  Sometimes hands are our primary point of expression.
  • Don’t be a speck in the dark.  Yes, I just said to zoom out a bit in the point above; but don’t do it so much so that we’re actually looking at your entire home office, which you just happen to be in.
  • Invest in a good one.  Camera that is.  A $200 investment is not a lot for your image … plus you’ve saved more than that on suits and shoes last year.
  • Get lit.  Consider a (built in) light.  You don’t want to be the villain in the shadow in the dark.
  • Jumbotron it.  Consider a big display monitor so you can actually see life-sized faces, even in gallery mode.
  • Lift your buns.  Consider a standing desk option – which can even just sit on top of your worktop.  Our backs don’t appreciate marathon Zoom days and standing is supposedly better for your health anyway.  Plus, you’ll get a more grounded and assertive presence.  And maybe buns of steel.
  • Think like Alex.  We’ve likely grown up with “in person meeting” styles and white boards but we likely haven’t had training in on-screen presentation.  Think about how Alex Tribek, the Jeopardy game show host presented for 37 seasons.  He doesn’t look like a stiff news cast reader.  Plus, he was Canadian-American like me.
  • Beware the background.  Depending on how much you move, background filters can make you look like a magician cutting their hands or head off and magically putting them back on.
  • Trespassers will be shot.  Chair climbing cats, face licking dogs, and the occasional undressed housemate may be cute, but they can be distracting (either good or bad).  Or, just plain embarrassing.
  • Catch the clutter.  While many of us use home offices for other things like gyms, bedrooms and even laundry rooms, some people really don’t want to know so much about your personal life (or maybe you don’t want them to).  I seriously had a client who forgot their ironing board & lingerie were drying in the background.
  • Know on from off.  Check the mute and video buttons.  Sometimes gremlins (well, fingers) accidentally change them.  We all have a funny story about that.  Hopefully not our own story.
  • Consider reacting.  Those little hearts and waves, if culturally appropriate, stand out more than raised hands, nods and smiles. 
  • Beware the share.  Unanticipated “can you share your screen?” moments reveal what else is also on your computer desktop.  And that includes incoming messages if you aren’t careful.  Lots of potential for embarrassment with that one.
  • You’ve got the look.  Sometimes the look of spinach stuck in your teeth after lunch.  It may not be noticeable live, but it sure is on up close and personal “speaker view.”
  • Screen-shot-not.  Remember that anything … yes, anything, can be screen shot with a com-shift-4 (at least on a Mac).  It’s silent, and you never know where preliminary finances and juicy performance reviews might end up.
  • Are you out there?  Know the protocols for turning videos off (temporarily) in meetings.  It might mean you just didn’t need to be seen and are saving bandwidth, or it might mean you’ve left for lunch.
  • What’s the attire?  In general, we’ve become more casual over zoom in the last several months.  But as many return to the office and “office casual,” your jammies and unwashed face may not send the message that you’re “just working from home.”

Just some things to think about.  Any good ones I’ve missed (like #19 and #20)?

Anna Minto

Founder & CEO, Transformational Change

AMinto@trchange.com

LinkedIn.com/in/annaminto

Indulge your self-Ish self

23 May

For your sake AND for the sake of those around you.

Selfish: “(adjective) Concerned excessively or exclusively with oneself; seeking or concentrating on one’s own advantage, pleasure or well-being without regard for others.”  Selfish = undesirable, implying “at the expense of others.”  Like a finite number of coconuts on a dessert island … if I take one extra, someone else gets one less.   We live in a world of finite.  Finite energy, water, food, and covid vaccines.  Being selfish lives in the finite world. 

Sometimes we can convince ourselves that taking time for our own selfcare is being a bit selfish.  That making time to boost ourselves “up” robs time from others and makes them go “down.”  But selfcare lives in the infinite world … along with things like love, creativity and passion.  Selfcare is not selfish.  It’s self-ish.

Separate the word selfish into its two parts – Self-Ish:

  • Self: “(as noun) A person’s essential being that distinguishes them from others, especially considered as the object of introspection or reflexive action.”
  • Ish: (yes, it’s in the dictionary): “(adverb):  To some extent.”

Being self-ish is a good thing.  A really good thing.  It’s about caring about “me.”  Which is also good for “them.”  It lifts us up and helps us be better leaders in our personal and professional lives … and that makes the world a better place for those around us.

Have you considered scheduling an exquisite weekly self-care “hour of indulgence” with your self-ish self?  To do the things that bring you joy.  Take that luxurious bubble bath.  Sing in the shower.  Dance in the rain.  Dig your hands in the garden.  Just sit and be.  Do whatever it is that does it for you — the things you love that bring you joy. 

