Breaking a bias shouldn’t be an afterthought

At Compare the Market, we are proud of every one of our employees for the value they add to our business and working with bias in our teams is not something we will tolerate. With International Women’s Day in mind, we caught up with Dimple Dalby, one of our amazing Engineering Managers, about her experience of bias in her career and what advice she would give to the next female generation to keep stamping this out in the workplace.

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

It’s a day to celebrate how far we have come, everything we have accomplished and to remind ourselves that the journey is not over! There is still more work to do so that the younger generation, and the ones after that, have a better and unbiased world to step into.

What does bias mean to you?

Bias to me is simply discrimination based on factors such as gender, race, age and ethnicity. It happens when people are not ready to accept anything — ideas, thoughts or actions — that is outside of the norm for what they are used to. And for us as women, we have centuries of biases to break and now is our chance to set up a new and equal norm for ourselves where we challenge the everyday inequalities.

Have you come across bias in your career?

Yes, of course… many times!

And while sometimes it has happened directly to me, I have also been a witness to it with people I have worked with. Either way, it’s not a nice place to be and can make you feel angry, inadequate and in the worst case, helpless.

The two areas where I have come across a strong bias in my career are:

Promotion to a leadership position.

Obtaining equal pay.

There were a few years in my career where I felt I had hit a brick wall as I would get promoted to a Senior Engineer but got constantly knocked back when applying for a lead role.

And this happened despite me leading many major projects — when it came to officially being given the role, I wasn’t even considered. I was never offered a solid reason why, just told that I was not ready and that it takes women many more years to gain the confidence to be able to lead compared to men. I wasn’t offered a path to train myself to be ready either.

It wasn’t until I joined Compare the Market that I got my first break into a lead role. Not only was I trusted to be the lead of a very important team, I was also given six months of leadership training to help me grow in my role and fill any gaps I may have had.

And in addition to this, I had many senior leads reach out to me offering support so while the journey was not always an easy one, I always felt that any help I needed was just an ask away.

How have you challenged that bias?

Challenging didn’t always come naturally to me and because some of these biases are so deeply ingrained in our society, challenging them can feel daunting.

But when I did finally have the courage to challenge, it wasn’t always handled productively or professionally to begin with.

Being overlooked in your career, based purely on your gender, can make you feel angry and anger can lead to a lack of clarity in your thoughts followed by unprofessional reactions that you may later regret.

When faced with bias at work, whether it was finding out that all my male colleagues were paid far more than me or being unfairly overlooked for a promotion, I have always tried to step outside the situation and analyse it.

Often my first reaction has been to feel angry which I think is ok and justified. But to channel it well, I wrote down my thoughts about the situation and how I would like to respond to avoid explosive or unprofessional reactions.

A few top tips that I have learnt along the way are:

  • Good and effective communication is key when tackling a sensitive issue.
  • Be direct and never be afraid to speak your truth and voice your concern.
  • Keep a record of the communications you have had.
  • Agree on an action plan with all parties involved.

In situations where it repeats itself and you feel it’s a much bigger situation than you can handle yourself, get the HR involved.

What advice would you give to the next female generation to help break the bias?

You are not alone in this even though it might often feel like that when you are a minority.

Don’t feel afraid to challenge the biases that you face as that is the first step towards change.

Only when enough of us challenge can it get highlighted and get the traction that it deserves. Being subjected to bias can make you feel under-valued, leaving you questioning your own confidence.

Don’t let this deter you from what we are all looking to achieve #BreakTheBias.

What advice would you give to employers?

Breaking biases should not be an afterthought.

Introducing unconscious bias training is only the beginning. This needs to be followed up with measuring the impact and outcomes that it has on employees to form the basis for longer-term planning and investment.

And as with everything, transparency is key. Always remain open and honest about criteria relating to areas such as internal promotions and hiring for new roles.

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