Interview with Investment Magazine on Unconscious Bias

  Yassmin Abdel-Magied delivering the Mavis Robertson address via Investment Magazine

Yassmin Abdel-Magied delivering the Mavis Robertson address via Investment Magazine

I was honoured to present the Mavis Robertson address at the Conference of Major Superannuation Funds in Brisbane this year.  As part of the engagement, I answered a few questions for Investment Magazine on #BeatingBias. Here is some of what I said:


In your 2014 TED Talk, you make the point that acknowledging unconscious bias is “not an accusation”. Do you find many people still resist discussions about beating unconscious bias and get defensive?

In 2014, unconscious bias was a relatively new concept in the corporate world. Today, I think many people are aware of its existence, but rather than be outwardly defensive, sometimes they think it is an excuse for biased behaviour – as in, ‘Oh well, I am biased, there is nothing I can do about it.’ The other thing I often hear is people saying that they aren’t biased, and then immediately follow it up with a statement or question that demonstrates the exact bias they were trying to deny. Sometimes those who think they are the least biased are the ones with the most deeply entrenched ways of seeing the world.

How do you suggest people start the process of identifying their own unconscious biases?

It starts with being open to the idea that we are all biased, and that all of us need to go through processes of identifying and acknowledging the biases that we hold. It’s about asking ourselves about every single assumption we make and then questioning why we have made that assumption – where has the information come from, and is there space for that assumption to change? If we have a gut feeling someone is going to be a good leader, for example, is it because they have actually demonstrated anything, or is it because they are tall, they seem sure of themselves, they remind us of ourselves, etc? We need to be comfortable with the idea of being uncomfortable – challenging our own biases is never a comfortable experience, but it is worthwhile.

In that TED Talk, you challenged people to seek out and mentor someone different to them. Have you seen any good examples of organisations doing that systematically? How has it worked?

There are a couple of organisations I see do this well, and it tends to be places where the idea of inclusion is a value that is built into the very DNA of the organisation. Organisations that understand how power dynamics work, that demand that you are on board with the culture of the organisation, that see supporting and empowering those with structural disadvantage as a must have, not a nice to have. It works best when everyone in the organisation understands that this is a company-wide ethos, and when individuals are willing to do everything they can in their power to make a difference for others. That sometimes involves sacrifice and discomfort, but when people believe in a goal that is bigger than themselves, it works out well.

What is your advice for someone who knows there is a problem with unconscious bias within their organisation but feels they are not senior enough to lead change?

Leading conversations at a peer-to-peer level is incredibly important and powerful, so that should not be underestimated. Cultural changes need to be both top down and bottom up, so finding ways to stimulate the grassroots conversation can be a stepping stone to broader understanding within the organisation. Also, looping in a champion, or someone else at a higher level who believes in the need for change, is also a good option.

What would you say to any senior executives or directors who are confident they are not afflicted by unconscious bias?

The science says that we all are – even me! The more we think we are not affected by it, the bigger the cognitive blind spot is. The first step in addressing any problem is to admit there is a problem, so I always encourage people to be open to admitting there might be bias, even as a thought experiment. Acknowledging unconscious bias isn’t saying someone is bad per se, but it is an opportunity for improvement – and what senior executive doesn’t like finding ways to improve?


Whitepaper on Cultural Diversity and Inclusion

I'm so excited to share with you the second part of the whitepaper I've written on cultural diversity and inclusion.

Part 2 is focused on how to create a workplace that is inclusive, and links to a lot of the Diversity Council of Australia's work in this space. 

Want to learn more about cultural diversity and inclusion? Download the whitepaper today!

Part 1 - Diversity Beyond Gender

Part 2 (NEW!) - Re-thinking Diversity

Let me know if you have any thoughts / feedback on the papers. If you're interested in having the paper presented to your organisation, feel free to get in contact and we can organise a time.

Enjoy!

 

MUMTAZA MASTERCLASS!

I'm so very excited to be telling you about Mumtaza's first Masterclass for Women of Colour: Public Speaking Like a Pro!

Details Below:

Want to learn how to #Slay on Stage?

The Mumtaza Network is proud to announce the first of its MasterClass Series for Women of Colour: Public Speaking Like a Pro.

In our survey last year, you said you wanted to learn how to share your stories in the most powerful way possible. You wanted to learn the skills of slaying on stage, of holding a room, of perfecting a powerful presence.

You told us what you wanted, and we listened.

Public Speaking Like a Pro is a day-long workshop run by Women of Colour, for Women of Colour. Hosted by co-Founder and CEO of the Mumtaza Network, Yassmin Abdel-Magied, you will leave the session equipped with the skills to be the most powerful advocate for your message.

