Happy International Women's Day to all you amazing Women!!! The theme for this year is "Break the Bias." Imagine a gender-equal world. A world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination. A world that's diverse, equitable, and inclusive. A world where difference is valued and celebrated. Together we can forge women's equality. Collectively we can all #BreakTheBias.
Being a woman is a crucial part of my identity and then layer on, being an immigrant black woman in Tech, people often do not know what to expect when they set me. I have been on the receiving end of many stereotypes based on people's perception of what someone that looks or sounds like me should be.
Starting Point: What is Bias?
The first time I noticed bias growing up
In Nigeria, where I spent my childhood, there were very strong gender norms. Women were expected to be primarily supporters of men and not be vocal. In most conversations, people reminded us of how important it was to be someone's wife and hardly any conversations about becoming the person you were destined to be. I was fortunate to grow up around women who defied the expectations of "what a woman could do." However, I knew society's expectations for me as a girl child. Deep inside, I always knew that I wanted to be a whole person and not be invisible. This led to a constant battle with who I am versus how I was expected to act.
My experience with bias in a professional setting
After graduating from university, I had no idea what I would experience when I began my career. I was very fortunate to start a job where I had a lot of responsibilities and a growth path. Most of the bias that I experienced had to do with a combination of my identities as a black woman. Especially at client visits, people expected the person in charge to be someone other than me. I did not fit the picture they expected of an experienced program manager.
How I deal with bias
My life experiences have made me very resilient. I learned not to let people's thoughts or stereotypes define me. My identity and self-confidence do not change because someone else sees me differently. I see experiencing bias as an opportunity to share my experiences with people to provide a different perspective. And more importantly, I have learned to move on quickly.
How I am paying it forward
Being on the receiving end of bias has made me very aware of the bias that others are experiencing. In my role as Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Program Manager today, I build strategy, plan, and lead programs that train people on how to be inclusive and respectful of others from many backgrounds. I feel very fortunate to be able to support others actively.
There is something very empowering about seeing women who have succeeded against all odds. All the women who have faced bias and still done great things - are heroes.
Call to Action: What can we all do?
We all play a very active role in making our world more equitable. Here are five things we can all do: