Even if we agree that the overt sexism of the “Mad Men” era is behind us, and even if we know that women are equally represented in the workforce, we still have to acknowledge that the percentage of women in leadership hasn’t budged in a decade and is pitifully small.
“There is a silent, invisible, powerful actor in the equation,” she told the audience in Auckland, New Zealand. “All of us, male and female, are unconsciously gender-biased… [which] makes well-meaning men and women do things that are out of keeping with their consciously held values without ever knowing they’ve done so. Until we recognize and admit this, we all become unwitting accomplices in the perpetuation of discrimination and inequity.”
Awareness is the first and most important step. Crawford described how she “tunes up” her own awareness with colleagues and friends. They send each other notes about things they notice in their daily lives: in the media, they pay attention to stock photo choices, background images, and quotes and anecdotes used to illustrate articles; at meetings, they notice speaker ratios and participant ratios; in the workplace, they look for gender language in job descriptions, they consider décor, they notice committee membership.
After awareness, there’s action. “Because we have this differential in representation at the top level, we need men at the top level to champion it,” Crawford said. For ways to bring action and awareness to your workplace, including tools for engaging men, visit the Web site of Catalyst, a nonprofit aiming to “disrupt the default.”
Meanwhile, women should start acting on a different bias—a bias toward action, says Claire Shipman of ABC News, who, along with BBC journalist Katty Kay, wrote The Confidence Code. In researching the book, she says, the pair discovered that women “consistently underestimate what we are capable of, and that leads to missed opportunities… because we are holding back and we tend to say, ‘I’m not ready for this.’ What women need to do is act more… It won’t be easy. [But] each time you act, you are building more confidence.” (Listen to Shipman’s comments in a video posted at BigThink.com.)
We’ve got more advice for women navigating the workplace—including what men seem to know instinctively about getting ahead that women don’t—in this interview with Lauren Leader-Chivée, founder of All In Together, as well as from a slew of your meetings industry peers. Enjoy and then go work your bias—toward action!