During her presentation, Vernā defined gender inclusion, explained unconscious bias and talked about how to use positions of privilege
Earlier this week, about 200 colleagues from across 21st Century Fox’s businesses met in New York to hear renowned speaker, author and activist Vernā Myers talk about “The Business Imperative and Tools to Move Gender Equality Forward.” During her keynote, which was hosted by the employee-led Colleague Network and Resource Group called Women@21CF, Vernā discussed a range of topics, including the difference between gender diversity and gender inclusion, unconscious bias, and understanding power and privilege. Danielle Maged, EVP, Global Solutions at Fox Networks Group, introduced Vernā to the audience.
“If there was ever the right time to be part of creating the solution for making sure that gender equity moves forward, it would be now,” Vernā told attendees at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA).
Vernā addressing the audience
Gender diversity vs. gender inclusion
Plenty of people know and say that diversity is important, and now there are studies that make a business case for diversity. For example, a 2018 McKinsey study found that companies in the top quartile of gender diversity are 21 percent more likely to have financial returns above their national industry median, while companies in the top quartile of racial/ethnic diversity were 33 percent more likely to have financial returns above their national industry median.
Highlighting the difference between gender diversity, Vernā said, “Gender diversity only works in a company’s behalf if there is gender inclusion, and when I say gender inclusion, what I’m talking about is an environment where people understand that they are expected, they are reflected and they are respected.”
In other words, Vernā said, “Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance.” This involves more interactions with managers and senior leaders, more opportunities to have stretch assignments, and more opportunities to receive feedback.
Unconscious bias comprises the biases a person has when their brain tries to quickly sort through stimuli and data. When someone’s “fast brain” looks for shortcuts and patterns, automatic associations are made and unconscious biases are revealed.
“There’s no way to counter your bias unless you’re willing to admit you have it,” she said. Once someone can admit their biases, they can begin to weaken them by more thoughtful and aware of how they hire, evaluate, promote and support others. Vernā also challenged the audience to look for counter-examples that disconfirm their unconscious biases.
Power and privilege
Being in a position of power and privilege isn’t a reason to feel guilty – it’s a wonderful opportunity to help those who don’t have the benefit of the doubt.
For those who are encountering “headwinds,” Vernā said there are tangible things they can do to interrupt bias, including speaking up and asking questions without passing judgment, and correcting inappropriate language or terms.
Vernā ended her talk with five gender equity-focused calls to action for attendees:
- Leverage your privilege
- Diversify team composition and roles
- Raise visibility and voices
- Cultivate male allies
- Insist on accountability
“Many people are passively biased, and they don’t even know it,” Vernā said. “They’re sitting in the middle and they’re inactive. And what we know about bias is that it’s deeply embedded in us and in our systems – that if we are not actively anti-bias, nothing will change. There is no passive anti-bias. We all must be intentional, we all must be thoughtful, and if we can do it in a spirit of compassion, we will move diversity forward, we will move equity and inclusion forward, and we will all be better because of it.”
Women@21CF is open to colleagues at all levels of the company — from those beginning their careers and learning about the industry, to people rising through the ranks, to executives looking to transform their teams and mentor the next generation. Numerous Women@21CF activities, such as professional development, networking, seminars and speaker series will take place in New York and across the country throughout the year.