Unpack Your Unconscious Biases With Us (And Win Tickets to Emerging Women Live!)

We live in a world where our minds constantly process multiple sources of information. It’s probably happening to you right now. How many of you have a half dozen or more tabs open, are reading this in the middle of writing an email, or are waiting for your child to put their pajamas on so you can tuck them in?

We do a lot without being fully and consciously aware. The world that we live in is a fast one, and when we’re operating at full speed, unconscious biases flood our thinking and interactions. These biases influence the ways we participate in the workplace, our social groups, our homes—everywhere.

Man or woman, young or old, affluent or not—we all have unconscious biases. It doesn’t make us bad or evil, it simply makes us human. We’re taught to trust our instincts, but sometimes in doing so we take shortcuts. Those shortcuts influence the trajectory of our decision making, often leading us to (mis)judge people.

Unconscious biases are formulated and reinforced by our societal norms, our personal experiences and our environments. It’s time to lift the veil. Are you in?

Leading social justice scholars believe that unconscious bias can lead to gender, race, and class stereotyping, prompting discriminatory attitudes and actions towards women, people of color, and the economically disadvantaged. Those scholars are working alongside progressive corporations and entities to address unconscious bias to ensure it doesn’t undermine daily operations, strategic planning, hiring, and promotions.

You’re an influential part of creating this new system. Have you examined your unconscious biases? Radical authenticity elevates us all, and so we’d like to hear your deep share.

Let’s make it fun: Unpack an example of your unconscious bias with us and you’ll be entered to win one of two complimentary tickets to ​Emerging Women Live​! HuffPost called EW “a place where gifts will be ignited.” This inclusive and interactive event, from Oct. 5-8th in Denver, CO, will feature ​Alicia Garza, co-founder of Black Lives Matter; MILCK​, the artist behind the Women’s March ​Quiet ​flashmob; ​Esther Perel, relationship expert and best-selling author of ​Mating in Captivity​; ​Shiza Shahid, co-founder of the Malala Fund; Emmy Ruiz, Colorado State Director of Hillary Clinton’s Presidential Campaign; ​Amanda Steinberg, founder of dailyworth.com and worthFM.com and author of ​Worth It​; National Poetry Slam Champion and two-time Women of the World Slam Champion Dominique Christina and many more brilliant women.

I’ll go first: My unconscious bias was towards women.

Pretty ironic for the founder of a women’s leadership organization, right? I spent many years actively distancing myself from anything and anyone I deemed “too girly” because I equated it with weakness. This inherited mindset persisted well into my 20s. I exaggerated my masculine qualities and suppressed my feminine strengths. I thought I had to work 10 times harder to make up for being a woman. And my unconscious bias wasn’t just self-inflicted—I expected other powerful women to do the same.

Realizing my unconscious bias was a revolution for me, my career and my relationships. I stopped apologizing for being a woman and started celebrating the women leaders who wear their compassion, empathy, connection and intuition like badges of honor. I recruit these women into the Emerging Women team because I know their non-traditional business styles are assets, not liabilities.

Now it’s your turn! Tell us about your experience with ​unconscious bias in the comments to win one of two complimentary tickets to ​Emerging Women Live​. We’ll be collecting responses through August 27!

Chantal Pierrat‘s mission is to increase women’s leadership across the globe. After earning an MBA from the University of Colorado, Chantal left a career in medical device manufacturing in search of work that would align her dedication to transformative leadership with her passion for living an inspired, impactful life. In September 2012, she founded Emerging Women, a global leadership and media platform that serves over 70,000 women worldwide. Chantal’s ultimate vision is to weave feminine leadership and authenticity into businesses, and to create a world where women have a strong voice in the shaping of our future.

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  1. 2017 Year of Women! #PASSERA, 80% Women in Congress, 7 Female Supreme Court Judges= then World will be a place I could live in!

