"Aren't there men in this house to ask me this? I don’t have to answer a women!!"
I was in my early twenties, when this was told to me in a tone filled with disgust by a neighbor for enquiring on their storm water drains which used to flood our backyard. Back then, I certainly was shocked and angry.
Today when I look back, I don’t see this with the same "why me?" lens … often behavior such as this stems from being conditioned to believe what a particular gender can or cannot do; from not being mindful of the decisive strength, intellectual capability and determination among many other wonderful characters that an individual is made up of, regardless of the gender.
As we celebrate the spirit of #BreakingBias, I want to share from my experience what has worked for me to fuel mindfulness and break bias … conscious or unconscious.
Bias to me is a perceived limitation that I draw in my own head. External factors can only trigger what is already inside me.
As I peel the layers - I see my own inhabitations, beliefs and social conditioning that is hard wired in me. When I understand why I react the way I react, know the emotion a particular bias triggers in me, I am able to deal with it better.
The catch with unconscious bias is that it is "unconscious"!
I lean-in on people who provide candid and timely feedback. They call out certain behavior that unearths unconscious bias. You attract what you seek. Seek well intended sounding boards, and be that sounding board yourself.
I have come to realize that stereotyping is at times a coping mechanism - we want to draw a parallel, box an individual. The best gift you can give your colleagues , protégés or family is stating what you observe without judgement and ask them for the same. Be an ally, question what is not right and be a part of the solution.
I am a strong believer that when my destination is compelling, I will break all barriers to get there.
I ask myself - Why is it important? What happens if I let this behavior continue? How do I know that I have overcome this bias? What does good look like… not what perfect looks like.
Accepting myself the way I am has been liberating.
It puts me on the driver's seat of my destiny from being a self-pitying victim. When I know that I am sufficient despite my imperfections , I break barriers that I create in my head. I give just the right amount of attention to criticism arising out of bias, to constructively fuel my progress.
It is inevitable and a fact that we are judged.
I prefer to be judged for what I strongly believe in because I have my full might behind it.
"You have children and soon they will be grown up. It is only right for you to take roles that does not require for you to travel".
I have heard this a dozen times if not more. I have thrived in roles that required extensive travel, learning a new language, learning new skills and working with cultures and time zones across the globe. I find solutions and not excuses , because I am assured of my decision.
My work in progress story... Breaking bias is a continuous journey. As I expand my horizon, as I increase my exposure to newer areas, I need to intentionally watch out and be a catalyst for an inclusive environment where each of us can bring our whole selves and find harmony in our differences.
I am work in progress… and I pledge to continue to #breakbias for the good of me and for those around me!
PS – if you are wondering what happened to our backyard … YES! I got that fixed!! 😊