Further details will be released shortly, but get your tickets ASAP, as seats are limited!

TIX HERE!

 

VIDEO IS UP!

Hello all!

It's been an eventful few weeks, and thank you all for the messages of support you have sent through - it has meant a lot.

That's all I will say about that though! What I really wanted to do was share this video of a sweeeeet panel session I did at 'All About Women' a couple of weeks ago with two other amazing writers, Lindy West and Van Badham.  Check it out below!

What do you reckon?

Enjoy your week folks! 

The End of the Road: Leaving Youth Without Borders.

…the end came without fanfare.

Today, the 31st of October 2016, I chaired my final Board meeting at the helm of the organisation I founded in 2007, Youth Without Borders.

I was 16. 16! It was a time of dial up internet, Nokia 3210s, and my traditional hijabi look. I had no idea what I was doing, no idea what journey I had just begun. I also had no idea why people thought it was such a big deal, starting something at 16. I just had a lot of energy and wanted to change the world! My parents wouldn’t let me do drugs, so I started an organisation instead. Seemed like a fun thing to do. Why not, right?

 The Asia Pacific Cities Summit — where the idea for Youth Without Borders was formed

The Asia Pacific Cities Summit — where the idea for Youth Without Borders was formed

This end has arrived without fanfare. It has crept up on me, not unexpectedly, but with a finality that leaves me unmoored, bobbing in the current of an uncharted future. I’m left with sense that one should be celebrating, but I mostly just want a long afternoon lying on the grass, starting at the sun, reminiscing at times that will never be experienced in the same way again.

‘My baby’ is all grown up. It walks and talks, it lives and breaths. It is different to what I wanted it to be, what I hoped for it when it was born, but then — aren’t all children like that? Like I assume it is with kids, I did my best to provide a solid set of morals and values that will guide it through the world, and the rest, well. It’s not my choice anymore, really. Isn’t that scarily beautiful?

Honestly, one of the main reasons why we still exist almost a decade later, as one of the oldest true youth-led organisations in the country, is the fact that we stuck with it. Boring, right? We just didn’t quit. We almost did, many a time… but importantly, we didn’t.

‘We’ was quite often myself and a few of the engineering boys I corralled into doing a fundraising BBQ. ‘We’ was whoever I could convince to stick with it for a little while. ‘We’, was sometimes just me.… but ‘we’ made it. Teenagers and young people wanting to change things, before being a ‘youth-led organisation’ was part of a government’s plan to reinvigorate the economy. Subhanallah.

 First conference we attended as YWB members in 2008

First conference we attended as YWB members in 2008

There are many stories to share. For now, I just take this moment to acknowledge and thank every single one of the people who were a part of the Youth Without Borders journey. Without you, we would have never existed. Really, YOU are what makes this organisation great. Lucy, Anthony — the OG’s — thank you for believing in me at the very beginning. I may have inadvertently made your life difficult at times, and for that, I apologise. To all who may have had a less than optimal experience: for what it is worth, we always tried to do our work in good faith. I hope you will forgive me having to learn critical lessons at your expense.

I am who I am because of Youth Without Borders. But Youth Without Borders is not what it is because of me. It is thanks to the collective sweat equity of hundreds of young people who gave the organisation life, and in doing so believed in their capacity to make a positive impact on the world around them.

In a time when things seem to be falling apart, it’s nice to remember that all over the world, there are young people determined not to let that happen. Have faith in that. Have faith in the fact that the good stuff doesn’t make it in the news, but the good is happening all around you, all the time.

But it does its work and leaves. Its touch is light, imperceptible. Good happens without fanfare.

 Fanfare.

Fanfare.

Alhamdulilah for the strength to lead, for the capacity to be heard, for the fortitude to forge on. Alhamdulilah, always.

This was originally posted on Medium.

Podcast: Storyology Panel

I had the honour of being on a panel with a couple of awesome women recently at the Walkley's Storyology conference. 

Check out a podcast about the panel below:

Kara in particular, just *says it like it is*. YAAAS! 

Event: Australia in Transition!

Hey hey hey!

I would love to see you all at an awesome event planned at The Greek Club in Brisbane, talking about the future of Australia and this country's travel through transition.

George Megalogenis, Anne Tiernan and I will be tackling these issues on the 28th of April, and we would love to see you there! Jump on the Avid Reader website and get your ticket today!

Him.

He sat across from me and asked.

Does Allah talk to you?

Do you hear him?

What do you pray about?

Does he answer your prayers?

I don’t even know what I said, but what a question indeed.

I didn’t know how to articulate it, and I don’t know if I ever will.

I didn’t know how to say that knowing Allah is there, all the time, that was all I ever needed to know. 

