Telling The Truth and Staying Loud: Leading Against Unconscious Gender Bias
“Stay noisy.“That is both the hashtag and mantra of Liz Dolan, co-founder and co-host of the award-winning radio show/podcast, Satellite Sisters, as well as an author and celebrated international marketer.“What is important is sharing your story. We can all be truth-tellers,” advises Dolan, who has served as chief marketing officer for Nike, The Oprah Winfrey Network and National Geographic Channels.Dolan also rather famously resigned from the board of Quiksilver in 2014, calling out the unfair bias of other board members with their exclusion of her as the only female board member from a major hiring decision. She spelled out the process in a column for Fortune.[bctt tweet=“Liz Dolan, one of the Satellite Sisters, says it is necessary to call out bias #StayNoisy” username=“takeleadwomen”]“We have to take the opportunities to speak out,” Dolan says, calling upon the recent resignations and firings at Binary and Uber following female employees speaking out on gender discrimination and harassment.“Whether the resignations signal a sea change in Silicon Valley’s male dominated culture remains to be seen. There’s ample reason for skepticism considering that past revelations of sexist behavior haven’t brought about such large-scale change. But at the very least, the departures are being viewed as signs of progress in an industry where women can suffer severe consequences for speaking out,” write Jack Flemming, Alexa D ‘Angelo and David Pierson in the Los Angeles Times.But truth-telling needs to be delivered with caution and planning.As Take The Lead Co-founder and President Gloria Feldt explains in Leadership Power Tool #9, ”Your story is your truth. Your truth is your power. Telling your story authentically helps you lead (not follow) your dreams and have an unlimited life.”“You need to be willing to understand the door may be closing behind you,” Dolan says. Still, “There are policies set up to prevent retaliation.” But prepare for all outcomes.Dolan is co-founder and co-host of Satellite Sisters with her five real-life sisters, Julie, Liz, Sheila, Monica, and Lian Dolan. The Satellite Sisters first launched as a radio show and website in 2000 and has gone on to win 13 Gracie Allen Awards for creative excellence from American Women in Media.The weekly podcasts cover topics from wellness to news in North Korea. Liz Dolan also hosts a show on Wondery, “I Hate My Boss,” for advice on workplace issues. Some of the issues Dolan tackles include unconscious bias in the workplace.As Dolan acknowledges, “100 percent of people have unconscious bias. Every person tends to like people who are like themselves.” To address that, she adds, “Many companies have sexual harassment and ethical training, but not implicit bias training.”In their 2016 book, Breaking Through Bias: Communication Techniques for Women to Succeed at Work, authors Andrea Kramer and Alton Harris offer solutions for addressing conversations women need to have at work as well as tips for navigating difficult situations.Kramer and Harris, a husband and wife team who are both lawyers, claim that what they call “attuned gender communication” can help avoid or dispel stereotypes and biases. That communication has four key points. They are “a positive perspective on your abilities, high self-awareness, committing to the impression you create and the ability to communicate in a way that will overcome the gender stereotypes.”While many corporations are addressing the issue of bias, academia is also weighing in, with a new course at University of Pennsylvania offered this summer to address unconscious bias.“The class, “Diversity and Inclusion: Strategies to Confront Bias and Enhance Collaboration in 21st Century Organizations,” is co-taught by Dr. Aviva Legatt, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, and Harvey Floyd, an organizational psychologist who works in leadership development,” according to PJ Media.“In the workplace, it is inevitable that difference between individuals will cause conflict—whether explicit or beneath the surface,” is the course description.A University of Florida professor has created a test for implicit bias that may be very revealing, according to The Gainesville Sun.“Kate Ratliff, a nationally known expert on implicit bias and a psychology professor at the University of Florida, and executive director of the Harvard University-based Project Implicit, has designed a version of its implicit association test.Unfortunately millions of working women do not need to take the course or the test to know implicit bias or unconscious bias is real. What they do need is impetus to call out the cultural roadblocks to advancement and tell the truth about the workplace environment where bias and discrimination inhibit success for women and other under-represented voices.[bctt tweet=“Millions of women don’t need to take a course or test to know bias is real #WomenInTheWorkplace” username=“takeleadwomen”]“Use your opportunity to call people out on their bias,” Dolan says. ”You can point out if it’s a systemic thing. Do it in a practical way that is not emotional.”Dolan recounted a recent experience where she “was in a position of leadership to call people out.” So she did.“I was discussing a promotion and a woman’s name came up (for the position) and someone said, ‘I don’t know if she is right for that, she has little kids,’” Dolan recalls. “So I said, it is not right for us to judge if she would take the kids with her or not,” says the author of Satellite Sisters UnCommon Senses and You’re The Best: A Celebration of Friendship.“There are a lot of daily and weekly annoyances of bias, conscious or unconscious,” Dolan acknowledges. “And there has been a lot of improvement; people are stepping forward and saying something.”Dolan’s advice to women in the workplace is not to just absorb the bias, tough it out and move on. Instead, she advises, “Address the issues earlier, rather than waiting until you can’t stand it anymore.”Telling the truth about unfair practices in the workplace and being noisy do not bear the stigma of even 10 years ago, Dolan says. “We have the means now, so anyone who would like to come forward can publish a blog post or write something for Fortune. We do have a voice and companies are much more responsive than when I started out in the 1980s.”[bctt tweet=“Telling the truth about unfair practices at work doesn’t bear the stigma of 10 years ago #StayNoisy” username=“takeleadwomen”]She adds, “It is culturally unacceptable to behave the way some behaved 20 years ago. People get called out now and that is good.”Looking to the future on fairness in workplace culture, Dolan says, the picture seems bright.“Ten years from now, hopefully it will be easier for all of us to talk about this. Rather than confessing to a crime or character flaw, it will be easier to talk about unconscious bias.”And with that, it may be easier to overcome.