APPROACHING GENDER BIAS:
Insights from Women in Leadership
"Don't get mad...educate. First, take a deep breath, and with grace and strength inform them, teach them, and enjoy it. Not everyone is where you are at, bring them along."
— Alison D. Springer
Edited by Bridget McNaughton - YWOP’s Summer Student of 2021. Bridget is studying for a BBA in Marketing at Ambrose University. She is passionate about people and about showcasing value.
We all hold unconscious biases that inform how we behave around and interact with others. Gender bias is no different and has a disproportionately negative effect on women. The first step to changing gender bias is identifying and addressing gender bias when we see it. This means that all genders need to work together to make this change.
KBI Inspire Magazine and Young Women Of Power (YWOP) have asked nine outstanding women to speak on this topic. Learn about who they are and hear what they have to say about gender bias. Share your thoughts on these women’s insights and share your thoughts on gender bias by visiting @youngowomenofpower and @kbiinspiremagazine on Instagram.
Alison D. Springer
About Alison: She is the founder of Young Women of Power, an organization that inspires confidence in young women to make their dreams a reality. Alison is based in Calgary, Alberta, and is a professional youth speaker who travels across Canada speaking at schools, camps, and conferences. She was awarded the Women of Inspiration Difference Maker Award in 2019 for the impact she has on youth, especially females, in Canada. Alison has continued her impact with her recent podcast release Tall Gorgeous Black Girl.
“Just because you were excluded, overlooked, or pushed out of a job or opportunity, doesn’t mean it was supposed to be. It’s hard to fight “The Biased Resistance” when you believe something is fate. Understanding and embracing the unique skills you bring to a room as a female is key to knowing when to push back. They need you. Fight for it. Fight for them.”
“There are people who like to say things to cause the feminist in you to react. Don’t take the bait. They just want a show. Then there are others who say things out of ignorance. Don’t get mad…educate. First, take a deep breath, and with grace and strength, inform them, teach them, and enjoy it. Not everyone is where you are at, bring them along.”
About Christine: She is the Executive Director at the Unsinkable Organization. After a 10-year career in Communications, Christine worked alongside Silken Laumann on the build and launch of Unsinkable in 2019. Since, the organization has reached 40 million people across the globe with their stories, resources, and events. Christine is passionate about knowledge mobilization, making a social impact, leadership, building community, and disrupting the mental health industry. When she’s not celebrating and supporting the humans of Unsinkable, you can find her navigating the messy and beautiful life of parenthood.
“When gender bias is frustrating, I remind myself that all genders and gender identifications experience it. What feels like a personal attack becomes more about education, having a voice, redirecting people, and carrying yourself with confidence and grace.”
“When you’re a woman in leadership, people will make assumptions. They’ll scrutinize you, label you, put you in a box, and monitor you closely for any stumble. Don’t give them the satisfaction of watching you play small. Play BIG. Take chances. Take accountability. Be flexible. Stand your ground. Have confidence. Never give up.”
About Stephanie: Stephanie Campbell is the Managing Editor at Watershed Magazine, and an advocate for Equality and Menstrual Equity.
“Life is still very much unbalanced and unfair, especially towards strong, young women. But never lose that spark, that drive, and that compassion. The world needs your voice. Never let anyone try to silence you. Believe in yourself and dare to make a difference.”
“Let’s support each other – always! We experienced an unfortunate event this summer where a few older women went out of their way to body-shame some beautiful, young women. This must stop. Use your voice to call out injustice and support each other. Never be afraid to speak your truth.”
About Vicky: She is an RN and Team Lead in Sunnybrook Hospital's Critical Care Unit, and a member of the rapid response team. Vicky is also in the process of becoming a leadership coach for healthcare providers.
“Pay it forward. There is always someone who has taken the time to teach you something, take the time to return the favour to the next person.”
About Maureen: She is a registered social worker in private practice in Cobourg, Ontario, where she focuses on offering compassionate care for individuals, families, and groups during difficult times. She specializes in helping people cope with traumatic grief, compassion fatigue and engage in resiliency recovery.
“Check your own biases: are you unknowingly contributing to an unhealthy environment? Consider your boundaries, your expectations, and the way you engage. Even such things as how and where you sit contribute to the environment. Know your strengths and your worth. Learn about power dynamics, develop your own power stances, and stand your ground.”
