Category Archives: Confronting Bias

Unlocking change with ethical and inclusive design

A white male hand holding an open rusty padlock. Photo by Patricia Gestoso©.

A white male hand holding an open rusty padlock. Photo by Patricia Gestoso©.

(9 min read)

I’m not Black on Monday, a woman on Tuesday, and left-handed on Wednesday.

Annie Jean-Baptiste, Head of Product Inclusion at Google

My journey into ethical and inclusive design was prompted by embarrassment, fear, and impatience.

Embarrassment: When in December 2018, six months after launching my website on diversity and inclusion in tech, an expert in disability asked me if it was accessible and pointed me to the post 10 ways to make your blog accessible for people with a visual impairment on the site Life of A Blind Girl . Reading the article was transformative. It made clear to me that, irrespective of my intention — promoting diversity and inclusion — my impact was the opposite: Continue reading

3 things we should unlearn from COVID-19

Finger clicking on a button that has the inscription “31 December 2019”.

Figure adapted by Patricia Gestoso from this image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay .

(7 min read)

Imagine you go into a one-week change management training with the expectation is that when you are back to work you’ll reassure everybody that there is no need to change. How does that sound?

Actually, this is what’s happening right now. We’ve been in a change management boot camp for 3 months now, at the cost of $2-4 trillion US$ (UNCTAD, Asian Development Bank), but most leaders keep using sentences such as “back to normal” and “resume”, or simply they have gone hiding. Do they really believe we can all go backwards in time to 31 December 2019? Are they lacking the creativity and energy to be the catalyst for a different future miles away from their vision four months ago? Or are they simply patronizing their citizens and employees by thinking that if they keep insisting on going forward to the past, we’ll all close our eyes to our individual and collective experiences during this crisis?

If it’s the latest, it’s not working.

Continue reading

The ROI of Inclusive And Ethical Design

A calculator and a pen resting on a paper with some handwritten notes. 

Image by Shutterbug75 from Pixabay.

(5 min)

Interacting with tech products that reject me as a user or provide a subpar experience elicits two very different responses in me.

As a Head of Customer Service with 25+ years’ experience in scientific and engineering software, I’m well aware of the constraints imposed by a finite R&D team and an ever-growing list of customer enhancement requests and bugs to fix. It’s teams like mine that build those lists and provide feedback to the product team on their prioritization. Which features and fixes make it into code depends on a multitude of factors: the difficulty to implement them, their alignment with the vision for the product, and their potential impact on the user experience and expectations. This last criterion is assessed using fictional user personas created by the product team as a representation of the ideal customer. The closer the requester of the feature is to one of the user personas, the higher the chances of implementation into the product. However, if the issue is considered an edge case – not representative of a substantial customer base – then it will mostly get rejected or postponed indefinitely. Every new feature and fix must demonstrate its ROI.

As a woman that cumulates several out-group identities – e.g. non-native English speaker, poor vision – I’m used to the frustrating feedback that my mediocre user experience is deceptively cataloged as an edge case. Why deceptively? The average tech Continue reading

5 Strategies to make Unconscious Bias Training Effective

A man throws a bag with the sign "unconscious bias training" in a trashcan with the label "Nice to Have".

Unconscious bias training being thrown in the trashcan of the “nice to have”.
Figure adapted by Patricia Gestoso from this original image by OpenIcons from Pixabay.

“I’ve studied cognitive biases my whole life and I’m no better at avoiding them”

Daniel Kahneman, 2002 Nobel Prize in Economics Sciences

Four years ago, my interest in human behavior — crucial for my work as head of customer service — led me to Daniel Kahneman’s book “Thinking, fast and slow”. The book details how biases and rules of thumb play a crucial role in our decisions in the back of our minds. Serendipitously, around the same time, I started some initiatives to further diversity and inclusion at my workplace and I stumbled on a wealth of studies naming unconscious biases as one of the major barriers women encounter to thrive at work.

The more I learned, the more I realized — in hindsight — how unconscious biases had plagued past decisions. I read books and articles, talked to experts, and watched Continue reading

UK Gender Pay Gap Awareness: How to broaden the conversation at the workplace

3DSGenderPayGap_Coventry

Chairing an employee awareness session about the UK Gender Pay Gap in Tech at the Dassault Systèmes office in Coventry.

Recently, I was invited to chair a “Breakfast & Learn” session at our Dassault Systèmes office in Coventry (UK). The topic: UK Gender Pay Gap. This article is a reflection on that great learning and interactive experience.

What is “Breakfast & Learn”? One-hour monthly awareness sessions organized by our Great Place to Work (GPTW) ambassadors around a specific theme. Ideally, the presenters should keep the topic light and open, avoid the profusion of slides, encourage the audience participation, and limit the use of jargon. A healthy breakfast is provided along.