That I hear him in music that moves, see him in the outline of mountains against the sky.  

That my mortality frightens me, an intense fear that I may not be doing enough… a fear that my life is too easy, a fear that these blessings are in fact my hardships, and that I am failing the tests.

That sometimes, not very often, but sometimes...

I buckle. Doubled over, during sujood. Tears not merely from my eyes but from somewhere deeper, racking me raw because I am so humbled to be in His presence, Subhanallah. 

My heart begs Him to guide me, to forgive me, to use me, to save me from myself and my own weakness.

Because I am oh so weak, and without His blessings, I am nothing.

“And how could we not place our trust in God, seeing that it is He who has shown us the path which we are to follow?’ ‘Hence, we shall certainly bear with patience whatever hurt you may do us: for, all who have trust [in His existence] must place their trust in God [alone]!’” [14:12]


It's a little frightening, writing so publically about religious faith, particularly to an Australian audience. We are not comfortable with it, and often I think that my secular friends are surprised by how much Islam means to me, particularly on a spiritual level.  

Politics aside, Ramadan is fast approaching, and it is a time for reflection. It is time for that spiritual (and painful caffeine!) detox. It is a month to remind ourselves of our temporary nature, and what we are living for. 

What is it that we live for? 

Well, each of us has to answer that alone...

Call out for Muslim Ladies

Muslim ladies in the house!

I have received an interesting email from a lovely researcher by the name of Maria who would like you to be involved in a project to support (!) Muslim women. 

***

Invitation to participate in a project to support Muslim women

If you are a Muslim woman between the ages of 18 and 35, you are invited to participate in an exciting new research project, Beyond hostility and fear: listening to Muslim girls and women.

The research is being conducted by Maria Delaney and Amanda Keddie from the University of Queensland. 

We would like to share the stories of Muslim women and girls for an Anglo-Australian audience to dispel some of the ignorance in the Australian community about Islam.  

We are sure you would agree that this is important research - Muslim women often bear the brunt of Islamophobia, their voices often silenced and their stories crucial to generating more peaceful relations.  The research would involve an informal and friendly conversation about being a Muslim girl/woman in Australia. 

It would highlight difficulties and problems but also hopes and opportunities. The stories might be funny stories... exasperating stories... disturbing stories... (We will provide some questions that might be a useful guide here).  

We have had a lot of previous involvement with people from Muslim communities, so we believe that you would feel comfortable talking with us.

Also, your participation would be completely anonymous, so you can feel comfortable about sharing your stories.

If you would like to be involved, or if you have any questions, please contact Maria at delaneymt@gmail.com  or 0423193935
 
Best wishes, 
Maria 
 
P.S. You can find out about us on our websites:

Maria Delaney www.socialchangeagency.com.au 

Amanda Keddie  http://researchers.uq.edu.au/researcher/1458 

***

I think it would be awesome if as many of us got involved as possible. If you are nervous or have questions, email me, otherwise email Maria directly!

Best of luck inshallah.

 

Nepal - Donate through ChildFund

I have no words.  All I can say is that an organisation that I am closely affiliated with (as I serve on the Board of ChildFund Australia) is doing some fantastic work in the region and could use any support you want to give to the children in Nepal. What happened?

In a nutshell, this is the worst earthquake to hit Nepal in 80 years (the last major earthquake was in 1934).

  • More than 3,200 people have been killed and over 6,500 injured, with the numbers continuing to climb
  • According to UNICEF, almost a million children have been severely affected
  • ChildFund has been working in Nepal for 20 years (through our sister organisation ChildFund Japan)
  • Our emergency response is focused on Sindhupalchok district, one of the worst-affected areas
  • Initial reports from our partner staff estimate 80 per cent of mud houses in the communities where we work have been destroyed – children and families are now staying outdoors in freezing temperatures and need immediate assistance
  • Our primary concern is for the care and protection of children affected by this terrible disaster
  • Our team on the ground is conducting a rapid assessment so that our response can get underway

ChildFund are continuing to post updates on social media and would appreciate you sharing the appeal link with your networks.  Otherwise, there are a list of reputable places to send your $$ here.

There are an overwhelming number of disasters that are fighting for our attention in the news at the moment.

This is simply one...

Either way, don't let the tide of distress paralyse you from being able to interact with and support any of the movements or responses.  Make sure you play your part - however small - in making this world a little safer, in whatever way you know how.

 

Into the Middle of Things

Hello there! Well it has been a while. I read once it was bad form to apologise for not having posted for some time, but I think in this case I feel like some sort of acknowledgment of my absence is warranted.

