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SoftwareONE

SoftwareONE: Why Do We Judge a Book by Its Cover?

Below is an article originally written by Simon Bishop Global Head - Recruitment, and published on June 02, 2020. Go to SoftwareONE's page on PowerToFly to see their open positions and learn more.

Human nature means we make up our mind about people within seven seconds of meeting them. This human trait we all have is a hangover from our primitive beginnings. Thousands of years ago, in the days before you could Google something or check Trip Advisor, humans had to make quick decisions. Decisions which were a matter of life and death – Do I eat that berry? Shall I touch that fire? Should I attack that Mammoth?

This evolutionary hangover still exists in us all today and can be seen through the phenomenon known as unconscious bias.

Unconscious bias refers to the biases we have of which we are not in conscious control. These biases occur automatically, triggered by our brain making quick judgments and assessments of people and situations based on our background, cultural environment and our experiences. It affects every area of our lives. Unconsciously, we tend to like people who look like us, think like us and come from backgrounds similar to ours. Everyone likes to think he or she is open-minded and objective, but research has shown that the beliefs and values gained from family, culture and a lifetime of experiences heavily influence how we view and evaluate both others and ourselves.

Think This Doesn't Apply to You?

Harvard University has developed some tests which you can take in about 10 minutes to see where your bias might lie. Click here for some examples.

These thought patterns, assumptions and interpretations we have built up over time help us to process information quickly and efficiently. From a survival standpoint, bias is a positive and necessary trait. In business, however, bias can be costly. It can cause us to make decisions that are not objective; and ultimately we miss opportunities. Joan Williams and Sky Mihalylo recently wrote "How the Best Bosses Interrupt Bias on their Terms," where they note that "well-managed diverse groups outperform homogeneous ones and are more committed, have higher collective intelligence, and are better at making decisions and solving problems." However, eliminating bias entirely is nearly impossible and a more reasonable goal is to simply interrupt it – starting with your hiring practices. The authors note basic changes such as limiting referral hiring and insisting on a diverse pool of candidates.

Bias is a "mental shortcut" that fills in gaps in our knowledge with similar data from past experiences and cultural norms. It's not necessarily a bad thing, but it can lead to bad decisions. As an example, Google points to mobile video uploads - the team that built the iOS YouTube app didn't consider left-handed users when it added in mobile uploads, causing videos recorded in a left-handed person's view of landscape to appear upside-down.

There is a growing body of research which suggests unconscious biases influence key decisions in the workplace and are responsible for some of the enduring inequalities that are evident today. Unconscious bias starts at the top and leadership is one area where diversity and inclusion has not moved the needle nearly enough. In a recent Boston Consulting Group article, it noted that "of the Fortune 500 CEOs (at the time of publication of the article) only 24 are women (less than 5% of the total), only three are black, and only three are openly gay."

In Human Resource Executive, it was noted that diverse management teams are:

  • 33% more likely to generate better than average profits
  • Are 70% more likely to capture new markets
  • Generate 19% more revenue from innovation than companies with below average leadership diversity

With relatively few women in key roles, women's unconscious beliefs about career advancement could be holding them back from reaching the top. Bias comes in many forms, from assuming you need to take on more "masculine" characteristics to succeed, to doubting your abilities and strengths. To begin a real process of change, women also need to look at their own unconscious bias and move away from these potentially damaging beliefs. Assumptions are internal; they come from within us and before any external change can be made in a company's culture, they need to be understood.

For example, a McKinsey report from Women in the Workplace found that even though women are earning bachelor's degrees at higher rates than men and staying in the workforce despite challenges of childcare or other obstacles – progress has stalled at best.

Google disclosed its first Diversity Annual Report in 2014 and each year since has updated the statistics and progress to its commitment to diversity. In 2019 the company presented information from employees that self-represented as LGBTQ+ and those that have a disability. The essence of the report is the company's commitment to help create a more inclusive workforce while minimizing bias.

