Excerpt from 6 Dec 2014 NYTimes article by Adam Grant, Professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, and Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook and founder of LeanIn.org:

A FATHER and his son are in a car accident. The father is killed and the son is seriously injured. The son is taken to the hospital where the surgeon says, “I cannot operate, because this boy is my son.” 

This popular brain teaser dates back many years, but it remains relevant today; 40 to 75 percent of people still can’t figure it out. Those who do solve it usually take a few minutes to fathom that the boy’s mother could be a surgeon. Even when we have the best of intentions, when we hear “surgeon” or “boss,” the image that pops into our minds is often male. 

… new research suggests that if we’re not careful, making people aware of bias can backfire, leading them to discriminate more rather than less. … we need to be explicit about our disapproval of the leadership imbalance as well as our support for female leaders. 

When more women lead, performance improves. … A comprehensive analysis of 95 studies on gender differences showed that when it comes to leadership skills, although men are more confident, women are more competent. 

To break down the barriers that hold women back, it’s not enough to spread awareness. If we don’t reinforce that people need — and want — to overcome their biases, we end up silently condoning the status quo. 

So let’s be clear: We want to see these biases vanish, and we know you do, too.

Read more at http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/07/opinion/sunday/adam-grant-and-sheryl-sandberg-on-discrimination-at-work.html

NYTimes: When Talking About Bias Backfires

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