This year, the theme for International Women's Day is #BreakTheBias, working towards a gender equal world. In the first of two blog posts from BPI to mark the day, Arit Eminue, Director, DiVA Apprenticeships, and a member of BPI's Equity & Justice Advisory Group discusses the impact of gender bias.
One of the questions I ask my coaching clients when they struggle to navigate a particular challenge is to close their eyes and imagine waking tomorrow into a world where their problem had miraculously disappeared. What would be the first sign the problem had gone?
In a world free of gender bias, I'd be free. Free of the tightness in my chest that's like an old wound, a dull ache caused by years of apprehension of being the only one. My muscles would release a huge sigh of relief as they claimed their freedom from the tension of bending and squeezing into another person's view of me.
There would be no more first awards to win for positions of old: first woman to do this, first black or Asian or trans or disabled woman to do that. Whether my womb had carried a child would be of no-ones concern but my own. My age and the confidence that comes with growing into yourself warts, and all would be celebrated not feared.
I would be seen in all my uniqueness, and valued for what I brought to the table. And if there were an opportunity for me to be one of those 'firsts', I wouldn't think twice because I would be fully supported - my mic would be plugged in and switched on - and there would be a cushion for me should I fall. My perspective, lived experience, and ever-changing hairstyles, would be to an organisation the equivalent of that secret ingredient in my Mother's Okra soup - without that seasoning, the dish is bland.
Don't get it twisted; there'd still be haters, and that's ok. Some people will always carry too much excess luggage to board my (metaphorical) private jet; there are plenty of seats for them in commercial. There would be enough going on in my world to make me feel included.
What says you?
What would you do differently if you were to wake to a world where gender bias had gone? What would you say 'yes' to? What would you say 'no' to? What can you do now to take you closer to that reality?
We've all ingested gender biases that are no longer serving us well. Beating the bias requires a collective effort that starts with you, and it's the small steps taken consistently that lead to success.