Why me? I founded the EuroNorth Dassault Systèmes Lean In circles in 2016 to advance diversity and inclusion initiatives at a regional level, I’m a member of the EuroNorth Diversity and Inclusion Council, and I’ve had the pleasure to host virtual employee meetings with our UK HR team to discuss the findings of our gender pay gap reports for 2016/2017 and for 2017/2018.

Why this topic? I learned that the recent publication of the Dassault Systèmes Gender Pay Gap report had been a hot topic for discussion in this office. There were different views regarding the scope, key indicators, and impact of the UK gender pay gap as well as the usefulness of reporting the data. Continue reading

Two Alpinists in Mount Tech. Take #1: Meritocracy

A woman and a man climb a mountain with the inscription “Mount Tech”. They have reached the same altitude, which is marked by a dotted line pointing to a vertical ruler labeled as “meritometer”. The woman has attached four weights of four different colors. The man has climbed the mountain using four pitons colored in the exact four colors of the woman’s weights. A legend indicates the colors represent bias, society expectations, stereotypes, and salary. At the top, a man thinks “That’s what true meritocracy looks like”.

From the Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Piton  \ ˈpē-ˌtän \ a spike, wedge, or peg that is driven into a rock or ice surface as a support (as for a mountain climber).

Weight \ ˈwāt \ : a heavy object to hold or press something down or to counterbalance.

Meritocracy \ mer-ə-ˈtä-krə-sē \ : A system in which the talented are chosen and moved ahead on the basis of their achievement.

Disability as an Innovation Driver

Yellow light bulb over physical disability symbols with the caption “disability as an innovation driver”

(5 min read)

The typewriter, internet, closed captioning, text-to-speech, eye gaze.

All those inventions have in common a widespread application and impact. They were also originally created to overcome a limitation imposed by a disability. And there are a lot more, as this article points out.

Surprised? I was. Stereotypes do narrow our thinking.

Myth #1: Disability happens to others.

Continue reading

Women & Money | Shame & Guilt

5 min read

I love the Masters of Scale podcast, hosted by Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn and investor at Greylock. What’s not to like about a podcast about innovative business models, that is fun and committed to a 50-50 gender balance for guests? Continue reading

Purl: For Pixar achieving gender equality at work is the low-status groups’ responsibility

Purl_202yearslater

Purl Final Scene: WARNING Wishful Thinking Ahead!!!

Last week, I received a link to Purl from a fellow diversity and inclusion advocate with the line “Wondered if you had seen this… it’s a brilliant explanation of the male-dominated workplace”.

Upon clicking on it, I was redirected to a Pixar 8-min short animation film called Purl Continue reading

When a Toilet Becomes a Symbol of Exclusion

Photo of a sign with an arrow pointing to the right followed by a transgender symbol at the center and disabled toilet sign.

A toilet sign at the TEDxWomenLondon2018

Toilet /ˈtɔɪlət/

A structure like a seat over a hole where you get rid of waste from your body.

A room in a house or public building that contains a toilet.

Early this month I attended LondonWomen. As per the director and curator of the event – Maryam Pasha – it was 8 years in the making. The stimulating array of speakers showed a labor of love, commitment, and resilience. 

I went to the event to keep up with the state-of-the-art in women’s issues and to network. I did a lot of the first (more at the end of this post), less of the second.

I also had a “toilet” epiphany: Continue reading

Salary transparency or how to eradicate the gender pay gap

Tech companies such as Buffer and Verve had implemented transparent salary. A realistic strategy to end with the Gender Pay Gap #genderpaygap #womenintech

Two weeks ago I attended the Ada’s List Conference 2018. The Ada’s List is an email-based community of more than 6,000 subscribers (me among them) “for women (and those who identify as) who are committed to changing the tech industry”.

The Conference was structured as a blend of presentations and concurrent workshops covering a vast array of topics related to women in tech. Inclusive design (‘Leaving No One Behind: Building Apps for The Next Billion Users’ by Aygul Zagidullina), new technologies (‘How can we use advanced imaging technology to build a better food system?’ by Abi Ramanan), self-care (‘Discover your self-care non-negotiables” by Babs Ofori-Acquah), and UX (‘Personalising the user experience and the playlist consumption on Spotify‘ by Mounia Lalmas-Roelleke) are some examples.

