What bias have you seen or experienced in your working career?
My personal experience of bias being shown towards me has mainly been based on my gender. Comments I’ve received are on a wide-ranging scale, some I think were well-intended, just poorly phrased, other comments have been far more striking. I’ve also been witness to other forms of bias, such as ethnicity, age and religion. What’s less visible to me is my own bias, so it’s important I remain open to feedback.
How did you handle bias when it happened to you?
In my younger years I failed to challenge it. I don’t think I had a particular turning point, but with experience I could see the world changing at a faster pace than Knauf Insulation and I remember feeling increasingly frustrated with outdated attitudes towards women in the workplace. I realised if I wasn’t going to challenge bias then people may think I was accepting of it, and that didn’t feel right. I began challenging it the next few times it happened. While some people were open to the feedback, others were not, they became dismissive or in some cases followed up by displaying even more bias, which became tiring, but I knew I had to be consistent, I wasn’t just speaking out for myself but for others too.
What have you or others done to support your career?
I have focused on my personal development. For a number of years I’ve had a Fellowship with the Chartered Management Institute. I try to stay open minded and challenge myself personally and professionally. When I received a Knauf Leadership Award in 2018, it felt great to know that the business acknowledged a variety of leadership styles and I didn’t have to show typically male traits to be successful. I could genuinely be myself. I may work in a male dominated team, but I didn’t have to change who I was to be accepted. The fact I think differently and approach subjects from a different perspective challenges groupthink and adds value, it’s a positive thing.
What advice would you give to a female colleague joining Knauf Insulation today?
Be yourself. You might find yourself in the minority from a gender perspective, but gender isn’t everything, there are many ways we can connect – through our shared values, hobbies and experiences. I’d say value yourself sufficiently to feedback what you need to, and when doing so, be kind. We shouldn’t assume bias has been shown consciously, it could be a genuine blind spot. Having had personal experiences of bias I feel well placed to offer support.
What needs to be done to support women and tackle bias in the workplace?
Tackling bias has increased my resilience, but it has also taken a lot of energy to learn how to equip myself and self-navigate through difficult situations. I see clear benefits in contributing positively to a culture shift which makes it easier for the next generation to have role models, mentors or colleagues they can approach if they need support. I believe with a truly inclusive workplace, where diversity is welcomed and there is room for everyone to belong, we can all perform at our best and add even more value. Learning to become accountable, focusing on our own development, challenging ourselves to learn about bias and the many other topics which fall under the diversity and inclusion banner would be a great start to breaking down some of the barriers to conversations about diversity. I’d say to everyone – regardless of gender – go on, opt in!
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