It has been a 'busy' few months, although I do dislike using the word 'busy'.  Busy doesn't tell us very much, does it?  It is like 'fine'; an empty word that describes the status quo and adds no real value to a sentence.  It is there as a social nicety, which is something I suppose.  'What has been keeping you busy?' has been my go-to question of late, rather than 'what do you do?'.  It makes for a more interesting conversation.

Occasionally, I include a twist and amend it with 'what has been keeping you busy mentally?'

In my case, it has been a couple of months of growing up.  Mentally, I have been devoting a lot of time to issues around gender, access to opportunity and diversity across decision making places. I've also been thinking a lot about unconscious bias, how that plays a role in our society and how we can move past it...

Big issues, big questions. Too much for one blog post perhaps.

So instead, let me pepper you with some links to say hello again, and hopefully the next update will not be so far away.

***

I was recently alerted to this wonderful website: 'Into the Middle of Things', where Australians from around the country are interviewed about their life.  The first one I saw was below and it is a beautiful few minutes with Abe, a Sudanese-Brisbane lad:

Born in a Sudanese jail in the midst of a civil war, Abe escaped a possible future as a child soldier and managed to make it to Australia as a refugee with his seven brothers and sisters. The secret emotional and mental toll of this is still catching up with him today.

***

Shonda Rhimes is an awesome strong black woman and is doing some cool things with the various TV series she writes.

"I get asked a lot by reporters and tweeters why I am so invested in 'diversity' on television,"  Rhimes said, according to Medium's text of her speech. "'Why is it so important to have diversity on TV?' they say. I really hate the word 'diversity.' It suggests something other. ... As if there is something unusual about telling stories involving women and people of color and LGBTQ characters on TV."

Rhimes offered an alternative to the term "diversity," saying she'd rather describe what she's doing as "normalizing."

"I am making TV look like the world looks. Women, people of color, LGBTQ people equal way more than 50% of the population. Which means it ain't out of the ordinary. I am making the world of television look normal," she said.

***

Some awesome women learning to be engineers in remote areas in the Philippines. LOVE IT.

***

Did n bit of a run down on various topics with the Triple J Hack crew for the Friday night Shake Up. What are your thoughts on some of these issues? Listen to the podcast here.  Also did some radio in Arabic! Check it by clicking here.

***

Loving this insta: Did I ever tell you I really used to love drawing cartoons?

90s Superboy cover for DC's Convergence! :)

A photo posted by babsdraws (@babsdraws) on Jan 14, 2015 at 6:06pm PST


***

So anyway, what has been keeping YOU busy mentally?

Page 1 of 365

Subhanallah, another year has past.

Change, that was the overwhelming theme of 2014.

New city, new job, new focus...

Change brought many a new beginning.

It was also a year of lots of movement.

150 flights, all over the world. Humbling, really.

All blurred into one long cassette tape of memory.

New people, new perspectives.

What did I learn?

I learnt that the older I get, the greyer things become.

That we cannot judge what is in another person's heart, and it is not our place to do so. What should be of concern with is getting our own heart in order.  Controlling our reactions and responses to events is the only choice we have;  a powerful choice and realisation.

I learnt silence is okay, and sometimes time-out is okay too, even though the adrenalin junkee inside may shout otherwise.

"GET UP!"

"Keep moving..."

"Keep doing..."

These things are important, for idleness can always been a poison.

However, thinking, real, deep, critical thinking doesn't happen when we're on the go.  It didn't happen when I was binge watching The Good Wife or dancing in my bedroom when I got up in the morning.

It happens when I find silence and let my thoughts wander.  When I choose to reflect consciously...

I realised my way of thinking is through writing.   All the silence in the world is futile for my clarity without a way to record it, have it played back to me and be able to reflect on it again and again, until it makes some sense.  The very act of writing, of seeing the words articulated on a page or screen gives them a legitimacy that the fleeting nature of my thoughts lack.  The fact that I didn't write enough this year perhaps contributed to the feeling of not-being-present... and so I resolve to return to the habit of writing in 2015 inshallah.

Every new year brings the opportunity for reflection, refocus and recalibration of who we want to be and where we want to be at.

I cannot say with any certainty where I want to be at the end of this 365 day chapter inshallah.

What I do know is that I hope, with the grace of Allah, I find humility, the space to think and write critically, the ability to impact, influence and hopefully, inspire towards a world of greater equality of opportunity and diversity of voices in the public domain. 

Who knows what 2015 brings.  All we can try to do is be truly present for it.

Bless.

Salams,

 

PS.

Every year I start with a song.  2014 was started with Pharrell's Happy, before it got overplayed on the radio. This year, I chose Bluejuice's 'Work'.

Enjoy! http://youtu.be/pjchHtygrNo?t=1m8s