Webinar Recap: Business Leaders on Breaking The Bias

Breaking biases involves many waves of changes to make tidal advancements. We all have a part to play.

We recently gathered four inspiring people — each with different perspectives of seeing, experiencing, responding and breaking biases — to join in a #BreakTheBias panel kōrero.

Hearing from our Chair Theresa Gattung, Mark Russell (PwC) Chelsea Winstanley and moderator Wena Harawira (Māori TV), we explored their visions for the advancement of Āotearoa and about what’s at stake for women if we don’t shift the dial.

With vibrant, frank, open and forward-thinking conversations, we deep dived into the granular yet powerful ways in which we can break the bias each and every day.

Enjoy our kōrero on YouTube:

Challenging our own biases never stops

If you’re reading this article, chances are that you’ve given a thought to your biases as well as the biases you’ve faced. However, Theresa Gattung shares that no matter how much we champion breaking biases and advance causes, there’s always a chance it can seep its way in.

Sharing a bold reflection of her own very recent moment where gender bias came into play over email, Theresa reminds us of the power in self-reflection. You can be deeply involved in a cause but, as Theresa puts it, there can be a temporary “mote in {your} own eye.

All of us have bias. Actually owning it, working on it to deal with it so that we can show up fully healed and more present is really important,” Theresa shares. “What we do in the outside world is the manifestation of what’s in us. We do it because we cannot not do it.

The art of completely replumbing the system

In the spirit of our frank and open kōrero, Mark Russell also shared the personal experience with biases. In doing so, he drives home the importance of really addressing root issues and interrogating the status quo — however minute it may be.

Mark’s reflection on seeing women drop off from the workplace after a near-even gender balance as a graduate, to later seeing women in the workplace stand up, ask questions, and lay out challenges sparked an internal interrogation. This was a lightbulb moment for staying alert to the smaller, non-overt nuances of the workplace. “When it’s so baked in the cake, it’s hard to see it as something that screams out for attention.

“It was an absolute revelation to witness how different the techniques were to achieve success in the different things they were given to do within the organisation.”

It’s up to us to interrogate the cultural norms surrounding us, in our communities and organisations around what “success” and “good” looks like: presenteeism, hard work-ism, and “all of the cliches of what that looks like”. This also involves ensuring our decision makers aren’t coming from that point of view and carry intersectionality.

We’re at the stage in Āotearoa New Zealand where if we’re going to make the next stage of progress, then we have to look deeply at completely replumbing the system because that’s what it’s going to take to achieve differences in outcomes and unlock a better tomorrow for not just the women in New Zealand but for all of our communities,” Mark says.

Interrogating cultural bias is interrogating gender bias

We know the importance of interrogating our own ideas: and this extends to looking exactly at how we see gender bias fit into a greater picture: cultural bias.

Gender bias is a bit of a distraction” shares Chelsea Winstanley. “What I mean is that we need to actually think about cultural bias: to get rid of gender bias we need to go back and look at our cultural bias in this country.

Indigenous culture has equality. We’re called on to embrace the indigenous mindset of being born with obligations in the place of the Western-focused rights. Obligations to your whānau, your iwi, hāpu, land, past, present and future. If we took this on board, we wouldn’t have to get rid of cultural bias to get rid of gender bias. “Indigenous people already have the knowledge, you just have to share the power,” Chelsea shares.

This extends through to how we view women’s contributions. As well as the organisational and structural ways of supporting mothers and parents, “we need to change the perception of nurturing and bringing new life into the world.” Everything from remuneration, acknowledgement and supporting women to come back in the workspace.

“In order to change any system, we need to participate in every single system that exists. Even if we don’t like the system, or it needs an overhaul, we need to change it.”