Thrive and RedChairPGH

A couple weeks ago I had the pleasure of joining our VP, Strategy Brenda Vester as she and our partners at RedChairPGH presented some findings from a research study we recently conducted with them. 

Check out the video below to learn more about our study:

While the feedback from the participants was outstanding, what made the night most enjoyable was that we were actually helping fulfil the exact mission of the program: to improve gender equality in the tech workforce.  

We weren’t accomplishing this by “getting to the root” of the problem or establishing “processes, procedures and regulations”. Rather, we were simply doing what humans do best: we were talking. 

We were having an open, honest, often humorous, and most of all productive, conversation about the types of cognitive biases that have resulted in the gender inequalities we see today – especially in the technological sector. 

What I realized, and decided to share, was that most of us don’t want to be biased. In general, I remain optimistic that we want our fellow man to be treated equal. There are exceptions and temptations to feel the contrary, but that’s besides the point.

The point is that we make these horribly biased decisions without even thinking twice – or even once – about them. They truly are unconscious biases. While that is scary at times, it’s also promising in the sense that we have the ability to recognize them, discuss them, understand them, and make better decisions moving future. 

It also means we can discuss them openly without feeling like a “bad person”. The majority of us don’t want to discriminate against others, so let’s put any guilt aside and have a discussion about it. 

Like any major change in the status quo, removing various biases from our decision making takes open dialogue, understanding, practice and time. 

Dialogue 

The first step is dialogue. We aren’t aware when we do most of these things and we don’t want to do them – at least no reasonable person does. We want to treat people with dignity and we want to have respectful relationships. But…we all act like jack asses sometimes. 

By accepting that and opening a dialogue, we’ve taken a huge step. Self-awareness is an awesome thing and we all need as much as we can get. Hearing what affects other people, and telling our stories in a place that feels safe, brings us all closer together emotionally, and the end result is going to be better decisions. 

All too often we’re forced to make quick decisions with little thought – so we default. But the default isn’t always the best decision for everyone. It’s the best decision for us. It’s important that we can build the habit of remembering that other people are involved in our decisions. We then need to take into consider how our actions will impact them. It sounds simple. We all want to do it. But it’s hard. That’s why talking and sharing stories is so powerful. It bonds us and increases empathy. 

Understanding

Next is understanding. Humans are smart, and we don’t do anything by complete accident. Something, whether related or not, influences the decisions we make – what we say. What we do. 

That’s why as we have our dialogue, we need to make sure we analyze things. Understanding helps us move past hurtful biases and serves as a reminder in the moment to discourage us from making decisions based on them. 

Understanding biases and their outcomes also helps us create processes and procedures that we can implement to help each other avoid them. This doesn’t mean people are “being told what to think,” but rather we can be empowered with tools to help us focus on the factors that truly impact the quality of a decision we are tasked to make.

It’s also important to note that these are studied, established, well-understood biases resulting from cognitive psychology. This isn’t just how someone feels – this is science. This is our world. 

Practice and Time

Finally, we aren’t going to eliminate our biases overnight. They are always going to be with us. However, with enough practice, and over time, we can learn to manage them in a way so they do not influence our decision making in ways we’d prefer they not. 

Nothing beats honest, face-to-face conversations, but that isn’t always possible or practical. And it can limit the number of voices that are able to contribute and be heard. 

The Thrive Platform is a great accompaniment to this ongoing dialogue we must continue having if we want to keep moving towards focused, rational, bias-free decision making. 

Reach out today to learn more. Thanks!

 

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