  2. As someone who proudly identifies as a feminist, it has been hard to acknowledge my own unconscious bias towards women. The one time this bias became most evident to me was a few years ago when I boarded a plane with a female pilot for the first time. Although I did not want to admit it then, my already existing anxiety with flying became heightened knowing that the pilot was a woman. As we got ready for take off, I felt ashamed longing for the familiar deep voice to take over the intercom. I could not believe that despite my activism as a feminist, I still had these sexist thoughts.
    As it turns out, this particular flight was the smoothest I have ever been on.

    I think sharing these experiences is powerful. In fear of disputing my claim as a feminist, I have never shared this story before. Rather, I kept it bottled up, pretending that it had never happened. Yet it did happen. And now I know that it did not make me any less of a feminist.

    I hope this project helps other women (and men) who have had similar experiences! Pretending our biases do not exist does not get us any closer to equality. Instead, I believe it is one of the main forces holding us back.

  3. M.L. Browne says:

    This is an easy one for me, and really hard to admit. For most of my life, my unconscious bias was that I entered into every situation and conversation, professionally and personally, with the belief that every person in the room — no matter what — knew more about what was being handled or discussed than I did. As I advanced professionally, I had to wade through that layer in every meeting, in every decision, all the more remarkable because I was in an executive position for much of my career.

    I had plenty of people coming to me asking me for help in solving problems, for my opinions about things, for my advice, yet I couldn’t shake the notion that they knew more than I did, so why were they coming to me for anything? I did my best, and usually got good results. I compensated for this bias of mine with an equally wrong bias. If I could come up with answers, and I knew less than anyone, then they must just be guilty of intellectual laziness. I was surrounded by smart, lazy people.

    Even as I write it, the whole thing sounds ridiculous. This bias continued until I was almost 30 years old. What turned things around was a dinner with a male co-worker during an out of town trip. We’d spent the whole day working together on a large, complex project with a whole team devoted to finding a solution for a gnarly logistics issue. Toward the end of our grueling session, I suddenly had a deep insight, and saw how we could get things done. I blurted out the thing I’d thought. Everyone stopped cold, then one by one, grew excited, realizing we’d gotten to the breakthrough we were after. My co-worker told me he really admired my work, and wondered why I didn’t use my “genius” more often. I confessed what I’ve written above. He sat there, gob-smacked, then said, “That’s ridiculous. You’re the smartest person I’ve ever met, bar none. Don’t ever think you’re anything but.”

    It took a couple more years of practice, but with his words in my mind, I rooted out the bias, and was able to proceed more normally. Things have been, as you might expect, dramatically different since then.

  4. Jodi Selene says:

    Growing up with little money to spare in our household, I learned to be resourceful and to do everything from buyong clothes at a hospital thrift shop (in the 1970’s, before it was fashionable among movie stars!) to volunteering to work at events and places i wanted to go, but couldn’t afford. I worked for myself for many years and was content to just get by financially. In fact, I boasted that i could do so much with so little money.
    Of course, i didn’t trust the wealthy, believing – as hippies always claimed – that money turned people into power hungry Goliath.
    As I actually began earning money later in my career, I had to confront my bias against money. I often have to remind myself that it’s O.K., that I don’t have to forego the organic Greek yogurt because the plain yogurt is on sale!
    While i’m not rich, I have enough for the first time in my life, to make donations to organizations protecting the environment and women and girls. It’s not that money is evil. Money is a tool and what people do with it can be good or evil.

  5. Diana McCague says:

    I had lunch with a priest yesterday. Turns out he was a regular human being. I expect male clergy to be “above it all”, stern, ready to tell people how to live their lives, heavily boundaried. Of course, as I write this I realize I expect exactly the opposite of that from female clergy who “should” be warm, ready to offer wisdom and support, “motherly.” I’ve know female clergy who definitely do not fit this profile, but my mind still thinks that’s how they should be.

  6. Happy Ford says:

    White males that are too conservative. Those who don’t “get” the women’s movement.

  7. I have a very definite bias against white men, because every time I have been threatened by a man or a group of men, the offenders have all been white. I think a feeling of entitlement leads a lot of white men astray, and can make them extremely angry when their advances are rebuffed. Don’t get me wrong, some of my best friends are white men ( I am married to one, in fact), HOWEVER I have a very hard time giving strange white men the benefit of the doubt.

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