If there was a talk that both challenged my preconceptions and fuelled my optimism that a diverse and inclusive workplace is achievable was that of Åsa Nyström, Director of Continue reading

If Men Could Menstruate…

In 2015, the UK branch of WaterAid – an international non-profit organization with the mission of providing clean water, decent toilets, and good hygiene to people that don’t have them yet  –  launched the campaign If Men Had Periods to denounce that more than 1 billion women around the world lack of water and toilets during their menstruation. Furthermore, WaterAid wanted to increase the number of signatories to their Make it Happen petition, which called on world leaders to make sure that the UN sustainable development goals included a target on safe water and sanitation.

Their tongue in cheek approach was successful. Their adds won several awards, their Continue reading

Are you biased? Flip it to test it!

Unconscious bias can be defined as

a bias that happens automatically, outside of our control and is triggered by our brain making quick judgments and assessments of people and situations, influenced by our background, cultural environment, and personal experiences.

Whilst all human beings have unconscious biases, that’s not an excuse for inaction. Unconscious bias impacts Continue reading

Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions

Dear Ijeawele

 

Recently, I listened to the book “Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. The audible recording is 1 hour and I absolutely recommend it.

The premise of the book is the following: Years ago, the author was asked by a friend for advice on raising her baby girl as a feminist. Dear Ijeawele is Adichie’s advice to her.

My five favorite suggestions:

Continue reading

Gender equality lessons from a 12-year-old girl

Sexist Comment

Geauga County Maple Leaf, Thursday, July 19th, 2018 Vol. 25 No. 29, p. 7

Julianne Speyer is a 12-year-old American girl that can teach us a couple of things about equality,  fairness, and standing up for what we believe.

Continue reading

Women & Silence

Women and Public Speaking

Recently, I read the through-provoking Women & Power A manifesto, written by Prof. Mary Beard. In the chapter The Public Voice of Women, she highlights that in the Western tradition for the last 3,000 years women’s public speech has been confined to two areas:  (a) the support of their group interests (e.g. women rights), and (b) their victimhood (e.g. Christian martyrs). Attempts to breach that rule are Continue reading

An unconventional ride through privilege

The Collins Dictionary defines privilege as “a special right or advantage that only one person or group has”. The paradox is that is not uncommon that those same persons or groups are oblivious to their privilege in the first place!

Discussing privilege takes us to uncomfortable places. As this article says, “nobody likes Continue reading

How to say “No” to Office Housework

Office Housework

Are you always stuck with taking the minutes at the team meetings? Do all the people in the room expect you to order the catering? You are not alone.

Research shows that co-workers assume that women, and especially non-white women, are expected to do office housework, i.e. pick up all those administrative tasks Continue reading

Stop fixing women

This 1-min video sends a strong message about what needs to be fixed to get more women in leadership.

Ask Google: Is my son gifted? Is my daughter overweight?

SonGifted_DaughterOverweightSeth Stephens-Davidowitz’s book “Everybody lies” assembles his work on what he calls “Google Digital Truth Serum”, people’s internet searches. Seth theorizes that people are more honest when they ask Google than to any other source, including Facebook, which he calls “Digital Brag to My Friends How Good is My Life Serum”.

In this article, the author argues that Google searches suggest that modern American Continue reading

Feedback has gender

Feedback_gender
As women advancement in the career ladder has stalled, there is an urgency to signal “the” culprit: women don’t ask for promotions, women don’t have an appetite for leadership, women don’t sit at the table… Unfortunately, rarely those assertions come with metrics.

A refreshing change is this HBR article summarizing a study based on 81,000 peer Continue reading

What’s normal?

In this 2-min video, Derek Sivers challenges our concept of “normal” and “weird”.

Should Alexa join #MeToo?

Recently, I came across an article in the Engineering and Technology magazine that made me realize up to what extent artificial intelligence (AI) is mirroring our gender biases, conscious or unconscious. Think about the ubiquitous female voice in our home-assistants: Google Home, Microsoft’s Cortana, Amazon’s Alexa, and Apple’s Siri perpetuate the stereotype of female obedience.

What was even more disturbing was to learn that this submissive attitude goes beyond the Continue reading

The Pink Tax

ThePinkTax

It’s been some years now since I realized that I was consistently paying more than my partner for items ranging from toiletries to fitness weights.

It’s not my imagination – it’s called the pink tax! The Fawcett Society in the UK estimated that “women are paying on average 31% more for an own brand basket of comparable toiletries and are paying 12% more for a basket of own brand clothing items”.

Continue reading

Color blind vs color brave

In this TED talk, Mellody Hobson – president of Ariel Investments, a US management firm – challenges us to learn to be comfortable talking about uncomfortable topics such as race and gender as the only way to make meaningful change in our workplace and boardrooms.

Are you color blind or color brave?

Copyright © 2018 Patricia Gestoso – All Rights Reserved