Break A Bias This Women’s Day

A cab driver

A secretary

A housekeeper

A scientist

I don’t need to tell you which gender popped in your mind for each of the above! You know!

In fact, our bias is so commonplace that the person who fixes glitches on our computers is ubiquitously called the IT “guy”.

And bias is so deep in us that it’s hard to go past it in the best of times.

The Unconscious Bias

This brings me to the Implicit Association Test that Harvard came up with and Malcolm Gladwell talks about in his book, Blink.

The test smartly brings out your biases to the fore no matter how hard you try to trick it.

The simpler version involve adding “male” or “female” against a list of names. Things become trickier when you are required to mark M or F against terms like career, family, entrepreneur, capitalist and merchant!

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Photo credit: researchgate

The most popular IAT is the race test – attributing good/bad qualities to black/white people.

And in Malcolm’s own experience, no matter how many times you take it, the results make you feel creepy. Our unconscious biases are so different from what we think we consciously value.

In fact, the test site clearly states that you may not agree with the test results and you should proceed only if you are okay with that.

Read the chapter from Blink here

Would you like to take the test for yourself? Knock yourself out here

Maybe next time, we’ll be able to get past our bias about gender and recognise more consciously that roles and responsibilities are no longer gendered

The Gender Bias

If our bias is so unconscious that we can’t even beat it in a test we consciously take, we can imagine the havoc that wrecks in our every day work.

Bias in hiring – as this survey amply shows through stats – has been a topic for debate for decades. Even in the Indian context, it’s easy to figure out the gender and caste of a person just with their name. And we “unconsciously” end up favouring some over the others.

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In fact, this also extends to women applying for funding to further their research. Historically, the number of women who receive funding has been consistently low compared to when men apply for it.

Some organisations do invite applications with numbers instead of names. And AI also has helped in eliminating this bias to some extent.

What does your organisation do to give fair chance to the qualified while remaining uninfluenced by gender and race?

Blind auditions breaking a bias

Here is an example from the music industry.

The music industry in the US and Europe has been overwhelmingly white and male. To remedy this, they got the players to audition behind a screen. This essentially helped blot out the bias that white men played best of all.

In fact, they went a step further and had women take off their heels or carpet the stage to ensure that the click-clack didn’t give anything away.

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And boy! Did it work! Women were a mere 6% musicians in an orchestra in 1970. And today, they make up a half the New York Philharmonic. Blind auditions changed the face of American orchestras.

A historic example that we can break a bias if we consciously do something about it.

The Mom Bias

This one is from season 4 of The Mindy Project aired in 2015 – which is not so long ago!

Danny wants to get a great gift for Mindy so that he can convince her to quit her job and stay at home.

And I’m thinking that women go through hell bringing life into this world and we just expect them to give what came before.

It’s like they are irrevocably changed and we want to hold that against them forever.

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Photo credit: Indiewire

Even more telling is when Danny comes home to find it’s in a mess. And I don’t think I can do a better job of pointing out the hypocrisy than the clip itself that you can watch here.

I highly recommend that you watch it. (For some reason the link did not work only in Linkedin 😕)

And now you can put your dropped jaw back in place!

I hope that the intention of the creators – which includes Mindy Kaling herself – was indeed to take a dig at how irrational we get about the life choices that new mothers make.

So let’s remember to break the “mom” bias in the future and look at women for more than their function of pushing another human out of their bodies.

(If you want to watch how Danny himself fails miserably when the tables are turned, tune in to Episode 5 of season 4 The Mindy Project)

The Age Bias

Raveena Tandon made her OTT debut in Aranyak in her late 40s. Madhuri Dixit finally made hers in early 50s. This is an age group when Bollywood has typically written off as too old to be the arm candy of the macho male leads.

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And online streaming not only breaks the age bias in a strong way but also vindicates the acting prowess of these talented actors.

Imagine an alternate world where their claim to fame would only be as dhak-dhak and mast-mast girls! What a waste of potential and a world bereaved if their true talent!

If you are wondering why am I ranting about bias today – or maybe you are already smart enough to know why!) – the International Women’s Day theme for 2022 is #BreaktheBias, which highlights the importance of challenging biases and misconceptions in the interest of creating a more inclusive and gender-equal world.

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This year’s hashtags also include the thematic #BreaktheBias, the straightforward #IWD2022, #InternationalWomensDay, and #SeeHer.

Bias comes in so many shapes and colours. And science has proved that we are not so good at keeping it in check. So this Women’s Day, let’s pledge to be more aware and break a bias that we usually give in to.

A truck driver

A man, you imagine?

Check out these stories of women who are breaking bias, and maybe the next time it’s a woman who pops in your head driving a truck:

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