Navigating unconscious biases
“Women in leadership have a duty to question these mindsets and open up pathways to other women.”
Reem Althawadi EMBA Dubai 2016
Reem Althawadi EMBA Dubai 2016
Women supporting women
“I’ve done many different things in my career. I’ve worked in the for-profit and not-for-profit sectors in a diverse range of roles spanning communications, media, consulting and training. Prior to joining PwC, I headed up communications for the World Wide Fund for Nature in the United Arab Emirates. I’m a proper ‘Jack of all trades’, but what pulls it all together, I suppose, is a passion for change – creating and realising intentional change – and a love of learning. That’s really what brought me London Business School’s Executive MBA in Dubai in 2015."
“I was very keen to expand my knowledge of change management and the LBS EMBA in Dubai delivered that. We spent a lot of time together within my cohort exploring new concepts and sharing perspectives, but we also had broadened access to very diverse groups of business practitioners across other programmes in the School – a wider network. There is a fantastic knowledge-sharing dynamic that pushes your learning forward but also broadens out the way you approach ideas, challenges and opportunities."
“My role as Senior Manager with PwC for Hong Kong and China has also encouraged me to explore new perspectives on culture and gender issues. Based in Shanghai, I work with a diverse team of men and women. I love challenging my team members - it’s a positive thing and I think it encourages them to achieve more. But I believe women in positions of seniority ought to stop and think about what they expect from other women a little more."
“Women are slower to be promoted than men in business. Sadly that’s still the reality. And because higher standards are expected of women, I think it’s reasonable to assume that women who’ve made it to leadership positions are in some ways conditioned to demand more from other women. And I wonder whether this just perpetuates the problem."
“There seems to be an attitude that stems from unconscious biases held by both genders. Women aren’t innately more risk-averse than their male counterparts, more afraid of making mistakes or less inclined to believe in their ability. These behaviours come from a kind of gender-stereotyped conditioning that not only hampers women’s ascent of the career ladder but can impair their judgment (of other women) when they make it to the top."
“Senior women need to challenge these attitudes. We need to share strong messages about how it’s OK to make mistakes, and how it’s not necessary to have everything lined up all the time. We’re conditioned to believe that we have to outperform men and ourselves to succeed, but women in leadership have a duty to question these mindsets and open up pathways to other women – to believe a bit more in women full-stop.”
“I can’t overstate the value of my business school network. The first thing I did on arrival in Shanghai was reach out to the LBS community for advice. A good support network is a key factor in managing change and achieving professional goals, particularly for women, who still face the unique obstacles of social conditioning and inherent bias as they progress in their careers."Read more
“It’s still pretty hard to reach the top if you are not white and male. At a junior level it’s more straightforward. Women perform well and work harder to prove themselves at university so they’re coming into their careers well qualified. This falls apart the higher you go, as you encounter unconscious biases and then things like gender-selective mentorship. The support isn’t there uniformly for women or people from marginalised backgrounds."
“I think part of the answer lies in a paradigm shift in how people see leadership itself. There’s a stereotype of success that prioritises a certain narcissism or a tendency to over-achieve. It’s a standard that’s difficult to achieve and it hinders the progress of others. People who conform to the stereotype are less likely to help the processes of diversity or greater authenticity in leadership – they’re not going to help nurture people from marginalised backgrounds."
“I welcome more ‘altruism’ in leadership. It should be incumbent on good leaders to think responsibly about the communities their business touches – about how they impact those communities or move capital around them, and what they can do to help develop greater openness in this respect. There’s a long-held understanding of how leaders should be and act. Sharing emotions or being altruistic in your leadership can be seen as ‘fluffy’ or weak in some way. And I believe this idea is dangerous. I think that in stifling these human qualities you can do more harm than good. If we’re serious about addressing some of the big issues we face in our organisations and our societies, it’s time we rethink what it means to be a leader.”
“It should be incumbent on good leaders to think responsibly about the communities their business touches.”
“I love challenging my team members - it’s a positive thing and encourages them to achieve more.”