Gender bias at work, at school, or simply in everyday life is already an old topic. Similarly to “how to be happy question”, millions of solutions to it can be found on the Internet. However, prejudices against women are there and are there to stay.
It is very important to understand that prejudices are automatic. That’s why training and talks do not help. In addition, people generally do not realize that they are acting under bias influence.
I will not complain about how much injustice I have suffered so far. I will just share with you some ways to address bias. I have tested them for several years and confirm that they work.
1. Never start to speak or write from “I do not know”. This way, in the first two words you confirm the stereotype and no one listens to you anymore. I know it is popular to start with, for example: “I do not know why it happened, but because I am an expert in this field, …” – however, being a young person or a woman or two-in-one, I advise to avoid it. I recommend the introduction: “I know that …” or “According to my experience…”
2. Two small, powerful words – “but”, and “and”. On this topic you can write a separate article. Now I give you two short points to apply immediately:
a. “But” – remember – everything you say before “but” is not important. “I like your idea very much, but …” – when you hear something like this, you immediately know that someone does not praise your idea, but only passes a disguised criticism.
b. If you want the first part of your sentence to become meaningful, use “and”. For example: “I really like your idea, and I think you can still think about …”. Of course, you can also use “but” in a finesse way to communicate to others what you think about their ideas. This is more elegant than being a stereotypical emotions driven and defensive woman.
3. “I know I do not look, BUT …” – In my translation: “You think that since I am an attractive woman, I lack intelligence. Now, let’s come to terms with my dazzling looks and talk about …”. Sometimes I use a different version: “Please explain to me as to a blonde …” – it works too. This is not a malicious way at all. I read about it once that simple acknowledgment of something what can trigger stereotypical reactions, cleans the air. It can be used in many situations. You can say, “I know I’m still young, BUT …” “Being in a wheelchair sometimes makes me less comfortable, BUT …”. Here you can also see an example of the conscious use of the word “but” that works in our favour. Everything said before the “but”, loses its power.
4. Interrupting at a meeting – endless story. It is easier to interrupt a woman because they often have a weaker voice or the above-mentioned prejudices are at stake. Maybe you’ve accidentally started with “I don’t know” and my your colleague thinks that if you do not know, then there is no point in further listening. Or that an attractive person is there as a decoration, not to speak. The must rule is that you always react. No matter how, but you have to.
The three principles described above apply. For example, when a colleague will have to take a breath or finishes his speech, you say: “I know that today I have a weaker voice, BUT I have not finished, so …”, “I understand your opinion, HOWEVER (other form of BUT) I want to finish and present my point of view. “, and the like, depending on the situation.
5. The last point – trust your intuition, it’s your best friend. Apparently, women are better at this than men so you have to use this advantage. Each time when I send an e-mail or speak, and my intuition sends even the slightest signal of doubt – I postpone it for later. This “later” can be in two minutes or two days, doesn’t matter. If you have to write or say something important, take half a second and check if your intuition has something to say. I know it sounds a bit strange in the context of a blog about common sense. However, try it once or twice, and I promise that it will work.