Is there such a thing as good bias?
Bias by definition means “a strong inclination of the mind or a preconceived notion about something or someone”. Dictionary.com.
Similar to prejudice, it connotes a preformed judgement usually without or before facts.
So, is there such a thing as good bias?
I started thinking about the concept of good bias after a meeting I had a couple of weeks ago. It was a first time meeting was with a relatively older female political leader and after we introduced ourselves she started out saying how she was very impressed by our team who incidentally on that day was a entirely comprised of women/ladies. For meetings of this nature, this is not usually the case.
She talked about breaking the glass ceiling and changing the world and then we went into the meeting agenda. It struck me as odd because of my spot reaction to her words. I felt validated! In that moment, a older professional was telling me “good job” and all of a sudden I was a little girl in class getting a gold star for doing a good job and it felt good.
Now, if a man of similar age and status had said those exact same words with the exact same tone, I might have felt offended, probably perceived it as condescending, wondered why he felt the need to point out the fact that we were seemingly successful career women. Probably tried to rationalize it but I didn’t go into all that with her, she was a woman and so she was right.
Why was it okay for a woman to be biased but not for a man? What if it was the other way around and she felt we were not to be taken seriously unless we came back with our males bosses because obviously, our bosses had to be male (that has also happened to me by the way).
Why would I feel validated by a woman and belittled by a man in the exact same situation?
Was it not bias on my part as well? Was I not in essence saying, that my work and career was as a result of exceptional effort? If a man had lived my life exactly the same way as I have, wouldn’t he have gotten the same results? If he did, would he be called out in a meeting for being exceptional? Or would it just be expected because he is a man?
There seems no right answer just arguments and counter arguments. This was my conclusion, bias for or against cant be good. Here’s why.
Bias causes you to form an opinion before evaluating all the facts and information available. What if we were frauds? Or worse, incompetent? Her bias would at best have her be blindsided or at worst completely overtaken by our scheme. And so what seemed at first to be a good thing, may not be so good after all.
Don’t get me wrong, I am a poster child for supporting other women in the work place for a lot of reasons but I am conscious of my bias and try to remember to take a step back and evaluate the facts before jumping to conclusions about both males and females.
We all have bias, we wouldn’t be human if we didn’t. Bias is born from beliefs and beliefs are formed from information, happenings, culture, society, education and so on. It comes from a place deep within our unconscious mind which is why when it comes to bias, consciousness is needed as a safeguard so we can live with eyes wide open.