In honor of the International Women’s Day, Women in Lighting + Design (WILD) hosted a conversation centered around the theme of the day – “Break the Bias.” The website explained, “Bias – whether deliberate or unconscious – is holding women back in the workplace. It makes it harder for women to get hired and promoted and negatively impacts their day-to-day work experiences.”
The conversation was broken down into four hour-long sessions, each emphasizing a different way in which we can all try and overcome the biases against women that permeate the workplace. Each session consisted of an opening discussion or relevant video, followed by multiple breakout groups in which participants divided themselves into smaller groups for more intimate conversation. Finally, the groups reconvened and shared what they had learned.
Session 1: Learn to LEAD by example.
Learn to be an active bystander. When you witness inappropriate behavior, step up and say something. Doing this tactfully can be difficult, but it is important to intervene and set a good example for those following you.
Session 2: VALUE and celebrate differences.
Strive to create an open and accepting environment in the workplace. Although it may be difficult, there is no need to conform to certain workplace stereotypes. As Pat Mitchell said in her TED talk that introduced the session, “Power doesn’t change women. Women change power.”
Session 3: Build confidence to CONFRONT.
Unconscious bias, while not as sinister as conscious prejudice, plays a major role in holding women and minorities back from greater opportunities. Confronting these unconscious biases, both from others and within yourself, will help move society to a more accepting and equitable place.
Session 4: EMPOWER yourself and others.
Much of the advice women are given emphasizes personal actions that you can take, like becoming more assertive. Women also need to be advised on how to develop better business, strategic, and financial acumen in order to progress upward into leadership positions. Mentors can play a key role here. Addressing all facets of the business world will help empower women to move forward.
The conversation was fruitful, but the sense of community was even more striking. Talking to fellow women that have faced similar struggles and learned how to overcome them is invaluable. Moving forward, I would like to see more participation from men – I was one of only a handful that participated in the conversation.
Lastly, one final takeaway from the event – don’t make assumptions about others. Treat people as individuals. Knowing someone’s gender, ethnicity, or race gives you VERY little information about that person. Human beings are much more complex than simple categories like that.