Breaking the Bias was the theme for International Women’s Day 2022. It was a call to create a world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination. A world that is diverse, equitable, and inclusive – where difference is valued and celebrated.
In Sub Saharan Africa (SSA) this year we celebrated the theme of breaking the bias by highlighting the work of Africa’s women entrepreneurs through a campaign called #LookMeUp, highlighting Africa’s women entrepreneurs on the continent with programming designed to break the biases around their leadership in building Africa’s economy.
Meanwhile, inside Google, we ran a #LookMeUp campaign for female Googlers to share their career stories and the biases we should look them up for breaking. Some powerful themes emerged:
Understand your own biases
Felicia Otolorin, Industry Manager in Nigeria points out that to her breaking the bias is “first being aware of what our own internal biases are, understanding how we can best navigate them to make the world around us and our approach to the world around us better”. It’s about creating the space to help yourself and others understand your own biases — how they shape us and how we defy them.
Lead with authenticity
Googlers talked about how owning your excellence and letting purpose drive you is what allows them to challenge stereotypes in meaningful ways. Dorothy Ooko, Head of Communications and Public Affairs in Africa, says, “to me breaking the bias means living my life with excellence so naysayers are proved wrong and giving others the space to do so”. Country Director of Kenya, Agnes Gathaiya, describes being driven by the purpose of ensuring more women have a seat at the table — every day, everywhere— to ensure the sustainability of female leadership.
Zelda Tintinger, Channel Territory Manager, in the Cloud team in South Africa speaks of having to break the bias that women should be seen and not heard to own her seat at the table, initially as the first female engineer at Microsoft and now one of the first in the Sub Saharan African Region at Google. It’s about owning your voice, in careers and work spaces where women are often underrepresented. For Pren-Tsilya Boa-Guehe, Government Affairs & Public Policy Manager, it’s about not letting your fears or your challenges get in the way of you trying to reach for your dreams. Finally Oluwatamilore Oni, Program Associate, Google.org states that to her breaking the bias is going beyond her comfort zone and to reach for the opportunities she’s interested in and things she would like to explore.
Create space for others
Lastly, create space for others. For Juliet Ehimuan, Country Director of Nigeria, breaking the bias means “Going beyond perceived limits, giving everyone the freedom to bring all of who they are to the table in service of their greater self”. Additionally, Head of Brand and Reputation for the region, Mojolaoluwa Aderemi-Makinde, describes the importance of being open to learning and listening deeply to understand other viewpoints, perspectives and lived experiences knowing that people see things from different sides of the prism as well as opening yourself to new opportunities and adventures to improve your knowledge.
It is only when we have honest conversations that we can have corrective conversations.
What can others do in their organizations or lives to break the bias?
- Don’t make assumptions about people, based on their gender, race, age, background or how they speak. You do not know someone’s story, the odds they’ve defied or the extent of their experience and excellence unless you make the room to get to know them.
- Encourage women to take up space. When you are in rooms with women and in rooms without them, ask yourself what voice is not being heard, and why? And then create the room to ask and more importantly to listen.
- For the women trailblazing and forging spaces in unknown territories, do not forget to lift as you rise. Ensuring sustainable female leadership and leadership pipeline is important, so that in generations to come women are not fighting the same fight and we are creating environments where we can all thrive.
- If you see something, say something. It is important that we hold ourselves accountable for creating the culture we want to have, calling out discriminatory and biasd behaviour when we see it as well as own when we ourselves make mistakes. This should be done in a manner that cultivates growth and encourages us all to be better and reminds us that we are the custodians of our organization’s culture.
To find out more about the campaign head to #LookMeUp, and watch the full video below.