If you are a not a white male in the corporate world you have additional challenges you may not even be aware of that are hindering your progress.
The same goes for you female entrepreneurs building businesses with other “non-females”.
I was at an entrepreneurs dinner; the Managing Director of a business stood up to make a speech. In the audience a couple, close friends to the MD, were there for support. I was sat next to them and we had a good chat. They showed me some recent holiday photos of them and their two children. It was really nice to get to know them a little.
Can you visualise the scene in your mind?
What did you see when you saw the MD on the stage? Was he male? White? What about the couple? Was it one man, one woman? What about the children? Did they look of a similar ethnicity to their parents?
In fact the MD was an Asian woman. The male couple were gay and of African descent. Their children, adopted from a friend who had passed far too young from cancer, were white.
If you imagined a white, male partner it’s to be expected. Same as if you imagined a male/female couple with children that looked similar to them.
But if you did, while it is to be expected, it makes you part of the problem of inequality.
Not on purpose of course.
As much as you are ‘open to anything’ the brain hates unfamiliarity.
When you see something you aren’t expecting the ancient part of the brain, the amygdala, signals the hypothalamus to fire up the point where the brain and the endocrine system interact.
At this point the adrenal glands release cortisol into the body.
In other words, your stress response has been triggered.
This stress response to something unfamiliar happens in nanoseconds.
This instant instinctive response – flight or fight – is what kept us alive. It ensured the survival of the species. It is what kept us safe when encountering an usual, highly dangerous animal or insect and without it who knows where we would be.
The encounters we have these days rarely require the fight or flight response. Even so, when we encounter something unfamiliar our stress response is triggered.
What does this mean for equality?
Imagine this – you are the Managing Director of a company. .
You are recruiting for a senior Management role.
Two equal candidates. One male, one female.
Which one triggers the stress response?
Probably the woman.
Well, to start with in your industry senior managers are mostly male. There is something unfamiliar about a female senior manager.
Your stress response is triggered.
You’re not consciously aware of it but it happens.
You feel slightly uncomfortable.
The Director doesn’t even know why but he is less likely to recruit this woman even though she is equally competent.
As a result, she is less likely to get the top by being equal. She has to be better than the male candidate – but that’s another story. .
Back to this situation….one less women in power because she didn’t get the job.
As a result, women at the top are less familiar.
Less familiarly means this issue is less likely to be addressed.
Less women at the top, means less familiarly, means more stress responses, means less women at the top (and all the consequential issues that brings with it for the individuals, the workplace and wider society)
How do we change this?
By behaviour examination.
It is only when we examine our behaviour that we can change them.
It is not our fault that we have unconscious bias.
But, we do have the power of self-reflection and it is our duty to use it.
I urge everyone – not just those of us in power to examine your behaviour.
Examined behaviour means you can make the unfamiliar, familiar.
Familiar means more equality.
Equality means less stress for everyone.
Isn’t that worth an hour of self-reflection a week?
If you are struggling with self-reflect, I can help you rewire your subconscious to make the unfamiliar, familiar. Get in touch now.