Series, The Apprentice

The Apprentice: I am biased against women

By Kizzy Katawonga, Uganda:

Yes, you read that title right. The Apprentice is biased against women. Shocking! But true.

A few weeks ago during a special in-house presentation put together by the woefully few ladies who work in our organization, I was brought face to face with the concept of Gender bias. Gender bias is defined by the Collins dictionary online as “prejudice based on gender”. It is the belief that one gender is superior to the other, especially that men are superior to women.

Now of course, I am an advocate for equal rights and treatment of women. I fight for men to rise up and use their strength to lift up and promote women around them.

So, how is it then that I have bias against women?

In my aforementioned workplace, there are about 30 employees on hand at any one time, with a lot of people coming and going due to assignments abroad. Of those, only about 8 are women. We are a technology company and the I.T industry isn't particularly well populated by women. I'd say roughly for every 20 men, you may find 1 woman. Is it that women aren't geeky enough? Maybe. But more so it's because there is an inherent bias against women in the technology industry. Most of the men, me included, don't think women are smart enough to be in the industry. They simply don't belong.

My wife who is excellent in systems administration suffered this bias throughout her career including from me! A shame I have to live with. She was consistently put to task to prove herself whereas the men in her company weren't. Now there is actually more proof that women can excel in I.T than to the contrary so where does this idea come from?

I chalk it down to gender bias passed on to us as children. Growing up, I loved all things gadegtry and geeky but my sisters loathed them and the message was consistently drummed into my head that these are not girlish things.

Girls teased me and looked on me and my fellow nerds with disdain. Several years later, is it any wonder that I find myself looking at women in the very industry that they despised and abused with anything but deep skepticism?

In all my years in the industry, I've hardly encountered 5 women who were as passionate about computers and video games as all the men. Without meaning to, a bias was birthed in me.

But that's not the only bias. There are several that have been planted in me by my parents, yes my mother included, that are against women. I can list a few of the biases that I have come to recognise in my old age.

  • Women are clueless about cars or driving
  • Women are useless with sports &  politics
  • women can't fight; physically
  • women love to gossip(ok this one might just be true)
  • women can't be leaders because they are too emotional
  • women can't understand science fiction
  • women belong in the kitchen.
  • Women must be subservient to men.
  • Women must be beaten from time to time to show you love them.

The list can go on. The bizarre thing is the gender bias women have cultivated against themselves!! Yes, a lot of women believe some and more of the very same things men do.

The challenge for me is to be conscious and present in my actions and thoughts whenever I find myself having a negative reaction towards a woman about something she's doing. I need to ask myself if this is a personal prejudice I have because it's a woman or is it factual bias?

My incredible wife has consistently proven to me(without her even trying to) that so many of my beliefs are biased and born from a place of ignorance. In my quest to be a great husband and father to my daughters, I have been forced to question a lot of what I believe.

God forbid that I hold my daughters back from greatness because of some hidden bias against women. But the fact is that most gender biases are sown into us from childhood so that it's hard to point to any particular event of turning point in our lives where we developed the bias.

We are told simple things like girls don't play with toy cars, they play with dolls. Why would I believe any different as a grown man when even the now grown women are saying they just don't understand ‘car things'?

I applaud the feminist movement for showing us, both men and women, that we are indeed greatly biased. And most of this bias is hidden, subconscious. Probably that's why it's so hard to see.

So next time you find yourself in a judgmental position against a woman, check yourself. You might be very surprised at what you find, no matter how progressive you think you are.

Let’s all take a good look at our beliefs.

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