International Women’s Day 2022 – Breaking the Bias

  • Joanne Murphy, MBA, MCIBS, Assoc CIPD
  • 15 March 2022
  • Blog | Professionalism and Ethics | Blog

I often Chair webcasts on behalf of the Institute but the one I Chaired on 8th March was particularly special as it recognised the 111th International Women’s Day (IWD). Normally, IWD is a day for celebration, but this year felt different, with peoples’ thoughts very much focused on the heart-breaking events in Ukraine.

The theme for this year’s IWD focused on “Breaking the Bias” and I was privileged to be joined by a panel of experts who were able to share not only their wealth of knowledge, and expertise on the subject matter but also their lived experiences. The subject and foundations of bias go well beyond the parameters of gender and are deeply rooted in being human.

Bias universally effects everyone in society, it may impact on your professional success, right the way through to how you may be accepted in social situations, in a medical setting, education or even in justice. 

So, what is bias, and do we all have it. Well, yes - we do, and it isn’t something that we can just turn off. A bias is a habit of the mind. An automatic mental shortcut used to process information and make decisions quickly. It is deeply ingrained and unintentional. And influences our behaviour.

As children our brains are presented with so much information to make sense of the world around us - the volume is overwhelming, to make this manageable we unconsciously categorise information, creating stereotypes along the way. Hence, we all grow up thinking things like girls wear pink and boys wear blue, women are weak etc. etc.

We don’t have to even think about it – we just know it. Things like adverts, and media further fuel this categorisation, especially in children.

As a result, people grow up harbouring stereotypes about groups of people based on their race, ethnicity, gender, age, and other identity. Those stereotypes about social groups are not based on facts, about an individual or a particular group and these are known as biases. As human beings we have more than one identity and this intersectionality leads to even greater exclusion and inequity for individuals.

Often people are not aware of their biases that’s where the term implicit or unconscious biases comes from.  Whether we like it or not such biases influence our decision making and although you can’t switch them off you can become aware of them and identify your own behaviours. 

So, as it was IWD, my panel discussion focused particularly on the biases specifically related to gender, as we talked about how biases show up, particularly towards women in the workplace, and what we can do about them. If you weren’t able to watch the webcast then I’ll leave you to listen and learn from the insights, potential solutions and strategies to “break the bias”. My key takeaways are; we all have biases, they make us human; be curious about recognising them within yourself; be brave, when they show up, and use the  “micro moments” or “TNT’s” (tiny noticeable things) as I prefer to call them, you can do to move the dial in the right direction every day.

I would like to thank my panellists, Dr Iwi Ugiagbe -Green, Reader at Manchester Metropolitan University; David Nikolich, Managing Director at Abstract; Liz Burton, Director Diversity, Equality and Inclusion at NatWest Group and Tali Shlomo, Diversity, Inclusion and Wellbeing Leader for such a thought-provoking discussion.

I’ll leave you, as I did on the webcast the other day, with the thoughts for this year’s 111th celebration of women’s achievements across the world.

“Imagine a gender equal world. A world free of bias, stereotypes and discrimination. A world that's diverse, equitable, and inclusive. A world where difference is valued and celebrated. Together we can forge women's equality. Collectively we can all #BreakTheBias. My wish is that this is something that we can truly celebrate one day, our world will be a much better place because of it.”

Joanne Murphy, COO, Chartered Banker Institute