International HR director admits to bias

by Lauren Acurantes28 Sep 2016
Kristen Pressner, global head of HR for Roche Diagnostics, openly admitted to having a bias against women leaders in her TEDx talk, Are You Biased? I am.

But she’s not alone, she said, as “research says we all have a bias against women leaders”.

What’s an HR professional to do when you realise that you have a bias?

First, said Pressner, acknowledge and recognise the bias. 

“Bias takes many different forms besides gender. My TEDx talk only focused on that because I am a woman myself. There are other obvious ones: age, race… but there are also less obvious ones: new mother, weight, introversion/extroversion, and more,” she told Kathy Caprino of Forbes.

Next, she said, “flip it to test it” .

Calling it a mind trick, she explained that ‘flipping’ the situation you are facing moves your brain from its ‘unconscious’ state and returns it to consciousness.

“For [example], if you’re interacting with a woman in the workplace and she’s coming off as arrogant, flip it and ask yourself how you’d feel about that situation if it was happening with a man,” she said.

“If it feels weird, you might want to check yourself.”

“If we all choose to flip it to test it, we might be surprised at how often we would choose to behave differently because what if you’re missing an opportunity to see the world differently.”

Following this, she said, should come a “culture of sponsorship”.

Pressner explained the difference between ‘mentorship’ and ‘sponsorship’ as the former having someone in the room actively offering you advice on how to be successful, while the latter happens when you’re not in the room yet someone more senior than you is advocating on your behalf.

While both are equally important in cultivating a diverse workforce, Pressner said that “women and people of colour are under-sponsored”.

Companies, she said, should come up with specific programs that would ensure sponsorship opportunities for those who are constantly under-sponsored.  

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