The Brain Science Behind Gender Bias in the Workplace: Communications Explored

Interview: Carol Barkes

Some talking points for an interview on
women on gender bias in the workplace:

  • As one of the San Francisco Bay Area first female firefighters and now a woman in a still largely male dominated legal field, I regularly experience gender bias.  In fact, we all do and some of it cannot be helped.
  • Biases come in two forms extrinsic and intrinsic.  Intrinsic biases happen “under the hood” or unconsciously.  They are our brains way of filtering information that is ancestral in nature—is someone a friend or is someone a potential threat, for instance.  Extrinsic biases are consciously driven in that we choose to have them.  For instance, I choose not to hire a woman.
  • When addressing the occurrence of a bias it is helpful to consider whether we think it is intrinsic or extrinsic.  If it is intrinsic, a simply statement bringing attention to the matter can be all that is needed.  Extrinsic bias requires more savvy.  This bias needs comments that are both direct while respectful.
  • Exploratory questions can be very helpful.  For instance, when I was a new firefighter, men (and their wives) would often ask me if I was capable of being a firefighter. Instead of getting defensive, I would make an observing statement such as, “Just from the framing of your question, I sense you have some reservations about my capabilities.” I would then follow up with a question, “Can you help me understand what you are really asking or are concerned about?” Sometimes it would be as basic as, “If I were trapped in a burning building, could you get me out?” I would reply, “If by getting you out, you mean carry you for long distances, probably not. However when in a burning building, low is the way to go and I could certainly drag you out with no problem.” I would then follow up with another question, “Do you have any other concerns?”
  • The key is to not be defensive and to be exploratory.  A log of magic is in the dialog and approach.

Available for Interviews: Carol Barkes

Carol Barkes, CPM, is a trend-setting mediator, business executive and educator specializing in the use of neuroscience to improve business performance, interpersonal communications, negotiation and conflict resolution processes for optimally successful results. She is also a speaker, educator, and author of the bestselling book: Success Breakthroughs.

Jo Allison
PR Managing Editor
Success In Media, Inc.

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