On International Women's Day, March 8, IBM Systems Lab Services takes the opportunity to show our support for the women in our organization and those around the world. This year’s theme of #BreakTheBias may be particularly timely and provides an invitation for self-reflection and real honesty in where we fall short.
Bias is prevalent in every aspect of our lives, even in the workplace. It comes in many shapes and forms and continues to have a ripple effect on those to whom it's directed. In fact, according to Deloitte’s Inclusion Survey, 64% of surveyed workers felt they had experienced bias in their workplaces, with the same percentage saying they had observed bias in their workplace. Those percentages grow even higher when it comes to negative effects on their work, with 68% reporting a negative effect on productivity and 84% reporting a negative effect on their happiness, confidence or well-being. These are unacceptably high numbers.
You can find many studies showing such examples as hiring managers being less likely to invite an obese applicant for an interview, people seeing older workers as less valuable and bias against Arab-Muslim men in hiring decisions in Sweden. For women in particular, this might look like unequal pay, adverse hiring practices and career advancement hurdles.
The real challenge is that bias is most likely to be unconscious, which brings a unique opportunity to us all. It's a chance to collectively demystify bias for ourselves and those in our communities and workplaces to ensure we all do our best to leave bias behind. How can we do this? It all starts with each of us taking the time to acknowledge the bias we carry, then doing the work to understand why we hold that bias and who is affected by it. A great place to start is to take Harvard’s Implicit Bias tests to help you identify your own bias and blind spots. This exercise will provide us with the clarity we need to engage in personal reflection and candid discussions with the intention to #BreakTheBias within ourselves.
Break the bias
Once the internal reflection is complete, the outward work must be done. We must use this newfound knowledge and leverage it to make a change. The International Women's Day 2022 theme #BreakTheBias implores us to collectively take action against bias in our communities and workplaces. You can start by asking yourself in what spaces have you personally seen bias? Then begin to brainstorm what you can do to challenge bias in those spaces. For without those brave enough to stand up and speak out against bias, it will continue to receive the negligence needed to continue to grow.
IBM answers the call
IBM is well known for its longstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion. Recently, IBM has started tackling bias in advertising. In June 2021, IBM Watson Advertising announced a research initiative to use open-source AI to gauge how prevalent unwanted bias is in digital advertising and to explore how to reduce it in ad campaigns. We started with a hypothesis: Bias exists in digital advertising today, and we can use AI to help identify and mitigate it. Working closely with IBM Research and using established approaches such as the AI Fairness 360 (AIF360) toolkit, we analyzed the factors leading to unwanted bias throughout the advertising funnel and how AI can help.
In IBM Systems Lab Services, we work every day with clients, helping them with their business and IT challenges. And as we offer our expertise, diverse backgrounds and experiences, we are also committed to improving and advancing women’s equality. We strive every day to uphold IBM’s values of diversity and inclusion, and for International Women’s Day, we invited our team to take a stand on how they will #BreakTheBias for their colleagues, families and all women.
While International Women’s Day is a global event celebrated on one day, the call to support and act for the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women is year-round. So, let’s all choose to #BreakTheBias—today and every day. Together, we can make 2022 and beyond better for all women. We encourage you to share this blog on your social media accounts using the hashtag #BreakTheBias with your thoughts on what you can do to #BreakTheBias. And if we can assist you, please contact us.