Category Archives: Equality

Confirmation bias

Do you challenge your unconscious bias?

Anyone who knows me knows I’m a fervent believer in equality. Whether it’s gender, race or anything else you can think of I don’t believe anyone should have their opportunities limited. Or should I say…..

that’s what my conscious mind thinks. My unconscious mind, however, has been shaped by decades in a society where people’s opportunities have been limited because of their race, gender or social standing. In a telephone conversation with my daughter recently, who is obviously well aware of my feelings on gender equality, she mentioned a consultant & before I knew it the words “is that because he…” were out of my mouth. Both of us realised what I’d said immediately & the phone literally went silent before my daughter came back with “oh mam!!!” So I got to wondering just how bad things were in my unconscious brain.

Harvard University are doing some research and as part of that any one of us can take a test to see what our unconscious mind thinks about things like gender and careers, race, religion etc. As I’m probably most vocal about gender bias in the workplace I decided to take the test that shows your unconscious bias for male/female career/family.

I anticipated I would have a slight bias towards male & career, female & family in my unconscious mind, let’s be honest in the times I’ve grown up in it would be surprising if I didn’t. Imagine my anger at my unconscious mind when I discovered it was harbouring a STRONG bias toward male & career, female & family.

This really doesn’t fit in with my image of myself as a strong career woman who supports younger women to make the most of their opportunities.

So what good does it do to know this? Well now I’m aware that my unconscious mind is being such a pain I can be aware of it & challenge it when it influences my actions. I can also encourage others to do the same (kind of the point of this blog I guess!)

Here’s a great TED talk (you all know how much I love TED talks!) about gender equality & unconscious bias which I watched this week, it’s worth 15 minutes of your time I promise:

 

You can test your own unconscious bias, if you do I’d love to hear about the results, whether they surprise you or they’re what you expected. Let me know in the comments below.

My much loved Granda with my daughter

Do men really not care about equality?

I love TED Talks ( you may have noticed I love them so much I organised Cumbria’s first TEDx with my son Luke.) so if I have chance I watch a TED talk at lunchtime. It’s a great way to switch off from work but still achieve and exposes you to lots of new ideas.

Today I watched former President Carter’s TED talk about female equality:

Now this is a subject I’m passionate about but I found myself disappointed with his final statement that men simply don’t care about equality as they are reaping the rewards of higher pay and an easier rise to the top in their career.

As it happens today is the second anniversary of my granda’s death. You can see him with my beautiful daughter at the top of this post. I was incredibly honoured to have him in my life for as long as I did, he was a huge inspiration to me. I can still remember going to visit him shortly before his death and telling him I’d got an exciting new job. The twinkle in his eyes was a joy to see and he was incredibly proud that I was making a positive move in my career.

Now my granda was born in 1923 so you would expect him to have a different set of values re equality yet he always supported and encouraged me in my career as well as my family life. My dad, very importantly as I know now, never gave me any hint as a youngster that there may be limitations due to my gender. My husband has always been incredibly supportive, whether it was in the decision to take a career break to look after our young children or in changes of direction in my career.  I have to honestly say, other than one manager very early on in my career, that all the men in my life have been completely supportive of equality. So is it a difference between the USA and UK? Or have I been incredibly lucky and been born into a family of men who collectively, despite not being blood related, have held the same values?

One thing I do know is that I have been lucky by accident of birth, there are countries in the world where the fight for women to make their own decisions is a much tougher one. The UK, while there is still work to be done, is one of the countries where a lot of progress has been made.

I’d love to hear if your experience backs up Jimmy Carter’s claim or if you’ve had experience that’s similar to mine? If you’re a man do you think he’s right? Is it too easy to say I support equality but then casually enjoy the benefits of it rather than challenge it? Let me know in the comments.

Screenshot 2015-02-22 11.14.31

Let’s try to STEM the gender gap.