We must unlearn our current beliefs and relearn new ones. If there are no suitable role models in our surrounding environment, we have to create our own definition of what makes a great leader and become advocates for ourselves.

Change won't be sudden, warns Gerard J. Holder, the author of 'Hidden Bias: How Unconscious Attitudes on Diversity Undermine Organizations and What to do about It'. "We didn't get conditioned overnight," says Holder, who works with companies to help reeducate employees on their learned behaviors. "It's a learning process that has to be done over a period of time, not a training that can be done in three hours."

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How These Companies Are Celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

According to a recent study, anti-Asian hate crimes have risen 150% since the pandemic started. But these acts of violence are not new — they are part of a much larger history of anti-Asian racism and violence in the U.S.

That makes celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month (which was named a month-long celebration in May by Congress in 1992 "to coincide with two important milestones in Asian/Pacific American history: the arrival in the United States of the first Japanese immigrants on May 7, 1843 and contributions of Chinese workers to the building of the transcontinental railroad, completed May 10, 1869") this year all the more important.

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Relativity

How Relativity’s Monika Wąż Conquered Fear to Find Her Dream Career

There's a phrase in her native Polish that Monika Wąż reminds herself of each day: "If you don't learn, you're just going backward."

The Associate Product Manager at legal and compliance technology company Relativity says she would believe in a growth-centered approach to work even if she wasn't in the tech field, but that it's especially important because she is.

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Autodesk, Inc.

How Embracing What She Doesn’t Know Led Autodesk’s Arezoo Riahi to a Fulfilling Career in DEI

Arezoo Riahi isn't a big fan of the "fake it till you make it" approach. She'd rather ask for the help she needs and learn from it.

Autodesk's Director of Diversity and Belonging joined the design software company from the nonprofit world after a long career in connecting people from different cultures. While her work had been deeply rooted in DEI values, there were certain parts of the strategy-building aspects to her new role that she wasn't sure about.

"If you know it, show up like you know it. If you don't know it, you shouldn't fake it. And Autodesk didn't shame me for not knowing everything. They helped me, and the entire team, by providing the resources that we needed, bringing in outside expertise to help teach us when we were in new territory," says Arezoo, who has been at Autodesk for three years now, during which she's been promoted twice into her current role.

We sat down with Arezoo to hear more about her path into DEI work, what she thinks the future of that work must include, and what advice she has for women looking to build fulfilling careers, from knowing what you don't know and beyond.

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Videos

Behind-the-Scenes: Sales Interview Process at LogMeIn

Get an inside look at the interview process for sales roles at LogMeIn, one of the largest SaaS companies providing remote work technology, from Michael Gagnon, Senior Manager of Corporate Account Executive Sales.

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Procore Technologies Inc

How Being an Open Member of the LGBTQIA+ Community Has Helped Procore’s Alex Zinik Overcome Imposter Syndrome at Work

Alex Zinik wasn't surprised that she started her career in education—she decided she would become a teacher when she was just in third grade.

She was surprised while working as a paraeducator in the school system and preparing to become a special education teacher, she discovered that it didn't feel quite right. "I didn't know if that's what I really wanted to do," she recalls.

So a friend suggested she take a job during her off summers at construction software company Procore. She thought this would be the perfect opportunity to try out this new challenge, and if she needed to, she could go back to the school district once the summer was over.

"Five summers later, I'm still here!" she says, smiling. "And I see myself here for many more years. I just fell in love with the company, the culture, and with the career growth opportunities I was presented with."

As part of our Pride month celebrations, Alex, currently the Senior Executive Assistant to the CEO at Procore, sat down with us to share how a common fear—the fear of being found out—underlay the imposter syndrome she felt when pivoting to an industry in which she lacked experience, and the anxiety she often felt before coming out to her friends and family about her sexuality.

Read on for her insight on overcoming negative thought patterns, being yourself, and paying it forward.

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