Biases can be conscious and deliberate––just the way people actively think about things. But they can also be unconscious––acquired assumptions, beliefs and attitudes buried in the subconscious. We all have them, and we most often put them to use as mental shortcuts to 'help' us process information more swiftly.
At first blush, that might sound useful to a busy life lived in overwhelm. The danger, however, is that these shortcuts can involuntarily affect the way we think and act. When left unchecked, this kind of thinking can lead to very dark places indeed.
The theme for International Women's Day 2022 is #BreakTheBias and aims to 'check' this kind of thinking––to shine a light into the mental nooks and crannies where the bias darkness creeps in. We all have them.
As an experienced talent acquisition leader, I'm acutely aware of these biases, and work hard to keep them in check. That's not just in the way I assess candidates, their experience and potential, but also in the way opportunities are presented and described in the first place. Language is powerful. Words are felt, not just read. I know from experience how easy it is to fill a job description with language that unintentionally puts an entire cohort of people off:
The laundry list of unconscious biases is enormous. You name it, there's a bias for it––gender bias, ageism, [Anglo] name bias, beauty bias, affinity bias and–– worst of the lot––status quo bias. And this really is just the tip of bias-berg.
The challenge [and incredible opportunity] for Zepto is to shape an authentic and potent culture of inclusion––a place that naturally attracts the finest people of all types. Things are moving fast here. The rate at which we're attracting and on-boarding wonderfully diverse people is astonishing. Every part of Zepto is growing at the same time, and the bones of a beautiful business are taking shape on wonderfully sound cultural foundations. But we're a long way from perfect.
International Women's Day has naturally shone a light on Zepto's women. They are brilliant, driven, creative, decisive, thoughtful and fiercely competitive (and wonderful human beings). But as a business, we still skew about two-thirds male. Right across the Australian tech industry, women make up just 29% of the workforce.
As a parent, I hope my daughter will enter a future workforce where glass ceilings and other relics of unconscious bias simply no longer exist––an environment where conversations about the importance of diversity in the workplace [and every place, for that matter] just aren't heard any more, because they simply are no longer needed.
At Zepto, we are committed to correcting the gender imbalance. Not just because it creates diversity of thought in business, or that it’s the right thing to do - but because WE WANT TO! A recent SmartCompany article stated that by increasing female participation 'Australia’s economy would increase by $1.8 billion each year over the next 20 years as a result of increased gender diversity.' The same article also posited that, at Australia’s current trajectory, it will take 66 years for the tech industry to reach gender parity.
I can’t wait that long. Can you?