When we become a parent, our ideals and instincts naturally evolve to include more than ourselves. Our daughters (and our sons) become our primary concern as we learn to manoeuvre the tricky path of parenthood. But sometimes when it comes down to our most basic instincts, we are our own worst enemies.
Trying to raise strong female leaders for the future can often be hindered by our unconscious beliefs. A recent Harvard report discovered that we may harbour preferences for male political leaders and business leaders over that of female leaders. Bias comes into play with many of our actions, and we need to counteract this at the most basic of levels if we are to make a change in the diversity debate.
Understand your bias
Knowing your preferences will go a long way in conquering the unconscious biases of others. However, it may not be as straightforward as all that. We are indeed a sum of our experiences, and many of our unintentional biases are deeply ingrained in our upbringing and attitude. Do your biases affect your attitudes towards others? What stereotypical assumptions do you have about boys or girls? If you are unsure, ask your friends or colleagues as they may notice something you are totally unaware of.
Sometimes it may come down to a simple case of reprogramming your brain. Post non-traditional images to contradict your unconscious bias and pay attention to your language. Comments such as beautiful girls, strong boys and an affiliation for pink for your daughter’s bedroom are all examples of gender conformity.
Change the talk at home
Now you need to take it one step further and ensure that all members of the family are aware of unconscious bias in their attitudes to others. Eliminating these at the base level will ensure a stereotypical free home. Be honest so they understand that what they are doing is all part of the bigger picture. They are to be the change if we are to make change – it is as simple as that.
Feel free to break the mould when it comes to stereotypes. The boys don’t have to mow the lawn while the girls wash dishes. Base your decisions on skills rather than gender-based assumptions. Talk about stereotypes in society as a large, why they are harmful and how you can make a change together. Share examples of when you were held back because of gender bias and expand their horizons with hobbies, movies, and activities that go beyond the social norm. Teach the girls they can be strong while encouraging the boys to support strong women.
Teach self-confidence and leadership skills
By teaching basic leadership skills we are showing firsthand how we can counteract negative and weak female images. Girls need to be exposed to examples of leadership to help encourage public speaking and self-belief.
Discuss the roles of leaders as a whole and show them a variety of girls and women in influential leadership positions. Talk to them open and honestly about their fears, beliefs, and passions and try to align their interests to include a leadership position. Encourage diversity, teamwork and collaboration to widen their knowledge of racial, economic and cultural bias. Show them that they can make a difference in their own way.