Six women on what ‘breaking the bias’ means to them

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This International Women’s Day is bringing awareness to bias (conscious and unconscious) in the workplace, and what holds women back from achieving equal rewards, resources and opportunities regardless of gender.

At Flare, we recognise that diversity is an amazing thing, and that it benefits not only the workplace but society at large, and so we celebrate it. We’ve asked six women at Flare to share with us their views on breaking the bias, why it is important, what it means to them, how they’d go about it and where they see other women leading the way.

The theme of IWD 2022 is #BreakTheBias. What does this mean to you?

Katie: To me, it means that we all have the same consequences for our actions and the same rewards for our efforts. It would mean getting to a place where gender and skin colour have the same effect on our careers as eye colour.

Jessica: To #BreakTheBias, I believe, means to never stop questioning; to be on a constant journey of learning and undoing structures that might disadvantage women. It means to advocate for the material change in policies to account for the intersectional nature of the human (and women’s) experience. In daily life, it’s calling out language and behaviours in a safe and constructive way and being conscious of how all the information and media you’re consuming impacts the way you see your reality. This is where I hope we can strive to be. Collaboration and a holistic approach to addressing deeply ingrained biases will be key to our success.

Neda: To me, it’s as simple as breaking gender bias. With so much unconscious bias, even with the best intent, we form them, unaware of the impact they have on individuals. To me, it is understanding we have those unconscious biases and slowly breaking them down and creating greater awareness. That extends culturally as well.

Lauren: To me, ‘Break the Bias’ is the continued advocacy to challenge structural and institutional biases that impact women’s financial security.

We have seen examples of ‘breaking the bias’ with proposals to remove the superannuation income threshold test from 1 July 2022. This proposal removes some of the structural inequalities which exist in women’s access to superannuation, enabling low-income, part-time and casual workers (often disproportionality overrepresented by women), to earn employer guaranteed superannuation contributions.

The structural and institutional biases which exist in financial services, perpetuate women’s financial insecurity. Breaking these biases means educating ourselves and continuing the dialogue on income and retirement inequality, identifying and talking about the legislative gaps that let women down, and empowering other women to share knowledge and increase their levels of financial literacy which is key to attaining a level of financial security.

What would it mean to you to have a gender equal world?

Liz: A world where a person’s gender doesn’t determine the freedoms they experience, their opportunities, their degree of safety and their ability to exercise their basic human rights.

Sam: Feminism often gets a bad rap, even from women but Gloria Steinem once said, “A feminist is anyone who recognizes the equality and full humanity of women and men.” If all men (and women) can proudly call themselves feminists our work is done.

Sarah: To me, a gender equal world is walking into a room and being seen and heard for who you are, for the ideas you offer, automatically given the same respect you give. A world where every room is safe for everyone, of any gender, to freely collaborate in, hold space in, be heard in.

Lauren: The continued existence of violence against women (physical, financial, social, political or otherwise) is incompatible with the concept of a gender equal world.

To me, a gender equal world is one free from violence, from our daily interactions through to our highest institutions. A gender equal world also recognises minority women from all corners of the globe, whose voices are rarely represented in mainstream discourse, and whose lived experiences of gendered violence are significant and vastly different to our own.

Neda: To me equality means accepting all out differences, but not using those differences based on gender! More fluid. No quotas, but also no unconscious bias and not feeling displaced that suddenly we must do the right thing, or say/not say something… It just is.
More conversation, more sharing, more learning.
Not striving to be perfect and censor conversation, but an understanding that we’re equal just as we are different.

What do you believe to be the most effective ways to break biases in the workplace?

Liz: It starts with recognising bias and helping others learn to recognise it. Bias is often unconscious. We can be prejudiced without knowing it. At Flare we have worked to educate our team on unconscious bias. And we actively examine our processes and decisions to understand where bias may arise. Diversity is also crucial to breaking biases in the workplace. You can’t just hire for diversity, you have to build an environment that celebrates it. One of our leadership principles at Flare is “we create safe spaces”. As leaders it is our job to build an environment where every person can bring their authentic self and it feels safe to take on challenges and grow.

Katie: Women are doing everything they can to break biases in the workplace, so the next step is to get all the men involved. Things like being the one to take notes, planning the work holiday party, holding space for us to be heard in meetings, sharing their data and advocating for equal pay, promoting women, being the one to stay home with a sick kid, and calling out bad behaviour by their colleagues will make the workplace a more equitable place for everyone.

Sam: Empowered women empower women! Break the bias in the workplace by spending time with and drawing inspiration from the great women in our lives – colleagues, peers, mums, aunts, daughters, girlfriends. The women that have your back. Call out bad behaviour and support one another. But more importantly, talk about and celebrate equality with the men in our lives too. As much as this world needs to raise stronger women, we need to raise enlightened men.

Neda: Whenever I have been vulnerable or have witnessed someone’s vulnerability, it has been met with compassion and a newfound understanding. I think creating space where we can all be vulnerable, evokes stories and that brings on understanding. It creates further awareness, and all sorts of stigmas are broken down, not just the gender ones.

What are women in your life doing to break the bias?

Katie: They’re unapologetically running for office, fundraising, advocating for women of colour and LGBTQ women, starting companies, getting promotions, investing, educating, parenting, and perhaps most importantly, prioritising themselves by creating space for rest, self-care, and things that bring them joy, so they can keep doing this work for as long as it takes.

Sarah: They are no longer simply ‘pleasing’ others because it’s the ‘safe’ or ‘nice’ thing to do. They are no longer following the rules women are prescribed to, just because it’s what “good girls” do. They are shaking up the status quo. They are pulling up to tables with their own seats and making sure their voice is heard. They are earning more than ever, shattering glass ceilings, paving the way for women of the future. There are more powerful women across roles and industries than ever before because we are capable. We are skilled. We are not just lucky.

Neda: They have found a way to play to their strengths, instead of trying to fit into a gender perception mould of what it means to be successful. They have found their uniqueness and share their learnings, openly. I have also found that those with a greater sense of awareness, especially in positions of power or authority, use their voice for the greater of all, not just some.

This International’s women’s day, we encourage open discussion about bias and how it impacts you at work and home. Our hope is that through awareness, we can identify bias and evolve to appreciate, value and celebrate our differences #breakthebias

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