Leading in a Changing World Requires Being Conscious of Unconscious Bias

Byline by by Lisl Dutterer, Executive Director, Wnet
October 31, 2019

Women in the U.S. earned the right to vote 99 years ago, giving rise to women’s empowerment and gender equality for generations to come. Today, side by side, men and women run companies, lead governments, raise families, fight wars, create wealth, and save lives. Yet, according to the World Economic Forum, we are still 108 years away from gender equality in the US workplace. How can that be?

Leading research firms including McKinsey & Company, Korn Ferry, Oliver Wyman, Goldman Sachs, all agree that incorporating diversity is not just the ethically right thing to do, but the economically essential thing to do. The success of an organization improves when leaders integrate diversity into a company’s strategic vision; products or services; and employee development.

Business Roundtable states that the new definition of the “purpose of a corporation,” is to go beyond serving shareholders to investing in employees. Today, presenting a diverse workforce to shareholders or the board is essential.

Diversity is a game-changer. So, why is the needle-moving so slowly?

Advocacy, Honesty, Courage, and Accountability

Wnet Advisor and Advocate Joe Carella, the assistant dean at the University of Arizona, Eller College of Management explains:

“Researchers at Eller are addressing neuroscience of bias in men and women, and we see clearly that unconscious bias in leaders and within an organization’s culture are the primary reasons why the gender gap still exists. By understanding how bias becomes embedded in how we lead, recruit, and advance others, we can change patterns and create inclusive organizations. Above all, men and women leaders must have a platform for dialogue.”

More than Dollars, Policies and Programs

Integrating diversity into any corporate culture is complex, even when we are truly committed to. Even when we set policies and established internal programs to remove hurdles, we are still faced with one of the most confounding aspects of increasing diversity and inclusion: our own brains. 

Be Conscious of the Unconscious: See it. Call it. Own it.

Within nanoseconds, our brains make instant observations and assumptions based on our beliefs and experiences. Unconscious bias is the resulting unchecked conclusions and judgments. They are ubiquitous. Becoming self-aware and keeping bias in check takes constant focus. Calling them out when you see it happening takes courage. Leading resulting change is risky. Unless we embrace focus, courage and risk, we’ll be on a 108-year journey. 

Leading in a Changing World

At this year’s Wnet Leadership Summit - "Leading in a Changing World,” nearly three hundred payments executives will examine ways to empower women to be leaders within this ever-changing industry. McKinsey & Company will present hot-off-the-press results of this year’s Women in the Workplace study findings. Through Wnet’s partnership with McKinsey, this year’s study includes more payments industry data than ever before, and the findings will reveal what we need to know to move the gender diversity needle more quickly.

Make the connection. Be the connection.

Since 2004, Wnet has been the industry’s thought leader and advocate for increasing diversity, inclusion and parity. Everything we do is focused on empowering women who lead, and the men who advocate for us.

We invite everyone to join us and work together to be drivers of powerful, positive change.