As I was reading my Sunday paper this morning I was transported back to the mid eighties when I was studying for my A-levels. I was sitting in a classroom with about 10 pupils in it & I was the only girl. I had chosen to study double maths & it hadn’t even occurred to me that I might be the only girl making that choice. This is a testament to the way my parents brought me up, to them my gender wasn’t a consideration in the choices I made & it was only when I reached that point that I came across the influence of another way of thinking.

I can even distinctly remember the teacher saying “I wouldn’t be surprised if Dianne decides not to continue as she’s the only girl in the class”  Giving up on the class hadn’t even occurred to me until that point. Don’t get me wrong as a teenage girl sitting in a class full of teenage boys I felt awkward but to me I’d made my choice & I would have persevered. Following those words I gave up maths completely. I’d be offered an “out” and I took it. Now I don’t blame the teacher for that, I made the decision & I’ve never been one for looking back & thinking “what if?” I wonder though if the teacher would have said those words if he’d realised the effect it was going to have?

The reason this memory came to mind was an article in the Sunday Times about an OECD report due out next week. The report shows that the UK isn’t doing very well when it comes to making the most of our available talent in STEM subjects. In measuring the performance of 15 year old girls v boys in science across 67 countries the UK has one of the largest gender gaps. We are in the bottom five of the sample & that really isn’t good. The same OECD report last year showed that gender gaps in maths generally across the world had not improved in the previous 11 years. How sad is that? We’re talking & talking about this & yet we still haven’t found the solution. The report suggests that part of the problem is that girls don’t feel as confident of their abilities when it comes to maths & I find myself wondering where that comes from? Somewhere between the age of 9 and 15 their belief in their own abilities changes. Are we as a society still giving out the same message that teacher gave me in the mid-eighties?

Teenage years are difficult ones at the best of times (for parents as well as teenagers!) & sometimes it can be a fleeting comment or a thoughtless phrase that may give someone that “out” I was given , that may suggest to them that they’re not quite up to it or won’t quite fit in. At a time when people are trying to figure who they are & who they want to be these comments can mean a lot more than they’re meant to. So we need to think about what we’re saying, what messages we are giving.

As Professor Brian Cox said in an interview in the Telegraph last year when asked about women in science:  “There should be 50 per cent. It’s not just a sense of moral obligation about equal opportunities. It’s about the talent pool. It’s about how do you fill this massive gap in skills that we have in the economy.” Now I can’t offer the perfect solution to this problem but I do feel we can all contribute in our own way. Changing this will take effort from all of us, male & female.

So let’s encourage all our children, regardless of gender, to be everything they can & want to be.

work life balance

Stop telling me I want it all because I’m a woman!

I’m a lover of Twitter (@DianneUCLan if you want to follow me) but I opened my twitter feed this morning and became rather irate. This has been building up for some time mainly due to a couple of followers I followed back out of courtesy and now have unfollowed. I know I should have taken this action before I became irritated but heigh ho we all make mistakes right? Plus this isn’t just on twitter, whenever I open a paper I’m faced with the “Women Want it All” message.

Do men not “Want it All” too? Or do they feel they “Have it All”? I very much doubt it’s the latter.

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business meeting

Feminism, Tokenism or Sexism?

Originally posted as LinkedIn article

Well there’s an awful lot in the media about women in authority the last couple of days. Between female bishops in the Church of England and David Cameron’s ministerial reshuffle it’s all we’re hearing. So where is sexism in 2014? Does it still exist? Have things like female only shortlists helped or hindered?

I was very interested to read Dame Stephanie Shirley’s opinion as a female entrepreneur who set up her own company in 1962. She stated that today’s generation of women have it easier compared to then because of the changes in the law but also says that culture still needs to change & this will take time. To see the full article see here: Dame Stephanie Shirley article. She blazed a trail that really made a difference by directly employing other women in positions they wouldn’t have been considered for in other companies. Continue reading