On Wednesday, 11 March 2020 Google Developers Group Melbourne and Women Techmakers Melbourne hosted an event for
International Women’s Day. With a presentation on biases and
then a panel discussion there was a lot to take away and process from this event. As an added bonus the food was
amazing. The second article in this series covers the panel
I am expecting a video of this event to be posted online. Once it is available I will update this article and link to
Why We Should Advocate Ourselves More? - Bernadeth Lucanas
The event kicked off with Bernadeth Lucanas giving her
presentation titled “Why We Should Advocate Ourselves More?” Bernadeth works for Google and as such is lucky enough
to get “20% time”; she uses this time to focus on diversity and inclusion. In Bernadeth’s presentation she talked
about a number of different types of biases, what they are, and the impacts they can cause. As Bernadeth will be
presenting this talk at other venues in the future I won’t go into too much detail, but I’ll try to cover the key
aspects of each of the biases she presented and add my thoughts as well. Many of these biases aren’t limited just to
women, they can affect other minority groups as well.
Performance bias is the assumption (either conscious or unconscious) that a minority group will tend to be
underestimated while the dominant group is overestimated. In the case of gender bias within the workplace this can
often result in men being hired based on their potential to undertake a role, whilst women are hired based on their
past performance. This has a significant flow-on impact in terms of career progression and opportunities.
Attribution bias manifests when the majority are more likely to receive credit and the minority are more likely to be
blamed for failings. This leads not only to a loss of self-confidence in members of the minority group, but also means
that minority group members are more likely to be talked over and interrupted. Thankfully, as individuals we can have a
direct impact on combatting this bias by looking out for people being talked over and interrupted and calling it out.
Personally I’ve also seen some very good implementations of “one voice at a time” where everyone is willing to call out
those who interrupt.
At least in western society (I can’t comment on other societies due to lack of experience), men are expected and
encouraged to be assertive, while women are directed toward likability. This is especially obvious when you think of
how people often describe children; I’ve heard young girls described as “bossy” but I have never heard this term used
for a young boy, instead boys are described as “assertive” or at most “a bit aggressive”. This difference in upbringing
is then compounded throughout life until women have been conditioned to be likeable and men assertive. Especially in
business, being nice or likeable can diminish the appearance of competence.
Maternal bias is one of the few biases that is only based on gender. It is the bias that a woman will be less career
focussed. Bernadeth mentioned cases where people weren’t hired as “she’ll have children soon”, and other parenthood
related excuses. The flow on effect of this is a reduction in career opportunities, and an intensification of
Affinity bias occurs not just in relation to discriminatory factors, but also in relation to a range of other factors.
Affinity bias can be defined as a preference to like those who are most similar to us. This results in hiring managers
favouring those who not only appear similar to them, but also those who have similar thought processes. Many studies
have been done to highlight the benefits of diversity of thought in the workplace; one of the easiest ways to gain this
diversity is to hire those from different backgrounds, this can include hiring women 8n a male dominated industry,
people of a different cultural background and to actively work against discrimination.
Double Discrimination & Intersectionality
Bernadeth finished her presentation by discussing the additional challenges when people are a member of multiple
minority groups. It was implied that for each additional minority group someone is a member off the discrimination and
challenges increase exponentially. This manifests in people who are members of 3 or more discriminatory groups facing
almost insurmountable challenges.
The best way to overcome these biases is to be conscious of them and actively work against them. In the workplace hire
for diversity (both in people and in thought);implement processes that work against discriminatory factors; and if you
see discrimination in any form call it out. By encouraging a culture of calling out and drawing attention to
discrimination, the occurrence of discrimination will reduce. Even just being conscious of our biases will have a
positive impact (this is well documented in published psychological papers) and will allow us to consciously negate the
effects of our biases.