Breaking the Bias as a Leader

This year’s IWD campaign theme is #BreakTheBias. But what does breaking the bias even mean? For me, it’s a journey of awareness, leadership and self-empowerment. 

I #BreaktheBias every time I question my hard-wired default beliefs, acknowledging the role I may play in reinforcing bias. For instance, instead of disapproving an assertive remark thinking “I could never say that”, I intentionally flip the script: “I can learn from it”. I realise many of us expect validation from outside, especially from leaders. Hence, it’s even more important for us – leaders – to self-educate and navigate our own biases. In this open feedback culture, it’s so easy to pass them on to others! Yet it’s in our power to set ourselves and each other free from stereotypes, gender modesty norms and glass ceilings.

I #BreaktheBias every time I turn an encounter with bias in an opportunity to lead change – as a DEI advocate or as a leader who fosters and promotes other women leaders, levelling the playing field. It’s easy for me to see others’ lack of self-confidence because it mirrors my own. But this gift enables me to be the coach I once needed, amplifying somebody’s confidence and not their self-doubt; celebrating their courage to show-up; and making my teammates feel safe when giving me the big news, because they know there’s no “penalty” once they get back from mat leave.

Most often bias is internalized as a self-limiting belief; a deeply rooted fear of being perceived “too” (bossy, emotional etc.) or “less” (competent, decisive etc.). Hence, #BreakingtheBias can also mean changing our own narrative; feeling enough; acknowledging others’ strengths without downplaying our own. We don’t need to be people-pleasers to fit in. We need bold human beings who lead with vulnerability; sometimes, daring to say “I don’t know”; other times daring to say “I stand by my decision”; but always saying “I hear you. I see you. You’re welcome here”.

In some ways, #Breakingthebias is like embracing ESG: it used to be a “nice to have”, now it’s a “must have” with impact on companies’ bottom line. Similarly, research shows a company which fosters diversity and inclusion will outperform its peers. All we have to do is give up bias and we’ll be rewarded for doing so! But this calls for courage and shifting from being a bystander to being an ally, a change agent, a brave leader. In the end, it’s all about the legacy we intend to create: a kinder world where each of us feels supported to become their very best.

What does #BreakTheBias mean for you?

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