“When it's time to confront those who are caught up in problematic thinking patterns, find allies. Maintain your professionalism and use your anger to fuel impassioned, dignified speech that challenges the status quo. It's normal to be angry in the face of injustice and harm, but angry commentary is too easily dismissed. Be purposeful, determined, and steadfast for change.”
About Alice: She is the Senior Vice President & Chief Corporate Officer at Cameco, one of the largest global providers of the fuel needed to energize a clean-air world. With more than 30 years in the industry, she is a tireless champion for the advancement of women in a male-dominated industry. Alice also provided leadership for the first-collaboration agreements with Cameco’s Indigenous communities, helping the organization become one of Canada’s largest industrial employers of Indigenous Peoples. She challenges the status quo by asking tough questions and pushing for fairness and progress and is passionate about inclusion.
“As women, we are often not heard. An example - a male colleague repeated my idea as his own after I had just raised it. Another male colleague interjected with some humour, “hey, she just said that.” As a man, you can be supportive and influence change by simply speaking up when you see inequity in action.”
“Do you have to become a “man” to get ahead? No – but we must understand there are different thinking styles… if we can adapt our communication approach to better suit a particular thinking style… we are more likely to be understood.”
About Megan: She is the Director and Founder of Twentytwenty Arts, an organization that produces public art campaigns for non-profit organizations, works with nonprofits to strengthen their digital strategy, and creates educational content to demystify mental health, homelessness, and addiction.
“We are all powerful creators. However, if it isn’t nurtured, our creative spark begins to dim. As individuals and employers, it is our responsibility to ensure that creativity is incorporated into everything we do.”
“I overcame the notion that I needed to know everything before I got started by doing it anyway. I had no idea how to produce a campaign, run a call for submissions, coordinate funding, produce design assets, or anything else for that matter. I learned on the go. Years of being told I needed experience before I could be considered for a job had made me believe that is how life works -- but it isn’t.”
About Lynn: She is a speaker, author, activist, and passionate advocate for suicide prevention and mental wellness. She has spent the last decade educating the public about the devastating reality of people in crisis and suicide. A deeply personal issue for Lynn as a mother, and former broadcast journalist. She has turned her son’s story into a call for action to re-examine how we view and treat mood disorders, as well as challenge the long-believed myths about addictions and disorders of the brain. Lynn’s mission is to bring awareness and education to the underlying causes and contributing factors in youth mental illness and suicide.
“My lived experiences have taught me the value in not conforming to someone’s skewed stereotypes of gender + race. Be bold. Take up space and never be afraid of speaking your truth.”
About Gillian: She is a professional photographic artist, freelance writer, and mental health advocate. She is the Editor in Chief of KBI Inspire Magazine, a youth-focused, bi-monthly publication that aims to inspire, empower and educate young people on subjects ranging from mental health to politics and everything in between.
“How do you separate respect for the person from respect for the idea? Remember that as human beings, we all have the right to be treated with dignity and kindness. Stick to a discussion of the ideas, and don’t get personal. It’s always important to take a step back and really listen to the person, even if you strongly disagree. Try to understand their point of view, ask questions, and check your own biases and assumptions. If you’re struggling with strong emotions, label them and then set them aside. Stay focused on the idea, and you’ll find it much easier to respond in a calm, measured way."
“Responding to sexism and gender bias successfully is a lot like defusing a bomb: while it’s completely natural to have strong feelings in those moments, it’s not helpful. Don’t go down the rabbit holes of outrage, shock, and anger. You need to be completely focused in the moment, focused on your goal. Take a deep breath, block out the distractions, and respond to the situation immediately in front of you. Practicing those steps will help you get better at handling pressure and potentially explosive situations.”
To relevantly impact gender bias, we need to listen to the wisdom of others and take what we hear, apply it to our lives, and share this wisdom within our communities. We need to include all genders in this conversation and have conversations about gender equality in both work and home settings. And remember:
“You can be humble and still advocate for yourself.
You can be confident without arrogance.
You can be compassionate and still be strong.
You can be assertive without being aggressive.
If you are in a position of influence, use it and share it.
Be kind to yourself - you are usually your harshest critic.”
- Alice Wong