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Mitigating Bias in the Workplace: See It, Call It, Challenge It | 5 Takeaways on Creating Inclusion with Trudy Bourgeois

October 7, 2019 Emma Brooks

Today’s workforce is more diverse than ever–which means it is more important than ever for leaders to lead inclusively and actively work to see, call, and challenge bias.

The business case for inclusivity is clear: According to McKinsey’s Delivering through Diversity report, companies in the top-quartile for gender diversity on their executive teams were 21% more likely to have above-average profitability than companies in the fourth quartile. For ethnic/cultural diversity, top-quartile companies were 33% more likely to outperform on profitability.

Can you explain with conviction why diversity, equality, and inclusion should be a strategic imperative?  And, do you have the tools and knowledge to act with purpose to build cultures of inclusion?

Inclusion expert Trudy Bourgeois explains that it’s time to move past superficial, politically correct “check-the-box” exercises to dig deeper into the intersectionality of bias, race, and gender. Trudy, who is the Founder and CEO of the Center for Workforce Excellence, points to a vital need for leaders to engage in courageous conversations about race.

Recently, Linkage hosted a webinar with Trudy on mitigating bias in the workplace, and her insights on how to develop daily practices that empower us all to interact differently with bias are too valuable not to share. You can listen to a recording of the webinar here.

In the meantime, we have compiled some of our favorite takeaways from Trudy:

1. Nothing changes until we start the dialogue.

Organizations with inclusive cultures are 8x more likely to achieve better business outcomes. So, why are we not seeing more businesses working to create cultures of inclusion where all employees can thrive?  “Race is the component that makes people nervous,” said Trudy. “If we don’t go there, then we don’t touch the very area that represents an opportunity for breakthrough.” We need to have the difficult conversations if we want to create real change.  If we don’t act, we are in effect saying the status quo is okay–which ultimately means we are an active participant in the silencing of our peers.

2. Diversity, equality, and inclusion needs to be part of your personal leadership agenda.

It’s a fact that inclusive organizations are more likely to be higher performing, more innovative and agile, and more likely to meet or exceed financial goals.  According to Trudy, the true issue is that leaders have not established creating cultures of inclusion as a true business imperative. “All of us need to integrate this as part of our leadership framework, and our leadership brand,” said Trudy.We need to be held accountable for this commitment. And, we need the support of our boards, CEOs, and the c-suite if we are to make a meaningful commitment to inclusion.

3. Every voice counts.

No matter what level you are within an organization, you have a voice–and you have the ability to positively impact the culture.  “Our voice counts,” said Trudy. “We must find the courage to speak up and be intentional about seeking every opportunity to ask the high value questions.” Trudy explains that, even if you have not personally felt victimized by bias or inequality, as humans, we all know the feeling of rejection. These leaders must use that feeling to build a fire within us to call out bias when we see it. 

4. Driving a breakthrough requires women to step up and speak up.

It’s important to understand the impact of the intersection of race and gender and how intersectionality has a very real impact on a woman’s ability to advance and excel. Trudy points to a vital need for women to openly connect with other women and talk about the biases they encounter–and the internal biases they may be holding about themselves.  

“It’s time for us to have some courageous conversations because we have an opportunity to change the game,” said Trudy.  She encourages women to identify and sponsor other women, and urges them to speak authentically and candidly about their experiences. Employee resource groups, mentorship opportunities, and even casual conversations with your co-workers or connections, have a meaningful impact on how we perceive others and ourselves.

5. Get Out of the Bubble

If you are a white person, have you ever taken a step back to ask yourself: “What is the journey of women or people of color in my organization?  What are the personal experiences of members of my team”? 

We are all focused on ourselves, and it is only with purposeful and thoughtful action that we bring ourselves out of our own “bubble” and begin to act as advocates for all members of our organization. It is the obligation of every leader to create and contribute to a culture where every single employee can thrive – and where difference is valued and appreciated, not merely tolerated. Trudy encourages us to do this by asking ourselves these 3 high-value questions each day:

  • How inclusive was I today as a leader?
  • How aware was I of my own bias blind spots?
  • What can I do differently tomorrow to move closer to acceptance of all differences?

We all have the potential to lead inclusively and actively contribute to cultures of inclusion, both at our organizations and in our communities. It’s the right business decision to empower every employee to fully realize their goals and aspirations–but it’s also the right thing to do. Together, and with these vital insights from Trudy, we can hold each other accountable when it comes to this important commitment.

Looking for more on this important topic? Bring Linkage’s Leading with a Mindset of Inclusion Workshop to your organization. This two-module learning experience equips leaders with the skills and knowledge they need to create and foster cultures of inclusion.

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Women in Leadership Institute

NOV. 13–16, 2023 | Orlando, Florida, or Virtual
A 4-day immersive learning experience designed to equip women leaders with actionable strategies to overcome the hurdles women often face in the workplace.

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