Gender bias is not malicious, or even deliberate. Quite the opposite. It is simply the product of a way of thinking that has been around for millennia and is therefore a kind of not thinking.
Well, damn: it does bring comfort to know it is a side effect of stupidity.
8th of March: a.m. Twitter is on fire: Meghan Markle and Oprah interview. Quote: “Were you silent, or were you silenced?”
Rise and shine: Google celebrates with us: happy International Women’s Day! We feel supported. Yet, we can’t help but ask: what happened to Timnit Gebru? What would she say about her former employer celebrating Women’s Day? It has been only three months since she ‘resigned’. She used to be the co-lead of Google’s ethical AI team — until she exposed that G-AI data is biased: against women and people of colour, that is. And what happened there is now untold history. Damn you Oprah: your questions are so relevant.
8th of March: p.m. Twitter is on fire. AGAIN.
Burger King: women belong in the kitchen campaign. We activate our objective gaze and give it all the rational arguments: pro and against. The representation of female chefs is still not there — yet: is this the best way to address it? Do you have to make us feel that awful cramp in the stomach, do you have to give us that icky feel? Can we do anything else to help you get more clicks?
8th of March: p.m. Twitter: the campaign is being taken out.
We did not weep over the time and space granted to understand the ‘good intentions’ behind that campaign. With those good intentions, we could pave the road to hell. Funny how we decided to remember a completely different thing — and that was not your tweet. What we have remembered — we also understood correctly and instantly — when we read fellow-females tweeting it: Was it a guy who approved this add?
As we share and read the testimonials behind the #choosetochallenge hashtag we feel proud and inspired by all the amazing, talented women being put forward, represented, nominated, thanked: from UN, through governments, social enterprises to corporate giants and small companies. We also feel supported and understood when we read stories that do not make us proud: Why? We all have heard them or lived through them.
“you have to tone it down and be less outspoken ( bossy, dominant, assertive, opinionated…)
“you are not going to make it”
“you should reconsider if you ever want to find a job in this town”
“you are too young, not experienced enough, not seasoned enough”
“you are becoming a mother: you should not make any serious career plans”
We also feel conflicted when we see our hashtag being colonized. We wish to applaud all efforts — we want to support your efforts. But we also want to ask: where are the women on your boards? Can we read your report about the gender pay gap? Could you stop empowering and start giving us equal chances, and equal pay? We want to challenge, come forward and speak up and we also want to keep our jobs, clients and business relationships. Something to think about before you frown upon what we might say, or why we may decide to say nothing at all: not that easy, isn’t it?
9th of March: Back to normal.
Google recommends another read: Martin Sorell and his new digital empire. He and Google AI, hand in hand, will thrive. Two years ago, he left a different empire. Which story will be remembered? That of the abuse or that of the victory?
10th of March: Thoughts.
How big is a ripple effect the International Women’s Day creates? Impossible to say. Unmeasurable. Not to mention: that is the wrong question to ask.
One: there is a biased knowledge gap. We all have it. We all inherit it. We all recreate it. That is a fact.
Two: what we do know is relative, highly contextualized and sensitive.
Three: it is the unconscious bias that we’re up against.
It is complex. It is difficult. It is multidimensional. Challenging it — it surely is a great start. Designing and redesigning it together: for inclusion, for equality — this is where we draw our horizon line.
And we will get there. We will. To get where we are going: there will be no wrong starting point. Whoever you are, whatever your story is — may it make us proud, may it give us hope, may it make us feel supported and understood, may it make us feel conflicted: whatever it is — it is precious, priceless and invaluable. Admitting and understanding that ahead of us we have a hell of a task, then giving it a try: this is the greatest start you can give to yourself and to us. Let us all look through both — stories of pride, solidarity and support, as well as stories that remain unheard and untold.
May you want to share your story, may you want to feel proud, may you need support: please reach out. Saying hi already is a great start.