On ‘Unconscious Bias’ by Angela Mugo

Today, we had someone speak to us about 'Unconscious Bias'. The conversation wasn’t mainly about this but about discrimination. I know it's a sensitive...

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Today, we had someone speak to us about ‘Unconscious Bias’. The conversation wasn’t mainly about this but about discrimination. I know it’s a sensitive topic but this particular conversation was about women in technology. I am not going to take the “women need a place too’ on this one, but I am going to use this issue to bring to light, a few things that kept rolling around in my head.

As an engineer, throughout my life, I have been in situations where I was not the norm. This was not on purpose but somehow situations got me there. I went to a class where 80% of the people were men, went for internship where I was the only girl and now, I am at a job where they have to put in specific incentives just for girls to feel welcome to apply. This has led me to have some sort of ‘Unconscious Bias’. You see, when you get something pretty awesome there is that voice in your head that is always there to mess things up. It will tell you that the only reason you got that terrific job was because you are a lady. It will tell you that you don’t hold a candle to everyone else. It will tell you that you are not there on your own merit but simply to flower up the place. It will tell you that your place is not where people are discussing critical issues but it’s where they are laughing. It will tell you that you are not there to be heard but to be seen. It will tell you to bring yourself down before they do.

The thing with this approach is not only does it make you feel bad about yourself, it also makes it very difficult for you to deliver. Recently, I found myself comfortable about delivering substandard work because I felt that was what people expected. When something is below par, I imagined that people would shrug and say, well she did a pretty good job given she is a lady in tech. That would I would even accept segregation i.e when people were speaking about important things, I would allow myself to be kept out of those conversations. I would let my mind wander and lower my voice imagining that it was not important. When they washed down my opinions, I would shrug and say that my opinion is probably not that amazing.

This does not apply only to women in tech but also to other people who are challenging the norm. As such, one needs to go out there and fight the battle for everyone like you. You need not just be good enough given your situation, but great. You need to be an example to those who are the norm that your kind are also a norm. On your shoulders rests the responsibility to tweak the status quo.


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