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Elinor Steele Headshot

Building the Future with Women's Vision

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During the recent Women's Forum Global Meeting, I heard it said that "we love to train women because women love training other women!" This reminds me of our women's initiative called Chain of Confidence. The initiative involves women connecting with other women and building confidence through training and education. It's a positive and nurturing culture in which women always pass on what they have learned, what has changed their lives, and the confidence they have developed.

The topic of the morning session was "Look Me in the Brain: Do we all unconsciously believe that leader = male?" As we went through a quick question/answer exercise as a group, our response times to the questions grew obviously slower. We had to think more about whether a picture shown to us depicted a leader or follower. The photos were either male or female and were accompanied by terms that we generally use when describing either a leader or a follower. Our brains were trying to tell us to say one thing, but our instincts were going in the opposite direction. It was like our mind had two processors - it was explained clearly that level 1 is the rational and thoughtful, which we control; level 2 is the impulsive and automatic, over which we have no control.

Nathalie Malige, CEO of Diverseo, pointed out that wariness for unconscious associations instigates behavioral change for 80 percent of test takers. Sixty-nine percent say that men and women make good leaders; in other words, they are neutral (The National Council for Research on Women, 2012).

Leadership = male is "sticky." (Sticky, in the social sciences and particularly economics, describes a situation in which a variable is resistant to change.) Our unconscious associations drive behavior and performance. Our processors are in conflict.

So, what do we need to do to change these unconscious associations for our corporate environments? Here are a few ideas that Malige shared:
• Get CEO buy in
• Build awareness for these implicit associations
• Collect the numbers (demographics and implicit attitudes shape the environment)
• Encourage HR processes that reduce cognitive bias
• Look at values and culture and watch out for small cues
• Set action-oriented key performance indicators (KPIs)

The session served as a good reminder that the unconscious impacts attitudes toward women in society and in business, but the good news is that with enlightenment comes empowerment. And, being aware of this is a big first step to helping women take more leadership roles.

From education to entrepreneurship, by investing in the development of other women, women are enabling and inspiring growth. Mentoring women and girls is a privilege, and with privilege comes responsibility. I've had the wonderful opportunity to experience both through our Chain of Confidence initiative at Tupperware Brands and our work with youth through the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. With pride and gratitude, I will continue paying forward what I've learned and gained.