I welcome your thoughts … and what did you schedule?

Anna Minto

Founder & CEO, Transformational Change

AMinto@trchange.com

LinkedIn.com/in/annaminto

Who cares what your performance review says?

3 May

Ah, the much anticipated, often feared annual review.  A summary of “performance” … and sometimes even “potential.”  Derived from facts (e.g. sales, profits), semi-facts (e.g. 360 feedback, sometimes confidential, and other times just anonymous perceptions), and perceptions (from others with their own performance profiles and development needs).  If you are deemed an “A+ Performer” … of “High Potential” … a “Rising Star” –  Woo Hoo & big round of clap!  It’s great to hear, and we may celebrate our progress, cash the check and confirm our “development plan” (or start dreaming about our next move or exit strategy).  We now have a measure for our individual progress.  Or do we?

Performance reviews (and many other ways in which we “grade” ourselves) are an interesting external perspective into our progress as an individual.   The problem is though that performance reviews and other ways in which we typically grade ourselves are almost always exclusively EXTERNALLY focused.

Have you ever looked at the INTERNAL factors in your review of your “progress” as an individual?  They might be even more critical in assessing your development as a human being.  

Two questions I invite you to consider:

(1) What might your list of critical character traits Include? 

  • Generosity (being kind and generous)?
  • Humility (having a modest view of one’s own importance)?
  • Compassion (concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others)?  
  • Empathy (the ability to understand and share the feelings of another)? 
  • Courage (mental or moral strength to persevere danger, fear or difficulty)?
  • Loyalty (a strong feeling of support or allegiance)?
  • Honesty  (sincere adherence to the truth)?
  • What else?  What do you want to be known for being?

(2) How might these leadership characteristics be demonstrated in your style?

So … how do you REALLY want to define, think about and measure your performance and development as a human being?  

If you choose to include your internal personal character traits and self-assessed demonstrated performance, write them down.  Then tuck them away.  And review them at least as often as you get your external workplace performance reviews.

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, 

people will forget what you did, 

but people will never forget

how you made them feel”

–   Maya Angelou

If this were the second time I was living this day, how would I behave differently?

24 Apr
Ever feel like this?

A deep question.

We all have “one of those days.”  When things just don’t seem to go right, or they start off on an angry, scary, or annoying note.  Some of us will dwell on it all day and ruminate.  Others will push it behind us and move on with the day.  And a few of us will reflect and learn something from it.  

When coming from a stagnant mindset we tend to document our intelligence and abilities.  We want to prove ourselves right, and often don’t believe (at least at the time) that we can improve on much.  So, we think about what points could have been made to bolster our argument.  We may even get angrier and fuel our resentments.  Might even show up in a tightness in our stomachs, or clenched fists.  Symbolically closing down.  We can end up in that “fight or flight” mentality.

On the other hand, when coming from a growth mindset we believe that we are adaptable and can get smarter or do better.  We stop and pause.  We might even take a deep breath and relax our posture… loosen our shoulders.   In this frame of mind, we consider the context:  what underlying feelings might be driving MY internal escalation, and what perspectives might the OTHER person be coming from?  A growth mindset thinks.  And takes action.  And learns something (about themselves, about the situation).

So, what would you have done differently today, and what can you learn from it?

Going Forward, it’s not about who wins, but how we react to it

3 Nov
What is known, what can we do for ourselves and for our communities?

What is known:

  • This is probably one of the most significant US elections of our lives.
  • It’s not just about the US.  It impacts global politics, the environment, and power dynamics.  
  • We are going through this as a human race, and the rest of the world is interested and impacted.  
  • We won’t know the final result for days, if not weeks.
  • It will likely be a tumultuous and speculative time in the interim.
  • Results (beyond casting our votes, if we have the privilege of doing so), are beyond our personal control.

What we can do for ourselves:

  • Vote if you have the right (and responsibility).  Make your voice heard.
  • Have a positive view around what you hope will happen – it’s better than living in fear.
  • Decide whether and how you will engage in monitoring news of the outcome in the coming days or weeks.
  • Let go of the illusion of your personal control over the outcome and future speculation.  Stay in the present moment.
  • Get on with your life before knowing which way the election goes.  Keep focus on important things that excite you. 
  • Acknowledge your feelings (if you are disappointed, fearful, angry, stressed, anxious, uncertain, sad, or in disbelief), but don’t indulge in them.
  • Then get on with the things that matter most in your life.

What we can do for our communities:

  • Recognize that we are in this together … either way.
  • Encourage open, conscious, respectful dialogue.
  • Avoid retrenching to discussion with only others with shared beliefs.
  • Don’t accept or sanction violent protest as a course for change.
  • Find your passion to be heard and make a difference going forward.