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The he’s and the she’s of unconscious bias at work

You might have heard about this guy who was applying for jobs back in the 1990s in the management consulting profession without success. Turns out his first name is Kim and it dawned on him – after countless knock-backs without so much as an interview – that potential employers thought “he” was a “she”… So he added “Mr” to his CV and pronto! Within 2 weeks he secured his dream job.  Unconscious gender bias? He thinks so.

This (real) story generated over 2,000 comments and intense interest when it went viral around the world last week. A lot more interest – I suspect – than trying to explain unconscious bias from a woman’s perspective.

Now whether or not professional services firms have address some of this bias remains open for debate, though I know for sure that all of the big firms I work with have been proactive in recent times seeking out female experienced hires.  So maybe in today’s market, adding “Ms” will get you further, on some career paths at least.

Many women say they’ve experienced unconscious bias at work, but because it’s hard to prove it’s hard to remove. What if more men had experiences like Kim? Would that change things?

Maybe we need more stories like this one to really open up this issue and change the way men and women manage attitudes to gender balance, bias and work.  But how do we get more of the “he”s engaged with the “she”s in the gender agenda?

Would love to hear your thoughts on this one!

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